Last September I made a new friend. I was wanting to find a new student to tutor in order to brush up on my teaching skills to come to Japan. I was introduced to Megumi, a Japanese woman living in Jackson, who's husband was a president at Michigan Automotive Compressor Inc. or MACI. We began meeting once a week for me to help her practice English, but quickly we developed a frienship and were doing more and more things together.
This June, Megumi and her husband moved back to Japan after five years in the USA. When I was talking about living in Japan Megumi was excited to see be there and share her culture with me, just I had shared mine with her.
Our chance to see each other came a lot quicker than I would have thought. She lives in Nagoya, which is a three our drive from my city of Kanazawa. On my first weekend in Japan, Megumi came to visit me! She says she wants to be my Aunt, which is great because of course it difficult having no family here in Japan.
She arrived as scheduled to my apartment around 11 am. We discussed the things we would do that day, as I had a list of things I wanted her to help me with. The list included things as small as setting a clock for me to as large as going in the public hot spring bath house. Let me tell you about our day...
First we grabbed some lunch in a small and traditional restaurant serving okonomiyaki. Since I had her with me, I wanted to try something new so she could help me order. It was so delicous! It is difficult to describe, but all I know is that I love it!
Next took some clothing to a dry cleaner near my apartment. Again, without her help I wouldn't have known what to say here, so it was helpful for her to show me how to do this errand. We walked around my neighborhood and she pointed out different things I may like to try. We also found a post office, where she helped me buy some international stamps. Now I have the language and ability to buy them on my own.
We later hopped in her car so we could tour a bit farthur. I'm not typically one for high end shopping, but we came across a specality honey shop with all products made from honey. It was above my price range for just now, but it was a really fun experience exploring it. We decided we wanted to have Baskin Robbins so she set her GPS to it and we drove in that direction. This was the second time during this day that I had a completely blissful moment with food. I haven't eaten Baskin Robbins in many years so it was a huge treat for me. I got two scoops, one green tea flavor and the other rocky road.
I told Megumi that I was hoping to find a second hand or consignment shop here in Kanazawa. I don't like spending a lot of money on clothes, especially ones that I don't know if I'll keep for too long. She was able to help me with this and we found an incredible consignment shop with very cute clothes, shoes, outer wear, sporting goods, and so much more. I bought a pair of shoes to wear inside my school (we must change out of our street shoes and into indoor shoes when entering school). The price tag said they cost 530 yen or around $5, but when we got to the check out they were half off! Score!! I also walked out with a 500 yen off coupon for next time. We found out this store was only about two miles from my apartment, so on my bicycle it will be easy to frequent for me.
For dinner (though we each were not very hungry) we went to the conveyor belt sushi place closest to my apartment. This is when I had my third food related blissful moment that day. The fresh fish in Kanazawa is nothing less than amazing. The taste and texture is out of this world. We enjoyed some sushi together and left satisfied.
We stopped off at home for a bit and I asked her if she would be interested in going in the public onsen (hot spring bath) in my neighborhood. She was happy to go with me, which pleased me because I would not have had the confidence to go there by myself without a little guidance. Similar to the public bath houses in Morocco I visited, this is a place I can see myself going weekly.
Since Japan is a volcanic country there is hot spring water under ground at any given time. In Japan this water is tapped on the surface and an onsen is made. It is a custom to go in these for relaxation and health. We stopped at the machine and bought our entry ticket for 430 yen or just over $4. We went into the locker room to remove all of our clothes before entering the onsen room. Firstly, you must wash your body and hair. You do this by sitting at the small vanity with a stool and small shower head with a light and mirror in front of you. The entire room is made of tile so you can get water and soap any place you like. Once you are clean you can enter the hot spring water baths. In this room there were four different baths. I think they were all about the same temperature, which felt about like a hot tub. There is one bath of cold water if you need to cool off. Additionally, there is a dry sauna room and showers with massaging heads for your shoulders and back. The water has a brown tint to it, I'm told it is because it is natural spring water.
Having Megumi visit was sush a pleasure. Since she lived in the United States for many years, she understands my culture, so I wasn't nervous about committing a faux pas in front of her. Since I am competely illiterate in Japanese and have little language skills, having her by my side helped me take a few more steps toward independence here in Japan.