36 hours to go, so let’s kick this off by addressing a few things.
So the format of this is going to be super informal. The majority of those who will be reading this are my friends and family back home in California, and starting in about 48 hours every single thing that comes out of my mouth is going to be polite beyond comprehension. The Japanese are like that- very proper, no touching, open feelings, direct eye contact, etc… Basically the opposite of what I’m all about. In light of that, please expect a bit of venting and rambling over the course of the next few weeks, although I will be writing to you with the intention of sharing all of my life’s amazing moments.
Right so I basically just said I have the complete opposite nature of a Japanese person. Correct. Sort of. To an extent. So let’s talk about the question Why do you want to go to Japan, Hannah? Honestly a something I don’t have a solid answer to. Over the last 6 months I have been asked this countless times by classmates, family members, fellow AFSers, and I’ve never been able to put it into words. It just feels right. I want to wander through the forests during a lazy summer day. I want to visit shrines that are hundreds of years old, and revel in a history that is just so much richer than America’s. I want to be crammed into a bullet train like a case of sardines, and strike up awkward conversation with everyone around me. I want to see massive skyscrapers light up the night sky in the heart of Osaka, and see stars do the same thing in a remote rice field somewhere in Ikoma. I want to have to fold up my futon every morning and take my little host brothers to day care a few hours later. I want to eat weird food and meet even weirder people. I just want to live. Break out of the cycle I’ve been caught up in in Orange County, and find myself swept along by something much more fulfilling and exciting.
Also, it’s becoming kind of hilarious how many people are asking me whether I’m nervous or not. Yes. How could I not be? Sometimes I wonder if it was bravery or stupidity that got me into this journey. Sometimes the line is really blurred. I’m throwing myself into a culture VASTLY different than my own, where I won’t know the language or exactly how to act or do things or function like what they think is a normal human being and stick out like a sore thumb because I’m basically blonde as far as the Japanese go and blah blah blah. I’ve got lots to be nervous about. And although I am uncertain about countless things, I know one thing for sure: what I am doing is right. For me. For what I want to do with my life, and for the things I want to achieve and the person I want to become. So I need to do this, and although it might seem insane to fly to the other side of the world, I welcome that insanity with a side of craziness and a dash of lunacy.
Now let’s back track a little bit-
I never thought I would actually be doing this. The other 29 kids that are accompanying me from across America feel the same way. It’s unreal. Right now, just a day and a half away from leaving, I still feel like I’m going to be spending the rest of my summer at home. It won’t hit me until I’m in the plane, in the air, physically being moved away from the west coast. I’ve been in a foggy state for a while, having some kind of out of body experience, because I’m having my life’s dream realized at 16 years old. I know I’m incredibly lucky to be given this opportunity, and I’m not going to waste it!
So my host family. I will be staying with the Furushima family in the city of Ikoma, in the Nara prefecture. I have two wonderfully adorable brothers named Yoshihisa who is 3, and Tomohito, who isn’t even a year old yet. Both my host mother and father work in Osaka- my mother as a pharmacist and my father as a high school teacher. I have exchanged a few emails with my host father, and his English blew me away. Although he said he only possessed basic conversational skills, his grammar was nearly perfect and it really gave me hope that the integration process into their family will be much easier. Apparently the family is really into basketball, and both my mom and dad are official referees. My host father seems incredibly friendly, and says he hopes to take me to many of the places I’ve dreamt of going to in Japan.
I will be going to school 5 days a week, from 10 am to approximately 3 pm. The commute is about an hour by subway, and the tracks go under a huge mountain called Ikoma Mt. It might seem like a long time, but I’m really looking forward to spending that time having random conversations with strangers , reading, doing homework, and messing around with all the Japanese kids I know will be too afraid to approach me. Every morning in itself will be a little adventure. I’m really not dreading school either- everyone I’ve talked to said it is great and I’ll also be learning with Swedish, Italian, and Spanish kids too. I’m going to get way more than just a Japanese cultural experience out of this.
Some of you might be thinking this post is getting a bit lengthy, so I’ll try to wrap it up with a few quick things.
For those of you wondering, packing was quite interesting. Domestic flights in Japan require luggage to be under 45 lbs, which means you basically have to make 6 weeks’ worth of things weigh approximately equivalent to a small child. Do I have a tendency to over pack? Absolutely. Do I think 7 dresses are in every way necessary? Also an affirmative. Judge me, but Japan is largely progressive as far as clothes go and I AM GOING TO BE PREPARED GOSH DARN IT. I know some of you have asked me the specifics of what I packed, so just message me if you have any questions J
It’s bordering on 2 am and I need to leave for the airport hotel in the morning. Needless to say I should be sleeping but that’s not likely to happen. There are about 8329485 things running through my mind at the moment, and although the complexity of the Japanese train system is near the forefront of my worries, it’s you guys that are going to be keeping me awake.
I’m lucky to have some of the most supportive and loving people in my life. It is going to be very hard to leave all of that and enter an environment without a single one of you. From my best friends in the world to my loving family, trust me when I say I’ll be missing you more than you miss me. Thank you guys for all of your support and kindness.
Some of you have truly inspired me to become a better person, and pursue this dream of mine.
Rachael Elizabeth Jones, without you I never would have been introduced to the Japanese culture as thoroughly as I have been, and you’ve fostered my interest every step of the way. I love you so much, and you’re the greatest cousin/sister/best friend anyone could ever ask for.
Miranda, Rachel, Emily, Kelsea, Ali, Abby, Anna Marie, Teryn, Maddi, Andrea, Sarah, Aubrie, Natalie, Katie, Ayla- you girls are my heart and soul and your kindness and love keep me afloat.
To my boys Forrest, Kyle, Andre, Aaron, Vinny, Zandy, and Matt- you guys really mean the world to me. Try not to get into too much trouble (Mostly directed towards Forrest and Kyle)
And of course my parents, Molly, and Aunt Lyn, Aunt Clare, Uncle Richard, and Uncle Michael- thank you guys for all of your love and support. I’ll be thinking about you every step of the way.
Last night at about 2 am Miranda asked me if I was going to cry when I left. I thought this was interesting. If she asks me if I’m going to, does that mean I can? Because I was really going to try not to, but I know Kyle would love to see that so maybe I will just for him.
Gosh darn Sweater Weather has been playing on repeat for about an hour and a half. You would think I’d be blasting some J or K pop about now to get pumped up but nope. The Neighborhood and sappy 80’s love songs all night baby.