In the midst of befriending a Japanese local the other day, he asked if it was okay to look me up on Facebook. I gave him permission, and he had a look through it, reading my name aloud. However, he suddenly came to a stop and said, in a puzzled tone, “Why is ‘Yoshitake’ listed as your nickname?”
Up until this past April, my taiko performances have been purely indoors. I’ve performed at Biwako Hall, Rohm Theater, and even out in Uji at the Community Center. But that all changed on April 29, when I was asked to join my group and perform at a little place in Yawata-shi, Kyoto.
As I mentioned before, I went to multiple places during my Golden Week. Afterwards, I brought photos of my adventures back to work to share with coworkers and students alike. They tended to ooh over pictures of Kibune, aah over shots of Mt. Koya, then… tilt their heads in puzzled confusion.
“Who is that?” they would ask, pointing at a statue of a man giving a speech.
“Well, he was President of the US for eight years…” I’d reply.
They would, inevitably, go, “You went to Obama?! In Fukui? But why?”
Everyone has a bucket list of adventures. Mine has two categories: a bucket list for places to see while I’m still in Japan, and one for places I want to see before I actually kick it. In the former, I’ve had one thing at the top of my list for the past two or so years: a trip to Mt. Koya.
Hi, hello, Stefanie What. Where have you been?
Yes, I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks. Golden Week happened, and then I decided to pick up several personal projects all at once because y’know, you either go big or go home, right?
The last time I went to Iga-Ueno to check out the ninja museum there, I went on my own and stayed only long enough to wander the grounds and see the museum itself. This, I have decided, is a tragedy–one I’m glad I corrected, because there is plenty to do in this place.
When I was studying abroad in Tokyo, I lived in a one-room apartment in a four-story building with a bunch of other foreign students. I’m sure there were some Japanese folks living there too, but we never saw them. It was a great setup, really; we all had our own private spaces, but the building also had a common room with a computer, free wifi, a microwave, and a couple really old, beat-up couches for us to hang out on. I spent many a weekend morning in there using the wi-fi to chat with my family while some poor hungover classmate lay face-down on the opposite couch.
Ahh, good times.
I kept my room pretty spartan, because I was only intending to live there 6 months. Therefore I didn’t see the point in making everything look nice. After all, I’d just have to tear it all down again soon after, right?
But not everybody followed this train of thought. Enter my French classmate, who I’ll call L-chan.
L-chan was a friendly, outgoing lady who loved food, loved company, and seemed to love studying in Japan. We somehow hit it off, and I was lucky enough to be invited into her apartment a few different times for tea and snacks.
And oh wow, what a room.
The first time I walked in, I was hit with the scent of it. The place smelled like homecooked food, and tea, and cinnamon. She must have used softeneer on her sheets, because I could smell that too. Everything was full of color; rather than stick with our allotted sheets and curtains, she’d spent her own cash to get what she wanted. In short, the room felt like a home.
“Your place smells so good,” I said to her, and she beamed as she hustled me onto one of her two tiny chairs for tea. As she got separate strainers for our tea and set out honey, milk, sugar, and separate teaspoons for us to use, I marveled at how very Adult she seemed to be. From someone who had until that point lived at home and had just hit 20, I thought it was like magic.
Someday, I said to myself, I want a home just like this. A place that feels like a home not only to me, but others.
Fast forward. L-chan and I have sadly not been in touch for ages (here’s hoping she’s still doing well and still making delicious crepes!). I’m in Japan, living in a slightly larger apartment (two rooms instead of one).
My room is not what you’d call “adult”, but it does look colorful. Purple bedsheets, wintery kotatsu covers, corkboards full of pictures of people I have come to know.
As for the smell?
This morning I made banana chocolate chip muffins. Last week I made peanut butter and molasses cookies. I use my slow cooker for roasted garlic chicken dinners or chili or pumpkin soup on the regular.
And I have friends that, every time they come over, say, “Your place smells so good.” They settle in at my kotatsu table and I’m able to provide matching sets of chopsticks, or wine glasses for fancy drinks, or mugs for tea. Basil and succulents line my windows. “I wish my place smelled like yours.”
Just like L-chan, I find myself beaming with pride.
Look at me being all Adult.