Monday, July 18, 2016

Sayonara Sapporo

     I left Yuzawa and came back to Sapporo for one final hoorah before leaving Japan (for who knows how long.)  This week was pretty relaxed but also fun because I got to see a lot of people from the ward from two years ago.  I had 8 days left in Japan, so I`ll make the most of it! And by that I mean that I decided to sleep in multiple mornings, chill at the house, and go running in the afternoons.  I mean, it`s still summer break, right?  I`m practically required to take it easy occasionally.
     On Monday and Tuesday the most exciting thing I did was go running in the afternoon and catch up on errands.  But even those uneventful days in Japan are pretty fun when I get to spend them with the family.  I can talk to the girls as we all lay around on the couch doing nothing at night. Or I can hang with Mama in the afternoons when we are both home and talk about random things like why I`m still single and how she decided to name one of her girls after a girl she admired from an anime as a little girl.

I went to the temple for the first time with Mama and Momo.  Our guide was this cute little old Japanese man who was extremely friendly and loved asking questions to which I did not know how to answer in Japanese, but it was still fantastic.


   On Wednesday I went to dinner with a lady I knew from the ward two years ago (Irie family).  I ran into her at church a few weeks ago and we decided to do something when I came back froļ½ Yuzawa.  It turned into a family affair so I went with the Tsujimotos and we had a nice time eating dinner with them.  I talked to Kisetsu quite a lot about everyone at Mikuni since she and I were both there recently, and I learned that Kazuki (this beat boxing amigo) is her cousin!  Small world.
                                                                                On Thursday I had the morning to myself to be productive and the evening to go eat okonomiyaki!!! This is Karin and I biking to go meet her friend for dinner. We decided to bike by the river, and it was beautiful.  Karin is so fun to hang out with. I`m lucky I got to meet her this time around since she was on her mission before.   Plus she introduced me to Ayumi who is also way fun. The three of us ate dinner and sat and talked for at least 2 hours (which is saying something for me since it was all in Japanese.)
   I was pretty happy while we talked because Karin told me that her family is pretty shy, which surprised me. Then she told me that they must just feel really comfortable around me so I don`t even get to see their shy side.  I guess it`s just nice to feel like part of the family.

On Friday I decided to go meet up with Sister Takahashi-another friend from the ward 2 years ago.  We decided to meet at the temple, since it is fairly close to her house.  Unluckily for me, I actually did not remember exactly how to get there.  Luckily for me, it was close to a sushi place that I could ask around for.  Turns out living in Japan is way easier when you can actually speak the language.  (2 years ago was a valiant but poor attempt at Japanese-ing.)  

   Anyway, eventually I did find the temple and Sister Takahashi.  She took me to one of her favorite ramen places, and it`s her favorite for a reason. After eating we went back to her house and talked for about an hour and a half.  She told me that her kids wanted to play when they got home from school so once they arrived the three of us went to the park.  They are so stinking cute. It makes me want to have Japanese children of my own. Just look at them.

 That night a random girl from BYU showed up at my house-turns out she was mission companions with Karin. So we all ended up going to Mount Moiwa to do something fun with our Friday night and give her a taste of Sapporo.  So here I am again two years later.
    We saw the sights and took the expected, poorly-lighted photograph at the top here and then we were on our way down again.

In the car we rocked out to K-Pop, naturally. And then everyone was in a k-pop mood, so a dance party happened.  In the middle of this I was trying to figure out plans for tomorrow with Natasha and Anna. (Not having a cell phone once we leave the house means we always have to be extremely well planned out before trying to successfully do anything.)

(Enjoy this night view of Sapporo.)

We started the day out Saturday by going to Sakura`s school festival. This was a dream of mine growing up-but I never went to a Japanese high school (I don`t want to talk about it. It`s still a sore spot of mine. :p) and we don`t have these here, so naturally the three of us had to go crash Sakura`s.  But don`t worry-it was completely normal.  So normal you might have trouble finding us in this photo-we are the ones with the awkward red badges that scream *we don`t belong* since everyone else had a different colored badge.  Thanks for that, school people.
 Anyway, I get that this definitely wasn`t a competition...and even if it was these are all high schoolers...but can I just say that I rocked this ball throw (only in comparison to the 15 year old boys who went before me.)

It was pretty fun to be here even if I was about 8 years too late to be living out this dream.

Anyway, Anna and Natasha weren`t feeling too hot so we ended up leaving before the end (I forgot how loud a high school full of screaming teenagers can be.)  We decided to go around some fun places for one last time together, which is how I found myself at Odor
i park again, this time with my shoes off. A refreshing change, I`ll admit.
    We had the chance to admire Susukino all decorated for the summer festival.  (Although since the festival hasn`t started yet, there`s always the chance it will get even more hard core.)

And I`m not sure how this happened, but we found Mario, Luigi, and the whole Mario Cart crew so we took pictures.  That`s a normal reaction to seeing your childhood brought to life.  What was unexpected was having Luigi gesture us over to take pictures together.  (He told me to sit in his seat, and I would be lying if I said I didn`t have to fight a serious temptation to complete a lap of my own.)
There was also this random street drum perfor-mance happening for which we had to stop and watch.  (And by watch I mean rock out to.)  Turns out Odori is a pretty happening place.  We even decided to go get okonomiyaki again (I know. I know. I have a problem.)  And while we were walking around JR Tower there was a slight black out in the area where a bunch of restaurants are.  Everyone seemed really confused about what to do with themselves since computers were down. Waiters and chefs were awkwardly standing by doors possibly waiting for someone to tell them how to handle the situation.  Luckily, Natasha, Anna, and I knew just what to do.  And that`s to take a picture!
    I had to hurry home once we parted ways because I was running a little late to greet Papa (who has been in Tokyo.) This seemed like as good a time as any to get lost on my way home. In my defense though, I had never come home from that station before.  Anyway, thanks to all my running I was able to recognize the area and figure things out pretty quickly with only a 15 minute delay. We went to the temple again as a family that night and then out to eat.
I may have a slight problem with creeper pictures, but it`s okay because acknowledging it is the first step. (The first step to taking more effective creeper shots? Maybe.)

Sunday was my last chance to hang out with the family (almost as a whole-Ane being on her mission and what not) and so I had to record the delicious food and good company.  Here is everyone eating dinner.  So back in America, Emily and Sarah tease me about getting along really well with my brother-in-laws all the time. So it was ironic when I somehow ended up sitting between both of the son-in-laws at dinner tonight.  Not even really my brother-in-laws and we still get along.
 Dinner was delicious and having everyone to talk to was even better.  Saying goodbye is a bit of a damper though.
I was finally getting Keia to warm up to me and I had to say goodbye.  And by warm up I mean that she always calls me Kora instead of Rora (my Japanese name to substitute for their lack of L`s.) But anyway, she really did like me despite her slightly hesitant look here in the photo. She`s half Japanese and half Indian. Further proving my point that half Japanese children are adorable and that I need one.  Enough said.

Today, Monday, is my last day in Sapporo and I spent it finishing last minute errands.  I leave for Tokyo tomorrow and Paris the day after.  I was able to spend a bit of quality time with Sakura.  I went to Momo`s band concert. Luckily I have so much free time to go since the rest of the family was busy.
It`s kind o fhard to tell, but she is the one right above the guy with the weird twisted overalls head. She is playing the flute.  When I waved at her at the end as she walked by with her classmates, she quickly avoided eye contact.  Nailed it.  I considered calling out her name to embarrass her further, but decided against it.  (Just for the record, she wanted me to come.)

Goodbye Mama, Papa, and Sapporo.
Hello Tokyo and Paris! 

Yuzawa: Where Wild Monkeys and Lauras Roam Free

  While most days fall under the normal pattern I mentioned before, there are some days where we have extra activities and adventures. Here are a few of my favorite things that we did:

One day we played a game kind of like cops in robbers in the school once it got dark after dinner.  So with the whole building dark you have to make it from one area to another without getting caught.  That was pretty fun and happened my first night here (so I didn't know my way around the building at all-extra exciting.)

On Friday the weather was so nice that we cancelled afternoon classes and all went swimming in a river together. It almost felt like being back in Arkansas, except I was surrounded by Japanese speakers and I couldn't find any baby turtles.
  That was so much fun and ended too soon, but we also saw some shrines on our way back so it made up for it.  Here is a photo of Ayu and Hana because I love these girls.
 After eating dinner at the school a bunch of us sang karaoke for hours, and while I was kind of hesitant at first (if Whitney Waite is reading this she would know why I was reluctant to sing karaoke) but everyone here is so chill about it.  I ended up having a blast and we didn't make it home until almost 11 p. Of course it started pouring on us so we had to make a mad dash for the door but we were all laughing and I actually secretly (not secretly) loved it.   
We actually did karaoke two times while I was there, and I was able to impress everyone with my hard core Linkin Park skills.

(These people here are what really made my time at Yuzawa so fun.  When your only options are playing with the monkeys outside or getting to know the people inside, you end up getting to know the people quite a bit. Less than the monkeys though.

My roommates and I like to bond by having oreo parties (yes, I brought oreos all the way from America.  You can`t go wrong with milk`s favorite cookie!)  This is how we bond. Chocolate cookies, milk, and girl talk.  It doesn`t matter if it is in America or Japan.    It seemed easier to try and just get our hands instead of all of our faces, so this is the picture you get.  

 Ok so we went to this village called Takumo no Sato (something like an artisan`s village?) which was really cute and full of friendly Japanese people who asked to take pictures of us.  We started out by eating at this old restaurant which was delicious and adorable.

There was even a little shrine out back where you could toss 5 cents and wish for luck. So, naturally, I did.   When you have luck like mine you can`t carry around enough 5 cent coins for times like these.

Then we walked around and enjoyed the view.  We would walk in and out of random shops and see all of the things that they made by hand. It was fantastic. It was fantastic before the ice cream-it was incredible after!! 

After exploring the village again we same some more shrines which were beautiful.  With bridges and little waterfalls and vegetation everywhere.  I am not even a Shinto-ist (is that even how you say it?) and I love going to these places.

At the ice cream shop we saw this really happy tree so obviously we had to take a picture there. And then there was this little boy who was playing with his parents and kept joining us for our pictures.  His parents tried to keep him back but our pictures looked too fun to resist.

Can we just take a minute to talk about how beautiful this lake is with the reflections and everything?  There was also the added benefit of having a convenience store right by it (a rare commodity in Yuzawa) which made it all the more beautiful.

 And the picture I am sure everyone has seen, but I could not resist including it again. Just look at the bamboo and the swing and Japan!          Honestly, the whole trip here has been fantastic.  Every day is filled with such wonderful things and wonderful people.  Not including the fact that I get to speak Japanese.                     Even things as common as playing N64 seem extra cool when I do it in Japan-with game titles in Japanese.  Here`s the three of us trying to figure out how to play Mario Party when the instructions are all in Japanese. 

The day before I left we went on an incredible hike in the middle of the mountains.  It was 2 hours one way and 2 hours back.  Well, it was supposed to be, but when you factor in the rain that was pouring on us and the muddy trail it definitely turned out to be longer.  But if you think we were all put out about the rain you are wrong. Look at these excited faces on our way to the trail.  And how could anyone feel dissatisfied with this view? (If we look wet-we are.)

Luckily we had this really sweet onsen waiting for us at the end.  Of course by `really sweet` I mean that it was a hot spring with 3 walls built around it for privacy.  Of course, it was pretty cool to be able to sit in the hot water and feel the rain falling on you.  It felt pretty great to get out of our sopping clothes but not as great to put the wet clothes and shoes back on.  Overall though, the trip was filled with rain, adventure, fun people, and beautiful scenery.  Hooray for an amazing last day!

Of course I had to do all of the awkward goodbyes with everyone which was surprisingly hard even though it had only been two weeks.  I`ll be waiting to see all of these people in either Provo or Hawaii soon.  

And here`s the girl who started it all.  I went to Yuzawa intending to see Melanie and have some fun times.  What I was not expecting was how great everyone else was.  I owe her a lot for giving me a reason to brave traveling Japan alone, being able to meet so many people, and letting me crash in her room for two weeks.  With the nights we stayed up late girl talking, the adventures we went on during the day (I won`t go into details about the bike crash since I know my mom will read this, but you know what I`m talking about Melanie), and all the trips to the sento.  This girl is amazing and I`m lucky to have met her (even if it was not even a year ago.)

 Goodbyes are hard and slightly awkward, but worth it if it means getting to meet everyone.  Like Ayu here who was always so excited to play frisbee with me.  I don`t know when and I don`t know where, but I will meet these people again.

Somehow, in the two weeks I was living with the girls, I did not manage to get a picture with my roommates.  So even though I love those girls to death I will have to leave our roommate photo up to your imagination.

It`s back to Sapporo for me now.