Outside the Heian Temple there was a tour bus with a lot of Japanese characters on the side of it and two English words: "Heartful Touring." At first I smiled at the awkward phrasing and then I started thinking about what it meant to "tour heartfully." How would I remember this trip? Besides a suitcase full of music and the new skin showing through in patches on my hands, what was I bringing back with me from Japan?
I learned that Japan absolutely fits the stereotypes and is exactly what you'd expect (super clean, very densely populated) and the architecture is like something from a picture book. And yet, there's no way to be prepared for how close together the houses are or how green everything looks.
I was interviewed by apprehensive twittering Japanese school children on assignment to practice English three times. (Turns out, many of them list sashimi as their favorite Japanese food too)
I learned that I can communicate pretty well with smiles and single word questions. The Japanese, apparently, appreciate a good set of teeth.
I learned that United Airlines food is truly heinous. They are also stingy with the water.
I learned that bullet trains look kind of like cyclops with the lights as their single eye. They also don't feel that fast, but they are.
I did not learn how to use a "squaty potty." And that's okay with me.
I learned the difference between Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
I watched Confessions of a Shopaholic, Last Chance Harvey, and Duplicity. I napped during the Pink Panther 2 (twice!) and Paul Blart, Mall Cop. (I also could have watched Confessions on the way back too, but I thought sleeping was more worthwhile.)
I learned that sometimes it takes the Japanese commitment to history and master teachers to preserve French music traditions.
I learned that Japanese students really respect their teachers and bow before all their classes, even if they're sitting behind desks.
I learned that no matter how hard I try, I cannot figure out which tickets go in which order when trying to go through the turnstiles in Japanese railway stations.
I almost learned how to slurp loudly enough when eating soba noodles. I never quite mastered it to be truly polite (thanks, mom, for all those years of yelling at me to chew quietly and not inhale my food!)
I learned to appreciate the Chicago ban on public smoking, especially when the "no smoking" section of a restaurant was just one table without ashtrays.
However, after taking the el for the first time again, I learned to appreciate the Japanese restraint on public urination!
I can now recognize the flavor of the "beefsteak plant" in all its incarnations, including a special version of Pepsi.
I can catch a fly with my chopsticks, while blindfolded. Just kidding. I need to see to catch the fly.
I learned 31 pages of new music, and relearned 19 pages. (not including Suzuki Book 1)
Above all, I spent time with some amazing people who profoundly touched my life. I haven't found a non-cheesy way to say that, but, I think I did tour with my whole heart. Fully.
Me and Mrs. Ishii