Typhoons, Traditional Homes, and Trying New Things

Ohayō, everyone! It is the second morning of my time in Japan and I have so much to tell from my first day. I have already seen and experienced things that in the past I could only read about or watch on the internet…

First off, a little about the crazy weather here in Japan…let me spell it out for you. H-U-M-I-D. I’ve been to southern states before, and Florida, etc., but never in my entire life have I experienced feeling like this. I always feel damp, and my already-curly-and-frizzy hair is just going poofy. It’s also been very rainy here, not that I’m not used to itJ. Yesterday, a major typhoon hit the island of Okinawa, and they thought it might come near Koyasan (where I’m currently staying), but this morning it’s looking like the storm has mostly passed.

As I mentioned before, I am staying in Koyasan, a small but famous town nestled near the top of Mt. Koya. Koyasan was dubbed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004 for its ancient sacred sites and pilgrimage routes. Koyasan is a very important site for people of the Shingon Buddhist sect, and many of the temples, statues, trails, trail markers, and graveyards here are over twelve centuries old.

My current host family are very nice, very generous, and they love to laugh a lot. I enjoy being around them…even if they don’t speak as much English as I anticipated. They are both in their early seventies; it is often the case that the older generations aren’t as proficient in English. Communication has been a little bit difficult, but they usually speak to me in Japanese peppered by English words, and their younger daughter, Kukiko, is an English teacher who is at her parent’s house sometimes, so I’ve been getting along language-wise, even if occasionally I don’t understand correctly and make myself look a little stupid. I am getting quite used to being called “Zoe-san”, though. J

About their home...it is beautiful and traditional and as “Japanese” as you can get. These days, many younger, suburban families are reverting to more “western-style” homes, but some homes, like my host family’s, remain more traditional. All the floors are covered in delicate tatami mats, and many of doors are the traditional wood-and-paper sliding screens. It is also decorated in the traditional Japanese style, but beautiful painted screens and calligraphy wall hangings.

It is time for me to start getting ready, but I have one last event from yesterday to talk about. The only thing that I was not looking forward to about Japan was onsen, or public bath hot springs. It sounds great in theory, except for one minute detail…you have to be completely naked. So, taking that into consideration, what do you think I do on the very first day? That’s right. Onsen. My host mother basically told me we were going, and without the language skills to refuse, I was basically stuck. So, me and my modesty went very reluctantly. It turns out, it not as bad as I thought. It’s certainly never going to be my favorite thing, but you are allowed to take a towel to cover yourself when walking around, and if you get into the water fast enough, no one is really going to see you. I did get a few stares when walking around, but that’s because I was the only non-Japanese person in the whole place.

Well, until next time, sayonara!



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about me

Zoe. 22. Christian. PNW girl at heart, but following where He leads.
Always-wanderer, old book-collector, and coffee enthusiast.