November third was Culture Day in Japan. A day to celebrate culture (obviously) through dance, song, and parades. Kagoshima had a big festival in the city and everyone was in some kind of uniform singing, dancing, taiko-drumming, and celebrating in the streets.
Geographically, Amami is a part of Kagoshima prefecture, but realistically, we are 230 miles away from the rest of Kagoshima. So I wasn’t a part of the big celebration. I was a little bummed yesterday that I couldn’t be in the big city for all of the fun happenings, but I ended up having my own amazing culture day on Amami.
My sensei and I started off the day at the tiny german bakery on the island with a friend from my Eikaiwa group and one of my English Club student’s moms. The bakery is in a hidden gem location–you need to know what you’re looking for if you want to find it. It was breezy and a little overcast, but still warm enough to sit partially outdoors on the wooden benches. The owner of the bakery, a lovely woman who spoke great English, had prepared us delicious baguettes with garlic, butter and dried shrimp, and then dark multigrain bread slathered with cream cheese, cucumber, and black olives. We all stuffed our faces with bread, homemade desserts, and washed everything down with earl grey tea.
Now what I love most about many of my experiences so far in Japan is the way my plans unfurl into something I never imagined would happen to me on any ordinary day.
I am placing a lot of dramatic build-up here, I know. But nothing really crazy happened. I just had a nice day and I want to write about it.
So I thought I was just going to spend the afternoon at a bakery, buy some german bread, and then go home. Instead of going home after our bread feast, I had the chance to run around with a litter of beagle puppies who lived next door to the bakery, try on a kimono for the first time (it belongs to the amazing woman who owns the bakery, and she is even letting me borrow it for my school’s graduation in March!), and then spend my evening learning how to cook Japanese food from scratch–something I had been dying to do even before I moved to Japan.
My student’s mom lives right up the road from the bakery, so she invited us to her house for dinner and a lesson in Japanese cooking for me. I got to choose most of the items on the menu that night, and she generously shared all of her ingredients with me. I learned to make homemade miso soup, tamagoyaki, teriyaki chicken (with homemade sauce), cucumber sushi, cabbage salad, and triangle onigiri. It was so much fun to learn how to cook Japanese from someone who actually knows how to cook Japanese, and we had a great time maneuvering around her playful eight-month-old kitten while we cooked.
After dinner, dessert, and some more kitten play time, my sensei drove me to the grocery store so I could buy the right oils and vinegars so I can start making my own sauces and dressings. And I couldn’t help myself and I bought a personal-sized panda-shaped hot pot. I cannot wait to cook my first batch of homemade miso in it!
At the JET Orientation in Boston, the former ALTs kept stressing the term ESID to us–it means “every situation is different.” What they meant is that you cannot compare your situation on JET to anyone else’s situation. Each and every one of us will experience vastly different work and personal lives.
Well, life for me is certainly different being on an island than on the mainland. But I love my situation. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.