19 October 2006

Three years

Believe it or not, I have now been living in Japan for three years.

I wrote this in my journal, three years ago:

When we got to the church this afternoon and there were even more people to meet us. Miyauchi Sensei’s family, his wife and children, his wife’s mother (we think), and another very happy woman who kept saying, “I only speak Japanese!” and “I am a very happy person!”  She asked us how old we were and her eyes lit up: “My daughters! You need to meet!” The daughters were 22 and 18, both of whom spoke a little English and who were happy to meet us, but not quite as happy as their mother. We ate in the sanctuary, and everyone sort of talked around us, Eri stopping occasionally to let us know what was going on. Miyauchi Sensei sat near the window and during an awkward silence said something which Eri smiled at and told us, “He’s just very happy that you are here.”
There was some negotiation about where we would shower, Miyauchi Sensei saying we could either shower at the house or the public bath. He made a point to say, through Eri, “You won’t wear a bathing suit. Is that okay?” We said we didn’t care, and it was pretty clear he wanted us to use the public bathhouse.
We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant on the bay and we fumbled through conversation. After dinner, Miyauchi Sensei told us he would take us to the public bath and DK and I shared some concerned looks. We drove up into the hills, got out of the car and then walked further up through what seemed to be a very touristy part of town that had closed for the day. At the end of a path lined with closed food stands, we got to the public bathhouse. Miyauchi Sensei bought tickets out of a vending machine then gave the tickets to a woman sitting at a counter right by the vending machine. We went down a narrow hallway to the locker area where we all got naked. The public bath is basically a line of showerheads about waist high next to little stools. You sit on the stool and wash with a bar of soap and the showerhead, then get into the hot tub . After washing, we sat in the hot tub for a while, and I realized that the whole room was lined with windows that didn’t have shades. After about five minutes, Miyauchi Sensei got up and we followed him out through sliding doors onto the patio. We stood there, naked, looking out at the city. It was pretty surreal. After a couple of minutes we went back to the hot tub, and Miyauchi Sensei asked about our families.