Christmas In Japan

This year, for the second time ever, I’m away from snowy Massachusetts for Christmas. My parents and I decided to take a trip to Japan over winter break, all of us deciding that this trip was a bit cooler than yet another Christmas at home.

I’ll break it down with what I love and didn’t love about this place, in the hopes that it sheds some light on it for anyone who is coming from a similar background, hoping to travel to Japan.

What I loved:

The integration of natural and man-made beauty. Really, most of the country is very beautiful and its lovely to walk around and experience the culture along with the sites. But my absolute favorite part was the way they integrate the land with things like temples and shrines. In Europe, a giant, ornate castle or palace overlooks rows and boxes of neatly cropped flowers, whereas here a temple overlooks a landscape that is clearly styled and created by humans, but that gives you the impression of a very beautiful little spot in nature. It gives them more of a feeling of serenity and simplicity and peace, which I found really special.

What I was fascinated by:

How different the culture is. I’ve always felt like it’s important to travel so that you can find the place in the world that’s most right for you, because what are the odds that you were actually born into that place, right? I think I can safely say that Japan is not the place in the world most right for me, but I thought it was fascinating how they can have a big, urban city like Tokyo, which is in some ways so similar to the ones in the US, but go about it so differently. Honestly, it kind of gave me faith that there is a place (figuratively, not literally, see below) in the world for everyone if different corners of the world can be so different from each other.

What I could do without:

The lack of space. Unfortunately, a lot of the places we visited felt a bit like downtown Manhattan, and not in a good way. I’m sure it was in part that we were going to the sites and the places that other people would also want to go to, but I still found that someone was always bumping into me or touching me and it made me miss the space out in the midwest. Never realized how important my personal space was to me until it wasn’t important to anyone else.

My biggest pet peeve:

They’ll label the appetizers section of a menu “Appetizers” but then not write anything below in English. Like, why. If you can’t understand the menu without knowing Japanese, why have any English on there? And if you understand Japanese enough to be able to comprehend the menu as a whole, why would you need the English?

The summary:

G o T o J a p a n. To visit, definitely. But, don’t move there on a whim without ever having visited for yourself (and DEFINITELY not if you don’t speak English). That’s all.

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The Enneagram

So, maybe I’m just a sucker for personality tests–I like to think they’ll tell me some deep-seated, personal thing about myself and that I’ll read the description and be like “wow, I truly am ____, and I can fix it now.”

Unfortunately, this never happens.

Fortunately though, I do have a lot of fun reading the descriptions, and the enneagram is honestly the personality test I buy into the most. There are nine personality types, but what I like even more is that within each type there are 9 different levels of health. We may not necessarily jump personalities, but within a way of being there are different lifestyles and habits depending on how well you’re doing at the time, and I really appreciate that they incorporate that.

I am Type 7: The Enthusiast — The Busy, Fun-Loving Type: Spontaneous, Versatile, Distractible, and Scattered. Sounds about right, honestly.

While I never fully get that “A Ha!” moment I crave, it fascinates me how much I think a personality test can say about me or someone else. I feel like it puts into words a description of a person, and from there I can either agree or disagree with the post depending on that particular person. Maybe it calls them busy and scattered, and I can say “Hey, you know what, they’re busy but they’re not that scattered” and suddenly understand something new about them.

You can take the test for yourself at this website and read the type descriptions here.

 

Speaking Of Hemingway…

When I was in ninth grade I had this English teacher who had his classroom up on the top floor of the schoolhouse. The small rectangular table sat about ten of us, the entire room was wooden, and behind him was a chalkboard (yeah, I went to one of those high schools).

He had this semi-spiky hair and a tan from running, and wore a tweed blazer (at least, that’s what he’s wearing in my mental image of him). He decorated the walls of his classroom in whale baleen reminiscent of Moby Dick and when I think of him he has chalk in his hand and a slight gap between his front teeth and he has his eyebrows raised, imparting some sort of life wisdom on us.

While I was in his class I had this sort of feeling where he didn’t dislike me because he didn’t pick favorites, but if he picked favorites, I wouldn’t be one of them.

Anyways, all I can think of now after reading For Whom The Bell Tolls is him standing there talking about Hemingway’s point about life and everything, that when you’re fatally wounded you still try to fight for your side until you bleed out. I can picture him saying, “That is what Hemingway is trying to tell us, that is how to live.” That we are not our own, we are mankind’s.

IDK, the epigraph really got me thinking. Here it is:

 

No man is an Iland, intire of itselfe; every man

is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;

if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea, Europe

is the lesse, as well as if a Promontorie were, as

well as if a Manor of thy friends or of thine

owne were; any mans death diminishes me,

because I am involved in Mankinde;

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

–John Donne

So, I’m Trying This Out

Full disclosure–the first time I made this site, I put 3 “a”s in the word characters.

I don’t really know what I want to come of blogging. Maybe this is just a way to get some alone time during a family vacation. Maybe it’s a desperate way to try to out-do my banker boyfriend and make money in some moral, not corrupt way. Maybe it’s just to see if other people think the way I do and are interested in the things I am and are interested in me at all, or if I’m just conceited.

Either way, my name is Kelsey and I study neuroscience at the University of Chicago. My favorite books are Cat’s Cradle, The Eden Express, Cannery Row, This is How You Lose Her, The Nix, and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and I’d choose Catcher in the Rye over the Great Gatsby any day. I have some really incredible friends and sometimes I paint or bake or hike, but usually I think or read or study or just kinda hang out.

I’m passionate about the world and it’s people, new ideas, and minds (clearly), and sometimes I struggle with what I should do in order to be the person I want to be and just what I want to do.

Anyways, I hope you (nobody? somebody?) enjoys this and that that somebody or nobody isn’t anyone who actually knows me just yet 😉

 

P.S. Pretty soon I’ll make the website prettier (I actually really like web design), but for right now I kinda liked this theme because it’s called “Hemingway” and I just finished For Whom the Bell Tolls.