Aaa the ”Cuteness” [Japan Loving Foreign Girls]

tumblr_m8p6xdZZLc1rxq6y9o1_500

 

So I have been wondering something for quite some time – what is it about Japan that makes some non-Japanese young women act like little girls?

If you have an interest in Japan (or general knowledge about Japan) I’m pretty sure you know the type of girls I’m talking about. Maybe you’re even part of the group yourself, then maybe you can enlighten me.

I’m talking about the type of girls who loves Japan (often manga and anime) who then tries to take cuteness to a annoying level. A quick search on youtube will give you several videos with non-Japanese girls who should be in the age of evident maturity, who speaks Japanese with high pitched voices stretching out words like “desu”, “ne” and “etto” way too much and through around “victory signs” like they get paid by the amount. Sometimes these people are even by a popular term referred to as “weeaboos” – I do not like to use this term though.

Is this a rant entry? You might call it that, but I also think I’m generally confused about the whole thing.

I often get comments and messages on youtube from Japanese people telling me how nice to hear a foreigner using “natural” Japanese. That I don’t try to act Japanese and that I don’t overuse “ne” and other filler words. For people to actually take the time to write these comments and messages just shows that the “cute girls” are definitely getting known – and they’re increasing.

So what is the whole cuteness about? Do these girls actually try to act their image of Japanese girls or are they trying to bring their favorite anime and manga characters to life.

I think many blog entries about the difference about “real Japan” vs “manga lovers image of Japan” can be written, but with these girls I just feel generally confused. To be honest I’ve never myself met any Japanese girl act like some of these Japan loving non-Japanese girls, so should I just assume that it’s the anime talking?

I also sometime believe the more “cute” this girls act, the less the chance is that they’ve actually ever been to Japan. Visiting Japan often tend to be an awakening to these girls that the Japanese they try so hard to speak is actually neither the common way of speaking in Japan – nor is it actually wanted. I seriously doubt many Japanese would take grown up girls who says things like “Konnichiwaaaa Love-chan desuuuu YAY” seriously.

I am aware that in the recent years Japan has been associated with various kinds of “cuteness”, but is it really necessary to take it to that next level?

If it is the anime talking, I’m in no way telling people to stop acting like this if brings them joy. For my sake knock yourself with all the cute voices, pig tails and stretched out words. All I hope is that these girls keep this fact in mind: it’s not real.

I myself have no interest in anime and manga, but I never try to burst any bubbles, I often just try to tell people who have a general interest in Japan not to use manga and anime as their only sources. This concerns both the language learning and also when it comes to understanding the Japanese society. I’ve seen so many anime-loving people getting culture shocks in Japan, when they realize that anime is FAR from everything in Japan. Suddenly they had to realize that the common Japanese person didn’t know their favorite anime or manga and that they actually couldn’t care less. Also learning just Japanese from anime should also be taken with a grain of salt. One of my female class mates (I’m a Japanese major) kept talking like a guy (using words only males use) and say things like “show me your panties” during the first year, because that’s how they spoke in her favorite animes.

To all the “cute girls”, if you have fun – then rock on, but if you ever find yourself in the actual country of Japan, please have a “mature” back-up character to take over, unless you only tend to hang out in Akihabara and Harajuku. Or else you might find yourself more alienated than regular foreigners.

Advertisements

The thing with the “L’s” – Japanese pronunciation.

So I guess that all people who has some knowledge about Japan or the Japanese language knows that Japanese people are pretty much unable to pronounce the letter “L” – since it’s not apart of the Japanese language. This sound will in most cases be replaced with a “R” – which sometimes results in interesting words such as “Rabu” (Love) Rasuto (Last) and Onrain (Online).
Overall, do a big amount of Japanese people have a hard time with distinguishing sounds. Especially the differences between the pronunciation of letters such as “N” and “M” – my husband cannot hear the difference between “bum” and “bun” even though I tried to explain that you do need to differentiate these two words and there’s a difference. Also like one of the popular areas in Japan, which is written as Nanba in Japanese hiragana (written system), but when the Japanese write in Latin letters (like on the train station) it turns into Namba.
I also feel like cursing a lot when I try to practice either Danish or English with my husband, since I can pronounce a certain word several times, him getting it all wrong, but don’t get it himself.

Me: “No it’s pronounced as “Kvittering” (receipt in Danish)”
Him: “Kiiwwitereing”
Me: “Noooo. KVIIIITTEEERIIIING”
Him: “Keweitaring”
Me: “Does what I’m saying and what you’re saying sound the same to you?”
Him: “Pretty much”
*Face palm*

(We always speak Japanese together, so this is a translated dialogue.)

I know there’s a lot of Japanese people out there who fully master good pronunciation of foreign languages, but unfortunately do the Japanese language provide a disadvantage to its’ people, due to the lack of sounds, and especially due to the fact the only consonant by itself in the Japanese language is “N”, besides that the Japanese language is build up by sounds made from one consonant and one vowel (and a few lone vowels like A, I, U, E, O).
Which makes the remaining sounds look like these examples: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, na, ni, nu, ne, no, ma, mi, mu, me, mo, sa, shi, su, se, so and etc.
Which just results in a lot of Japanese people finding other foreign pronunciation difficult – and gives us a lot of Japanese versions of English. “Za rasuto taimu ai sa yu was furaidei” (The last time I saw you was Friday).

Of course what is more interesting is the big amount of English words used in Japan, but with a different meaning than the original. Like the Japanese calls a dress “One piece”, when “duressu” (dress) is used it means a big, ball-like gown. Where did “One piece” come from anyway? I mean… I want my shirts in one piece as well.
Or like in Japanese where the sentence, “Rent a car” has become a one-word-noun called Rentakaa, which means you’ll hear Japanese say (in Japanese), “I will rent a rent a car”.
I also think a bigger problem with language learning in Japan, is that the Japanese Katakana alphabet (Used for foreign words) is often used for showing pronunciation of the foreign language, but this writing system is also made up from the previous ka, ki, ku, ke, ko and etc, meaning that they can only create an “kinda” pronunciation – instead of showing a proper pronunciation from the beginning.
Like when looking at the book my husband uses to learn Danish, the sentence is first written in Japanese, then Danish with the latin letters and then the katakana version.
For and example:

It’s nice to meet you.
Det glæder mig at møde dig.
De gureeza ma o meeze dai. (Japanese Katakana)

Not the same. Not the same.
Overall this point of this entry, was to announce that today, my Japanese husband finally, after almost 2 years of marriage, has realized that my name is pronounced as Isabella and not Isabela.

Him: “Today I realized something.”
Me: “What?”
Him: “You’re name is actually pronounced with a long L.”
Me: “Of course! Why do you think the double “L” is there for!?”
Him: “I see, I just thought it was Isabela”
*More face palming*

Trip summary: Vietnam – the land of scooters and persistence

After our stay in Cambodia we got on a bus that would take us from the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh over the border, into Vietnam and to the city of Ho Chi Minh – also known as Saigon. Because of my husband being Japanese and me being Danish, it meant we were one of the lucky nationalities to be allowed into Vietnam without any visas.

As we crossed the border into Vietnam, the surroundings also started to change. The letters became readable – without holding any meaning to me as a non-Vietnamese speaker. The jungle and the wilderness became far less dominant, while concrete buildings and city landscapes slowly took over. The roads became wider, smooth asphalt replaced the dusty dirt roads and the roads that once were empty was not full with life and were now occupied by a huge amount of scooters and the streets were filled with vendors and people showing more pride and persistence than we had seen in Cambodia – we had arrived to Vietnam, the last stop of our journey in South East Asia.

The first two days were spent in the city of Ho Chi Minh in South Vietnam, a city formerly named Saigon, which is also the name the locals still use, but was renamed after their beloved communist leader Ho Chi Minh. Of course the first thing you can’t help but notice in Vietnam is the almost scary amount of scooters, they’re everywhere, they’re fast, they’re noisy, they follow close to no rules and they show no mercy – like most traffic in South East Asia. We even received flyers on the hotel with advice on how to cross the street.

1. Get eye contact with the drivers. 2. Do not run. 3. Do not suddenly change direction.

I guess the final point should have been: show courage and prey that the driver wants to avoid a collision as much as you do.

I remember our bus guide saying: “have you ever seen an accident in Vietnam?” we shook our heads and started to wonder why. “It’s because if an accident happens, we make sure to disappear as soon as possible, before anyone gets involved. We don’t want the cops to take our precious bikes.”

We spent one day exploring the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh, which unfortunately didn’t have so much to offer when it came to sight seeing spots. Instead I focused on “people-watching” and it didn’t take long to notices the many differences between the Vietnamese and their Cambodian neighbors – besides their physical appearance. Even with their lighter skin and petite bodies, the Vietnamese showed an inner strength, pride and stubbornness showed in their eyes and there were a certain persistence in their actions. This was a people who got rid of the French and surely weren’t going to be ruled over again.On our second day we took a tour on the Mekong river and visited some of the small islands scattered in it.

That evening it was time for us to board the train that would take us to the next destination, 16 hours of traveling time away, Da Nang, a big city in the middle of Vietnam. We got on the train around 12 in the evening and tried to get a proper night sleep, together with two other Vietnamese people whom we shared a cabin with. But the train was very noisy, the toilet was very uninviting as expected, with it’s foul smell and unclean demeanor and we were often woken up by some of the train crew who opened the doors, shouted the next station and slammed the door shut again. Around 6 am we were then woken up by noisy music played through old, scratchy speakers – which was around that time I just gave up trying to get comfortable.

We arrived to Da Nang in the afternoon, and were greeted by a modern city, with flashing lights and tall buildings, which made the jungles of the Mekong river seem like a distant memory.

But even city had many areas I felt uncomfortable walking in during the evening time. Like both Thailand and Cambodia, Vietnam unfortunately also had certain characters of people who looked like they for up to no good and also here random people were ready to tell foreign all sorts of lies in hopes of gaining some money. Though, for with it’s worth, Vietnam seemed a bit cleaner than Thailand and Cambodia, were I had gotten used to seeing both huge rats and cockroaches roaming the streets among the garbage.

On our first full day in Da Nang, we went to the city of Hoi An, and old town, known for it’s traditional buildings, old streets and tailors who can make anything you like. I had expressed desires for a Vietnamese traditional dress for a few days, so me husband arranged for getting me a tailor made one in Hoi An, which I got to take home the same day. I also got two pairs of boots made in another shop – which was delivered to our hotel the next day.

Overall in Vietnam, it seemed like the people found the ability to speak English less important than they did in Thailand and Cambodia and we often had to go by pointing, signaling and good will.

“I would like this one” I said to a waiter in a restaurant, pointing to a dish on the menu. He looked at me for some time and then replied “no”. I looked at the menu again “I don’t want it?” “no”. “You don’t have it?” he sighed and said “no” – surprisingly. After taking our orders he went to another table, with another foreigner who expressed that he wanted the spring rolls and the answer was “no”.

On our final day in Da Nang, we went to a mountain called Ba Na hills, famous for it’s fast cable cars, scenic views and a big amusement park under construction.

That evening we once again boarded a night train to take us to the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, up in the north. The next day we arrived in a jumble of narrow streets, overwhelming amount of people, never moving traffic, street vendors, markets, polluted air and noise. The first evening we wandered the streets of the French quarter, now filled with shops narrowly lined up along the old streets, some “shops” took up the side walk, boating their merchandise either laying on the street or hanging on the walls of a building. The streets felt like one big maze at times and we often lost our way and while we tried to find our way back we often had to ask each other “didn’t we already turn that corner a few minutes ago?”

On our first full day in Hanoi we went to the famous Ha Long bay, a three our bus drive from Hanoi, on uneven, bumpy roads, which made us on the back seat feel like were “very shaken, not stirred” and spent a day on a boat, admiring the cliffs and the ocean.

On our second day in Hanoi and our last day in Vietnam we explored the areas of Hanoi we hadn’t ventured out to, yet. Getting slowly tired of the scooters, their honking and especially all the cars and mentioned scooters being parked everywhere, especially at places which were originally meant to be a side walk and not a parking loot, which resulted in us having to walk on the scary streets.

Also in Vietnam I seemed extremely popular among the Vietnamese, who stopped to take pictures of or with me, making other tourist stop up as well, with wonder written in their faces while in low voices discussing wether I was some kind of celebrity.

Sometimes I wondered that myself, considering all the VIP treatment I had received in South East Asia based on my looks. Treatment was soon to be over, since we that evening got on a plane back to Bangkok, spent 22 hours there and then got on our final flight to Osaka, Japan.

Trip Summary: Cambodia – A land known by their dark history, but remembered by their smiles.

After our six days in Thailand, my husband and I went to Aranyaprathet, the Thai city bordering Cambodia, got our Cambodian visas and crossed to border into Poipet, into Cambodia. After that a very long drive from the border to the famous city of Siam Reap which offers tourists the famous Angkar Wat, awaited us.

The first I got to see of Cambodia, besides the stuffy border buildings and the big casino on the border, was the barren land, flat fields that looked like they were stretching into what seemed never ending, only separated by small villages with little wooden huts placed on poles to avoid the floods of water during the rainy season. We saw skinny cows walking along the roads, either dragged a carriage or walking by itself. We saw whole families riding a single scooter and we saw small, laughing children chasing around chickens on dirt roads leading away from the single, main paved road our taxi was putting to use. We saw people sitting outside their homes engrossed in conversations, we saw people taking a rest in their hammock under the shades of the many palm trees and we saw people working in the fields under the relentless Cambodian sun.

I found myself amazed by the sights of a world I hadn’t laid my eyes on before. Cambodia became the travel destination I would never forget and a destination that would leave me longing for a return.

Last summer I picked up a book in the local super market called “De dræbte min far” (First they killed my father) by Loung Ung, without knowing anything about the history of Cambodia I decided to buy in and soon after I found myself sucked into the life and story of Loung Ung, who was just a child when Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge army took over Cambodia in 1975, drove the Cambodian people out the fields and started what they called “Year Zero”. A new era, where hard working farmers were the ideal and educated people were the enemy. During their four year reign the Khmer Rouge army killed an estimated 2 million people, over 20 percent of the Cambodian people lost their lives to the vision of Pol Pot and a few other leaders. Many died of torture, savage executions, over work or starvation.

Through the story of Loung Ung, I found myself drawn into a dark and inhumane era of Cambodian history, a history that ones again shows us the true evil some humans are able to commit, a history that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Just outside the capital, Phnom Penh, tourists are able to visit one of the most famous killings fields, called Choeung Ek, where the khmer rouge killed and buried more than 8,800 people in mass graves and in Phnom Penh city it is possible to visit a former high school, which was turned into a prison for the many enemies of khmer rouge, called Tuol Sleng. With such a dark history I never imagined to find so many smiles in Cambodia.

I did witness poverty, especially in the eyes of the small children begging me to buy either postcards, bottled water or bracelets, or in the eyes of an old man or woman lacking limbs asking us for money. I did witness hardships, from seeing people live on the ruthless streets, seeing people work under the burning sun without breaks and seeing people just trying to survive another day, but despite of that I also saw a strong willed people who had moved on, who had raised from the ashes and a people who do their best to enjoy even the smallest pleasures in life. A people who focus on the present while they flash bright smiles to world and to foreigners like me, who no matter how books I read about the genocide, will never be able to fully comprehend what they or their parents have gone through. A foreigner like me, who will probably never experience true, human hardship.

I fell in love with Cambodia, I fell in love with all the beautiful cultural and historic sights, like the famous and impressive ancient city of Angkar Wat which draws in tourists from around the world to the city of Siam Reap, or the beautiful and majestic royal palace in Phnom Penh – which is once again a thriving capital, with busy streets, big markets and boulevards lined with buildings showing off French architecture, reminiscing the French colonization. Phnom Penh, the city once called “the Pearl of Asia”, a city left empty by the khmer rouge, is a city in development and a city worth to visit. Whole Cambodia is worth a visit and I know I didn’t get to see enough during my measly four days in this amazing country, so now I am left with a urge, a need, to once again go back to the country so filled with rich culture and history, the country which offers magnificent sights of true country landscapes, where people still rely on nature, hard work and basic utilities during their everyday lives. The country of Cambodia can offer one an experience of a lifetime, help one create memories one won’t forgot and the Cambodian people can offer one smiles, kindness and show one that it is still right to believe in humanity, even when dark times should prove otherwise.

Cambodia have now a special place in my heart and I hope others who goes there are able to make a place as well.

Youtube: Day 1 – Bangkok

Overall I have been too busy to update my blog during this travel so far, also because I’m working on my youtube channel at the same time. So I thought I would put my youtube updates on this blog as well.

So here’s a video of how my first day in Bangkok – with my husband went. The spoken parts are in Japanese with English (and Japanese) subtitles.

The video contains us getting a bit lost in Bangkok, then we go temple watching and finish the day off at a restaurant.

Being in a long distance relationship.

Long distance relationships, to most they probably seem unimaginable, for others they might seem less genuine but, for some they’re reality. I myself, being and European and married to a Japanese have found myself being part of just that kind of relationship – the kind of relationship that I hadn’t given much thought earlier in my life.

My mother have often said that she saw it coming, considering the fact that I was always romanticizing about Japanese guys and had overall no interest in the guys in my area. And, since my goal since elementary school was to marry a Japanese guy and live in Japan, I, myself should have seen it coming as well – maybe I lacked a better grasp and wider view of reality back then. I guess, I felt I didn’t need reality, because my future goal didn’t seem very plausible to me at all back then. How could a girl with an overall lack of dating experience suddenly be able to find a nice Japanese guy who later on would marry me and we could then live happily ever after?

Life is a mysterious thing, because that was pretty much what happened, except that the “happily ever after” is dragging out a bit, because how can you truly be happy when you’re forced to part ways over and over again?

Before I met my husband I never imagined how painful it could be having to say goodbye to someone being so close to your heart. Even though it’s only a momentarily goodbye it feels like ages and when you feel a part of your soul is missing then six weeks can easily seem like six months. Overall my husband are considered fortunate in some long distance communities because we’re able to be together for around 4 weeks and then separated for 6 weeks while he works in Japan. That still means that over the past year and 10 months we’ve parted around 10 times, around 10 times have our physical touch become impossible, our conversations been limited to skype and around 10 times have I been forced to try mending and gathering the pieces together of my broken heart. And this pattern will continue till I’m able to finally move to Japan after my university graduation, which is still two and a half years away.

Some people may believe that I’m overplaying the feelings involved in this crucial part of being in a long distance relationship, but maybe it’s because they’ve never experienced such feelings themselves.

I also know other people would say “I couldn’t do it” and I also do believe it’s a fact that long distance relationships are not meant for everybody, if everybody could do it would it then even be considered as hard? I guess there’s a lot of things in life there’s not meant to be easy. But, it’s not because us who’s a part of a long distance relationship finds it neither easier nor more filling to be in these relationships. We find them equally hard, but what if you do find “that person”, but they’re located across the globe, is it then easier to say “I can’t do it”? Overall heartbreak awaits, one person does have to chose if it’s more painful to only see their partner in periods of time, rather than not seeing them infinitely.

In the beginning, sometimes when my heart ached the most, I did consider ending the relationship in hopes of finding peace and conclusion. I disliked hearing friends complain about not being able to see their boyfriends for a few days, I even at times I felt despiteful and wished they could feel “real longing” – but, nothing of that proved to be a right solution, nothing brought relieve to the pain. Because I was the one who wanted the relationship, I didn’t wish for the distance or the hardships attached to it, but I wanted the guy, I wanted to enjoy the smiles he put on my face, the butterflies in my stomach and the peace only he could bring to my heart. How could I dismiss all this because 5,000 miles stood in our way? And if I did end the relationship, who could then promise me that I would be able to find a guy that I would be able to love at least half as much?

And the before mentioned jealousy does nothing but poke at wounds and scars that’s trying to heal and fade. Though knowing this doesn’t mean that these ill feelings will fully go away. We humans are jealous creatures indeed. It’s not just that us in a long distance relationship feels that it’s us against “the others”, even in “long distance relationship communities” jealousy is a fire which can’t be tamed. There’s the couples meeting once or twice a year envying the couples who meets once a month. There’s comparisons when it comes to the number of miles separating couples or the amount of minutes they’re able to talk during a week. But, does it really put your heart more at ease knowing your partner is 300 miles away, rather than 3,000? And to poor students 400 miles might as well be 4,000 when transportation options are limited.

In long distance relationships finance is crucial. I’ve been lucky, since I have a husband who’s able to pay flight tickets between Denmark and Japan every second month, also without touching savings. But, what if he was a student like me? Then we should feel blessed with being able to see each other once or twice a year.
Overall, emotional pain lies within the “eyes” of the beholder. We shouldn’t compare and we shouldn’t think that our pain is worse than others’, because how do we really know when we only know our own? I guess, when not seeing your partner for four days seems unbearable, then it’s mostly because you haven’t tried not seeing them for four months. Though it doesn’t make your feelings of longing less valid – but I do believe they’re shorter.

My husband went back to Japan a few days ago and even though we’ve been through the process so many times, it didn’t make me cry less or keep me from try to desperately hold on to him till the very last minute. I still don’t believe him when he says time will pass fast, because I know how it felt the last time.
But, I wouldn’t consider giving up on us, not just because we have a legal paper on our relationship, but because I know I’m a far happier person with him in my life, even though he unfortunately can’t be by my side every single day. Because I know I’ll see him again and because I know I couldn’t live a life without him in it.

And… I also know he’ll be reading this and maybe understanding half of these words.

A final two-shot at the airport after I’ve been crying most of the day.

I got my Japanese spouse visa.

In order to study for one semester in Japan and because I for certain reasons do not go for the student visa offered, my husband and I went to the Japanese embassy located in Copenhagen to start the ”spouse visa” progress.

Besides the obvious fact that you need to be married to a Japanese, there are some paper work when applying for a spouse visa. In Denmark the needed documents for obtaining a spouse visa are the following:

  • Visa application form (English) – 2 copies.
  • 査証発給申請書2通 (Visa application form – 2 copies)
  • 写真2葉 (Two pasport pictures)
  • 旅券 (Pasport)
  • 戸籍謄本1通 (Family registration – 1 copy)
  • 住民票の写し (Prove of residence)
  • 納税証明書 (Tax certificate)

Overall, there was a lot less paperwork than I expected, especially considering the fact that only the two documents we had to fill out were the two visa application forms. The rest were papers my husband obtained at his city hall in Japan.

Then we gathered the papers and went to the embassy on the 20th this month and already the next day, less than 24 hours later, I got a call saying that my visa was done and ready to be picked up.

I never expected it to be progressed that fast and without much work and above all the embassy charged no money for the visa. So now I have a one-year visa for Japan.

(Yes, I don’t really like the photo in the visa, which is why I decided to hide it. –  I have shown my face numerous times in other posts)

The part the flash is covering says: Spouse, Child of Japanese.

The passport is a “single entry” passport, which means that if I leave Japan, without having applied for a re-entry the visa is “cancelled”. Though, I’ll only need this visa for 5 months and not a year, but it’s nice to know that obtaining a one-year visa is not as complicated as I feared and we can easily do the procedure in a near future again, when I really need to be in Japan for longer periods. Since my plan is to move to Japan after I graduate university, then I guess we apply for the one-year visa and then when in Japan, we’ll have to apply to get that visa renewed.

My first name disappeared.

Today I received my acceptance letter from Kobe University, which means I’m officially an exchange student for the spring semester in 2012. The acceptance letter came as an attached document in a e-mail. The e-mail was also sent to two of my other class mates who have been accepted into Kobe University as well and reading that e-mail reminded me of another thing – the fact that I didn’t just change my last name when I married a Japanese, I also lost my first name.

 The e-mail said: Dear, Nicolai-san, Anton-san and Kayashima-san.

 The first two were addressed by their first name, but I was addressed by my last name.

Later on in the e-mail my class mates were mentioned by their last and first names, where I once again was only mentioned by my last name.

This is not an one time incident. It’s actually something I’ve gotten used to when it comes to most Japan-related aspects of my life.

Ever since I got married my Japanese teachers stopped calling me by my first name and are now only using my my last name when they address me in class.

This is quite unusual in Denmark, where you rarely use your last name and now after marrying I get called by it all the time. Of course if I married any other nationality nothing would have changed, but since I married a Japanese, it seems like my new last name has caught the interest of other Japanese people and now they refuse to call me by anything else.

 I guess Japanese people are just more familiar with a Japanese last name rather than the name Isabella, but what about my teachers who has known me and called me by my first name for almost a year before I married last spring?

Why is it that my first name suddenly disappeared as soon as I changed my last name? Of course there is not really any problems when coming to non-Japanese speaking people, since they prefer to not having to pronounce my last name.

My husband thinks that Japanese feels more “safe” by using my Japanese last name, rather than my first name, since it avoids confusion and possible mistakes, but what about my teachers?

“Maybe they just feel like saying it” my husband answered.

Like I said, we rarely use last names in Denmark, not even when we address our teachers, so I guess it just feels weird to me when my teachers suddenly starts calling me by my last name.

Abe Mao – Soba ni Ite

Tomorrow, Abe Mao’s new single Soba ni Ite will be released. The single also includes live recordings from her latest concert in Tokyo (6 tracks).

Tracklist

01 側にいて
02 YURALI forever
Songs from 「阿部真央らいぶ 夏の陣in東京」@日比谷野外大音楽堂(2011.08.14)
03 痛み
04 19歳の唄
05 Don’t leave me
06 for ロンリー
07 雨上がりの夜空に
08 走れ
09 光

I myself, am a very big fan of Abe Mao and I also went to the before mentioned live concert in Tokyo (Hibiya Park). It was an amazing experience and Abe Mao is even more amazing live, where she gives all her energy and shows people her cute and energetic charm. She also preformed “Soba ni Ite” at this concert, where it really captivated me, which is the reason why I wanted to share this song with people. Unfortunately youtube only had the short version, but I guess it works nice as a preview. It’s a slow and sad song, which Abe Mao preforms beautifully and I hope people will like this song as much as I do. Please give Abe Mao, who is probably still unknown to a lot of people, some of your time. She’s a young artist you deserves a very bright future.

Me in My Abe Mao concert T-shirt.

Going to Iwaki city. (Day 3)

On August 23rd, our last full day in Fukushima, my husband, his cousin and her youngest son and I, went to Iwaki city. A place that has earned much fame during the past 5 months, but not because of scenic views, famous buildings, amazing local dishes or other such tourist things. In fact Iwaki is not famous for such positive things of any kind, there is a lot darker reason behind the now known city name. Iwaki was one of the cities, which ended up a victim for the great tsunami that followed the biggest Japanese earthquake back in March.

This was how Iwaki was seen across the world when the tsunami made headlines:

I am not sure why I wanted to visit Iwaki. A place, which has witnessed more horror, more sorrow, more grief and more tears than any place deserves. For some reason I was drawn to the place. Not because I wanted to say, “I was there”, but because I wanted to see it with my own eyes. Back when the earthquake and tsunami hit, while watching the news I felt so much pain. Not just for the people who lost their lives, but also for the people who was left behind, those who had lost loved ones and those who had lost everything they owned.

So, there we were, on our way from Koriyama city to Iwaki city an around 2-hour drive. On the way, the regular highway signs announced the upcoming cities and the connected exists, I couldn’t help but looking even closer at the sign announcing Soma city – the city of the nuclear plant.  I looked to the side and I could spot blocked roads, telling people not to enter what has now become a ghost town.

We reached Iwaki city and first we went to the nearest harbour. Already there the sign was evident. Trees and fences were bended, houses and buildings were missing and others were in ruin. It felt unreal. We drove along the seaside and saw more devastation.



Iwaki had cleaned up all the garbage the tsunami left, like, wood, personal items, cars and even ships. That garbage was still located on big lots, located in various places. Seeing that such things, just a few months back, was lingering in the streets of the city also had an impact.

There were a lot of places that were recognizable from the news. Also the cousin stopped a lot of places and said in a quiet voice, “I saw this place in the newspaper”. Also she seemed to be affected by everything.

She also stopped by a 7-eleven, or what was left of one and mentioned the news again.

Outside the store was a figure what had “let’s do our best, Iwaki” written on it. I had seen so many “Let’s do our best, Japan/Tohoku/Fukushima” signs, but that one was memorable.

I think everyone in the car was affected by what we saw. Even the cousin’s young son kept saying “ひどいね” (It’s terrible.) It truly was.

That evening, the cousin showed me Iwaki on a map, telling me that it was only located 25 km from the nuclear plant (20 km being the safe zone), which I didn’t know. I started asking more about their personal experiences and I listened intensely. How they experienced the shaking, the sound of dozens of helicopters flying towards the nuclear plant above their house, how they tried to seal the house from outside air, the empty supermarkets and the long queues of people hoping to get a little gas for their car.

There was so much I wanted to know and the family had so much to tell.