Sunday, November 25, 2012


Before I came to Japan, I told my friend from high school who lives and works in Tokyo that I would be here for a month. He mentioned that we should hang out, but I hadn't heard back from him. A couple days ago he messaged me and asked me if I want to go to pick vegetable on his friend's farm in the mountains this last weekend. Of course I couldn't say no to that: I couldn't wait to get out of the concrete city and into the countryside for some fresh air and nice scenery.

Japanese maple

Gorgeous view of the mountain and open-space, something not found in Tokyo downtown
I had no idea my friend currently works at one of those massive American corporate companies and this was actually an unofficial company trip for his colleagues from Tokyo and from offices abroad. I was the tag-along sloppy academic. The Japanese girls were so put together and dressed so nicely that I felt self-conscious the entire weekend. I've been living out of the same suitcase for the 2 entire months I just feel all the clothes I own seem smelly, worn-out and wrinkly. I mean I do my laundry every week, but my clothes just constantly absorb all the odor on busses, in trains, and in restaurants (smoking is allowed indoors in Japan. Also, because I was told that I was going to a farm, I just put on my old jeans and t-shirt and headed off to meet up with my friend. I didn't realize girls in Japan are dressed nicely at all times, even when going to farms. Everybody brought one of those carry-on stylish suitcases with nice change of clothes, and fancy full-sized carrying bags (made in France) of skin care + make up products. There I was with my old camping backpack and minimalistic toiletry gear (tooth brush, tooth paste + something to wash face with, and maybe a lip balm). I felt like such an inadequate female.

I must have appeared to be very stand-offish the entire weekend because I was super conscious the whole time of how badly I smelled and looked. I felt ugly and dirty next to them; I just left my long hair loose as is (lots of fly-aways), while their hair were all neat and pretty, with bobby pins and fancy hair clips. I admired their fine autumn leather boots while my trail runners that I've been wearing every day for months reeked like I haven't taken them off for hundreds of hours. It doesn't help that they all seem to carry very nice smelling hand creams (from L'Occitane) that they re-apply constantly on their hands throughout the day while I had nothing. I tried really hard to enjoy the scenery, but the anxiety of inadequacy was with me the whole trip.

When I checked the photos just now I actually looked okay (but probably still stinky - no way to double check that objectively). My skin was healthy enough that I didn't look unbearably horrible next to girls with full mascara + carefully powdered faces. However, inside my head I felt like a mentally disturbed woman for the past few days, shameful of  myself and worried I've shamed my Chinese ethnicity as well.

I guess this is what happens when I get sent to a country without knowing before hand what the local culture is like. Doesn't help that scientists (students and profs), both male and female, tend to be a lot sloppier than the average population, regardless of nationality. I definitely have a lot of mental and spiritual work to do. Being in Japan definitely exposes (too?) many shadow aspects of my mental state.



  1. Lol. I have been in a similar state when i travelled to London for 3 months and didn't carry much cause of the baggage limitation.

    and yeah you do feel a bit like a zombie atleast in your head :P

    But its always better to let go off yourself when you get to enjoy the countryside. The pics are wonderful..

    1. Thanks for commenting Grumblings! Instead of focusing on the scenery my thoughts were occupied by my self-consciousness.. isn't that sad? I did try hard to enjoy the country side as much as I could. It's a learning experience I guess.

  2. Beautiful blog, still have some older posts to read but I love it here!
    I understand how difficult it can be living in a country that has completely different culture that what you are used to and what you have enxountered so far, but you can really take this opportunity to do this mental and spiritual work you are reffering to.
    I also had the same luggage problem in a long trip I took to China, so I feel you!
    And I really find these photos wonderful! :)


    1. Thank you for your kind words Olympia! I keep hoping the negativity will run out at some point and then I can be left with pure happy thoughts to post in my blog and to share with the world in real life, but alas, I still have a lot of spiritual work to do. Japanese nature is gorgeous. If I get the chance in the future I'd love to do a trip where I spend all my time there!

    2. I've heard about that! I've never visited Japan myself, but my father has when he was in his middle 20s and was working as a merchant marine engineer and travelled around half of the globe. It is one of his favorite destinations if not the favorite one. I do wish you will get the chance to do that trip!

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