There’s a particular look that people give you when you tell them “I have an internship in Japan for the majority of the summer… but no, I don’t speak Japanese,” – it’s this quick glimpse of confusion that could be explained in so many eloquent ways but all that comes to mind is … oh.
But, oh, why not.
When I discovered this internship opportunity that is exactly what I thought; why not take the chance to experience something so challenging and yet so rewarding. So here I am, day 3 of 80 at Moriumius in Miyagi, Ishinomaki, Japan. Of course I do worry about the language barrier because I hate to be a hassle for people (e.g. the bus driver who was probably glad when I got off at the first stop because I didn’t know what the heck was going on). So goal #1 is to improve my language skills not only for myself, but also for those around me who are much too kind to me.
Goal #2 is to become comfortable and self-sufficient with my work. Moriumius is a renovated school house in a rural part of the Tohoku region which now serves the purpose of hosting various guests, from children to business professionals, and provides a new point of connection with local culture as well as a retreat. I was excited to work here because, as an international studies major who focuses on comparative culture, I believe that supporting work that helps preserve and share culture is important for everyone involved. And really, what could be more enjoyable than spending the day working outside surrounded by the most beautiful scenery and alongside a group of friendly people. So far my work has included helping in the kitchen, tending to the animals (the big pigs like kiwis), digging around in the dirt for various gardening activities, and taking care of the bath houses. There is a lot to remember but I’m confident I’ll get the hang of it eventually.
Today we went to a local festival on the Ishinomaki seaside that, hopefully I understood correctly, dating back hundreds of years, celebrates the 15 harbors and brings good fortune and safety for the fisherman. We arrived later in the day and stayed for several hours. A group of professional dancers was dancing the entire time which I thought was impressive and then I was told that the same group goes around to all of the harbors to perform. I think my legs gave out just thinking about how exhausting that must be. Dancing is one of my favorite things so I was very happy to be able to watch them perform. I even got one of the paper fish that they used! But I think my favorite part of the whole experience was watching a small boy dance in front of the stage for a majority of the time – he heard the drums and just couldn’t help but to follow the music. It was such a simple moment yet it held so much meaning; and that’s why I’m excited to embark on this amazing journey in Japan, to witness oh so many genuine moments.