15. How Japanese culture has changed me

Everywhere you go, everyone you meet, everything you encounter, changes you somehow. Picking up Japanese, having Japanese friends, living in Japan for half a year has changed me. Once you learn so much about a certain culture, there’s this social obligation to conform to it. I guess here are some of the aspects that I feel that I’ve changed in.

1. I think and speak to myself in Japanese.
Someone once told me that for learning new languages, the turning point is when you start to think in that language and not think in your native language before translating and saying it out loud. And I think this is very true. Thinking in Japanese has helped me to get more practice too. And well, since I already talk to myself in English talking to myself in Japanese will only help to improve my pronounciation :3

2. I find myself thinking of whether I’ll cause unnecessary trouble to people.
Japanese people often act in a way so as not to “人に迷惑がかからない”, which means not to cause trouble to others. For example they don’t talk on the phones in trains to keep the peace and quiet, and they often answer with ambiguity so as to allow the other person to save face. Like saying that you’re sick or very busy when someone asks you out instead of rejecting them outright. So whenever I want to make a request to someone, I’ll always tell them that it’s okay if they’re too busy or they don’t want to do it, or that if I’m a nuisance they’re free to ignore me. Because I genuinely don’t want to cause trouble for them.

3. I have become more skeptical of people when they invite me to events or to join them.
In Japan, people have 本音(honne) and 建前(tatemae), which is your real feelings and your mask respectively. Tatemae is like inviting someone to visit you but they are only saying this because of a social obligation, and in reality they do not want you to pay them a visit at all. It’s very confusing in Japan because it’s really difficult to tell honne from tatemae, so most of the time you’re unsure if the person is really inviting you over or is just saying it for show. In Singapore this doesn’t really happen as much, but I’m still cautious.

4. I am guilty of 90% of the following. Except for チンチン欲しいな.

14. Nothing really makes me happy anymore

I’ve been trapped in a miserable abyss for the past few weeks. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Nothing seems to be going right. I absent-mindedly leave things behind, and the count for the last 10 days stands at 3: My passport, my wallet and my matriculation card. Luckily both my passport and wallet have been recovered, but I still feel just as miserable. It’s as if my brain isn’t functioning normally.

I don’t really know how to explain what I’m feeling right now, but being stuck in this perpectual state only reinforces it. It’s a combination of frustration, resignation and apathy. It’s kind of neither here nor there, and thus it only serves to drag me further down. I’m not frustrated enough to punch a wall to vent, not resigned enough to start sobbing, and well, the feeling of apathy is just hanging there. I’ll very much rather encounter a strong wave of feelings that will push me over the edge and force me to do something about it.

I’m not focusing very well on my studies, I get distracted very easily, and I procrastinate even though it’s 3am in the morning and work is still not done. I’m a little sick of everything right now. People, social responsibilties, school, work, everything else.

If only there was some way to get out of this vicious cycle. I want to laugh again. I don’t think I’ve truely laughed in a long time. All I do is look sick, or tired, or stoned.

Nothing really makes me happy anymore.

13. Stop waiting.

I have probably spent a good quarter of my life waiting. Waiting for someone to turn up. Waiting for someone to reply. Waiting for something to start. And it’s not the kind of passive waiting when you’re doing something else constructive, but the kind where the main thing you’re doing is waiting.

That’s a lot of time wasted.

Some things cannot be helped. Some delays are inevitable in life. You just need to know when it’s not acceptable and when to stop waiting.

Alas, for matters of the heart. It’s easier said than done. The nerve-wrecking seconds agonizingly pass by, feeling as if they were hours instead.

Oh how I wish it’d stop.

12. Life

If possible, all I want to do in life is curl up with a good book, drink good whiskey, listen to house and eat cake.

Since forever isn’t plausible, just now will do.
That aside, 偉そうな人が一番大嫌い。

11. Long hair

So, what is not true about people who have long hair. Or really long hair. Or hair that’s as long as mine. Or maybe it’s just me.

1. Long hair does not get stuck in doors or passageways.

2. I do not eat my hair. In fact, the chances of other people eating my hair is a lot higher. Just yesterday Gwen ate my hair again. For the umpteenth time.

3. Hair doesn’t cover my face and smothers me when  I sleep.

4. When I sit down and lean against the chair, my hair doesn’t get stuck against it. I.e., I can still move my head freely without problems.

What is true about long hair.

1. It takes too long to dry on its own. My hair takes an average of 2 hours to dry completely.

2. It’s a good neck warmer. Which isn’t very good if you’re in Singapore.

And that’s all I can think of for now. Oh and one stupid question I get a lot is “Why is your hair so long?” Uh… it’s because I didn’t cut it short? If you want to ask why I chose to have long hair, then perhaps you’d want to phrase your question correctly.

10. The Beginning

Just give me a reason
to keep my heart beating
Don’t worry it’s safe right here in my arms
くだけて泣いて咲いて散ったこの思いは
so blinded I can’t see the end

Look how far we’ve made it
The pain I can’t escape it
このままじゃまだ終わらせる事は出来ないでしょ
何度くたばりそうでも朽ち果てようとも
終わりはないさ
so where do I begin.

「The Beginning」 – ONE OK ROCK

I need my jaded self back. I can’t believe I had wanted not to be jaded anymore.  This just serves as a distraction. Which I definitely cannot afford right now. I need another distraction to this distraction. Or a solution to the problem. Or something, Anything. A new beginning.

09. Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Went to watch the documentary movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi today! It’s been a while since I watched a Japanese movie in Singapore theatres, so was looking forward to it. I heard about the restaurant from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations around 2 years ago, and it’s one of my lifelong dreams to have a meal there. The price isn’t cheap though, from what i’ve heard it’s around 30,000 yen which is around 480 SGD? But Jiro is already 85 years old. D: I wonder how much longer he’s going to be in the kitchen. One thing I know for sure from watching the documentary is that until his body gives up on him, he will continue to make sushi, and continue to strive for perfection.

The kind of passion and self-discipline you see in Jiro is rarely seen these days. Most people give up too quickly; they don’t even bother to endure before complaining that’s it’s too difficult or it’s just not for them. Maybe it is just not for them, but if they don’t try they wouldn’t even know would they? We like to go by the safe route, the easy, high-paying job versus years of hard work slaving to constantly improve yourself. Jiro has been doing exactly that for close to 70 years, and he still thinks that he has not reached perfection because to him, he can’t possibly know what the level of perfection is. ほんまに偉いなー。 I wonder if I’d ever be able to find my craft like him.

On a somewhat completely unrelated note, they showed the trailer for Hotaru no Hikari the movie!!! Hotaru no Hikari is a Japanese drama that spanned 2 seasons, and it’s one of the funniest dramas I’ve ever watched. I’ve rewatched it once recently and it’s still as good. Can’t wait for the movie to come out~♥

We ended up eating Menya Musashi ramen after the movie! Well we were craving for Japanese food but the shop at Plaza Sing doesn’t really serve good Japanese sushi so we settled on ramen. Mhmmm it was a fufilling lunch. Ate exactly the same thing as I did the first time! Black char shuu ramen 黒チャーシューラーメン~! I’ve tried Ippudo and Marutama ramen but I still like Menya Musashi best! As of now that is. x)

08. Strangers, acquaintances, friends.

Met div for brunch today, and we were talking about social dynamics of people, especially in NUS. Ever since I entered university, the term acquaintances started to apply to more people around me. For me in the past, there were only friends and strangers. Friendships were a lot more simpler then, you were either friends, or enemies, or strangers. The awkward moments were far and few. Til now, the concept of acquaintances still puzzles me. Not the definition of the acquaintances but the size of the role acquaintances play in my life. Should I let it increase? Or decrease. I still don’t know.

Or maybe it’s because the one that changed is me. That becoming friendlier created more acquaintances and less friends. After 21.7 (3sf) years you’d think I’ll be able to understand friendship a little better. I guess not.

I remember when I was younger, I was always puzzling over why some of my friendships didn’t work out, why some friends, no matter how hard I tried, didn’t reciprocate my friendship. This continued all the way until university until I was sick and fed up of people not responding. I guess I didn’t realise then some people just didn’t want to be friends with you. No matter what you do, how you did it, they just didn’t care. I learnt the hard way, and up til today, I still have this innate fear. I highly doubt it will fade away.

Relationships are so fragile. They are forever changing. Your close friend today might become an acquaintance the next year. I think one-sided friendships are the hardest to bear. It’s like a one-sided relationship but it hurts a lot more. Because you expect the gesture of friendship to be reciprocated but it never comes.

One day I’ll find you. Till then.

07. Things I want to do

Ever since I came back from Japan, I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. Mainly what I was doing right now, and what was it that I really wanted to do.

How many of us are actually doing what we really want to do? And not stuck somewhere learning something we don’t want to learn or in a job we dread to head for in the morning? We say that there’ll always be time in the future to do it, but in the end it either sits quietly at the back of our mind, gathering dust or it eats away at us all the time, bugging us to do something about it.

I want to learn house. And breaking. And improve my Japanese proficiency. And meet up more frequently with old friends. Find someone I can talk to about anything in the world. Go to Japan again. And again. Spend more time with my family. Try all the cider and beer in the world. Pick up another language. Be proficient in it. Be happy. Be nicer to people. Drink more. Dance more. Did I mention that I really want to learn house?

The list gets even longer and more impractical.

But things start small. If I never take that first step, I will forever be letting all these wants waste away. And I’m feeling so restless now. That nagging need to do something, anything. Might as well be something that I really want to do.

06. Marutama Ramen まる玉らーめん

Just a short post this time! Well, I went to Marutama Ramen at Central a few days back because I had this ramen craving and my friend recommended this shop because it was in the area. So we both went to fufill my ramen needs :3

I ordered the Marutama Ramen, which is a toripaitan (鶏白湯) ramen. It uses chicken broth with Hakata-style noodles. There were others choices on the menu such as Tan men and aka ramen but since it was my first visit I decided on the ramen that was named after the shop. Or is it the other way round..?

Anyway, you could add extra toppings to your ramen! Such as extra kakuni(角煮), cha shu(チャーシュー), aosa(アオサ), ajitsuke tamago(味付け卵) and even kaedama(替え玉), which means a ramen refill. I got mine with the soft boiled egg, because I love soft boil eggs in ramen. I think ramen has made me grown to love soft boil eggs because previous I really hated them. Perhaps it’s because in Singapore, egg yolk has this really strong taste but in Japan I have never experienced that before. Something to do with the freshness of the egg? I’m not too sure.

Marutama Ramen with ajitsuke tamago (まる玉らーめんと味付けたまご)
$12++, $1.50++

Verdict: The ramen broth was not bad, albeit being a bit too light for my taste. The char siew was a little saltier than expected, but I loved the negi and the aosa. The noodles were typical Hakata-style, yellow thin noodles that were firm. And the egg was absolutely gorgeous ♥. Maybe it’s just my newfound love for soft boil eggs. But this egg wasn’t just a typical throw-in-the-pot kind of soft boil eggs, I think they might have been marinated afterwards, which explains the slight saltiness that came along with each bite of the egg.

My friend said that the standard that day dropped from that when she first tried Marutama though, so maybe it was just an unfortunate day for us. On that day, the cooks happened to be Chinese and Indian and the service staff was Japanese. O: Kind of gyaku (逆) from what I expected it to be (Gyaku means the opposite or reverse!)

In conclusion, I would say it’s worth a try, but I personally don’t think it’s worth the price. The good thing is that they have quite a few outlets in Singapore, like Liang Court, United Square and Suntec, so it is rather convenient. Maybe I’ll pop by again to see if that was just an off day for them, but with so many other ramen places in Singapore, it may take a while. ^_^