On the 7th July, the Japanese believe that it is the only day that Princess Hime and her Prince are able to reunite. The legend says that Princess Hime was a master weaver but was sad because of how lonely she was. When her father, God of the Heavens, set her up with Hikoboshi (a cow herder from the other side of the Milky Way), they fell in love. However they loved each other so much that they both neglected their work which in turn angered her father so much that he separated them by sending Hikoboshi to the other side of the Milky Way. Princess Hime was so saddened by this that her father agreed to let them meet once a year on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month which is none other than the 7th of July. They're the O.G star crossed lovers.
On Tanabata, the Japanese wish for good weather because if the skies are not clear it is said that the magpies that create the bridge of which they meet on do not come to the lover's aid. Wishes are made by writing on small pieces of coloured paper called tanzaku which is then tied to bamboo trees. These trees are beautiful as hell when they are filled with wishes. Tanzaku can be filled with whatever wish the person chooses and I was lucky enough to write more than one wish. Tanabata is a three day festival so Miho took me on Sunday to the street festival where I got to see all the beautiful decorations (shown in the video above). It was such a surreal atmosphere to be in because I've seen so many photos of places like this but living through it is a whole other sensation. I found myself full of gratitude to be living through something as beautiful as Kanagawa's Tanabata Festival. There's also a sense of humility in seeing yourself as apart of something bigger that comes from appreciating another culture's customs and beliefs. It reminds you that the world is bigger than what you experience and allows you to see the bigger picture.
I'm real blessed to be in Japan at the time of Tanabata because I have a love for stars and culture so it was the perfect thing for me after celebrating Matariki back home. Like the tea ceremony, it's so interesting to draw similarities and differences between different cultures because at the end of the day culture is representative of people. Connections through culture are connections of people and a reoccurring affirmation this trip is giving me is that human connection is so damn beautiful. Seeing, acknowledging and internalising that is essential in a world where it feels like connection is scarce, especially with all the crazy things that are happening in the world. Thank you to my homestay family for taking me to Tanabata and thank you to my friends for making it such a fun experience!
And in case you were wondering, the skies were clear.
I hope you can find the moments in life that remind you of how beautiful being connected is,
THAT'S THE TEA
Today, we were given the amazing opportunity to experience an authentic tea ceremony. I've been anticipating it since we first found out it was happening and I was not disappointed. The mana shown by the women running the tea ceremony is something I will always appreciate as an agent in the growth of my world view. Mai (Shaun's home-stay buddy) told us that the tea ceremonies were used as welcoming ceremonies in the olden days but have since taken form a way to experience Japanese culture in depth. To put in perspective, tea ceremonies are the powhiris of Japan. That thought was interesting to keep in mind as the tea ceremony was carried out because I was able to make contrasts and similarities throughout the ceremony. I find it really beautiful that two different cultures both have completely different ways of welcoming people. They're different actions with the same intentions and it really goes to show the way cultures can be so differing but at the end of the day can have similarities where it matters most. Human connection is crazy beautiful when you think about it like that.
We were granted the privilege of getting dressed in traditional yukata for the tea ceremony. In my efforts to make sure I wasn't culturally appropriating, I discovered that the yukata used to be used as bath clothes but has transitioned into being clothes used for summertime and usually worn at festivals like Tanabata. The designs were all so beautiful that it was hard to choose. The elderly women then proceeded to dress us in the yukata which was hella crack up because there was a lot of communication problems but they were complimented us a lot and it melted my heart. We then had to sit in the seiza position for the ceremony which killed some people's (yall know who you are) legs. All in all though, it was such a beautiful and endearing experience that I'm so grateful to have had. The women were extremely kind and skilled at what they do. These elderly women sit in seiza for daaaays and I was struggling for 20 minutes like it really isn't an easy job to have but they pull it off with such grace. Thank you to Jishukan and Ono Sensei for giving us this opportunity and thank you to the amazing women who welcomed us to Japan in the best way. This is definitely something I'll remember for the rest of my life.
MY HOST FAMILY ARE THE CUTEST
We got to meet our host buddies and our host families and not even gonna front, I full on shed tears. It was a moment I will definitely keep close to my heart because being given the privilege to be living in someones house is a big deal. Homes are the hearts of a family and the spaces that people occupy are so telling of themselves. Therefore, I'm super aware of the fact they these people are willing to take care and accept me as apart of the family for these next few weeks. MAN YA GIRL WAS GETTING EMOTIONAL AHAHAHAHA.
When I walked into the classroom and saw Miho we just clicked. Like that mutual eye stare where it's like "I see you and I see you seeing me and it's cool because we see each other"? Yeah it was all that. While waiting for her family to arrive (I would be leaving with them) we got to know each other better. Miho and I are the same age which makes it easier in terms of Japanese communication because we can speak informally to each other. She's in class 4-C, plays badminton (my girl is FIT!) and likes anime and manga. She's also hella cute and considerate and I wouldn't have chosen anyone else to be my partner.
When it came to the time to meet the family, I was uncharacteristically nervous. I had only seen them in pictures and had never gotten the chance to speak to any of them besides Miho so ya girl was lowkey stressing. However, when I met them all I was met with was love! Miyamoto Sensei told us that the Japanese may not be open to hugging so I didn't go in for the hugs straight away like I usually would but turns out I didn't have to because they were literally welcoming me with open arms. In Miho's family it is her Dad, Mum, older brother, her and her grandparents. I was so excited to meet the grandparents who were waiting at home for us because elderly people just warm my heart to be honest.
Once we got home I was introduced to them and they are so cute!! I was given a house tour and we ate dinner together.
All in all, I'm so grateful for my homestay family and their hospitality (they wouldn't even let me open the door by myself omg I'm spoilt). I'm looking forward to the rest of my stay here with them!
"NANI?!?": My skin melts, a fairy godmother and I'm 99% sure the fountain of youth is in Japan.
"NANI"?!?: The Movie
Several train stops and breathing problems later, we finally got to Shibuya, Tokyo. The street lights were so wavy that I could've walked the streets for a good hour and looked at them... and that's exactly what happened because we got lost AHAHAHAHAHA. On a scale of Frank Ocean's 'Lost' to the T.V show 'Lost' we were on the kid-who-can't-find-their-way-around-a-giant-candy-store level lost. Me, being the overgrown kid that I am, was still buzzed out that we were actually in Japan so I wasn't even pressed. By the time we get to our place, I'm just chilling. I'm in Japan, we're on the 4th floor of an apartment complex, the street lights are making up for the stars that aren't in the sky and I don't have to carry my luggage anymore. LIFE IS SWEEEET. While I'm pretending I'm shooting a music video, Mr Ali knocks on our door because the door is locked.
Until an old man opens the door and says "NANI?!"
Lets just freeze the scene here. At that exact moment, Mr Ali is behind the door the man just opened so the man is staring at US. And what are we doing? We're shook as hell and just stare back at him. It was at this moment I was 99% sure Mr Ali's knocking was gonna get him knocked out. Did yall see the vid of the elderly lady carrying my suitcase??? These people must drink from the fountain of youth because they DO NOT PLAY LMAO. The man let's us know that it isn't our place and after a lot of "bruh" moments while walking round Shibuya streets (again), it turns out our place is on the 5th floor on the building next over. Facccccepaaaaalm. I know. we had one job.
We get to the door (the right door this time) anddd the lock won't open. So now I'm full on just making memes of the situation. As Mr Ali is busy tryna square up with this lock, Jess is recording me reenacting the "hello is anybody out there" video. To lighten the mood of us tired Noob Travellers I'm saying "his lock skills? WHACK. his directions? WHACK." etc. When in doubt, break the memes out . Two meme reenactments later, we get into our temporary home sweet home and crash.
I swear I have a point:
So, whats the point of this blog? The big lesson to be learnt? Travelling is all fun and games until you're bout to pass out on a staircase in a foreign country skeee AHAHAHALAUGHINGTHEPAINOFFAHAHAHAHA
I feel that this just reaffirmed my belief that you can learn from everything. What we forget to fully acknowledge is that you don't just magically teleport to the places you wanna go and you cant skip time to the fun parts. It just don't work like that. So often, we end up romanticising travelling and so many other things that we forget it's a journey. In this blissful ignorance we can become numb to the amazing things that happen on our journey. The pure humanity that woman showed by helping me could've been underappreciated if I was completely caught up in the fact I didn't fully acknowledge the hardships of travelling. Someone else's good could've been overshadowed by my ignorance. That, is an ugly part of humanity. However it's not something we can't actively work to dismantle in ourselves. If we have to go through hardships in order to help dismantle these things, it goes to show what a blessing hardship can be. Hardship is always an essential part of our growth and in turn an essential part of our humanity. So shot to Mr Ali for all the "bruh" moments, I'm grateful in a dumb roundabout way.
May we always be able to find the light in our hardships and appreciate the fairy godmothers in our lives
(go tell your mum/grandma/aunty/sister you love her),
UNPACKING BEFORE PACKING
After not having a device to document my ka’a antics for a while, preparing for this trip to Japan (trippy that I’m even saying that) has taught me a lot bout myself in relation to cultural appropriation. Travelling to another country is a privilege that I don’t wanna take lightly because not everyone gets that opportunity. However, the condition of having to vlog everyday of the trip in Japan is taking me for a trip of its own because I’m still in that process of making sure that aspect doesn’t clog my energy. Living through experiences behind a camera is such a western (aka gross) mannerism that is so easy to fall into the trap of if you don’t actively check urself. That ish can leave u under appreciative of who/what is in front of you in the moment. And frankly, you can be disrespectful as heck. Like damn, every country has such a rich culture, history and customs and to degrade it by Logan Pauling everywhere and treating it like a playground for my pre-conceived perceptions and expectations is WHACK. And not something I wanna do, especially when Japan and it’s people are so fetishised by weebaboos smh. Issa real wake up call to ask yourself if your goals/dreams/achievements are relly YOURS or just something you want to attain to impress others, even if u ain’t aware of it until u take the very thing that exposes what you tryna flaunt outta the picture. Pull up a chair for it and sit with/in what is making that part of you less genuine. Whether it be a conditioned need for validation, subconscious insecurities, or just plain not trusting yourself enough to know you gon be more than aight without whatever you’re dependent on right now.
Catch me tryna unpack that before I pack my bags🌊🌸🍂
Poet in 3rd picture: Nayyirah Waheed
We were blessed to be invited to a dinner with our wonderful sponsors Novotel. Everyone looked so beautiful like damn aside from the food, looks were being SERVED. We spent the night chatting away that by the time we left it felt like it went too quickly. The dinner was a great way of familiarising ourselves with Mr Columbus, the CEO. The night was also great because we were getting asked questions about how we felt and it was comforting to know that we were all on the same page of mixed nerves and excitement. Thank you to Novotel for investing in our growth and development as young leaders of the present and future, I'm sure that I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that we are extremely grateful for the opportunity that's been given to us. We'll make sure we make the most of it!
AMPLIFICATION OF BEAUTY
I believe that there is a lesson in literally everything if you are open enough to receiving it. Because of this belief, I couldn't help pondering what the big lesson the Lord wants me to learn from this trip. Ironically enough, a lesson I've learnt recently while preparing for this trip is that there is no big lesson. There are small, subtle lessons and in-your-face, blatantly-obvious lessons that are both essential to growth, whether we realise it or not. This is the lesson that manifested itself from that realisation:
I came across this old photo and damn, how much gratitude i have for where I'm at right now is too much to even try put into words.
This photo is at one of the onion fields I worked in last summer. My family has been clipping onions for as long as I remember and man, I really hate clipping onions with a passion. Long hot days of sitting in dirty as plantations, hours of driving away from home, those damn portaloos and having to work in rain or shine. I remember times when I couldn't tell if it was rain, sweat or tears on my face. Times when we'd clip until late hours in the night with only the headlights from our car to give us light to work. My dad, a 67 year old man, would clip tirelessly if it meant it made ends meet and he literally has the scars on his hands to prove it. The thing is though, each onion lane has 8 rows and my dad would always clip 5, leaving me with less to clip. Those plantation fields, away from all the city lights, had the best sunsets and the clearest night skies. I have some of my favourite memories with my siblings of us singing songs to ease the pain of working for so long. I'm really grateful for where I am right now but this isn't a sob story. It ain't even a come up story. That's because I know that I've experienced more joy/love/beauty breaking my back in an onion field than people living in mansions. I've been blessed enough to be given so many beautiful opportunities this year like this student exchange to Japan but next summer, I'm still gonna be clipping onions in the middle of nowhere. I seriously couldn't be less ashamed or embarrassed about it or the fact that by Western economic standards, I'm technically apart of the 9% of children living in child poverty. I really feel rich in so much even if it ain't money. Beauty is found in even the worst of circumstances. This ain't a sob story or a come up story, it's just a blog post about how the total erasure of struggle isn't an upgrade, but the amplification of beauty is. In turn, the total erasure of our pain isn't healing but the amplification of our joy is.
Man, they are being so damn amplified and for that I am grateful🌻✨
FINESSING MY WAY TO JAPAN: The Memoirs of a street girl taking her antics halfway around the world.
SHORT STORY LONG
Visiting Japan has always existed in my mind as a far away goal, a milestone of achievement to work towards and to be very honest something I always thought I'd have to move several economic classes and years up to attain. I've never been abroad to another country other than a trip to Samoa as a baby so travelling is quite literally a foreign concept to me. When I first heard about the Japanese Exchange, it felt like the heavens were telling me it was my chance (not the dramatic ones AHAHAHA) but it was one of those "if-not-now-when?" kinda things. So when the opportunity came, there was no doubt that I needed to at least try my best for it.
When I found out I make the cut, I couldn't believe it. I literally fell to the floor and screamed. It's such a surreal thing to be given the privilege of travelling to another country and it's definitely one I won't take for granted. There's a strong, fundamental belief I have that any success I have, by whatever means you want to measure success, is not a success that was attained by my own. It takes a village to raise a child. Things like this Japanese Exchange only strengthens my appreciation for the village that has raised me and continues to humble me because I really ain't nothing without them. I'm extremely grateful for every opportunity this exchange is giving me and the life lessons, life-long connections and life changing experiences waiting for me in Japan.
Thank you for coming to my TED Talk,
LONG STORY SHORT
Now you can look at my slideshow presentation of memes if you ain't bout that reading long paragraphs life:
Ayyy wassup fellow dudes and dudettes! My name is Aigagalefili a.k.a Fili, a Samoan bred, Southside bound kid who's gonna be travelling to Jishukan High School in Kanagawa, Japan. Follow the Chronicles of an International Ka'a if you down with it.