Man who appears magically next to us: My girlfriend and I saw how you were dressed, and we were just at this party, and they gave us these cookies, and we wanted you…
He trails off, proffering a small, white papered bundle.
Hannah: [Big and quick inhale] Are they calaveras?!? Are they skull cookies??
Man, smiling: Yeah, yeah they are.
Hannah: You’re giving us cookies?
Hannah & Mom, slightly off from one another: Awww, thank you(!).
I accepted the package graciously and peeked inside at them, expressed another but of bouncy joy and expressed my gratitude again, both to him and for him to tell his girlfriend, and the man walked off, all three of us smiling.
Not so bad for dinner at a Thai place – my mom had wanted Mexican food to end the holiday, but everywhere food was, naturally, packed…, so, we just stopped for a warm meal at the place down the street from my house, on our way to take me home.
When we fully opened the package and took them out, we found handmade, adorable calavera cookies.
So, in a way, my mom got her Mexican food to celebrate the end of the Día de Muertos days, after all. 😛
Today did not go really at all as intended, and yet it was wonderful. I felt confident as a person, powerfully beautiful as a woman, and classily stellar as a guide to my young companion. I want to look at today to see what made the difference for each of these things and more to have happened with such ease and success, which is quite different from the everyday to which I am accustomed. My daily has become quite beautiful for me, however, there were elements of today – especially my comfort and confidence as a beautiful woman – that haven’t been successful yet in my day-to-day. Perhaps I will discuss it all on here more later, but, for now, I’ll just mention that the “confidence” part of the beautiful woman idea is not a matter of being a confident woman; rather, it is of being confident as a beautiful, desirable woman. I have experienced the beautiful, desirable throughout my life, but mostly with a pressing experience of embarrassment or ‘please, forgive me, I don’t mean it,’ or even ‘I’m sorry to be looking like this, and I am not trying to entice you.’
Anyway… my head aches incredibly, so I’ll sleep now.
Who would have thought that I would spend a year of my life living in Asia? I never even had any real desire to go to Asia, until I met my circus acrobat friends, who are from China. But the desire that developed out of those friendships was merely a cultural trade among friends – I had shared it of my home with them, and now they wanted to give the same to me. In essence, I want to go to China to be with my friends, not because I am specifically aiming to see China. Nothing against China, of course – I just have never had a real desire to see it.
On that note, – let’s roll with the thoughts here – I feel as though I have a rather ability to distinguish between my real desires and my that-would-be-cool desires. I explain. When I have what I am currently calling a “real desire”, it is something that I intend to pursue. With general desires, they are things that would be nice to pursue, but I have no deeper intentions to pursue them. These are, of course, both to varying degrees.
Being a multi-millionaire would be amazing. I desire it. I truly do. However, it is not something I intend to pursue, as much as I may wish to attain it. It is a general desire for me. Returning to German-speaking Europe for Christmas markets is a “real desire”, as I am calling them (Can you tell that I don’t much like my current terminology?). No, I will not do it this year, most likely, and probably not next year either. However, it is in my thoughts, and I intend to do it at some point.
This is where the varying degrees comes in for distinguishing. This is one of my middle-range real desires. Yes, I want to do it, and yes, I believe I will do it. No, I am not in a hurry to do it. Having a frozen margarita in Texas is more of an immediate real desire. I will not wait for this one to come up somewhat conveniently, and then take action, or casually plan for it in my some time soon future. My mother is picking me up at the airport when I arrive home to Houston, and she has known for months that I want to go have margaritas the day I arrive. We are getting margaritas within hours of my arrival to Texas, and are only taking that long, because I want it fresh, customs and immigration and baggage take time, and the airport is a ways away from good margaritas. Essentially, I am pursuing this desire as soon as it is possible for it to be fulfilled.
One other example, just for clarity (or to confuse you more, if this all doesn’t make sense to you), could be in my desire to bungee jump off a bridge that is over water. Something a long time ago gave me the desire, but it was more of an unreal desire for me. I didn’t expect my life to have it ever be an option. However, once I went small-scale bungee jumping with friends, it began to shift to a real desire. I was afraid to pursue it, so I left it in the gray area, ready to be pursued, should the opportunity arise. Now that I have lived somewhere that offers such a thing, – Ibaraki, Japan – I see myself pursuing it. I notice that it is not huge in my list of desires, but it is a real one. The opportunity presented itself two weeks ago, and I made arrangements to go jump. Of course, timing was such that I got dreadfully sick the day beforehand, and so rescheduled with my friend. I am now scheduled to go with a different friend next week. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll be okay. This is a real desire that I have, but it is so much on a non-time limit that I am okay not doing it now – I know I will get around to it at some point, so I don’t have to hassle myself extremely to make it work at this one place. That being said, I really do want to handle it all now, and bungee off my bridge in Japan, partly because it’s one less thing for me to think about in the future, and partly because it makes for a fun story. And I used the word “handle,” not because I dislike the situation, but because a lot of things here recently have kind of been a real hassle for me, and so I tend to think more in terms of ‘managing’ things in life for the next two weeks, as opposed to just ‘living’ life and ‘creating’ things, and all that jazz.
Anyway, that was a fun tangent for me. I could have explained it loads better, but I didn’t. I hope that’s okay for now. I’m sitting on a train to go up to my final festival in Japan, and I really need to pee, but don’t want to bother using what might be a gross train toilet (notice that I have no concern for leaving my belongings at my seat – score one big one for Japan on this point), when I know I can make it all the way to the station. So, I have written this to help me pass the time without wandering thoughts on the discomfort of a filling bladder (the realness of the discomfort can be evidenced by the fact that my shorts haven’t been buttoned for close to an hour already). I dislike writing on my phone, and for more than one reason (physical slowness of thumb typing and high error rate are two of the main ones). Therefore, I’ll end with this:
I never expected to end up living in Asia, for any period of time. I especially did not expect it to be for longer than I had lived in any country other than my own. I like Europe. I would have expected my doing a year there long before I even visited Asia. But here I am, one year through (and very through, I do believe) life in Asia. It has turned out that Japan is not a very good place for me to live my life, but that I really do appreciate Asia. I actually have real desire to return to Asia, and to experience more of it. Japan, Korea, and Singapore have only gotten me started, it seems.
In a way, it is stressful, because there are now even more places I want to visit. However, I will just roll with what life offers to me, and aim for returning for at least one visit for a start, hopefully within the next few years. I’d say that this is a middle-range real desire, similar to, and likely above the Christmas Market one. It’ll happen, I believe, as I have full intentions for it to happen. It’s a real desire I have. Life does what it does, though, so we’ll just have to see. For now, I’m at the end of the train line in the next minute or three, so I’ll go wrangle my baggage – giving away loads of nut butters, smoothie boosters, and spices, as well as my Magic Bullet (c) (Is that right?) – and head for my friend who is meeting me at the station. Then I’ll use a bathroom either there or at her nearby home. And then we’ll enjoy fireworks and a festival, possibly in the rain. Whatever the case, we will enjoy it, which is a main part of what called to mind my thoughts on having lived here in the first place.
**Beware: There is a good amount of reference to genitalia in this one.**
Today, with a Canadian and a Japanese friend, I went to the Kanamara Matsuri. It is a festival to celebrate fertility, only found at the Kanayama Shrine, in the area just south of Tokyo in Japan. From what I understand, the story/legend goes to a young, beautiful woman whom a demon fancied. She denied the demon, and so, he decided to hide inside her vagina, in order to prevent her from having any man. On her wedding night, the demon bit off the penis of her now-husband, preventing them from consummating their marriage. On her second attempt at marriage and consummation, the same event occurred. So, for her third marriage, the woman worked with a blacksmith to fashion a metal penis. Upon insertion, the demon bit the metal phallus, broke all of his teeth, and left the woman. Said phallus is now enshrined at the Kanayama Shrine. People go to this shrine to pray for fertility, protection from STDs and the likes, family, safe pregnancy and delivery, and blacksmiths.
So, every year, on the first Sunday of April, right at the usual time for the Cherry Blossom Season (though it is a bit early for the blossoms this year), the Kanamara Matsuri (Kanamara Festival) takes place at the Kanayama Shrine in Kanagawa, Japan.
Originally, when it started back in 1969, it was Japanese people. However, after a foreigner university professor attended the festival, that professor shared about the festival enough to bring it greater attention – so much so, that the festival is mostly foreigners now. It actually felt like a sort of adventure outside of Japan for a day – Japanese scenery, customs, and decorations, but very little spoken Japanese, and very few Japanese people.
The festival is very popular for the trans-gender, homosexual, etc. community, and so many of the attendees today were visually part of that community. Kimonos were offered to borrow free of charge to visitors to the festival, and so my Japanese friend and I went and allowed the ladies at the kimono place to dress us up. When I asked for a men’s kimono, the lady gave a slight chuckle, and then rushed back to the fabrics and picked out one for me, clearly comfortable with the request. It was the same with my Japanese friend and her dresser, so this clearly was not simply because I’m a gaijin (foreigner) and am, therefore, weird – I imagine it is because of the Kanamara Matsuri that the ladies were so comfortable with the requests. I noticed several Japanese men wearing women’s kimonos, and everyone was fine with it. And so, we got to be dressed as Okappiki, old-timey Japanese police men. It was great.
For the parade, the gods from the shrine, as usual, are summoned to the mikoshi, the portable altars, so to speak, in a little ceremony with bells and music and other traditional details, just before the parade begins. Usually the mikoshi are not phalli, but this festival is all about the metal phallus made by that blacksmith way back when, so… there are three large penises that are carried around the neighborhood. The first is a smallish wooden one, with the metal phallus on the front of it. The second is a large black one, possibly made of stone (I couldn’t quite tell). And the third is a huge, Pepto-Bismol pink one, carried each year by men in drag. The three altars seem like floats in US parades, but, instead of being on top of cars to have them move, they are carried by groups of people, typically men, though also women. So, as the parade moves along, you have a chant of “Ka-na-ma-ra!” going, while three incredibly different and large floating penises bounce along the crowded streets.
One of the hits of the festival is the penis pops. While there are chocolate-covered bananas,
and meat-wrapped sticks of rice,
carved wooden penis whistles (which actually had a rather high, unappealing pitch),
and t-shirts galore with cartoon penises and the name Dankon, a term for penis (literally “man-root”),
the reason people will stand hours in line is for the one-day-only penis lollipops.
There were even some vagina ones, too, but the main thing was the penis pops. I had read up on the festival a bit ahead of time, and so I knew to arrive at 9am, and to go straight for the lollipops.
A really fun bit for me was actually the penis candles and the daikon carving. Just after saying our prayers at the shrine, we found the daikon radishes, but the carving was finished. However, the old ladies who seemed to be in charge of it were quick to hand us already-carved daikon and ask for our cameras. They even helped us with the correct way to pose with the daikon penises (I was a bit unsure initially, but they made it quite clear what was “the way” to do it.).
The candles were quick and simple – a table covered in small and large penis-shaped candles in various colors. I wanted a pretty purple one for myself, but the guy next to me snatched up all the purple ones for some reason – guess he just really wanted them. So, I found myself happy with a blue-ish purple one instead, which seemed to be the only one of its specific hue. (Naturally, I loved that.)
Now, I really expected this festival to be completely against the Japanese style of things, however it was really beautiful seeing how many Japanese people were there, not only participating in it for themselves, but embracing it as part of humanity’s culture. Though it is essentially a fundraiser for HIV research, and thereby a grounds for self-expression in the LGBTetc. community, there were many people, families even, who seemed to be 100% heterosexual, white rice, Japanese folks. And yes, there were plenty of families, which includes small children. One of the best moments was coming across a group of four little girls all sitting on a curb, casually and delightedly enjoying their penis pops, while their parents stood nearby. And the parents were completely okay with people photographing their kids, a concept often somewhat foreign to Japanese people. Today was just filled with openness and acceptance and joy on the part of everyone, and it was fabulous.
When we were heading out from the festivities, we discovered even more food stalls and other standard matsuri stalls in an area with another shrine and temple. We said some more prayers, tossed some more coins, and poured water over a statue in thanks for the blessing of blooming flowers each Spring. On a final walk down a way-cool traditional street of shops, we found loads more penis pops (along with standard regional treats), gifts, and tokens.
There were even life-ish-sized crystal quartz, rose quartz, and aventurine statues of penises, which were about $120 a piece.
I got myself a small crystal quartz necklace, and it is quite beautiful, actually.
As a final fun note, while we were initially heading down that last street, a group of Japanese who were around our ages, were walking right near us (with no one else nearby), and so I found myself laughing as a few of them were goofing off, dancing to no music while one of them recorded the fun nonsense. When one of the guys stopped and posed with some statues, all three of us laughed. No one, however, had had a camera out, and the guy hadn’t expected a photo to be taken. But, when one of the girls joked with him about taking a photo, he asked if he should go back. His friends were a bit hesitant to answer, but my friend was quick to tell him to go back really quickly, because she wanted a photo, even if they didn’t. When he squat back down with the dogs(?), holding his pink lollipop, he told me to get in the photo with him. He tried sharing his lollipop with me, but one of the girls decided it was better for the photo if we each had our own, and so she lent me hers. And so, a random guy and I posed on the ground with dog statues and colored penis lollipops. EditNormal day in the neighborhood, right? 😛
Anyway, that’s about all I have to say about that right now…. Go check it out for yourself, if you’re ever in Japan in early April! It’s one-of-a-kind, and it’s delightfully wonderful! 🙂