Kyushu

Boar warning sign close-up

Boar Warning!!

Boar warning sign

Inoshishi shutsubotsu chuui!! Boar Warning!! We don’t usually have signs with double exclamation marks in America, do we?

When studying abroad, unfamiliar sounds, sights and smells make you hyper-aware that you are in a foreign ecosystem. Like an itchy clothes tag, it takes a while to stop thinking, “Oh yeah, I’m really in Japan,” every time you hear the uguisu Japanese bush warbler, gawk at weird bugs on your dorm window screen, and catch whiffs of sulfur from natural hot springs. The uguisu was my number one alarm that I wasn’t in California anymore. I’ve heard it many times in anime paired with the sound of bamboo fountains (Shishi-odoshi or souzu, “scare the deer” fountains). Next to Japanese cicadas, it is my favorite iconic sound of Japan. Asking the names of unfamiliar animals and sources of sounds you hear is a nice conversation starter.

For some reason the “Boar Warning” signs posted near the woods struck me as bizarre and funny, mostly because I didn’t expect them. Wild boars seem like a very exotic type of pest. Ever since I saw the sign, I was very excited about seeing a real boar. Unfortunately, they never made an appearance around the campus. I was hoping one would suddenly burst from the bamboo (so long as I was at a safe distance), but no such luck. I suppose they were burrowed deep inside the surrounding forests. In Japanese they are called inoshishi, as you can see written on the sign in katakana.

Japanese bugs—at least in Kyuushuu—are much more colorful than what I normally see in California. My friend Rose Clement took most of these photos. If anyone can tell me what the unnamed critters are, I’d be grateful. The praying mantis and walking stick are the only ones I can recognize.

Summer in Beppu: An Introduction

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University


Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan

The first time I traveled outside my home state of California wasn’t to another U.S. state (not counting an hour spent inside the Hawaiian airport), but five thousand miles west to Japan. At 22 years old, it was my first plane ride and my first time traveling alone. For two months I stayed at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Kyushu. I wanted to witness for myself the magical wackiness and beauty of Japan, the country that so many Americans have fallen in love with as an epicenter of creative pop culture.

There are probably millions of blogs that show off interesting and wonderfully weird aspects of Japan: anime, manga, and cosplay; maid, butler and cat cafes; Hello Kitty, alpaca and capybara toys; flashy bars, love hotels and restaurants; black squid-ink hamburgers; and of course, the famously ubiquitous vending machines. Even if you’re not a Japanophile, you’ve heard of some of these things.

At Stray Cats and Onsen, I’m going to focus on my personal experiences and impressions about my two-month stay. Although the majority of my visit was in Kyushu, I stopped by Tokyo for a couple days for a fast-paced walk-through of some famous locations. That one weekend alone gave me plenty to think about.