With my third year of living abroad halfway complete, I’ve learned how to adapt to and appreciate the particularities of a certain culture. Of course, I stumble often, but there’s always moments when you’re running away with the environment.
On our first full day in Japan, Laura’s extended family treated us to a day of immersive local experiences. A surprise among them was the chance to spend the night in a small, private onsen hot spring inn. The onsen we expected, but the accommodations . . .
Seeing these only in film and television, I’ve always held a romantic view of the classic Japanese sitting/sleeping room, the washitsu. Every intricacy of this room was a reminder of what I’ve come to admire about Japanese culture.
Every cut and corner of tatami – the straw mats that compose its flooring – was precise to every centimeter of the space. The room was peacefully bare and quiet, save for the interval hawing of the heater. There were the required technologies to modernize the abode, but with the aroma of fresh wood and tea leaves, this was an escape.
Newcomers to this arrangement, Laura and I squirmed a bit through the native habits of our foreign home. Deferring our winter layers for the closet’s yukata, I met Laura’s cousins with a giggle, as I cinched the layers in the feminine style. I treaded with the guilt of unintended parody. But with a few hiccups in cultural norm here and there, we were able to ease into this bygone lifestyle.
It was a slow, meditative evening in the washitsu. And it was perfect.