Today was the second day of my two day Izu vacation with The Penpal. The main activity of the day was a pottery school. It was well hidden in a residential area built on the side of a hill. The school taught the traditional Japanese way to make pottery. It was really out of the way, and everything was in Japanese which didn’t make it a very common tourist spot for foreigners. Based on the reaction of the staff, I was likely the first non Japanese person they had ever taught.
The Penpal and I decided we would make simple cups. We paid for 1kg of clay and sat down in a room full of other students to await instructions. The pottery instructor came out and started the explanation. He started slowly and then stopped to wait for The Penpal to translate for me. I told her in English that she should just translate everything at the end to avoid holding up the lesson. She passed along the message and then the instructor went full speed ahead for the next 15 minutes. I could only understand about every 5th or 6th word, so I tried my best to remember what he was doing with the clay.
By the end I had a general idea of what I needed to do, so I decided to have a little fun with the instructor. Until this point I had not said a single word of Japanese to anyone. I put up my hand and said:
Me: Sumimasen (Excuse me)
Instructor: Hai (Yes)
Me: Moo ichido itte kudasai. (Please repeat it one more time)
Instructor: (which part)
Me: Zenbu kudasai. (Everything please)
Thinking I was serious, he looked shocked that he would have to give the entire presentation again. At this point I started laughing and told him that I was just joking. This got a good reaction from the rest of the students, and they all took turns coming over to say hi and to lie about how good my pottery wasn’t. I was especially popular with the middle aged ladies. A little of a foreign language and a smile goes a long way to make friends.
When we left I got a lot of bows and sayonaras from the students and staff. The Penpal was largely ignored by everyone else, which was a little sad. We drove back to Mishima station and said goodbye and I was on my way home.
One the train ride home, a little old man started talking to me in excellent English. He asked me for my business card (I didn’t have one) and said that next time I came to Izu, would I please stay at his hotel and help him practice English. In exchange he would serve me traditional Japanese food. The other people around us on the train all seemed to be interested and or amused by this conversation. I love Izu!