Originally published on 19 July 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my first ever trip abroad, teaching English and living in Japan!
Hey there! So here’s the latest since my last e-mail. I went to Pearl Island again to see the Mikimoto Memorial Hall that we didn’t get to see before. (Yuri got me in free.) It was pretty neat. Mr. Mikimoto was very intelligent and industrious, and he was dedicated to cultivating pearls! It’s really quite a complex and difficult process, and half of all the pearls are lost or the shellfish die before they can be harvested. Then most of the ones that survive aren’t “perfect enough” to be Mikimoto pearls. They only use 5% for the nicest jewelry, the next best are used for other, less expensive jewelry (I got me a ring–looks good enough for me!), and they use the “ugly” pearls to ground into a powder for makeup. Has anyone heard of Mikimoto Cosmetics? It’s supposed to be good for your skin!
Another interesting pearl fact: Before anyone thought to use them for jewelry, it was made into a powder and used as medicine. Mr. Mikimoto used it to heal some guy on the side of the road once. There’s your random pearl fact of the day!
And here are the first pearls ever cultivated:
Oh yeah, and I did it. I tried out the Japanese toilet! I figured it’d most likely be cleaner at Pearl Island than most other places, so I sucked it up and went for it. It was a new and different experience I will not soon forget! I wouldn’t want to use it all the time, but I’m glad I tried it out. I had no choice but to use one today, so I’m glad my first experience was a positive one. I had to go again later, and the second experience wasn’t too scary, even when a cockroach crawled up next to me (I squashed him).
Enough potty talk. After the Memorial Hall, I got to watch the Ama divers (women divers) again and looked around in the gift shop once more. I got a 10% discount on my ring and a pearl cell phone charm because I was with Yuri. After that, we went to the Toba Aquarium. It was big and impressive, but I’m glad I got in for free with Yuri because her boyfriend works there. We got to see a seal show, and one of our students’ mom was the trainer, so that was neat to see someone I kind of knew! Lots of time was spent looking at all the creatures, and I got lots of pictures.
And tomorrow I start my last big travels! First up, I’ll go to the Shingu Shrine. It’s supposed to be better than Naiku and prettier than Geku (the Grand Shrines of Ise). There’s a waterfall and it’s just supposed to be peaceful and gorgeous. I can’t wait to tell you about it!
Thanks for your thoughts and prayers throughout my trip, y’all. I don’t know how to thank you enough, because I’d have been so lost without knowing people at home are supporting me. Mom and dad told me a really, REALLY sweet elder at our church prayed for me last Sunday in the closing prayer. He said, “And please be with Whitney Houston… um…Hassell. Oh, I knew I’d do that.” How cute, huh? Sweet little old men crack me up!
I love y’all. Be safe and have a good week. Keep the prayers coming. Still got a week and a half to go!