風になりたい! Kaze ni naritai! 

A look at life in Japan through big, round, gaijin eyes. Relfections on life in Japan, America, from the faceless streets of Tokyo. Let's blogging!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Goodbye Kotobuki

At 10am I move out of the Danchi, ready or not.
Prognosis: cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

I'm a little sad. I wish I had more time to deal with saying goodbye (and to get the rest of my stuff ready. 3 and a half more hours!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

re: frisbee thursday

[The following is an exerpt from an email I sent to some of my best friends back in the States earlier today. Re-reading it, I thought it was interesting enough to post here]

Sorry about the delay.

So in the end, my passport never turned up. I applied for a new one, and aside from that not having turned up yet, I can't complain about how things turned out though. Being here but on vacation gave me time to look for a good apartment in Tokyo. I will be moving there on Saturday. Recently everything has been so crazy that I haven't had much time to write.

... I'm starting a new job as a program coordinator for the JET Program on August 5th. This means that if you're still interested in teaching in Japan, you've got a pretty well placed contact. I'll be in charge of a lot of the issues for teachers starting in 2006, so let me know if you have any questions.

Personally, I've been going through a lot of "lasts" lately. Last-classes, last-school-lunch, last chance to meet some of my students as their teacher. Tomorrow is really my last day of school before I "graduate." I've got mixed feelings about moving on. Of course I'm excited and I realize it's the best thing for me in terms of my career and future, but it still hurts to leave someplace I love after 3 years.

It's so hard to describe Japan to someone has never been here. It's one of the most literate countries in the world, blessed with natural beauty and an incredible, resolute, spiritual populace. It is at the same time, both very similar to and entirely different from America. All the xenophobic stereotypes about in-groups vs. outsiders are true to a certain extent. I went through a horrible 2 hour interview with my potential landlady who was disinclined to trust me because I was foreign. In fact, the only reason why we had an interview in the first place is because the real estate agent who was helping me begged her to meet me. At first she had declared that she wouldn't have me because foreigners were more likely to cause problems. Yet the key to living here is making connections with people. She grilled me for 2 hours about every little aspect of my life (I somehow managed to leave out the part about when Bowen and I set his backyard on fire), but during the process I treated her with courtesy and respect. Yesterday, when I went in to meet with her at her agency in Tokyo, she was bragging about my fluent Japanese and my polite manners. She said I had a very Japanese sensibility, and pointed to my karate (you won't be training much at home... will you?) as a sign that I am not like other "gaijin." By accepting me into her building, I had gotten into her inside circle, in a way. Thus she lauded me with praise and friendliness, rather than frosty politeness masking distrust.
Tokyo will be filled with more extremes than my countryside life. Tokyo is exciting, but massive and unfeeling at the same time. The trains fill with crowds of uncaring faces. There is no privacy. No space to breathe. And it seems that no one would stop to pick you up if you collapsed in that crush of people, because that would slow them on their way to their destination.
Everything is precise and on-time. Pristine and ordered. Expensive and new. Yet it's also a cutting edge city that is somehow behind the times too. Once you get to know it, you see the chaos seething underneath. Young men in designer clothes drop their cigarrete butts in front of recently installed no smoking signs in some public areas. Later, an elderly man will come to sweep those butts up. He's working a menial job that younger folks won't do, trying to help son's family support their freeter daughter, who graduated from university but only does part time jobs so she can go out with her friends and buy expensive handbags.
Building codes are regulated to the max, but there is nothing of what you could call city planning. Tokyo is an ugly, crowded city, filled with powerlines and neon lights. It's Times Square blown up to the size of New York. If a seedy hostess bar meets the code, there's no reason it can't go up in a residential neighborhood. Being born a woman in Japan seems to be a bum deal. Office women wear ridiculous "sexy" uniforms with short skirts and stalkings for the pleasure of their male coworkers. The glass ceiling is so low that it oughtta be called the glass table.

Still...It's easy to make a list of the negative things and so hard to quantify the positive things, from the smiles of my students to the respect I have in my community, to the comraderie and friendship I have found everywhere I looked. I have really enjoyed my time in Fujiyoshida, and I'm sure that living in Tokyo is going to be incredible. A city full of so many people has to have it's share of interesting and wonderful personalities. It's just a matter of finding them.

Anyway, I could write more, and more eloquently, but I have to head home. It's almost 7pm, and my apartment isn't packing itself up by Saturday morning without some help.

I'll be in touch once I get to Tokyo and get my internet and stuff set up there.


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pete's List

Here's a list my friend Peter put up on his new blog (a companion to his homepage). I've got links to both of them on the sidebar over there.
Since I'm going to be stuck here for a few more years, I thought I should make a few notes:
#100: at my school they're just "tesuto" (and quizzes are "kuizu")
#92: Amen brother! Preach on! (incidentally, I think this is somewhere in my top 10)
#81: While on the subject of uniforms, the schoolgirl and office lady fetishes are creepy. Not to mention the uniforms are really NOT sexy in the least.
#82: this is a problem with Pete's TV, not the subchannel, which I get just fine
#75: Squid tastes good!
#65: You'd be surprised how little they know about NY. Like, which coast it's on, for instance. They do know lots about Hawaii, but they don't know that it's part of the US
#62: Brrr. It's cold. No, it's hot. ACK. Inside is always way less comfortable than outside, temperature-wise.
#37-35: There's still not a lot of individual thinking in this area. Now it's, "everyone else votes for the LDP (kind of like the PRI in Mexico minus the maybe killing people from time to time), so I think I should too." But hopefully that's changing. BTW, the usual way that Japanese politicians campaign is by going around in cars with loud speakers and being incredibly loud at like 6am on a Sunday morning. "Vote for me! I'm great! Vote for him! He's great!" This is supposed to show that the candidate is healthy and hearty and completely inconsiderate of my desire to sleep in.
#3: I'm not sure about this one. I would have put something about discrimination here. But It's not my list.
Well, I've said enough here. Enjoy!
Top 100 Irritations about living in Japan:
(My next post will be "Top 100 Fantastic Things about Living in Japan", so that you don't think I hate it here).

100. The way my JTE calls tests "exami".
99. I can't find 100% ground beef in the supermarket. (It's always mixed with pork).
98. I can't get decent television shows.
97. All the other Americans here are Democrats.
96. The lack of Mexican food.
95. The price of Marinara.
94. The price of drip coffee.
93. The lack of drip coffee.
92. The lack of exposed skin.
91. The persistence of high heels.
90. All the white cars.
89. It's too humid.
88. Kanji are too complicated.
87. The trains are too expensive.
86. The amount of smoking in public.
85. The amount of smoking in coffee shops.
84. The lack of a decent big-league baseball park.
83. The lack of gummy candies.
82. The fact that my TV can't get Mariners games in English, despite the fact that the broadcast claims to have "English on sub-channel".
81. The "uniformity" of school uniforms
80. The lack of school colors.
79. The lack of fun in sports.
78. The amount of drills run in sports clubs.
77. Too many vegetables.
76. Too many fish heads.
75. Too much squid.
74. Japanese architecture tends to emphasize the beauty of concrete.
73. Japanese are amazed by fish.
72. Japanese television is terrible and insulting.
71. Frilly womens' clothes.
70. Karaoke booths have thousands of songs in English, but none by MXPX or the Presidents.
69. Karaoke booths have a 9-to-1 ratio of The Carpenters to Nirvana.
68. No one understands me when I say "Harry Potter" or "McDonalds" in natural English.
67. I can't properly explain the difference between "rrr" and "lll", although I can explain the difference between "rice" and "lice".
66. The word for "sandwiches" is "sando".
65. The only American place Japanese know about is New York.
64. The lack of air conditioning.
63. The lack of heating.
62. The lack of insulation.
61. All the yelling.
60. The price of sour cream.
59. The lack of craft beer.
58. All the slurping.
57. The price of movie tickets.
56. The price of tollways.
55. The pollution.
54. The cost of gasoline.
53. The lack of women in power.
52. Discrimination against women in the workplace.
51. The lack of discipline at school.
50. No one understands me when I say "coffee" instead of "couhii".
49. Town chimes.
48. Every little place has to have a specialty.
47. The word for "milk" is "gyuunyuu".
46. The ratio of Italian Restaurants to all other Foreign Restaurants.
45. The lack of meat and cheese in Italian Restuarants.
44. The ratio of manga to novels.
43. The same celebrities are on TV every day.
42. The "ding-ding-ding" sound before and after every intercom message.
41. Crosswalk music.
40. The lack of reading literature in Japanese class.
39. The lack of interest in World Geography.
38. The lack of interest in World Events.
37. The lack of interest in Japanese Politics.
36. The lack of interest in local politics.
35. The lack of local politics.
34. No Japanese person ever leaves a message on my answering machine.
33. The secretary answers the phone in the middle of faculty meetings instead of letting the answering machine pick it up.
32. The lack of an answering machine at school.
31. All the ceremonies.
30. All the formality.
29. The lack of good cheese.
28. They put ketchup on their scrambled eggs.
27. Kancho.
26. There's a place for everything and everything has a place.
25. All the Starbucks' are downtown--they're throrougly inaccessible by car.
24. The ratio of interest in Ichiro to interest in the Mariners.
23. In Japan, art has "rights" and "wrongs".
22. There's no way to pronounce "Peter Martin" in Japanese.
21. Everyone keeps their curtains closed.
20. Everyone has a balcony exclusively devoted to laundry.
19. I can't keep my particles straight.
18. Too much squid on the pizza.
17. The number of different ways to say "home".
16. The price of laundromats.
15. The lack of laundry dryers.
14. The centralization of government.
13. The lack of planning departments.
12. The amount of useless construction projects.
11. Everything is paved.
10. The lack of wilderness.
9. The noise.
8. The persistence of katakana.
7. The uselessness of katakana.
6. Town announcements by roving fire engines.
5. Town announcements over loudspeakers.
4. The rules of the road.
3. The feral cats are all grumpy.
2. The ban on American Beef.
1. Japanese Drivers.

Whew! I feel better. Really, I enjoy living here in Japan, but naturally there are a lot of tiny stressors from living in a foreign country which need to be blown off from time to time. Making lists like this is a good way for me to blow them off.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Jason vs. Tsutaya Videos

This morning I went to my local Tsutaya (think Blockbuster Video, except you can rent CDs and you can't rent video games) to return a couple of CDs that were technically due yesterday, and pick up the new Ketsumeishi CD which was coming out for rental (*not for *not the *not purpose of *not downloading the tracks to my IPod). As long as I got them in the drop-box before the store opened at 10am, there wouldn't be a late fee. Unfortuntely the streets were crowded with holiday traffic (Monday is a national holiday:Marine Day) and I arrived at the store exactly as my car clock turned to 10:01. I ran to the box just as a store employee locked it up and was taking out the large bag of returned videos. "Can you take this for me?" I asked him. But alas, it was 10:01, and that was against policy. Despite my begging, he sent me in to the counter to pay my late fee. I tried again there, and the young girl was on the brink of being swayed by my powers of persuasion when the same guy said that since it was now 10:02, they couldn't let me off the hook. After all, business had started.
I was annoyed, but I could see his point of view. I went over to get my copy of Ketsumeishi, only to encounter a BLANK SHELF where it should have been. WTF! I went back to the same guy for a third time to enquire about the whereabouts of said new CD, which was being played as the BGM for the store. "Oh, well, we just opened and we're running a little bit behind. We haven't gotten the CDs ready for rental yet. Please try to understand."
"Are you serious? You just made a big fuss and charged me 400yen because I was 1 minute late. Now you are telling me to cut you some slack because you are running late?"
"Yes, we're very sorry."
"I tried to come here right before 10 so I could return my rentals and get the new CD in one trip."
"That's unfortuate."
[You realize that as the customer, my will should not be flaunted like this.]
[In your current unshowered, unkempt state, you are not much of a customer. There are holes in your shorts and through which I can see your boxers. I freely will now flaunt your will. You smell strongly of sweat and... yakiniku? Did you have yakiniku last night?]
[Do not trifle with me. You should mind your own business, video-store employee, or I may have to show you my policy for dealing with your insolence. And it was an insane amount of grilled meat that I got at an okonomiyakiyasan. However, my fellow diners and I were unable to make it to the okonomiyaki course because of all the meat.]
[Ha. You are weak.]
[I am still digesting. Yet I now see I have no choice but to show you my powers.]
[Come, show me these powers of yours. But be warned that I intend to respond in kind.]
[Do I stand invited to deliver pain unto your person?]
[You may try.]

Then I hit him with two short shita-zukis in the stomach and delivered a hiza-geri to his chin as he doubled over in pain. He crashed into a rack of used DVDs and was unconscious before he hit the floor. [Is there no one here who can challenge me?!] I roared. The other workers cowered. One stepped forward to grovel at my feet. He was holding out a copy of Ketsunopolis 4, the album I had been waiting for. [That's right, scum. I'll take that now.]

"How long would you like for the rental period."
"Same day rental please."
"That'll be 260 yen. Please return it by midnight tonight, or before 10am tomorrow morning in the dropbox."
"Thank you very much."
"You're welcome. Thank you for coming, sir."
As I walked out the door, the other workers chimed, "Thank you for your patronage!"

[Over by the fallen clerk, a puddle of blood had formed near his head. A little rat dog sprang from the arms of the woman who had carried it into the store and began to lick it up.]

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Tokyo ain't cheap (part 1)

I have a feeling this won't be the last time I mention that Tokyo ain't cheap. Thus, saying this is "part 1" sounds about right.

Here's what I'm coughing over on Saturday to move into my new unfurnished apartment in Tokyo next weekend (Basic monthly rent: 120,000yen):

礼金(key money):120,000yen
敷金(security deposit):240,000yen
7月分賃料(pro-rated July rent--from the 23rd~):34,840yen
8月分賃料(August rent): 120,000yen
家財保険(homeowner's insurance): 15,000yen
仲介料(agency fee): 120,000yen
消費税(consuption tax):6,000yen
TOTAL: 655,840yen = (at current exchange rate) $5,902


Monday, July 11, 2005

I Said Be Careful His Bowtie is Really a Camera

Ironically, I don't think I could go home to the States if I wanted to at the moment. Here's what I'm missing:


Since it doesn't look like my passport is gonna turn up, I'm heading to the embassy in the morning. Then I'm hopefully signing off on an apartment.

Hoping for a better week than last week...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

More Haikus

(Since these aren't about nature, they're technically senryuu [川柳], not haiku.)


[Do people who have
Lost their passports end up like
Hanks in Terminal?]


[Hey, everybody
In Kofu, would somebody
Pick up my passport!]


[A guy who never
Forgets the important stuff
Drops important stuff]


[Where is my passport?
Is it drinking in a pub?
I hope it finds me!]


[Oh why, of all things
Did I have to go and lose
My bloody passport?]

(and now for a "real" haiku...)

[Mid-summer rainstorm
Suddenly disappearing
And my lost passport]

(Sometimes life is a bitch. Sorry everyone.)