This one is going to be super short, but this image has stuck with me until this morning.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of figuring out the train system here in Japan. I’ll keep it to a minimum. It was super easy. Commuter pass cards here make everything a breeze. You don’t have to buy tickets. You just load money and the gates do it for you.
Yesterday on my way back from language camp there was a young man waiting on the opposite platform. He was tall, lanky, and rocking a phone and headphones. His hair was cut close to his head and his clothing consisted of baggy jeans and a plain old t shirt. This was not one of those fashionable dudes with the perfect hair and clothing.
Whatever music was pumping through his head phones must have been stellar because despite the full group of waiting people he was rockin out hard core. It started in his arms and ran all the way into his shoulders. In no time his long legs joined the party all without making a sound.
It wasn’t fancy dancing. It was the sort of full body, pretend d.j. on a turn table, eyes closed sort of thing. Without a care to who might see him he worked his way around the small space on the concrete he was occupying.
So here’s to you train station dance master. May your tunes always be great and your feet be happy.
Adam and I decided on Saturday night that we’d like to check out some of the smaller more local eateries. I must say that we were well rewarded for our efforts. The restaurant we entered, to the best of my knowledge, is simply called Yuu-chan. It had a whopping total of ten seats, a tall bar behind which the owner cooked, and a t.v. The t.v. of course was the main focal point since Hiroshima’s beloved baseball team, the Carp, were playing.
At first, we simply bellied up and ordered. There were plenty of things that I could have ordered, but I really only could read about half of them. It’s really lame, but we decided on some fried fish bites and fries. Yes I do realize that going into a Japanese bar and ordering fish and chips is a bit silly, but they were really good.
We mowed through those and our drinks. Adam suggested paying and wandering back to our combini for some ice cream. I wasn’t super full yet, so I suggested we order one last thing. I’m really glad that we did because, along with our order of tonkatsu (breaded fried pork), we were treated to the presence of a newcomer we would later know as Takeshi.
Takeshi walked in with the swagger of someone who belonged in the tiny room and on a regular basis. He said hello to the man who had been silently occupying the one four seater table and harassed the owner. She took it with a smile. He ordered a beer and then proceeded to scoop himself a bowl of Oden. We’d so far ignored the hot plate full of strange looking things on sticks.
We continued watching the baseball game, but it wasn’t long before Takeshi caught our eyes and started asking questions. I’m always slightly afraid of a less than warm welcome. I’ve yet to see it happen. Within minutes of Takeshi walking through the door not only did we have fresh drinks on him, but we also had a bowl of Oden to try. He literally bought us one of everything. Everything, naturally, was on a stick. We had chicken skin, chicken hearts, surimi (form pressed fish that’s a bit like fake crab), fried tofu, and bamboo that they did something magical with. The bamboo tasted a bit like butter. It melted in your mouth.
In progressively slower, Japanese he continued to ask us both questions. We talked about all sorts of things where we were from, what we liked to eat, where we lived, where we worked, and any number of other things that I’ve forgotten slightly. I unfortunately asked about something one of his friends ordered and ended up with part of it on my plate. It was delicious, but I didn’t intend to eat half of his food. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to make it up to him.
The night degenerated into phones being passed back and forth with pictures of family both young and old. This spurred a round of harassment at the owner for being old enough to be our parents. Too quickly it was over. Takeshi insisted we introduce ourselves and that we be back in the future. We won’t have any problems with that. Anyone who wants to buy me food and drinks to show me what they like is a friend I want to keep around.
Ok. I wont’ lie. The last week or so has been difficult. I’ve had a few rounds with homesickness, but tonight I won. But Mrs. Emeigh, you say. You don’t get home sick you say. I thought so too. If there is one thing that I’ve already learned from this experience, it’s that you’re not always sure of who you are until you throw yourself into something. Sometimes you just have to look at yourself in the mirror, take charge of your life resetting experience, and say what the hey I’m going that way.
Tonight I can truly say that’s what I did. After a little bit of being overwhelmed, and a little more of being a scardy cat, I just threw caution to the wind and went out. I ended up having yet another very rewarding experience that showed me that I can communicate and that my Japanese isn’t quite so good. Well I knew that already.
In my earlier wanderings, which yes I will talk about most likely tomorrow. I spotted a very small restaurant tucked beneath a bullet train over pass. It wasn’t open both times I passed, so today, as I was getting out of the shower, I made it my destination for better or for worse.
The front of the building was a very traditional shop front. It was lined with the bamboo screen, lanterns, and sliding frosted glass that many buildings have. What I did not realize, until I got inside that is, was that the establishment wasn’t quite open. Yes I know, stupid Mrs. Emeigh read the sign. I walked in brash as anything to the shocked look of the two men who run the restaurant and then realized my mistake. They weren’t quite open yet.
I asked desperately if it was ok in my broken Japanese. He assured me it was fine, and I took a seat at the bar. The place probably doesn’t sit more than ten people at best. None of the menu was in English and to top it all off most of it was in kanji. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m studying my butt off, but I don’t know that many kanji. The chef very kindly read the menu to me, and when he came to something I recognized I ordered. There was some confusion about what specific kind I should have, so instead of trying to puzzle it out, I simply asked him what he liked and ordered that.
What I ended up ordering was a plate of very lightly sesame oil fried chicken wings. They were so good I forgot to take a picture. Thankfully there is a picture of the bones to go with my next purchase. Since four chicken wings wasn’t quite enough to tide me over, I asked him what he recommended. What he recommended is below, along with my already consumed chicken wings.
As I sat and ate my monster portion of food, which I later realized should be shared, I ended up being introduced to some of the more regular patrons. They asked me several questions, most of which I managed to answer, and seemed to be genuinely kind. They wanted to know where I worked, how long I was staying, where I was from. To the best of my abilities I managed to answer.
After what was an awesome meal, I made my way across the street to the super market or Suupaa. It’s a lot more elegant looking in Japanese. I picked up a few essentials but was over awed at the full shelf worth of one of my favorite things, furikake. Furikake is a salty seasoning used over plain rice. It’s eaten sometimes as breakfast and sometimes for lunch. I honestly can’t get enough of the stuff. It comes in a variety of flavors and so far they are all yummy.
After a successful shopping trip, I took one look at the sky and decided it was time to head home. There is a Taifun coming up through the island of Shikoku soon. We aren’t supposed to get much more than rain, but it’s done some pretty interesting things to the clouds. It got really angry and rumbled a few times on my way home.
Also as a last note. I was home getting into my jammies when the door bell rang. I was not expecting anyone at all. Apparently during the day a package had come for me from the internet company I’m going to be signing up with. They’d already sent along a brand new router to go along with the internet install that’s happening Sunday at my apartment. No wonder start up costs for utilities can be so much. Heck, it’s a small price to pay for one gig download speed on a fiber optic connection. Suck it Google!
One of the things I had to do before leaving to go to Japan was a pre-departure orientation. No I don’t think you’re stupid. Yes, I am aware that you can read the title of this post. Anyway, moving on. There was the usual set of speakers. Some of them were a bit doom and gloom. Some of them were funny, and some of them proved that being a good public speaker has nothing to do with how well you know a language.
A particular speaker jumps to mind. One of our travel coordinators, and forgive me his name has escaped me, was in charge of telling us all of the necessary information for our actual departure. Yes the one we were at the orientation to talk about. He was entirely unprepossesing, short, and a bit round in the middle. His accent was right out of a stereotype. There were rs instead of ls everywhere, but to be honest he was one of the most engaging speakers there. He managed to give us information and set us at ease with a laugh. It gave me a strange sort of hope that I’ll be able to get my personality across even though I may not know the right words.
The actual information was pretty basic. Get places on time. Keep your things where they need to be. Get your luggage somewhere so it can go on the truck, those sorts of things. However whenever you get a room full of nervous people certain personality traits begin to present themselves.
For this reason, I dread the part where someone asks if there are any questions. Those words bring out a few specific personalities. There’s always that person who needs to ask that question just to make themselves feel better about what they already knew. There’s always the person who doesn’t pay attention, so they ask a question someone else already asked. And, inevitably, there is always someone who asks a question whose answer is clearly to be found in the packet already passed out and sitting in front of them. Others tend to be annoyed by this, but I understand that it’s merely nerves. Sometimes, when people are nervous, they get a little stupid even though they’re very smart. It sort of makes me want to hug them.
By far my favorite person, who I never actually met or learned their name, was the girl sitting a table ahead of me. She sat very still and very quiet. She seemed to look above it all and to be a bit to cool for the questioning and information. She even managed to convince me of her aloof coolness until she pulled a sandwich out of her purse. Then with a single question, naturally about the sandwich, her face lit up. Suddenly she was a different, albeit still nervous, person. It’s certain proof that you should never immediately judge a book by it’s cover.
Something else I learned from this orientation is that I’m old. OK, before you older people shoot me down, hear me out. Most of the people leaving are four to five years younger than me. Many of them have been many awesome places. Some of them haven’t. I’ve seen a lot of bravado, but I know it’s secretly hiding nerves. Again it just sort of makes me want to hug them. You’ve got to be honest with yourself, or you will get yourself into trouble. I experienced the culture shock thing in Texas. You won’t always realize that’s what happening until it does. I’m not sure how you learn to look closely at your own emotions, but it’s one good way of learning how to do it. Unfortunately, it’s a bit sink or swim. You either get or you don’t. As long as you can start off by being honest with yourself and your feelings, I think you will end up being better off than those trying to play it up.
For this reason, last night I stayed way past the young kids. Yup that’s how I’m going to refer to the young twenty somethings. I’m going to be a bit crotchety. The reason I stayed was to talk to another married couple my own age who were not only taking themselves but also their two children. They both got placed in the program, however, they were placed ten hours apart. I will be keeping them in mind when I get a bit lonely in the next two weeks. I will also be doing my best to keep in touch with them, mostly because they were a bit crunchy and awesome.
By stepping back and watching over the last day or so I’ve sort of come away with a kind of confidence I didn’t realize I was capable of. Everyone I’ve talked to was grateful to talk. When I had a reaction to try to follow, I stood back and watched. I think I’m ready. I didn’t think I’d feel that way, but there it is. See you all on the other side.
I need to post something. Honestly I’ve been more than a little frazzled lately. In less than a week, I will finally be in Tokyo for the first time. I’m both excited and a little terrified. Who wouldn’t be scared about moving 6,000 miles away.
Bodhi and I are ready. My little purple lucky cat and I are also ready. I’ll do a full post later on the lucky cat phenomenon later on. The short version is that my lucky cat is something that guards my room, and, depending on the color, helps focus certain kinds of lucky energy. Mine is purple. Apparently purple is a color that is supposed to give you good creative energy. He lives above a doorway so that every time you enter the room you get a little extra boost. I haven’t named him yet. I’ll get to that later.
At the moment, most of my life is summed up into the clothes about to be packed into my two giant suitcases. It may interest you to know that there are a few things I’m stock piling for various reasons.
The first thing I’m taking a lot of is deodorant. Yup, I’m sure that wasn’t something you really needed to know about me huh? It’s ok everyone sweats, even girls. Unfortunately Japanese girls just don’t sweat quite so much and when they do, it’s not quite so smelly. Actually it’s not just the girls, it’s everyone. Lucky them right? Check this out if you don’t believe me.
The other thing I’m taking a lot of is toothpaste. This is a little more down to my own personal preference. I do like that fancy enamel rebuilding stuff. You can get pretty good toothpaste over there and yes Japanese people do take pretty good care of their teeth. It is not quite what the stereotypical knowledge would have you believe. Still there isn’t necessarily the same type of things I’m used to finding in the U.S. To make matters worse you have to understand a completely different reading style to figure out exactly what you’re buying. This is why things like this exist.
I’m sure as I actually spend time in the country that I will find other things along this same line. This is why I have some willing people in the states who will send me those essentials I don’t realize I’m going to need yet.