Time flies when you’re training for nine hours a day and lesson-planning after work.
My first impressions of Japan are this:
- It’s pretty amazing, but it’s not home yet.
- It’s bloody hot and bloody humid in the summer (it has been over 90 for the past 10 days)
- Everything in Japan is bigger (buildings) and smaller (hotel rooms), sometimes at the same time (food)
When I haven’t been training for my new job, I’ve been learning about things like Japanese coin-operated washing machines and relearning things I learned in America. I’ll start with the gadgets.
There are bidets EVERYWHERE.
Smart Phone? B*tch, please… this toilet has more buttons than a wedding dress.
It has been really fun trying to figure out what button does what. I’m seriously hoping for a normal toilet when I get to my apartment. If I walk in and see one of these, I am liable to flip my shit. What ever happened to just a simple flusher? I mean, yeah, it’s nice that the seat is heated and it can make flushing sounds if you lose your nerve and can’t go, but I really for serous am looking forward to a regular toilet to sit on… and not a squat one, either (yep… they have those in Japan, and when it’s not a bidet, it’s a squat toilet).
Another interesting thing I have noticed is that the toilet paper here is not perforated. Instead, there’s a little plastic thing you push down on and then just tear across. It’s a little strange, but I actually like it better than the perforations. You can take exactly how much you need. It saves paper, and saving is good.
Japan is a very fast-paced society, and very punctual. Being on time is being late, and being late is super bad. Public transportation is like clockwork, even if it does get crowded sometimes. You can take a train just about anywhere, and if you can’t, there are always bikes or your own two feet. Travel is also pretty cheep… 460 yen round-trip to training every day.
Now, let’s talk about something truly interesting: food.
There are vending machines EVERYWHERE. And they sell EVERYTHING. I mean it. I haven’t seen any of the really weird ones, but here is one of my fellow trainees’ favorites, and my dad’s from the sounds of things:
If they had these on college campuses, America would have a whole new epidemic of alcoholism on their hands.
Yes, that is what you think it is. Beer. Lots of beer. In a vending machine. This was in one of the little shopping roads in Osaka. Personally, my favorite is this one:
Drink some coffee… LIKE A BOSS!
My old boss Kelly will probably get a kick out of this. I’m really fond of the cafe au lait (sweetened coffee with milk). Coffee is the same price as beer, about 120 yen (unless you get a giant one), and the amount is just enough to give me a little kick in the morning. I’ve been a budget, so I haven’t bought much coffee, but I found a carton of it at the 100-yen convenience store right next to Daikokucho Station in giant cartons.
Japan, watch out. I’m about to be caffeinated.
There are so many delicious things to eat here. I have to share my first meal in Japan, and a valuable lesson I learned from it. Many convenience and grocery stores in Japan sell bento (boxed lunches). I bought one with chicken, egg, some pickled vegetables, and some ume-rice (rice with pickled plum). I confess that the pickled plum flavor was super-strong, and I was able to struggle my way through the egg by eating it with rice. The pickled vegetables were divine, and the chicken was good. Everything tastes richer and fresher, including Subway and McDonald’s (yes, I have eaten a bit of American food while I’m over here).
So, there I am, eating my way through some kind of seaweed, and I do a double-take because I suddenly realized my food was LOOKING AT ME. Fish. Tiny dead baby fish. Fortunately, the jet lag kept me from being totally grossed out, and I made my way through them. They’re in practically everything, so I figure I may as well get used to them. The bento I bought was big enough to be split into two meals, and I was super-excited thinking, “YES! I’ll only be spending about 700 yen a day on food. Winning~” I was at that point eating Asian pears and toast for breakfast, so that evening, I came back after curry and had the rest of my bento.
Three hours later, I feel like my intestines are being ripped out. I’m totally baffled. It had only been twenty-four hours. What the hell?
My initial reaction in Meme Form.
The next morning, I looked at the rest of my bento (just a bit of rice), and one of my fellow trainees pointed me to the expiration date. It had expired at 10 am on the morning of the 19th, and I had eaten it that evening. Just one of many lessons I have already learned about Japan.
The second food-related lesson comes from eating involves the convenience store again. I found what I thought was yakiniku (beef on a stick) and bought it. Only after eating a piece did I find out that it was chicken liver. The flavor was fine, but the texture was unbearable, so I conceded not to eat it.
Earl Gray with milk and sugar… a nostalgic flavor~
Last Sunday, when everyone was off training, we took a little adventure, starting at Tea House Chelsea. I wasn’t hungry at that point, so I wound up just drinking tea. The tea house itself is British, so I wound up getting a cup of Earl Gray. Everything there was beautiful, and it was really good. 🙂
I have also been fortunate enough to try toro (fatty tuna), a wealth of baked goods (including tiramisu), and maguro (for real). I don’t have many pictures of the food since I’m usually too tired and hungry to make the effort by the time I’m ready to eat it, but I will say that the food over here is amazing. It puts American Japanese fare to shame. We keep trying to go to a kaiten sushi place, but so far, we have failed in our endeavors, and with our final day fast approaching, it’s starting to look like we won’t get there.
Aside from that, the only thing we had time to do on our first Sunday in Japan was go to Tennoji Park. I have never seen anything so gorgeous in my entire life. Imagine it: the cicadas humming contentedly in the trees, their shade providing a touch of comforting coolness from the intense summer sun, the water of a giant lake glistening. There were some really thin foot bridges to cross, and a closed-in area with a vending machine.
But that wasn’t even close to the best part. Caroline, one of my fellow trainees, looked down and said, “Oh, look, a turtle!” I rushed to grab the camera, hoping that I would get a shot, but it soon disappeared under the bridge. Moments later, there was another one, and another. The next thing I know, we’re all up to our neck in turtles and carp. There are literally hundreds of them swimming in the lake just below us. I once saw a Loggerhead Sea Turtle crawl back into the ocean after laying its eggs, and it was breathtaking. This almost rivals the magnitude of that memory. Although these turtles are common, the tranquility of Tennoji Park lulled me into this relaxed state of mind. I was happy to see something that made me feel close to home.
My aquatic cousins greet me… I love turtles so much, and it was truly amazing to see so many together at once. 🙂
That same day, one of my fellow trainees and I went to Junkudou, a bookstore of epic proportions. I could get lost in there for hours, but my objective was the phrase book I should have bought and brought with me before leaving. It took us about an hour to find it, and we got lost a couple of times, but the person I went with is from New York. I’m lucky someone is able to navigate this maze of skyscrapers more effectively than I can. I have been getting by on broken Japanese (like this morning, when we got locked out of the room).
The shrine outside of the onsen… gorgeous!
By the time I knew it, a week had passed. Tomorrow is our last day of initial training. From there, we each go to our branch schools, but we plan to stay connected through Facebook and follow-up training. So, to celebrate our achievements of the week, we went to an onsen last night. As an American, it was a little strange stripping down to nothing around so many people, but like everything else in Japan, my mindset is, “Well, everyone else is doing it, and it doesn’t endanger my health or go against my ethics, so why not?” It was a relatively big onsen not far from the hotel, and it cost 800 yen to get in. After that, it was nothing but scrubbing and wandering from one hot bath (39.3 to 43.9 degrees celsius) to another. There was a regular bath, a massage chair bath, a standing jet bath, a silk bath, and a couple of tubs outside. My favorite was the cherry-scented perfume bath. The smell reminded me of tea, and I got completely washed away by it.
Thus ends my first weeks’ adventures in Japan. I look forward to having many more as the year goes on. Until then, I will continue on with my training and hope that my lesson plan tomorrow is a high enough quality to get me to the branch school.
Until next time, from the far side of the world!