Today marks the one month anniversary of my arrival in Japan (Or is it tomorrow? Well, it depends on time zones I guess, and also on the fact that I lost track of those details with the whole mess that my departure was)
A few things have happened during this month in Japan and for the most part away from the internet as you can imagine.
A few days ago we moved into the apartment that we’re going to call home for the next two years or so (then we’ll need to move into something bigger, for some reason) and luckily it comes with an internet connection. I’m not sure I understand everything about it (that will be my motto in Japan, I think) as I don’t need a router or a modem and the subscription was included with the apartment lease. I just need plug my computer in the Ethernet outlet and it works… fast… yeah for fiber optics!
I won’t try to tell you about all what happened during this past month, but here are some details and thoughts that I had during the past 30 days.
Maybe I’ll develop some of them into a full post, maybe not. It’ll mostly depend on my free time or lack thereof (yep, I’m a full time employee now, not a at home freelancer anymore).
Warning: a few statements here (today and in future posts) will sound like « Japanese people do this, or do that, or are like this or like that ». Please, take them with a grain of salt. I know it’s not “all Japanese people” and most of the time there will be as many who don’t than who do. I’m even sure I will contradict myself in the future, once I understand better some of the things that are going on around me. Actually that’ll give you a nice outlook on the evolution of my vision of the country and its culture.
My first full day in Japan started with going to city hall to have my Alien Registration Card done. In some countries *cough* France *cough* this experience can be a hassle and result in you spending 4-5 hours (if not more) waiting to have your demand delayed because of some missing paper that you’ve never heard about before or something like that. So I was pretty surprised how smoothly the thing went. And what’s good about Japan (or at least Takamatsu) is that the “foreigners booth” is the one with the least waiting time (I was the only one person there). I hope that the clerks in charge of foreigners have other tasks to accomplish during the day or else they may get bored.
One thing I noticed at city hall (and in all the other offices I went to later) is that the concept of “open space” is taken quite literally in Japan. The open space is right behind the counter and the only thing separating the public from the employees and their desks are said counter, no wall, nothing.
Apart from that everything went smoothly and quickly at city hall, a very different experience from the one that one can experience in France most of the time.
I guess this is another example of Japanese people’s organization skills.
On the other hand, this is counterbalanced with an almost total inability to improvise (is there even a word for it in Japanese?)
Several times I’ve seen Japanese people frozen, deer in the headlights style, when facing an unexpected or unplanned situation.
At times, I suspect my in-laws to think I’m a halfwit of something because I don’t plan my days/trips/activities from A to Z. The fact that I may go with the flow or decide on the spot doesn’t cross their minds a single second.
I’m sure that I will have the opportunity to discuss more this planning vs improvising thing in the coming weeks/months.
After two days in Japan, I still hadn’t seen Takeshi Kitano on TV. I was almost worried. But on the third day he appeared in a mouse costume. All is well…
Did you know that the Volley-Ball World Cup was held in Japan in November? Apparently it’s always in Japan for some reason. Don’t worry, here too, they stopped talking about it as soon as the Japanese teams were out of the contest (The women finished 4th, the men towards the bottom of the rankings). Apparently too, it’s a different competition from the World Championship.
And then I had my first encounter with a Kotatsu!
First, in case you didn’t know (I didn’t) it’s a very bad idea to stay in a Japanese home when it’s cold (but as the only alternative is to stay outside, we’ll make do, right ?) Not only there is little to no insulation, but worse, there’s little to no heating either!
So, in order to not freeze to death, and instead of insulating and heating their houses (why do such a thing, right?) Japanese people have invented a bunch of more or less useful devices such as heated toilet seats, heated rugs, portable heaters that don’t really heat anything and… the Kotatsu!
Imagine a big coffee table with a blanket around it and a small heater inside.
At first, I was not a big fan of the strange feeling to have the lower half of your body to be hot and the upper half as cold as it was before seating at the table. However, I quickly got used to it, to the point that I now realize that Kotatsu are real traps. Once seated at a Kotatsu is near impossible to get up again, it’s so warm there and the rest of the room – and the of the house – is so cold…
In other words, I can’t wait for late Spring (What ? I’m being informed that Winter hasn’t even started yet!)
Another thing that makes me wonder about Kotatsu is that usually Japanese people seem pretty obsessed with security. Personally, I feel that putting a heating electrical device in a blanket and under a wooden table is not the safest thing in the world. On the other hand I’ve never heard about a wave of living rooms catching fire all over Japan every winter, so what do I know?
A few days ago, I went to an Irish pub. At first, it felt strange to be in an Irish pub in Japan, but all in all, the person who invited me there had a great idea. I’m all for having an as complete immersion as possible in Japanese culture, but if I want to drink good beer once in a while, I will need such places.
And on a side note, there, I ate Shōdoshima olives for the first time. They don’t taste like any olive I’ve had before, and they were delicious.
On average, I run into one or two foreigners a day in Takamatsu, but on a Sunday afternoon, walking across Chūō Kōen (the small park in the center of Takamatsu) I ran into about 15 of them at the same time. They were playing soccer there. Probably some students. No idea really.
Ok, that’s all for today, but don’t forget to remind me to tell you about:
-My very first earthquake!
-The fact that apparently my name is not David Billa anymore according to several people, especially the bank teller.
-If you really care about it I will tell you about looking for an apartment in Japan, but really, it’s not that different from the countries where I’ve previously done that (aka France and the US).
On a side note, I created a Google+ page for the blog. Feel free to put it in your circles at your convenience and I’d really appreciate if you also +1 it (I’m talking about the button in the right sidebar). Thanks in advance.
That’s a whole lot of update. Seems like you are enjoying yourself there. 😉
Although work has started. But I’m enjoying work, so yes, I’m enjoying myself. 🙂
Great to have you back (I don’t have twitter or facebook, so can’t follow you on those). I laughed out loud about the Beaujolais comment–but is it really that bad? I had some in Paris in 1976 that changed my whole opinion of wine–it tasted like flowers (most California wine at that time tasted not too different from vinegar). Glad you’re enjoying your new home!
Beaujolais Nouveau is the worst French wine and possibly the worst wine in the world.
If such a big deal is made out of it, it’s because of the aggressive marketing campaign that comes with it. They wouldn’t sell any without it.
Actually, now that it has caught on in such ludicrous dimensions in Japan (cause Japanese people are clueless about wine, but love following such trends), you almost don’t hear about it in France anymore (wine producers make all of their money from Japan and the US now)
Will you live in Japan all your life?
It’s too early too tell, but if everything goes well, yes, this is the plan.
What a great plan. Hope your dream will come true.
Hallo, David! I discovered your blog via Lina and her Japan-mad family, but it’s the first time I’m commenting here. This post made me grin. It reminded me of my first year in Japan, but I should immediately add that even many years later, I’m still wondering about efficiency vs innovation, and I’m still startled each time I see my own name on my bank book. I look forward to reading about your experiences. I hope you’ll be very, very happy in this wonderful country!
Thanks for stopping by. And I’m feeling better about the bank thing, well I don’t know if I should feel better, as it means it’s not the clerk who was an evil idiot, but the bank (oh wait, I already knew that about banks)