Saturday, July 28, 2007

You Know You Live in Japan When...

You look out your apartment window and see this going on.

*Please note this is not video taken from my apartment, but merely an example of what I saw.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thursday Thirteen (Random Thoughts About Life in Japan)

1. I am always sure I feel an earthquake. Shudders caused by passing trains, heavy wind, speeding trucks and people upstairs, things I never noticed before, now cause me to stop and wonder about grinding Tectonic plates.

2. I have discovered that eating large chunks of raw fish is not as bad as I previously thought. However, I still refuse to eat juicy, red fish eggs, raw sea urchin, fermented soy beans, chicken hearts, raw horse sushi, squid guts and a number of other common Japanese foods.

3. I will always be mystified when I see English genre signs in Japanese book stores that don't have any English books.

4. I now realize how difficult it is to explain words like "although," "actually," and "rather," among others.

5. I will never understand why there are no less than ten vending machines on any given platform when it is considered rude to drink on the trains.

6. I have devised several strange ways to amuse myself at work. For example, I brought a country CD to my branch and enjoy setting "Boot Scoot Boogy" to play on repeat. The record number of plays before anyone noticed is 9 or 10.

7. I also hum the tune from 69 Boyz's "Daisy Dukes," rather than "Winnie the Pooh" when my Kinder students color in their workbooks.

8. Nearly everyone of my students has informed me that they will "go to shopping." This is by far the most common mistake I hear from students. I have heard it at least three hundred times, maybe more.

9. I've noticed a series of strange contradictions in Japan. For example, it's considered terribly rude to use the cell phone on the train, as it may disturb other passengers, yet it's okay for political vans to cruise up and down residential neighborhoods at 8 a.m. blaring campaign messages. Residents of Japan must extensively separate their garbage so that everything can be recycled and nothing wasted, yet fast food employees will use no less than four plastic bags to wrap one order. One bag for the drinks, one for the fries, one for the burgers and one to carry it all. Generally, the Japanese seem to have a love/hate relationship with foreigners. Thousands, perhaps millions, study another language in their free time and they print English on just about anything, yet there are signs showing blond haired, blue eyed foreigners robbing Japanese women at ATMs and Japanese passengers will sometimes make a big show of not sitting next to a foreigner on the train (see below).

10. The following has happened to my husband two times: Japanese person gets on train. There is a large empty spot next to my husband and no room on the bench across. Japanese person ignores large spot next to my husband and attempts to wriggle his way into the spot across the aisle, a spot scarcely large enough for a child. On one occasion, the person finally gave up and sat next to my husband, on the other the woman managed to worm her way between other (Japanese) passengers. My husband was wearing business clothes both times, so it wasn't like he looked like a crazed homeless person.

11. I am sure I will collapse from sensory overload when we finally return to the United States. Oh to be able to read and understand what's said around me! Oh to be able to speak freely, and at a natural speed! I know most people take this stuff for granted, but I never will again.

12. However, I will not be glad to return to American service. The service here is eerily perfect. Many restaurants have a button diners push, and bing, a server appears like magic. There's no waiting around for waiters to get off their smoke break and/or finish telling the cooks how wasted they got last night. A cashier at a fast food restaurant once forgot to give me my ketchup and ran halfway across the mall to give it to me.

13. When not at work or at home, I have no clue what's going on around me. I may as well be Helen Keller. I'm illiterate, I have no idea what people are saying, ever, I can't do the simplest things like ask how to recharge my train pass or request no mayonnaise on my pizza. There was a typhoon headed towards Tokyo a few days ago and my husband had no idea until our students told us.