It's hard to believe that we have only been in Japan for six days now. So much is different that it's hard to post all the details. I'll try to give you some interesting little details here, to give you a better picture of our current lives.
Firstly the important things, that all you family members are worried about: our apartment is spacious, safe, and comfortable! (If you haven't seen the video yet, please find it on the previous posting! It may take a little while to download, as it is a little over 5 minutes in length). We have been eating - lots of rice and noodles- despite the fact that grocery shopping has proved tobe one of the most challenging projects thus far. The frustrating/difficult aspect of it is the inability to read most labels on food. Nonetheless we have been able to locate real fruit juices, canned tuna, fresh & frozen vegetables, bread, honey. So, rest assured that our base needs are covered.
Now for a few other interesting details and stories:
- 100 yen shops (equivalent to a "dollar store") are a great source for pretty much anything, and we've been able to get some extra home furnishings there for quite cheap (cleaning supplies, tupperware, etc.).
- there are lots of snacks around, even potato chips and cookies, but these seem to be quite overpackaged, and only available in small portions....this probably isn't a bad thing!
- so far the only things I have seen in vending machines are drinks (mostly iced green tea, cold coffee beverages, sodas, juice, and occasionally a beer vending machine) and cigarettes.
- when sales staff speak English it is extremely limited, but they try their best to accommodate us. Yesterday we had a guy at a cell phone store call his company to get a translator. They are often extremely appologetic for their lack of English, to which I say "Hey man, it's better than my Japanese!"
- bikes are parked everywhere here, and usually not locked to anything. They have a keyed mechanism that locks the back tire in a vice. In the video of our apartment you can see the area where people on our floor park their bikes.
- I bought crazy Japanese Felix the cat bubble gum
- Mats was our first official guest here! Matsutaro was born in Japan, but grew up in Canada. He lives in Oakville, but his family still lives here.
It was lucky for us that he was visiting his family in Osaka (about 40-50 minutes away by bullet train), and was able to come stay with us. Though he only speaks a liiiiitle bit of Japanese it was enough to help us through some of the first challenges.
- our apartment building houses about 200 English teachers, we've met our neighbours on both sides (also teachers), and both have offered to help with anything we need
- everywhere there are tons of restaurants, pachinko parlours (a strange sort of pinball slot machine gambling game), arcades, and karaoke bars
- the public transit system seems pretty great, though we're still getting the hang of it
- alcohol in stores is hilariously cheap: ex. 750mL Smirnoff Vodka = about $10-11 Canadian, or a 750mL bottle of tequilla for around $14.
For my dad, and Des: a 750mL bottle of Glenfiddich single malt 18 year old Scotch goes for about $44 Canadian (compare with approximately $88 on the LCBO website). They also have Maccallan's, and I think that was even cheaper.
- you do see a lot of funny English t-shirts, and the popular style seems to be punk/80's inspired.
- just because there's English on a store sign, or in their ad, don't assume that anyone in the store will have any idea how to read it. It seems to be popular advertising scheme to have an English slogan or sign, but most people don't really seem to know what the signs mean.
- people will go out of their way to help you without questioning you at all.
example: asking directions in a convenience store, the clerk came outside and took a good 5 minutes trying to explain directions to us. In the end we still didn't know exactly where to go, but we were headed in the right direction. Later down the street we asked a random pedestrian who actually took us down into the subway station, made sure we bought the right tickets, and then walked us over to the right spot to wait for the train, then just left without saying anything.
Like I said, there's so much happening at once, and so much that's different that it's difficult for us to even keep track of it all. Hopefully now you have a slightly better idea of how things are for us here. We already have much more to report including our first day of training and a party with our Aussie neighbour.
Much more coming soon!