Wednesday, September 15, 2004

So here`s my journal so far. I have not been editing, so this is gonna be pretty rough, but there you have it. The bits written in Japanese are especially bad and may make absolutely no sense. But odds are you don`t read Japanese, so you`d never notice. Props if you get through it all in one sitting. There`ll be more coming every now and again, most likely in big chunks. Please feel free to comment, I can reply to that easily enough :-).




Book I: Travel


Saturday, September 6 2004. 830pm. Somewhere in Ohio.

Hello everyone. I’m writing this now as I sit in the back of a car hurtling inexorably towards a bad literary device. It’s now 8:30-ish on Saturday evening in Ohio, making it 7:30ish in Chicago and a lazy 9:30am Sunday in Japan. I’ll hit Chicago in about 6 hours (230am Cleveland 130am Chicago 330pm Japan), will perhaps get some sleep, will get up about 5.5 hours after my arrival (8am Cleveland 7am Chicago 9pm Japan) and will have breakfast with my parents, after which I will arrive at the airport around 9am Chicago time (10am Cleveland 11pm Japan) and be airborne at 1135am Chicago time (noonthirtyfive ohio 135am Japan). I’ll then fly for 13 hours and 5 minutes (exactly, mind you) and arrive in Japan around 230 or something I believe. My numbers are getting sketch, but in fairness people are starving in Africa and my digital (I like the use of the word “digital” here as referring to digits) transgressions are meaningless. Anyway, from Tokyo I have a few hours to change airports and then fly another hour and forty minutes to Matsuyama, the capital city of the Ehime prefecture in which I’ll be living. From there, I will drive an hour and a half to Niihama, the port-town base of my unfolding operations. All told I’ll be sleeping with the roaches in a futon in a hole of a Japanese apartment in about 38 hours or so.

I really like having a laptop. Due to a miracle of modern wiring (a wiracle? M and W seem so close…) I am charging the batteries of my laptop whilst on the road. Crazy and useful. I could be watching a movie, I have all my DVD’s with me. I feel so technologically advanced – though I’m prepared for Japan to crush my feeble fetus (my ubiquitous, burgeoning soulchild, if you will) of a technoego. They’re probably reading my mind through satellites and laughing over Pocky and Asahi as I type. The kids, I mean – the adults are too busy fighting an interstellar war in secret.

But I digress. I mean that as a paradigm, a constant, a habit. Get used to it. I dunno who will be reading these updates, even if I do start posting them regularly (I may), but I almost promise it’ll be about 25% updates of my adventures and 75% rambling.

Just to see if I can do this, 日本語で書けますよ。よかったですねえ!僕は、まだあんまり上手じゃないですが、すぐよくできると思っているんです。MSWord でかなと漢字で書けます。面白いですね!

So yeah, that’s cool. On a side note, all of the rest stops on the Ohio Turnpike are closed, presumably because Bush is passing through Ohio. That really blows, as I’ve had to go to the bathroom for the past hour. That man is a blight on my bladder, how can he be expected to handle the country? Alright, gonna take it easy for a bit. Got many miles to Chicago and I gotta unplug my laptop from the car. More updates as the trip continues, no doubt.

Peace!
Saturday Sep 5, midnight (eeeearly morning, not late night)
Somewhere between Cleveland and Chicago

This is two updates within a few hours of each other, and I expect a few more between now and my first nap. Since there’ll be not much to report about the trip (In the car. Dark. Laptop batteries going weird. Miles to go before I sleep.) I’ll likely just ramble about whatever’s on my mind. As a result, the next few entries may not be so much a travelogue as a rather dreary monologue. Tough.

I started writing this entry an hour and a half ago, but don’t feel like starting a new one just cuz so much time went by. I’m 5 miles from Gary, Indiana.

今、日本語で書きたいです。だから、読んでいる人は読めるかどうか分からないですが、かまわないと思います。明日から、日本人みたいに成りたいです。それは怖いですー僕よくできるかどうか心配しているんです。これから、難しい生活がはじめます。でも、とても楽しみにしています。問題がひとつだけです:僕の日本語がまだとても弱いです。でも、話したいり読んだり書いたりしたら、よくできるようになると思います。それでも、最初からとても大変かも知りません。

インターンとして仕事尾するですが、それだけじゃないです。毎日、仕事押した跡で何か面白いことがしたいんです。だから、けんどの練習を津ず来たいです。それで、空手も勉強するかもしりません。

一番楽しいことがまだ分からないですが、いろいろな日本のことをするつもりです。ほんとに、日本人みたいのアメリカ人になりたいんです。どうしてかよく聞かれるんです。答えは、日本人の考え方が好きだからです。いつも何でもいっしょにするようにしたいんです。アメリカでは、一番大切のは、自分らしさですから、誰でもどこでも一人で自分だけでいます。

Okay, well, I’d babble more in broken Japanese but there will be time enough in the months ahead. Right now my last good battery is about to die, so I’m gonna shut down. Peace.

Sunday, Sep 5. 10:42am (Chicago time)
O’Hare airport, terminal 5, gate 8 lounge.

About an hour to airtime. Parents left, drank some water, sitting here surrounded by people speaking notenglish comfortably. Have some degree of confidence in my Japanese, at long last. This is weird, my computer isn’t picki upsome keysokes. Be I’ll just ahead an type like this – it’ll be my nature sle.

Ok no, that sucks, I’m gonna shut down.



Monday, Sep 6. 4:56am (Japan time)
Somewhere over Northern Canada, Alaska on the horizon.

About 10 hours until projected arrival, and I’m already feeling antsy. I put on “Closing Time” and busted out this laptop – I’m determined to use it for the duration of this battery (78%, 1:48, which will miraculously be 85% :57 next time I check). So apparently, drinks and whatnot on planes are free – that’s kinda cool. Keep it in mind when you travel. That is, unless they hit me with a bill later. All I had was a beer so it should be okay.

I’m just typing this out to keep myself away from the madness that will settle in inevitably. They’re playing some old Kurosawa movie with no subtitles on my little screen, maybe I’ll check that out later.

I’m writing this as the beginning stages of my year-long journal which I plan to post on my blog, but I must admit this projected course of action gives me pause – I don’t know that I like the idea of everyone being able to read what I’m scribbling down in a desperate attempt to occupy my mind. This is hardly polished prose, I’m sure it reads like some 12 year old brat’s diary. I’ve never been self-conscious about my writing before, but then again I’ve never really posted it up for people to read. Granted I had that livejournal thing going on for a while, but that’s a good example of the sort of writing I wanna avoid – the bare-my-soul-over-trivia style, the here’s-what-I’m-listening-to-and-here’s-how-I-feel-right-now style. I don’t think even I care, so I certainly want to treat my friends to something better. I guess once I get settled in I’ll focus more on an objective transcript of the things I see and do, with a little bit less in the way of uselessly artificial stream of consciousness rubbish. Sometimes, tho, you find yourself on a plane for 13 hours (13 hours! I could probably beat a video game or two in that time!)

So yeah, that’s what I’m leaning towards just now. I’ll be more objective and less personal in my journal, cuz ya’ll know me as much as you need to. Besides, I talk too much when there are people in front of me listening, if I keep this up these will go on for pages. So generally, updates and witty anecdotes, but over the occasional train ride I’ll see about posting something like this. Unless I’m too busy having fun to do such a crazy thing. We’ll see.

Can you tell I’m getting antsy? I’ve been writing the same thing in modestly different ways for the past 4 paragraphs.

They keep putting up this projection of a map with our plane on it. Every time I look we’ve moved a few millimeters – so I suppose there is progress. I’m just putting off the inevitable 3 shots of whiskey -> nap. I am not gonna be able to take this for another 10 hours, even though it’s completely reasonable. I’d have no problem watching movies and listening to music and reading on the couch at home for 12 hours or more – especially if they kept bringing me food and booze for free – but there’s something about knowing I can’t leave that irks me. I hope that’s not a sign of what’s to come more generally in Japan. I was not born to be a Sarariman (that’s Japanese for “salary man” for those of you without a creative bent), so the next year should be an interesting test of what I’m capable of.

I bought two boxes of Godiva chocolates for Tanaka-san and Fujita-san, the two people who will meet me at Matsuyama airport (34 months from now, when I finally arrive). I hope they like them. It was that or booze (which would have been cheaper – I could get a ton of anything for cheap at the Duty-free store.) But I don’t really know these people (to iu yori, sono hito wa zenzen shirimasen) so I didn’t feel comfortable buying alcohol as a gift…but then again, this is Japan, so maybe I should have? I dunno.

I’m wearing a really flowing white button up shirt that’s 3 inches too big for me in the neck. It has no collar. I think it looks majestic, I feel like an aristocrat when I wear it. I hope it’s not just ill-fitting and vaguely ugly. It’d be hard to pick up girls at the airport were that the case. But I remain confident.

I just caught myself in the act of typing out the particularly wonderful last line of a particularly good song I just listened to, but no. That’s so lame. And if you disagree with me shut up, you’re wrong. That’s right. Back off. I know kung fu. No I don’t.

So now that the driving consciousness of this particular entry is unbridled will disjointed from reason or writing style, I think I’ll call it quits for a while. Next time I update will be in Japan.

No it won’t, I’ll get restless about 7 hours from now and ramble again from the plane. But I’ll be in the pacific. Or above it, rather. One would hope.

I need a good conclusion to my entries – I can’t just write “peace” after each, that’s hardly original even if it is functional and appropriate. This journal is going to have to be a fusion of art and madness, so either without the other is insufficient and a lack of originality is fatal to both. Of course, these sentiments will change within the hour. I’ll doubtless go through a phase where I try to remove myself from my updates altogether, then one where I stop doing the updates, then I’ll transcend that and write again from the perspective of a condescending god – but in the end it’s all vanity.

Though I will sincerely try to have exciting adventures, if only so I can regale my friends with accounts thereof.

Vanity. I love it.

5:48pm Japan, Monday 6 September.
Sitting in the lounge at Gate 1 of Tokyo Haneda airport.

My plane to Matsuyama and the rest of the year leaves in approximately half an hour. I haven’t slept since the last time it was dark, which was Chicago. 13 hours sitting on a plane is really just too much. But it’s all good. And then I took an hour bus ride (3000yen) through Tokyo to switch airports to catch my next flight. Thanks for your gift, Toshi, I used it! :-D

On the plus side, I read the entire guidebook that the kendo guys gave me (thanks guys!) while on the plane and have a few places in Shikoku I’d like to go visit. The sex shrine looks amusing, if frightening.

I will now copy verbatim the notes I jotted in my notebook while riding the bus through Tokyo:

-People speak notenglish comfortably
-to weyes
-The Honda H looks at home
-Kilometers let you feel progress. % vs blue bar.
-Left side of road, right side of car. Weird. Busses board on the wrong side.
-Like a cinder block unashamed on the horizon unaware.
-Signs on the highway go by faster than I can pretend to understand them. This is high school and I’m Micghelbrink. Perfect.
-The wheels on the bus go round and round, but everyone is silent, even couples.
-The sky over Tokyo is soo blue..
-Just saw a truck driver with his cab full of plants.
-There are several giant ferris wheels just there.

So yeah, that’s the extent of Tokyo experience, as I’ll soon be leaving it behind – for a while, at least. Maybe next time I’ll not be such a tired retard. This has been great – I swear if these people addressed me in perfect English I’d look at them the same way, I feel wiped out. As it stands I keep getting funny looks and laughed at.

Anyway, enough of that, I think we’re boarding in 3 minutes and I need to go tuck my shirt in. Maybe I’ll get online one of these days, that’d be cool.

Vanity. :-D














Book II – September

2:46 PM Tuesday, September 07
My apartment (!!)
There’s a Typhoon going on.

Well, here I am. Arrived in Matsuyama last night, met Fujita-san and Tanaka-san.

7:22PM Tuesday, September 07
My Apartment

That last entry was all I got done whilst eating sushi and drinking Asahi beer (as a normal, every-day cheap meal, no less!). I’ll see if I can’t be a tad more descriptive.

My arrival: Tokyo was nuts, I felt completely lost the whole time and then came to my senses in Matsuyama, to a degree. On the plane ride from Tokyo to Matsuyama, Dan, I read almost all of Sirens, by the way – that’s the first time I’d actually read it. Wowsers, not bad. Anyway, got off the plane and everything was pretty straightforward. Didn’t have to check in with immigration, didn’t have to wander around figuring out how to get to a new airport, anything at all. I got my luggage and Tanaka-san and Fujita-san were waiting for me as soon as I stepped outside.

It was here that I committed my first faux pas – Tanaka-san introduced himself as Tanaka, and my response was “Tanaka desu ka?” (“Tanaka?”). I should have said “Tanaka-san desu ka?” (“Mr. Tanaka?”) It’s very rude to address someone without the –san, especially if you don’t know them and I’d imagine especially if they’re your boss’s boss and just drove an hour and a half to meet you. It wasn’t a big deal, I immediately corrected myself and it probably isn’t even worth mentioning, but that’s a mistake I shouldn’t have made. They spoke to me in Japanese at first and it was fine, with a few small exceptions, but no problems – at least, not on my end. As I think I wrote earlier, even in Tokyo I would have had a hard time communicating in English, so my Japanese probably came across as a lot worse than it really is. As it turns out, though, Fujita-san speaks almost perfect English. So that’s useful, as she’ll be more or less my handler for the next year.

From the airport, they took me to a Japanese restaurant. I had a dish with Tempura and sashimi and miso and rice and all sorts of good stuff – it was wonderful, and was almost more than I could eat. I think my stomach shrank by 35% on the plane or something, cuz since I’ve gotten here (it’s been, like, a day) I’ve just not been so hungry. But before I get excited I’ll let my body adjust to a 13 hour time difference – we’ll see what happens.

Anyway, after that I gave them the Godiva chocolates I had gotten for them at the duty-free store and it was Niihama or bust.

The trip to Niihama was pretty cool. We just took a highway the whole way (about 15,000 yen to take the highway from Matsuyama to Niihama – that’s about 15 dollars for a one hour highway drive. Getting around in Japan is expensive.) [metatextual note: I just discovered that I have an ice tray with each cube in the shape of an English letter. I can cool my hot self with ABCDEHIKLMOTUVWXY and Z [meta-meta-textual note: metatextual is apparently not a word. It must be meta-textual with a hyphen. I was unaware.]], and although they told me it’d be an hour and a half, it really didn’t feel like it. Maybe it was the novelty and maybe it was the fact that after all the traveling I’ve done since Saturday 90 minutes in a car is about as traumatic as blowing my nose (which, incidentally, is very rude to do in public in Japan), but we were there before I knew it. I took my contacts off in the back during the trip – I’m still not sure, in retrospect, if I should have done that. I’m vaguely concerned that it may have given the wrong impression, been too casual a thing to do two hours after meeting my superiors. My first sight of my new home was really tremendous, despite the darkness – we came around a corner on this gorgeous mountain road, and there below us was this large flat expanse of land on which comfortably situated could be seen the entire city of Niihama. It was really a view too glorious for me to have just sullied it by nesting into a grammatically awkward sentence, but there you have it. We drove down the mountain into the city on this road that just zig-zagged all the way down – we’re talking 180 degree turns every 50 meters. That was fun. Tanaka-san was driving and Fujita-san and I were making small talk as we entered town, and then they took me to the Ichimiya-Group office. It was already pretty late (circa 10, maybe?) so the place was empty and dark, but they showed me my desk and gave me my cell-phone. The office is kind of small and concentrated, like everything else I’ve seen since Narita, but I think I’m going to like it. I’ll post pictures as soon as I get me a digital camera.

As we left, I committed the second faux pas of the evening in failing to hold the door for Tanaka-san. Unthinkingly, I sort of gave it a push after I’d gone through, the way I normally would when there is somebody behind me, so that it’d stay open long enough for him to get through as well. Unfortunately, he was half a pulse behind schedule and the door just kind of whacked him in the shoulder as he came through. I was rather embarrassed, good to know I’m off on the right foot with Tanaka-san. He smiled and said no big deal, of course, and again I’m sure it wasn’t a huge deal, but these are the things you worry about. I guess in any real sense it’s not a big deal, but it would be a big deal if I believed it was no big deal – does that make sense?

Anyway, from there we walked across the parking lot to the hotel where I’d spend the night. The old woman was very kind and showed me up to my room. Tanaka-san and Fujita-san then took their leave. Fujita-san told me that I should take it easy in the morning and that she would therefore not call me until around 8am. I must confess, it vaguely gives me pause to think that the kind of relaxing morning one gets after a 20 hour trip is to sleep in until 8am – but I’ll get used to it. This is the business world, after all, I suppose. Fujita-san told me she’d call me to wake me up and figure the next day out, but I set the alarm for 10 minutes before 8 just so I’d not be too groggy when she did call.

I got my clothing for the next day together and crashed into blissful oblivion for the next few hours.
Today: So this morning, I woke up at 7:50 and sat around for 10 minutes, not wanting to go shower before Fujita-san called. She did, then I did, then I dressed and went downstairs for breakfast. This was just some dinky hotel that they apologized for putting me in, saying it’s just cuz it was close to the company and easy to coordinate from on my first day. That being the case, I can hardly wait to stay in a good hotel. The room was comfortable if closet-sized, the bathroom was great, and the breakfast they served me was just great. Never have I had ham and eggs in quite such a way. The ham was just a little piece of fried meat on the plate. The egg was an omlette (did I spell that wrong? MSWord seems not to know the word omlette or anything like it) that was folded into a thick, small square. On top of that, I had an artistically cut slice of every fruit I’ve ever heard of, two grapes (one green, one purple, both with seeds and both exquisite), a bit of potato salad, a full salad, bread (like, a loaf) and a cup of coffee. There was probably more that I’ve forgotten, but c’est la vie. Or should I say 仕方がない。Anyway, suffice it to say that breakfast was great. After that, I packed my stuff up and Fujita-san walked over and brought me back to the office (we walked through a delightful little deluge through the parking lot carrying luggage under umbrellas that were trying very hard).

We got out of the elevator (I work on the sixth floor) and Fujita-san introduced me (sort of) to two girls who apparently work there who were standing in the elevator lobby. They just giggled. Then we went into the office, where I was introduced to three or four elderly Japanese men who all looked very serious but who smiled big when they met me. JSL students, I actually have a 部長 that I work under. They do exist! I also met Mr. Ichimiya (Ichimiya Group, remember?). That was exciting.

So there, Fujita-san gave me the box for my cell phone, which included the charger and whatnot. I forgot it there when we left. Oops. Tanaka-san came in with a gift for me, a little pocket organizer thing for notes and numbers. I really rather like him, he’s very short, very affable, and very…I dunno, commanding? He has a strong presence? Anyway, cool guy, wish I hadn’t dissed his name and slammed a door on him.

From there, we left for my apartment. The typhoon was kicking in by then, so they stopped at a convenience store and bought me some food to eat today, given that I’d be trapped indoors by the weather (hence the sushi and Asahi). It was on Tanaka-san, who said he had been planning on inviting me over for dinner but couldn’t due to the weather. From there, we drove to my apartment.

Now, I’ll post photographs later. For now, I’ll describe it and try to draw an illustration. The exterior looks like crap. It’s like God dropped a cinder block in a ditch and the Japanese people started living around it and eventually in it. But I knew that going in – the previous intern had warned me not to get too turned off, that the inside was okay. Well, the inside is more than okay, I am really excited about this place. I suppose it’s what would be called a 2DK (2 rooms and a dining room/kitchen). I have two 6-tatami rooms on one half, and the DK and corridor and bathroom(s) on the other. Since I’m on the fourth floor of this building, I can see like a mile or two out my windows – Niihama is very flat, surrounded by gorgeous rolling green mountains in the nearness. Tanaka-san and Fujita-san dropped me off after explaining everything I needed to know and making sure I wouldn’t just cry myself to sleep if left alone, telling me it would be a bad idea to leave the building given the typhoon.

Let me tell you guys, the wind during a typhoon is amazing. You can hear it roar, you look out the window and see the rice fields (yes, I have rice fields around my building) swaying around like stormy ocean water. Unlike American storms, it did not rain continuously – the rain kept coming, but it’d rain for 20 minutes or half an hour or 5 minutes or an hour and then stop for just as long. What was constant was the wind. And there was no thunder or lightening. I unpacked all of my stuff and listened to music and wind while gazing out the window at the Japanese farms with mountain backdrop.

One of my plans in the past months, as I contemplated this adventure, was to find some place I could go sit on the roof and chill out while here, that was just something I wanted to do. I dunno, I have a roof thing. What’s cool, though, is this. At some point today, I wanted to go outside a bit, having spent hours and hours in the room, and as the rain had stopped I thought I’d go and feel the wind. Now, I’m on the top floor, but the stairs kept going, so I went upstairs and there was a door to the roof of my building, which looked almost exactly like the mental image I had vaguely hoped to find manifested somewhere in Niihama. I went out there and held on to the railing as the wind did its damnedest to throw me off. Pretty cool, huh? I love it.

I gotta describe this place a bit better. First of all, you know how in Japanese movies they always have those sliding doors that look like walls when they’re closed? Basically movable walls? I got those. They’re cool – when I want one big room, I open the wall between the two tatami rooms. When I want two small rooms, I close it. My bedroom/living room is basically a square. I have a little cabinet with three…cabinets in it, in which stuff is kept. I have a little table with a TV and VCR in one corner, a little stand with a stereo against one wall, and this little heating table in the corner opposite the TV. I get 3 TV stations. All in Japanese.

I just said heating table, you’re probably wondering what that is. I was. Here’s the deal, it’s a squat little table, maybe 20cm off the floor (so I sit on the floor, as I am doing now as my computer is on it). On the bottom side of the table is a little surface heater thing, aimed downwards. In the winter, I spread this special blanket that keeps/distributes heat over this tatami room, then put this table in the middle and turn on the heat. This heats the blanket which heats the room. I sleep right on the blanket. That’ll be nice. Pretty nifty, huh?

Anyway, the other tatami room. Just like this one, except the far wall has more sliding doors on it. Behind these can be found an obscene amount of storage space. Everything gets put away, walls close, and it’s just an empty room. In this empty room is an ironing board and a folding bed which I’m not going to use.

Sleeping arrangements – I have a futon that I put in the computer/TV room. It’s not like an American futon, which has a metal frame and folds into a couch. It’s actually just a couple of thick blankets, really. During the day I’m going to fold them up and put them behind one of the magic walls in tatami room #2. Also, Jon, this one’s for you – Fujita-san told me that you can’t just use a futon constantly without moving it around and airing it out, as it absorbs moisture. Apparently I’m to hang it out the window every couple of days just to let it dry out.

The kitchen has its own share of amazing storage space hidden behind walls, plus a stove, a microwave, a water-boiler, a rice cooker, a toaster oven and a blender. And a table and chair. And another quasi-chair that’s sort of a folding chair with leopard print.

The bathroom(s) are as follows: I have a toilet room. It is a closet with a toilet in it. I also have a sink/shower room. Here’s how the shower works: I fill the tub with water, which is cold. The tub is like a 4 foot cube in the corner. I then heat the water with a gas thing attached to it. I then put the electric pump into the tub. I then use the head coming out of the electric pump to wash myself as I stand on the floor outside of the tub. It looks interesting, and Fujita-san tells me it can be time consuming, especially in the winter.

As a result, I’m looking at a 5:30 wake up every morning. I fill the tub, turn on the heater, go iron my clothing for the day, wash, eat, and go to work. I have not yet been introduced to my moped and the bike was stolen (they’re gonna buy me a new one). Punchline, I’m at work by 8am every day, I think.

After the typhoon blew over I went for a walk. As it happens, there’s what I assume is a walking path real close to my building. I’m making that assumption because there is a sign with a picture of a mother and a kid, and people keep walking on it. But it’s as wide as any of the streets (over the left side of which people drive) around here. I walked about two miles or so, bought a snack, and walked back. People more or less avoided eye contact with me, except for a few old men here and there who smiled and bowed.

You guys are not gonna believe the view for my room when I post pictures. This seems to be a slummy area and it’s really pretty. Also, I’ve seen a couple of spiders in here and outside – Japanese spiders are kinda cool-looking. I think I can survive. It’s the cockroaches that’ll drive me nuts.

Also, Japanese separate their garbage, it’s a law. There’s Bottles/Cans (together), Paper, Plastic, and Organic. It’s still kind of confusing me, sometimes I’m just not sure where to put something – but I’ll figure it out.

Anyway, tomorrow I meet with the group of English speakers living in Niihama, they’re gonna show me around and whatnot. I look forward to it. Fujita-san will pick me up at 7:30, so I should get some sleep. It’s already 9:03, I’ve been writing here for a while. Wow, I think I can fully expect to spit out 20 pages a week easy – I haven’t even really scratched the surface with this little update, I just want to get through yesterday and today so that tomorrow I can write about tomorrow. This is going to be really wonderful.

Goodnight!

Thursday, 9 September 2004, 8:23pm
My Apartment

So no entry yesterday, been a bit busy, what with moving to a new country and whatnot. The office is pretty cool, everyone is very nice. I spent yesterday making introductions to dozens of people whose names I’ll not remember. Everyone winces at my name, too – mikoora birokonsukii isn’t all THAT hard, is it?

There are various details about my daily life that I’ve gathered. First and most importantly, I will never again smile condescendingly when I see someone on a moped – damn things are great. Here in Niihama, all the streets have a little moped/bike lane on the shoulder. It’s great in traffic, cuz you can just zip by. And when it’s not too crowded, you can drive with traffic in the street – though I’m not sure if my moped, specifically, is up to such a task. My speedometer goes up to 60kmh (40mphish?), but it makes funny noises at anything faster than about 25-30kmh. They also bought me this gorgeous big black bike with 28inch tires, which is two inches bigger than anything I’ve seen. It even has a headlight, a big basket on the front (like every bike I’ve seen in Niihama, it was only weird for like a minutes) and a bell. How can I go wrong?

So in the states, my only real expense is Japanese food, which costs an arm and a leg and breaks my bank account every quarter. Here, though, what would be a 10 dollar bento from a restaurant in the states is a 3 or 4 dollar item at the local convenience store or gas station. Moral of the story, even though I’m in a country with a generally much higher cost of living than the states, my housing is paid for and my food is actually cheaper. I’m getting 1000 dollars per month, but I’d be willing to bet I can make do with about 400. Figure another 200 for gas and miscellaneous unforeseen expenses and I can bank 400 a month towards a trip to China or Korea (or a Japanese restaurant back home).

At the office, my duties seem to consist mostly of smiling as people talk at me in toofast Japanese. Then I have to write a daily report at the end of the day, in Japanese. My first one was like a two page narrative, which was too long. My handler, Fujita-san, corrects my report and gives it back to me to fix and then email to her and a few of her bosses. Ergo, a two narrative just means more work for her and for me than, say, a half page of bullet points, which is also acceptable and even preferable. So I know how I’m gonna play that one.

Today, I got a lecture from Nakamoto-san about the history of Ichimiya group. It was actually pretty cool, as is Nakamoto-san. This company started out as a backwoods carpentry company here in Shikoku. After world war two, the city of Niihama was bombed to hell. At the time, about half of this city was employees of the Sumitomo company, a huge industrial company in Niihama for the copper mine (b.1691 d1964, after which Sumitomo left and Niihama became half slum). Anyway, the savvy management of small wood company Ichimiya sent a gift of wood to Sumitomo for use in rebuilding Niihama. After that, Sumitomo helped Ichimiya to gain more and more business and eventually invited them to build a base in Niihama, which is the origin of the current situation. This was all in the 1940’s.
When Sumitomo left Niihama, they had a lot of chemical leftovers from their projects there. They didn’t know how to get rid of it, so once again Ichimiya stepped up and offered to take it off their hands, and Ichimiya chemical (a new division of the erupting company) basically did crazy stuff and developed techniques of plastic injection over the years that made them very valuable. So valuable, in fact, that Honda contracted them exclusively to make the plastic used in Honda cars, in the interior panels (like inside the doors). So I guess the renowned Honda safety is due in part to the light-weight super-strong Ichimiya plastic that every single Honda uses. You can imagine what that did for Ichimiya’s business. It is because of the Honda plant in Columbus, then, that I am here. Honda invited Ichimiya to build a chemical company in Ohio, and in 1988 the backwoods carpentry company became a world leader in automotive plastics.

Nakamoto-san explained all of this to me in Japanese, so it took a while. My Japanese really is just kind of terrible, but I was one of the better people in SPEAC this summer (if I do say so myself, I suppose I could be wrong…). Moral of the story, I have a lot of room for improvement, on which I will capitalize.

Tomorrow night is a welcome party for me, that’ll be fun. I suspect I’ll be using the lessons taught to me by kendo club buddies. And by lessons I mean tolerance.

I’ve had the chance to poke around this town some – Monday night on foot, Tuesday night by bike and tonight by moped. I think I’m gonna like it, though I have yet to find where all the beautiful girls hang out. Last night I biked up to the local mall, which just opened recently I guess. It was okay, things are expensive and people are nice. I had some Ramen at the food court because the girl behind the register was cute and spoke great English. I have yet to lay eyes on another Caucasian in this town. Er actually, no, I’m sorry – I did see through the window into some sort of store or agency or something some sloppy fat guy looking too confident for his own good as he talked to two giggling Japanese girls.

So I shave and dress up every day now. That’s so weird. But I dig it.

Sunrise over the mountains from the roof is really wonderful. Speaking of which, I’ve been writing for about an hour and it’s 9:15. I’d best get to bed soon, so’s I can wake up at 5:30 and do the morning thing again. Hopefully I’ll be able to post all of this from work tomorrow, gotta save it to disk and take it in.

See ya’ll on the flipside.

19:45 Sep 15
My Room

So tired. Been running around sight-seeing on company time and company dime all week. “If I want to go” there’s a meeting tomorrow morning at 6am where I can meet some important company people. So, I guess I want to go. Not that I have to, oh no. But if I don’t…eh. So getting up at 4. Which is fine as I’m exhausted. More later.

Comments:
Don't forget you have to close your windows during a typhoon.

-Anonymous

is that just a conglomerate of latin words? does the nymous part come from nomen?
 
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?