Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My take

Alright, without further ado my first ever blog exciting. Not really, but here we go. Lets just get the obvious questions out of the way right now, because I know it is looming in everyone’s minds “what is it that I eat.” For those of you who thought my chicken, brown rice and broccoli days have come to an’re so wrong! However it is slightly modified. Food is a tad expensive here. The days of Costco and buying 10lb bags of brown rice and 24 pack of chicken breasts are no more. Being that I am a bit frugal (cheap), I have adopted the half method. I cut chicken breasts in half and I pollute my sacred brown rice with 1/2 white rice. Nothing is wasted. As far as booze prices it just depends. You can get gallons of sake (I’m really not kidding there are gallons of this stuff) for pretty cheap. Liquor is actually slightly cheaper than the U.S. (couple of dollars), however beer is a bit pricey. You can get a six pack of cat piss for about $8.

As for joining a gym, it is the most frustrating experience ever. Men do not work out in Japan. The gyms mostly cater to women. Basically their gyms consist of swimming pools, aerobics classes and the actual workout facilities are crammed into a corner. They do have a golds gym but those are few and far between throughout the city. Trying to search for gyms online can be a bit frustrating as it is usually in Japanese, and when you try to contact them, they are hesitant to respond due to the language barrier. Another annoying thing is that the earliest they open is 7am (most open at 10am!).

So those are just few things that affect my daily lifestyle. As for the city itself it is pretty freaking cool. Just like Seattle they have their little neighborhoods where each has a different feel. Kim and I took an excursion up to the Akihabara also know as the electronics neighborhood. This is a crazy place filled with neon lights and Manga (japanese comics) everywhere. One interesting thing they have here that the Japanese love is Pachinko. What this is, is a game that resembles half pinball and half slot machine. You basically sit down and you gamble on these slot “like” machines. They are maintained in these parlors and the best way I can describe it is: imagine sitting at a slot machine filled with smoke and Japanese anime jumping out at you from every corner of your eye. Your eyes are stinging from the smoke, but it really doesn’t concern you b/c all you here ringing into your ears is this screaming pokemon voice put to the sobering sounds of electronica! It is complete sensory overload. I quickly needed a beer after that experience.

One of the other things that people want to know is if I am a giant here. Oh how I longed to be considered the tall one only to my disappointment that the Japanese are pretty much all my height. Bummer.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Left is the New Right

It’s all reverse here. Driving, walking, and even the escalators are all reversed - they drive on the left side of the road, walk to the left side of the street, and even the up escalator is on the left side. As if the language barrier isn't enough of an adjustment, there are also these little nuances to remember. I’ve found myself standing at a cross walk not remembering which direction to look for oncoming traffic. While everyone looks right, I look left. Could be a hazard if I don’t master this one pretty quickly. Then there’s the escalator. Instinctively I veer right to take it down, but then I’m wrong again. Now I'm just in the way of everyone getting off...on the right side.

Another funny one is the number for emergencies. In most countries this is 911, but in Japan it is 119. Is this because they read from right to left so 911 got interpreted backwards? That's the only thing I could think of. There are many, many other funny differences between the US and Japan, but that's another topic for another day.

ETA: 11 Hours Later

We arrive in Tokyo. The first order of business is getting money. Our meager funds in USD converted to Yen make us instant millionaires. Sounds like a fair sum until we pay the bus fare to get to Tokyo from the airport…6,000 yen for the two of us. Yikes!

Leading up to this move we weren’t too worried about how we’d get around despite not speaking Japanese. We just kind of figured everyone would know English. Yep, we were wrong. The first difficulty I ran into was using the bathroom. The high tech, automatic sliding stall door and heated seats should’ve been a sign that the flush woudn't be a simple push of a lever like in the US. Everything is in the Japanese writing "kanji" so I'm completely lost. For fear of pushing the wrong button and having the bidet (the thing on the toilet that squirts water at your bottom) spray me in the face, it took considerable time for me to examine all the options before pushing the flush. Luckily I picked the right one. If using the bathroom could be that confusing, this is going to be a lot harder than we thought.

Confirmed. This is a lot harder than we thought. Our limited Japanese has relegated us to eating at restaurants with menus that have lots of pictures. Eating out consists of lots of pointing and other primitive hand motions, but somehow we manage to get by. I hope that with time I'll be using less "sign language" and a lot more Japanese.