A Year In The Life

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March 8th 2007
Published: August 7th 2007
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Roof TilesRoof TilesRoof Tiles

Curved tiles on a traditional Japanese home.
It's been one year since I left and it feels like yesterday - it's amazing how time goes by so quickly. In that year we've done quite a bit of traveling, made plenty of shiny new friends, and have enjoyed a host of unique cultural experiences. It's been quite an adventure to say the least, both good and bad, and I'm very thankful that Denise works so hard so that I can be a lazy mooch.

However, life in Japan, in Masuda, has turned out to be vastly different than we expected. Japan can be rather taihen for a foreigner, and getting routine things done, such as going to the bank or the post office, can turn into confusing ordeals that drag on for days because they don't quite understand the concept of travelers cheques or pre-paid return postage. For a country that engineers some of the best cars and electronics in the world, the people can be extremely dense.

But everything's not lost, as we've managed to pick up a thing or two along the way. Some things we've discovered:
- After one year, we still get stared at like our hair's on fire;
- Most last names
Misumi WaterfrontMisumi WaterfrontMisumi Waterfront

Sure it looks nice, but the water is freezing.
mean 'rice field';
- Everyone drives a white Toyota;
- When in doubt about a location, simply say "That's right next to that temple/shrine/rice field, right?";
- Our apartment is slowly filling up with point stamp cards accumulated from every store we shop at. The problem is compounded by the fact that most are duplicates because we forget which cards goes with which store;
- It's a simple language because everyone uses set phrases for common situations. So you only need to memorize a handful of words and you can fake your way through entire conversations;
- Finding clothes that fit properly just isn't going to happen;
- There's nothing unusual about making three trips to the dentist just to get your teeth cleaned;
- Ineptitude at the workplace is perfectly acceptable;
- Running red lights is apparently legal.

Oh, you think I'm joking...

We recently attended a tea ceremony performed by a teacher at one of Denise's schools. I hate green tea with a passion, and was forced to slurp a whole bowl down. The ceremony itself is quite involved and really interesting. There's plenty of strict procedures to follow - as with everything Japanese - and
Retaining WallRetaining WallRetaining Wall

Japan's National Motto: Let's slather every possible natural surface with concrete.
it's all very peaceful and relaxing. This was followed by a wonderful dinner with the family, which was followed by plenty of drinking on my part, which was then followed by a nasty hangover. I've since made a full recovery and vow never to touch beer, chu-hi, sake, brandy, and marinated fish heads all in one evening.

Last Sunday, we visited some smaller towns near Masuda, just for something to do really. Along the way we saw the huge smokestack of the local powerplant, a very western-style residential neighbourhood, a secluded shrine, some nice coastal views, and a crow eating a dead cat. I couldn't take a picture because Denise refused to stop the car. The caption:

Sucks to be you - At least we were having a good day!

And finally, the dog situation has been successfully taken care of without any screaming, punching, or killing. One morning, about a month ago, I marched over in the absolute shittiest of moods, ready to wake the whole neighbourhood with a tirade of foul language that would make my father proud. The old man never surfaced, but his wife (who we thought was dead actually) came outside.

I ended up having a rather subdued, pleasant conversation with the wife. I

Masuda seems to be famous for wicked electrical storms at night...not to mention howling winds and pounding rain too.
very calmly told her that her dog was noisy and it was waking me up every morning, and that her husband was a fucktard. She apologized for the inconvenience and then proceeded to take the dog inside. I haven't heard it since. Not a peep. I suspect it was sold to a Korean family and eaten. One can only hope.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Camille & Denise

Additional photos below
Photos: 13, Displayed: 13


Masuda DamMasuda Dam
Masuda Dam

All but 3 of Japan's 30,000 rivers are dammed...the rest are in Purgatory! *ZING*
Plum BlossomPlum Blossom
Plum Blossom

Before Sakura season, these pink flowers briefly come in bloom.

Performing the tea ceremony, which can take decades to master.
Green TeaGreen Tea
Green Tea

The smell makes me nauseous, the taste makes me heave. It's like drinking hot dirt.
Yoda: Jedi MasterYoda: Jedi Master
Yoda: Jedi Master

"Luke, use the Force!"
Ocha BowlOcha Bowl
Ocha Bowl

Two turns to the left, drink; two turns to the right, be thankful it's over.
Hilltop TempleHilltop Temple
Hilltop Temple

In Kamate-cho...where it smells like fish.
Natural SceneryNatural Scenery
Natural Scenery

Blue skies, green trees, clear river water, and a smattering of concrete.
Masuda DamMasuda Dam
Masuda Dam

During the rainy season it fills right up to the top.

30th March 2007

Mmmm Concrete
My civil engineering roommate would LOVE japan I think. He loves concrete. More than most people.. More than most civil engineers. Anyways, green tea is great, you should drink the stuff that I drink. It's probably because your tea is Japanese Green tea and not Chinese Green tea. I don't know what the difference is, but either way you're gay.
30th March 2007

Malcolm Solves his problems with a chain saw
Just a word of advice Meeler. Malcolm solves HIS problems with a chain saw and never has the same problems twice.
31st March 2007

Fucktard? Excellent word
I think I'll start using it now. Also, I hope you actually called mom on her birthday and you're not just remembering it 3 weeks late, because that would make you a fucktard. Ha!
31st March 2007

Congrats on your survival... you definately deserve a big pat on the back for not causing any physical harm to your neighbors.
2nd April 2007

Living the life
Hey Camille! Sounds like you are getting to see the real Japan. There is nothing like living in a country to really see the good and the bad. I do sorta feel sorry for the neighbours dog who somebody probably ate. Congrats on making it through a year and keeping your sense of humour :-)

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