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Published: August 7th 2007
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
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
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
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