The Japan Adventure: Part 1

I am in Malaysia with my family, posting dispatches about that experience. When I lived in Japan 12 years ago, I did something similar only with an email newsletter since blogs weren’t yet a thing. Some folks suggested it would be fun to post those along with my new stuff. See what’s different. See what’s the same. 

Anyway…here’s the first full newsletter. 

Hello, all…

I’ve been in Japan a week and a half now, though it feels like just slightly less than a longish eon.  The schedule so far has gone like so:

  • Thursday:  Get on a plane: a propeller-driven puddle jumper from Portland to Vancouver. Wait a few hours. Get on another plane bound for Narita International.
  • Friday:  Get off a plane, spend the night in Osaka and panic because my first meal is tiny and consists of a bland, half-cooked egg on top of blank, overcooked rice.
Japan Rice

Even less delicious than it sounds.

  • Saturday:  Ride a train to Nagasaki, move into my new apartment.  Eat the first of many dinners at a yakitori bar called Gotsubo. Stop panicking about food.
  •  Sunday:  Tour around Nagasaki with Aunt Lorna, meet my future co-workers and be introduced to various important landmarks, bakeries and coffee shops.
  • Monday:  Ride a train to Fukuoka for a day of fairly easy training and a walk around the city at night, like a journey through canyons of neon.Japan Temple
  • Tuesday through Thursday:  Further training.  It wasn’t nearly as hard as I had been told to expect.   Training was in the afternoons and evenings, so in the mornings I could walk around town. The subway in Tenjin is an amazing warren of shops and tunnels, all red brick and clean glass and dark wood.  I felt rather like Alice, or maybe Harry Potter in Diagon Alley.  I also took the opportunity to visit an ancient castle and several shrines.
  • Friday:  Up very early to catch a train back to Nagasaki and report for a full day of work.
  • Saturday and Sunday:  Full days of work at my new job.  I like the classes, and am learning more than my students do at this point.  Evenings I get to know my roomies and some other staff members.  They’re a good bunch of people and just the right sort of odd.
  • Monday (Today):  Meet Hamid (a workmate) for a workout at Maruya Gym.  Afterwards, I spent the day with Lorna including finishing various bits of business like getting a gaijin card and opening a bank account.  I met her landlady, who is a kind woman and laughs more easily than most Japanese I’ve met thus far.
  • Tomorrow I have the day off, and I plan to wander around town, see the sights and observe an Aikido class preparatory to joining up.

Japan Nagasaki

 

One interesting thing I’ve noticed so far is the music.  The Japanese appear to have an absolute fixation with cheap electronic tunes.  There’s music in the malls, with each shop playing a different songs.  Vehicles spout any number of little ditties.  The crosswalks play a melody when it’s okay to cross.  All of it tinny versions of American songs, at a level of quality normally associated with a singing birthday card.  On the other end of the spectrum, the cell phones have amazing sound quality and an immense variety of rings.  One co-worker has the theme from The Exorcist, and it sounds like there’s a pipe organ in the room.

 

Much of my time with the roomies is spent at Gotsubo, where we sit belly up to the counter and eat while being entertained by Masta, who cooks for us while giving Japanese lessons and inquiring about the most recent English slang terms for key female anatomy.

I am settling in nicely, creating a life and looking forward to a chance to settle into something resembling a routine.  What with bouncing around and hitting the ground running, I still have to think to remember what day it is or remember when to get off the bus at my stop.  It is a great adventure.

Malaysia #2: Write What You Know

Warning: the following blog entry contains references to poop. Not German dungeon porn poop, but not tidy little pre-solid-food baby doodies either. If you think this will bother you, go read something else. 

Poop.

The Great Equalizer.

I’m generally okay with myself in terms of self-image. Some might say overly so. But when those days come where I think too much about how I probably won’t ever be Anthony Bourdain or David Quammen, it helps to know that those guys also poop. Because of their chosen profession — part-time adventure travel writers — it’s likely they’ve had experiences much like the one I’m about to relate. Continue reading