Friday, August 6, 2010
Living in Japan
Only in Japan, do you get a traffic sign with a picture of a samurai.
8/5/2010 9:52 PM
I have lived in my new apartment for a full day already. Of course, a great deal of that day was spent at work. I’ve perhaps spent twice as much time at work than sleeping. But being that it’s still the beginning of my term, I haven’t really done too much in terms of “work.” And of course, it is still summer vacation for the kids, so there are no lesson plans to be made. But there has been a lot of paperwork, and quite a bit more to go.
The paperwork I still have yet to take care of is my contract. Quite a troublesome thing, especially considering how important a document it is. I also have to open up a Japanese bank account (or two). I was advised to open one to accept direct deposits, and to open another to make it easy to do other services like wire transfers and perhaps remote purchases. Not sure why I can’t just do everything with one account, unless the banks are just that limited.
Unfortunately, I am still jetlagged. I was told (by many, actually) that I may be jetlagged for even up to a week and a half. Ugh. It’s weird, too, because besides affecting my wakefulness and energy levels, it also affects my appetite. As Shoe said today (the guy who is nigh native-fluent in English), “When I was jetlagged, I was tired, but not sleepy. I was hungry, but I didn’t want to eat anything.” Well said, Shoe. [Note: it is pronounced like you think it is; like the English word for the things you wear on your feet.]
Shoe took me around town. Well, technically, around multiple towns, and even a city. We’ve been looking around for various electronics stores, from which I’ll purchase a cell phone and plan. And perhaps a Nintendo DSi (though, I am leaning more towards getting one at a used dealer, as Japanese used merchandise is pristine compared to the American counterparts). I will probably wait ‘til after my first paycheck, though, before I invest in a DSi and the game/program called Kanji sono mama, which I will use as a tool to help me learn and practice kanji.
I met with an NTT representative today to discuss my internet access. He had informed me that there was some problem with my situation, so he couldn’t give me my internet access today. Part of the problem was that he wanted to give me a choice to choose what provider/plan I want to go with, and I’m guessing that there was also a problem with “transferring” a current service, so I was forced to apply for a brand new connection. It wouldn’t be such a big deal if I didn’t have to wait for so long to get access. He said “about one week,” which would push it back to next Wednesday or Thursday. But I have orientation in Sendai from Wednesday to Friday, so that isn’t going to happen. Hopefully, I’ll have it by the Saturday after that.
No point fretting about things out of my control! And I appreciate that he was trying to be helpful by giving me a choice. And hopefully, I’ll have my Alien Registration Card by that time as well, so that I can apply for a cell phone/plan. I’m really, really leaning towards SoftBank, as I’ve mentioned earlier. But I can’t help but feel like I’m interested in that particular phone for extremely shallow reasons. That said, the iPhone4 has really amazing functionality, and there are actually a decent number of Japanese people who have one (which means that it seems to be doing well to be able to compete against such devices with 8.1 megapixel cameras and beautiful screens that can turn sideways (but keeping the keypad vertical). The phone I’m interested in has those features, in addition to Wi-Fi capabilities and a design popular for Japanese phones (long, thin flip-phone).
I brought my laptop into work today in order to attempt to connect it to the internet. But I couldn’t figure out how to connect it, no matter what I did! I changed LAN Settings and whatnot to no avail. So I had to use the crappy Windows 2000 computer at my desk, which barely runs. But at least I can still check my e-mails, facebook crap, and update my blog. But only at work. Which also means that I won’t get to do any real immediate responses or use Skype. Oh well…just wait for 10 days. :-)
Continued at 10:57 AM, 8/6/2010, on a BOE Computer.
The Sendai Orientation is coming up really quickly! Once again, I’ll be donning epic business clothes, suit and tie, for three days straight. But in this wicked weather; it sounds so awful! I’m really hoping that the place we’re going to is well air-conditioned. I wonder what kinds of things will go on during this orientation?
I haven’t been given any specific work to do yet, as my classes won’t start for another few weeks, and there is nothing I need to take care of specifically, except for the following: Write an intro paragraph about myself to the community in English (which they will translate into Japanese later) to be published in a local magazine. I asked if I could write it in Japanese, and they said it was okay (after they said “sugoi” [awesome/cool/amazing]).
I must say, there have been very interesting differences about certain daily-life situations and daily-use items. I haven’t had a problem adjusting to them, thankfully; and it’s not so much difficult as it is different. For one thing, the keyboard I’m typing on right now is a Japanese keyboard. The layout is different, of course. It’s still qwerty, but all the punctuation is relocated! And the spacebar has been reduced to the width of two and a half keys to make room for three additional keys on the bottom that deal with kana and kanji. All of the keys have both letters (alphabet) and hiragana, but I haven’t figured out how to use them just yet. So far, I’ve just been typing kana phonetically, which works. But yeah, it’s really weird having to type an apostrophe by pressing Shift+7. It’s a good thing that period and comma are still the same. But colon and semicolon are on different keys, and the double quotation marks are Shift+2. And + is Shift+semicolon. Crazy, right???
Another hilarious/awesome difference is the toilet in my apartment. It’s not one of the typical toilets that you hear about, like the ones in hotels that shoot water at your butt. No, instead, its extra faucet is actually BEHIND the toilet, right on top of the reservoir of water that is used to flush the toilet. What’s it for you may ask? To wash your hands! It’s pretty damn clever if I say so myself. The plumbing around the toilet is routed so that the clean water that normally fills the tank (which later fills the bowl) is first made available to be used to wash your hands. Then, the water gets drained INTO the tank, so that it could be used for the next flush. You’re never touching dirty water, and you get to recycle the water that you just washed your hands with by using it to flush the toilet! Amazing.
So there is no central heating or cooling in Japan. This means stationary air conditioners and kerosene heaters are very popular. And no central water heating unit either, so you have to use individual water heaters for each faucet. This is actually a pretty good setup, as it saves energy and money not having to heat water when you don’t need it. It’s just interesting having to set up your shower by lighting a fire. :-)
Also, the trash system here is really interesting. It seems that there are two types of trash: combustible and noncombustible. And this is different from recycling as well, I believe. When the trash guys take the combustible stuff, they take it away and burn it. Not really sure about the process, like what happens to the remains or even the energy gained from burning it. But knowing Japan, I’m sure they do something with it. Though, it’s interesting to have a country that is so obsessed with efficiency and getting the most out of everything, yet whose citizens leave the car on when they run into a store to grab something (or in my case, introduce me to all of the teachers in an elementary school).
The typical Japanese office setup is like this: imagine a small classroom with a big desk in the middle, with room to fit 4 people with computers and printers in the middle. Then, put another desk facing the big desk. At this smaller desk sits the guy in charge of that section. This is the typical setup, and I’ll be damned if I see a different setup in Japan. Thus far, every single group of employees I was introduced to had their desks arranged in a similar fashion; no cubicles here! This setup, I feel like, almost forces intimacy between employees. Not only that; it also forces productivity. The lack of privacy tends to make us less inclined to goof off (at least for me! haha).
It’s fun pointing out the differences between cultures. But it’s when the differences start to bother me when there’s a problem; that indicates a decline into “Stage 2” of culture shock. Hopefully, if and when this happens, it doesn’t last long!
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