The truth about living in Japan

Beyond the picturesque mountainscapes and vibrant red Tori gates lies a world of concrete skyscrapers and fashion victims.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Giffys giffys everywhere ...

... yet not what I'm looking for.

When I was a kiddy in the 80s I had some Giffys, little flexible gym shoes with a thin but well-gripping sole. Now I need them. I've taken up lounge-room exercise but my feet slip on the tatami mats. I can't wear sneakers because they'll destroy the delicate tatami, so now my memory takes me back to Giffys.

Which look a hellovalot like the standard cheap, yet highly fashionable, Japanese shoe for women.

However, I don't fancy doing aerobics in heels. Oh if only I could travel back to the 80s and grab me a pair of Giffys, all my problems would be solved at once.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Time for a new job.

Well, I didn't get the job. Which wasn't a big surprise, but it made me think seriously about where I want to be this year and what I want to be doing.

I'm staying in Japan, but I'm tired of working for soulless robots who think I am their Aibo to command. I want to be able to take holidays when my family and friends visit instead of being forced to take holidays during peak holiday seasons when airfares and hotel prices trebble.

So, I've decided to start teaching privately. Private lessons at Eikawas are outragiously expensive so there is a demand for private teachers. I've been doing this job for a year and a half and I need a change. I need to get control over my life and do it MY way instead of trying to conform to the image of a corporate monkey.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

One bad day in Kansai

I bought Jeremy a 50cc scooter for his birthday that had to be delivered on Tuesday between 1-2pm. I tried to organise a different delivery time and date, but the dodgy second-hand bike-dealer was not willing to budge on the subject.

I thought Tuesday between 1-2pm would be ok because I always start work at 3:50pm on Tuesdays. However, when Tuesday rolled around it all fell to pieces.

Personnel called me on Monday night and asked me to start at 12:15 on Tuesday. I explained the situation and they found someone else to teach the shift.

Then on Tuesday morning they called me again and asked me to start work at 2:10. This was also impossible, and I explained again that I had to be home between 1-2pm. They didn't seem to understand, but eventually they agreed to let me start at 3:20pm.

I was on my way to work, aiming to be 20 minutes early for good measure, sitting on the train listening to mp3s with my head down. It's the same train I catch every week and I know the route well, so I couldn't believe it when I looked up and saw snow-capped mountains speeding towards me and Lake Biwa perched on the right-hand side of the train. It was supposed to be on the left-hand side and the mountains were supposed to be very far away. The route had changed!

I had to call personnel and tell them I was going to be late to my shift. I was nearly crying because I couldn't believe how terrible my day was. Personnel didn't understand why I couldn't start early and then I was 32 minutes late to my shift after all the drama.

The worst part is, I have an interview tomorrow at personnel, which is obviously going to be a complete waste of time. Up until yesterday I had never set a foot out of line, but just two days before my interview everything that could have gone wrong did.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Monkeys don't lie!

While my sister and her boyfriend were visiting we went to Arashiyama to ride the boat down the rapids and see some monkeys. It's so damn cold here that the monkeys were all sitting around in groups hugging each other to try and stay warm. The poor little things. 

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Rain rain go away

Why does it always rain when my family comes to visit?

It poured in great sheets of cascading water when mum and dad came last May, so that every where they went they were splashing around in shoes like buckets. Now it may only be sprinkling, but it's freezing cold and sprinkling, which adds a whole new element of awfulness to the rain.

it's hard enough to find motivation to get out of bed in the middle of winter, but when you wake up and can hear the drip dripping of rain outside the bedroom window, getting out of bed suddenly becomes impossible.

I hope my Josie and Nat have an OK day in Kyoto. It can sometimes be very beautiful.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Spring cleaning in the middle of winter.

My sister is coming to visit, she should arrive on my doorstep (or call me because she's lost) any second now. So we spent the entire day cleaning the house.

Actually, we started on the cleaning on Thursday, and did some more last night (including an hour and half's worth of bathroom scrubbing) but we didn't get finished until now. We had to throw out 5 bags of garbage, because Jeremy and I are both horders, only he hordes about 5 times as much as I do. Which means he has more to throw out, but is still taking up the majority of our storage space with his stuff.

So he forced me to go through the supposed electronics drawer holding our unused electrical cords, and put all his medical and personal supplies in a box, just to make some extra room before he started filling the tool drawer with electrical cords. Well, in the end he had too much stuff for the box I allocated to him, so into the tool drawer went the rest of his junk.

Regardless, our apartment looks frebushe. I hope we can maintain it, but I could probably wager a substantial amount of money that it won't last much longer than my sister is here. However, I will enjoy it while it lasts.

Oh, and the smell is down to a vague musty stench that is very easy to get used to.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The thermos flask capers

Eric at work was drinking something hot from a thermos flask. It seemed like a great idea, and I had it in the back of my mind that I could do with one.

So when I was shopping at Konan for a scooter helmet I came across an aisle of very cheap thermoses. They were selling decent sized flasks for only ¥750. As I stood there pondering the catch an old man sidled up and started boggling at the price with me. Then a small crowd started to gather. I got nervous, grabbed two (one for me and one Jeremy) and hurried out from the centre of the group.

I went and bought a variety of soups and the result has been tremendous. Every day, with little more effort than it takes to boil a kettle, I have hot delicious soup with me to sip at my leisure between classes at work. I love, and highly recommend, the thermos flask.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Odd one out

Sometimes when I hang out with my Japanese friends I can't believe how fast they talk to each other.

Usually I can catch about 1 word in the conversation that I recognise, every 2 minutes or so. Or I might hear a word I don't know, but it's the only word I can recognise as being outside the general pedepedepedepedepedepedepedepede that is the super-fast conversation.

It makes me wonder how long one needs to live in a foreign country before they can actually partake in group conversation. It seems to me it must be years.

My friend, Alice, lives with Japanese people and has been in Japan for a few years. Her Japanese skills surpass mine tenfold, but still she tells me how lonely she sometimes feels when she's sitting in her living room and can't understand a word of conversation.

Sometimes I feel so disheartened. Yuki can't read Kanji, Alice can't understand conversation, so what chance is there for me?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Premier Screenings

Jeremy took me to the more expensive premier (not first, but fancy) screening of Ocean's 12. We were the only people in the cinema.

The guy in the projector room didn't know anyone was there, so as soon as the ads started he stopped the reel.

Jeremy had to stand up and wave to get him to start the movie.

Anyway, it was so cool to have the entire cinema to ourselves. We could chat through the movie and do whatever we liked. It was like watching a video at home but with the whole cinema experience. Crazy.

I can't believe there is anywhere in Japan we can go outside our home and be the only ones there.