now i call it home

14 08 2007

No disclaimer this time…shit, does this count?

I spent this weekend internationalizing with two other JETs—one from New Zealand, the other, Ireland—in a huge town with a whopping population of 24,000 people compared to my 6,000. Highlights? We visited literally every hyaku-en shop (¥100 shop) along the way, some twice. Let me tell you, there is nothing in this world as fabulous as a hyaku-en shop; they don’t even bother scanning items—just count and multiply by ¥100. I got such a good deal I feel compelled to list every item I got, but I think I’ll save that for the “Japan is too cute/weird/Engrish” post I’m planning. At the very least, it’s worth noting that I bought a compass for guidance on my random hikes, a green marking pen for corrections (à la a certain high school English teacher) and a Doraemon coloring book to practice my reading. I can’t imagine what it looks like to see a grown man reading a kids’ (or is it “kid’s?”) book with a dictionary in hand on a JR train. I lied; I can imagine and it’s hilarious.

Hyaku-en shops aside, we didn’t do a ton. The city didn’t have many cultural hotspots (but we didsee a black person—a wish come true), so the girls shopped while I watched a guy play a taiko drumming video game. We drank at a few bars then ate at a restaurant where, after asking for the chef’s recommendation, we ended up with free meat as a “Welcome to Japan” gift. The Kiwi among us had just been featured in the town’s newspaper, so we basically formed a trio of gaijin no one/everyone wanted to mess with. It was nice, though, to have the attention focused on someone else (I was ambushed at the conbini by five high schoolers not an hour ago).

The greatest part of the night was watching a full out brawl on the street, which we escaped by running to a nearby Buddhist temple (where else can you get peace at midnight on a Saturday?). Regardless of the weekend being too hot and not too action-packed, having legitimate conversations in English (even ones where I found out the world really does hate America) was a more than welcome change.

The next morning we shopped more, ate breakfast at a wonderful French bakery (note that Japanese peoples’ skills with French rival their skill with English), then met up with two more JETs (a Canadian and another from the US), and had a lengthy afternoon chat attended by a cat and her two kittens (both Japanese by birth). When we left, there was a beautiful sunset over the ocean at our side, and I realized I was quite happy to be heading home. I was honestly a bit startled to be thinking of this wildly foreign place as home after only two weeks, but I’m glad I do. To top it all off, I got a phone call from MacKenzie not 5 minutes after walking in the door. Welcome home!

With nice weather today after 10 days of low clouds and rain, I was finally able to repeat my earlier hike and get some good footage of the town (see below). Feeling audacious, I illegally wandered out on a forbidden pier (I was ready to play the dumb/giant gaijin card) and took some artsy sunset video (to post when edited). It was a lovely evening. For two hours, while I watched the sunset with a soundtrack of seagulls calling each other across the port, I picked up desiccated marine life plastered to the concrete. Somehow the smell of yakitori made its way all the way out to the pier; I went home hungry and ate the dinner my manager’s wife had prepared for me in honor of bon odori. A good day in a great place.

I wondered though, with all the footage I was taking, if it was worth it? I knew that my camera could never fully capture the moments I was living, and I wondered if even in attempting to capture their quintessence I was already dooming myself to produce some dulled version of life. Even the best camera on earth can’t completely replicate an experience, and what about my writing? I can write to no end about details of my life in Japan, or just say it’s great, but it’s still only my best attempt at passing on the information. I’m certainly not the best writer, and even if I were, something would still be lost. I hope not too much.

Back to reality/not introspection: as of today I can legally drive! First, my supervisor wanted to make sure I wasn’t an awful driver, and I of course made the textbook turn-on-the-wipers-not-the-turn-signal mistake right off the bat. I suppose it’s better than driving on the wrong (right) side of the road or falling into a pit (both of which I saw on the drive back this weekend).

Tomorrow, my alien registration card arrives and I get my waterproof keitai (cell phone). Moshi moshi, underwater phone calls!

PICTURES (click to enlarge):

shizunai at night

the big city at night

shizunai at night 2

another view

tough choice

so many options


they say neow in japan

rolling fields

farms on the way home

my town

mountain top view

the bay

the bay and oya-ko


odd lighthouse

sunset 1

sunset begins

red clouds

mountains and clouds and mountains and clouds

sunset 2

more sunset

birds at sunset

some birds

marine life

the things i found

scary crab

scary dried up crab




2 responses

14 08 2007

Japanese dollar stores are amazing. They stock items that people actually are interested in buying, and it’s reflected by the constant foot traffic in-shop. Who says Japan is expensive expensive expensive? If you’re watching your money there are ways to live well on a budget.

16 08 2007

awesome pictures! kudos to the photographer! reading about japan through your blog has made me add it to my travel plans. ah dollar store….glad to see it’s almost eveywhere

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