{Shaun in Japan}

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Monday, September 19, 2011 9:18 PM

Posted by Shaun

Japan really is a crowded country. Or at least, the Tokyo area is. I was disappointed to learn that my nice, long, relaxing 1-hour train commute is actually mostly walking. At least today, the walk from the station seemed way longer than the actual train ride. And so far the only member of my host family that I’ve met is Missus (When you pronounce that, say the second syllable with an “eh” sound, not an “uh” sound). She teaches English and she told me she doesn’t like the little kids she teaches to call her “sensei,” so she goes by Missus. Her husband is Mister. I have yet to meet him or their son and daughter, so I have no idea how they address their parents. The dog is about the same size as my dog, medium, and his name is Billy (Or Biri? Could be either, really). At 14, he’s pretty old (Missus called him “ojiisan,” when she was telling me about him).  Everyone else in the family was out of town for school or work today. Because just staying at home would be lonely, Missus planned for us to go out to dinner at a sashimi place, and we met up with her sister, who’s hosting another student from my program, and some of their friends. My listening is so bad right now that it was hard to contribute to the conversation even when they specifically asked me something. Right now I can only really understand Japanese when it’s one on one in a quiet place. Crowds and places with bad acoustics are really hard.
              So back to Japan being crowded.
              This house is small, and five people live in it. I’m staying in the tatami room, where the family shrine is, on a futon. Which I actually don’t know quite how to set up, and I don’t know where Missus went. I should have paid more attention in my futon classes! I’ve been taught how to set up a futon at least twice, but everywhere I am, the parts in the futon closet look different. Thankfully this time it’s summer and not winter (aah, good memories from that first Japan Term night in Kyoto, where we didn’t have enough blankets and all froze and got sick), so as long as I don’t sleep on top of something I’m not supposed to (?), at least I don’t have to worry about being too cold with the matching-looking blankets I can find. I couldn’t find sheets, though… I also can’t figure out how to turn my air conditioner back on, but you don’t use it while you sleep so I’m not going to worry about it right now. I’m wondering if maybe Missus turned the breaker off when we left for dinner and forgot to turn in back on. With everyone saving power because of the earthquake power shortages, I’m supposed to turn off the circuit breakers connected to my room when I leave. I know I’m going to forget, though.
              So, I’m in the tatami room, and across the hall from me is a tiny toilet room. There’s a Washlet toilet, which I am totally going to get used to, and the sink is attached to the toilet. What I can’t figure out is why there’s no soap, but I brought lots of hand sanitizer…
              I have an assigned chair in the dining area. I’m across from Missus, and my back is to the TV, but the chairs swivel.  The kitchen area doesn’t seem like there’s enough room to spread your arms in, but I haven’t actually stood in it. And behind the kitchen is the room with the sink, mirror, washing machine, and laundry baskets. Connected to that is the bath.
              Apparently the kids’ rooms are upstairs, but I don’t even know where the stairs are, and I don’t know if Mister and Missus’ room(s) are down here or upstairs. That’s typical though. If you’re a guest, which I am right now, you aren’t usually shown the whole house.
              The question I want to answer is this: Why are there certain types of products that you just can’t find in the US, but aren’t uncommon in Japan? Why does this house have blue toilet paper with little green grape vines on it, a toilet that washes your butt, an extremely-complicated washing machine that talks, and a bath that seems to regulate the temperature electronically and announces when it’s ready, while those sorts of things are the stuff of dreams (or nightmares, like that Disney Channel Original Movie Smart House) in the US? I know the yen is stronger than the dollar, but I feel like it must be more than that. Why is there demand for stuff like this?
              In other news, Missus liked my gift and told me my Japanese was good when I presented it, even though what I’d actually done was looked up the phrase we’d learned in class right before I gave it to her. She picked up all the tissue paper in a hurry though and actually threw away the Knox pennant that was still wrapped up in there before I noticed. Then I told her, embarrassedly, that I thought there was one more thing, and she, embarrassedly, had to get it out of the trash. But she thought it was really cute and tried to decide where to put it on the wall. She also told me that my hair was a pretty color when we were walking back from Waseda, and when she first met me, she told me that she was really glad I didn’t look like a boy like I did in the picture Japan Study sent.
              Tomorrow I have a free day, but I have no idea what I’m going to do. I’m going to sleep late, finally, but after that, we’ll see. I have no idea what I’m going to do for lunch, since Missus doesn’t have to find it for me and I’m not at school. When I’m at school, I can bring a lunch if I buy stuff and make it, but I have no idea where stores are right now… She also asked me if I wanted a part time job, so I think she’s going to help me find one at an English conversation school. I hope I’ll be okay at that, but my Japanese isn’t good enough for anything else.
              I’m going to bed now, whether my futon is set up right or not. We have wireless at the house but Missus doesn’t know how it works, so I’m not sure when I’ll get internet. Maybe next time I go back to Waseda.

One Response so far.

  1. I wonder about that sort of thing, too! The lack of soap here perplexes me, too. I try not to think about it too much...

    I just figured out my family`s washlet toilet the other day. ^^;

    I`ve got tons of blog posts I`d like to upload too but apparently this computer at school can`t do anything other than internet. It doesn`T even have a word processor installed! I don't really remember where the computers with the right stuff on them are, either...! Maybe after class today I`ll ask my host family to let me use their computer.

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