{Shaun in Japan}

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Starting out at Yushinkan

Posted by Shaun

This is part of an email I wrote to my grandpa, but I don't want to take the time to rewrite everything, so here's a description of what I've been up to these last two days:

My health is finally back to normal, and for the last half of my cultural practicum I've been rotated to a different workplace. I'm working at a place called Yushinkan now. It's got a hot spring bath, a restaurant, and rooms that people can reserve for parties. I've been there for two days so far, and yesterday, the first day, they were hosting an enka concert, so the place was crawling with elderly people who kept ordering food and buying the boxed lunches we were selling. And I had no training at all but the other people working with me were like, "Shaun, come here, deliver this to table #5, okay?" so I just had to hope I'd absorbed enough polite Japanese from shopping, going to restaurants, and watching TV and play along and try to be useful. I think I'm doing all right (no one's gotten mad at me yet). I'm amazed they allow/encourage me to serve customers even though I'm not a native Japanese speaker, but even though my heart pounds and I laugh inappropriately whenever I deliver a dish, I guess I'm grateful for the opportunity.

After lunch on that first day I ended up getting put in charge of stacking dishes by the tiny dishwasher, but I couldn't get them off the carts fast enough so the other employees ended up lining up dishes on the floor since there was nowhere else to put them. I think I did okay though because, once again, no one got mad at me. But it was a little high stress. I felt like I should have had some sort of waltz playing while I stepped over trays and leaned over carts to fling food scraps into the sink.
Today was not nearly as high-energy since apparently Saturdays are a slower day than Fridays. Dirty dishes didn't pile up, so I did a lot of standing around, a lot of vacuuming, and a little bit of awkwardly giving customers their food. But tomorrow there's reservations in the party rooms so it might be more stressful. Good thing I only have to work 9-3 and then I can use the hot spring to take a nice relaxing bath afterwards!

The hardest thing to get used to is that no one wears shoes. It's regulation to take your shoes off in the entryway of a Japanese house and not uncommon to have to remove them before entering particular seating areas of traditional restaurants or to put your shoes in a locker at an onsen. But it feels weird to walk around at work in stocking feet. The floor is heated so no one wears slippers either. When you go to the toilet or the kitchen you put on a pair of slippers that you take off when you leave, but other than that, even when I was stacking the dirty dishes, it's socks. I stepped in something weird at one point. I think it was a really old soba noodle. It makes me reluctant to wear my wool socks even though my feet can get a little cold since the "behind the scenes" floor isn't heated.

It's a strange concept to get used to but it makes some sense because the restaurant seating area and the party area are tatami rooms with low tables and zabuton cushions to sit on, and you can't wear shoes or even slippers on tatami.

So, there's a little insight into my life for the time being. Stocking feet, awkward waitressing, all in Japanese.

2 Responses so far.

  1. Laurie says:

    It's sounds delightful!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Are they used to having foreign exchange students working there? Or is this a new thing for them? What a fantastic experience you are having...to be able to try all the crafts and work along side them. Hard work, but actually sounds fun...although walking around all day in socks sounds quite painful! Do you feet hurt at the end of the day? Mine sure would.
    Love, Aunt Jody

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