I don’t remember who I told about this. So here is a recap. We are now living in Japan. Kids and I arrived on 8/18, so 8 days ago.
The travel to Japan was like this. No entertainment on the airplane. United is ghetto. Haga got lost to the airport and stressed… we waited an extra 90 minutes. Next day because of me, Haga was late getting to work. It’s humid as hell. I got a heat rash.
8 days in Japan now. I still don’t have a cell-phone. No internet at home. Investigated 7 so-called coffee shops in a 2.5 square-kilometer radius from my home… no wifi at any of them and coffee costs about $3.5 a cup. Most importantly, we wound a cafeteria which served very good veggie burger for $2. I will lose weight, especially because food here is all in smaller portions. (and I have to walk up and down our stairs in our house). Except the Okonomayaki restaurant… big portions of bar-food pancakes.
Shipment of our things came in from China. It’s funny, but I feel like, even though we threw away a lot of our belongings, we could have thrown everything else out as well. But now I have a bike, so will expand grid-search for affordable coffee shops with internet access.
We are located in the Aishi Prefecture (probably spelled that wrong), in a city called “Kasugai”. Our house is located 10 minutes walking from the Jinryo train-station… so a suburb of Kasugai. Kasugai is a small, useless looking city, itself a suburb of “The City”, which is Nagoya. So when people say they are going in to the city (a 25 minute train ride), they mean they are going to Nagoya.
I have not been to Nagoya yet. I feel I have to get there, even though everyone on the internet says it’s Japan’s least-interesting large city. I don’t know when I will have time to go… I need to find part-time work here. I need to learn Japanese. All our stuff has to be unpacked.
Things are going too slow. We don’t have internet or cell phones; in a capitalist country (ie. China) I would have been able to get this done on Day 2. But here, the telecommunication companies make their money by making things confusing in order to trick the elderly. Haga and I and the kids went to every major cellphone/internet provider store (Docomo, Au, Softbank) and two ghetto-service-plan shops… twice… to research what would be the best option. Then we found we needed to get house-hold registration before any company would MAIL us the SIM cards to put in a phone.
Everyone is so frigging nice to me and I have to keep doing this nice thing. OK. Hold breath. Smile. Say something nice. Bigger smile. “nice to meet you!” “oh nice to meet you too” and again and again. Operating proceedure: smile. Ask Question. Get inadequate answer which reveals that Japan is a bureaucratic country run by monopolies. Smile again. Ask follow up question. Repeat.
Haga and I went to Kasugai City Hall to do this but were told to come back on a weekday. I went there two day later on Monday (walk>train>fast-walk = 40 minutes). There was one translator named Guang Ping who spoke barely-passable English, but she was from China, so we connected in Chinese with English and Japanese mixed in. City administrators came out three times because of errors on the forms Haga filled out. “Er, I’m terribly sorry and embarrassed to ask you. Your children are listed on your application but they are to be listed with your wife…” “Yes. Here is where we put down what dependents arrived with me together. The children came from America with me.” “Er, I’m terribly sorry but the application says your wife, Ms. Haga, arrived on the 11th, but the stamp on the passport says 10th .” “Yes… and?” Another man came out, young kid with serious face. Translator makes pained expression. “Your children are Japanese, yes? They need to go to Japanese public school. That is the law.” “No. They will go to the school they are going to now” (I force-smile to show I’m harmonious) Translator and 3rd public servant have conversation, both with many pained expressions, make head-bobbing motions when they are pretending to listen to each other. “OK. Your children can go to their school now, but we will send you a letter saying they are advised to go to public school.” “OK. I thank you for this.” They make deep bows. I do not bow because people of my tribe are not supposed to bow to men, but I add about 10 seconds of forced-smiling. Guang Ping offers a hand to shake (learned that one in English school for sure).
Japan is a socialist country. But it has out-of-control bureaucracy, so it is not perfect. We are now residents of Kasugai. Have health insurance. And we get $60 allowance per month because we have children.
Meanwhile, kids and Haga started school. Kenaz’s teacher is an American man. Akiva’s teacher is a Bolivian woman. Both seem good. Anyway I’m happy their teachers are not racist lazy Australians (and yes, it is now common knowledge that Australians tend to be racist and lazy, with the exception of Kenaz’s last-year Australian teacher, who is good, and our cousins in Australia, who are not racist because they are Jewish ). School is a building designed by someone who under-studied with Frank Lloyd Wright. Old and established. Teachers seem smart and very dedicated (see: few Australians). Parent community is very committed. Facilities are nice.
BTW, we have a car. It is called a Raum, which is German-Japanese language for “room-y”, although in the USA it would still be considered a small car. Used. Will cost us $3000, including insurance, etc. I’m too nervous about left-side drive to really drive around yet.
So everyone says Japan is expensive. Let’s break this down (so far):
- Rent on a 4 bedroom house next to a park and close to train-station: $1000/month
- Used car: $3000 ($5000 for a used Prius, but people say they are not so good used)
- Gasoline: about $5/gallon (my conversion math may be wrong)
- Cell-Plan: $75 / month with calls, 3G data
- Ghetto-Cell-Plan: $15/month for 3G data + $25 / year for Skype number
- Great hand-made soba (buckwheat noodles): $10
- Coffee in a Coffee Shop: $3.5
- Convenience Store (ie. Circle K, 7-11, FamilyMart, Lawson) rice-roll: $1.75 Packaged boiled half-chicken breast: $2
- Driver’s License: $700 for each test, $300 for training.
- NHK (the Japanese version of PBS national television station) mafia fee: $50/month
As mentioned, we are living in a house. It is very nice. Toilets have electric bide seats; it can shoot water at your butt-hole when you push a button. And toilet flush handle goes both ways… big for poo, small for pee. The water that fills it’s tanks comes out spills into a basin on the top of the tank, so you wash hands with water which will fill into the toilet. The shower-room is a whole room for the shower. We shower off standing in the room (not in a “shower”), then use the deep tub for soaking… whole family sharing the water. After, when we wash cloths at night, run tube from washingmachine (in next room) into tub, so water is re-used again to wash cloths. But remaining water stays in tub (but covered) until next so that if there is an earthquake and water system is destroyed we have some water left over in the tub to use.
We have to recycle everything (ie. .take the plastic wraps off plastic water drink bottles because they are recylced seperately… have 5 different types of recycled bins) because if not we are bad people.
There is also a large tatami room, which is becoming the kids room. This is a traditional fixture in Japanese homes.
Two days ago on Sunday I attended a board-gamers meetup. Had a fun time. Met a guy who wants to start a large-scale outdoor LARP group; I volunteered to help. Next week going to some job-interviews (nothing special) and the Central Japan American-Chamber of Commerce meeting. Will update later. Just a note, to all those viewing this on Facebook… it’s being automatically re-posted from my blog site. Internet access here in Japan is really spotty so I cannot get onto Facebook easily. So please forgive me if I do not respond to your Facebook comments.