18 September 2007

Into a routine

Another week... There are quite a few public holidays this time of year in Japan. Just had "respect for the aged" day (holiday yesterday) and next Monday is Equinnox public holiday. Planning on going away next weekend for a few days to see some more of the Chugoku region which is the south-western portion of Honshu, the largest island in Japan. Hiroshima is the largest city of this region. Might head up to the mountains towards to north of Hiroshima.

Yay! Got my gaijin card on Friday. This enables me to not carry my passport everywhere and is an official document to prove I am an alien in Japan :-) Opened a bank account so I can get paid... nice. Spent some time looking for a new bike (push bike, that is... the one on which you have to work hard to get places). Also looked a getting a phone. Mobile phone costs here are similar to Australia and maybe a tad more expensive. Phone plans are a bit different. Emails on mobile phones are used instead of SMS here. Phones have fancy features... GPS, TV (normal free to air TV), Internet and email (of course!), swipe your phone to pay for shinkansen ticket, camera, and you can even use a phone to talk to someone!

Weather still hot and humid. The sky is the clearest I've seen it yet (after rain and cool change). The skies I've seen here in Hiroshima (and few days in Singapore and Tokyo) are quite hazy (dusty, smoggy, cloudy or something). The real blue sky is not that common, at least this time of year. I kind of miss the deep cobalt blue skies of a clear Toowoomba day in winter.

The night sky does not present very many stars. Probably from the haze and also city lights. I see the odd bright star, but don't recognize them much, since I'm familiar with the southern skies. The sun is in the southern sky here, too, not in the northern sky, but I'm mostly used to that now.

Things here in Japan are packaged very well. Inidividual straws (and sometimes, toothpicks) are wrapped. When I bought one small bottle of herbs, it was placed in some fancy papery/cardboard bag. Many things are packaged, and packged very presentably and attractively. It's creates more stuff to throw out when you get home, but, I suppose, it's nice... people take pride in things, and things have value (not cheap junky stuff).

And... things are also very small and compact (except the usual bread slices which are twice the size!) 6-foot doorways (bang your head), 7-foot ceilings, tiny carparks, small cars (of course, the medium cars are there too), narrow streets, smaller food packages, shorter beds, tight apartments, many things very close. It's the Japan way. Space is valuable. How else to you fit 127 million people (6 times the population of Australia) in a country smaller than half the size of NSW (most of which is uninhabitted mountains)?

And, the slipper rule. Usually when you enter a house, office or somewhere, you take off your shoes and put on some slippers. Then, in some places, you take those slippers off to enter. Then I found that there is a special set of slippers in the toilets. So, change slippers there. And, when I walked into the kitchen, again, presented to me, were some different slippers. If you come to Japan, try to get shoelaceless shoes.

As an aside, there are trams here. And since I ride my bike a lot, the trams and bikes remind me of Melbourne :-)

Things are ticking over well. The language being the most difficult things... mainly when the washing machine breaks down, or trying to microwave something, going shopping (especially for complicated mobile phone plans, or finding vegetarian food... can't read ingredients). Would really like to be able to talk more with the people at church, esp the youth. A handfull of people speak English, so that's nice. When shopping, it's rare to find a good English speaker. Opening bank accounts, getting gaijin card, buying a phone, anything like that, you really do need to have a translator (or, just learn the language!). So, the incentive is there for me to learn Japanese. Have been practicing writing hiragana, have pretty much learnt to recognize all hiragana and katakana. Time for kanji, and learning more vocab and grammar.

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