Archive for category Life in Japan
Today is our last day in Japan. We have some family coming to visit in the afternoon, but I wanted to get Tiny Dog out for some fun during the day. The Penpal’s father dropped off TD and I at a nearby playground.
The playground was near a large park, and had a big fun play structure that was full of kids. TD had been here before, and quickly started climbing and playing among the other kids. He kept trying to talk to the other kids in English, so I had to keep reminding him to speak Japanese.
At the playground there was one little girl who kept staring at me every time she walked by. Eventually her curiosity got the better of her, and she asked her father loudly in Japanese “Daddy, why is there a foreigner at the playground?”. Her father, embarrassed, tried to shush the little girl as I tried not to laugh. A few minutes later after I said something in Japanese to TD, she went back to her father and excitedly told him “Daddy! The foreigner is speaking Japanese!”, again followed by her father trying to get her to be quiet.
I find that in Japan, TD does a pretty good job of blending in with Japanese people. He has some Asian features to his face, although his hair is brown instead of black. When he speaks Japanese he sounds like almost any other 3 year old speaking Japanese. He doesn’t look completely Japanese, but he looks much more Japanese than I do. I have wavy blond hair, a large nose, a goatee (not common in Japan), and am usually wearing at least one item of clothing with Canadian flags on it. I am easy to notice in a crowd of Japanese people.
In my 3 years of teaching English in Japan, I got used to people staring at me because I was different. Adults would try to sneak a look, but kids, having no filters at all, would be happy to stare or say something to friends or family. This happens much more often the further you get away from major cities and into the smaller towns where it’s less common to see gaijins.
The whole experience was a funny reminder of my previous time in Japan. I’m curious to see how people react to TD and I as he grows up!
Today a typhoon passed by Numazu. We weren’t directly in the path, but we did get some sideways rain. There isn’t an umbrella in the world big enough to keep you dry when it’s raining sideways.
Typhoons are also not friendly to laundry. Clothes dryers are not common in most parts of Japan; most people hang their clothes outside to dry after washing. In my company apartment, my roommates and I hang our clothes to dry on our apartment balcony. Since the balcony is covered, we never rush to bring in clothes when it starts raining. Unfortunately a covered balcony doesn’t help much when the wind picks up and switches the rain from vertical to horizontal.
Today’s typhoon ended up soaking all of the clothes we had out for drying, but at least nothing blew away like some of the less fortunate people in the neighbourhood. Trying to find your wet, muddy clothes on the street after a typhoon passes is no fun.
Remember friends – bring your clothes inside when the weather gets nasty!
SO HOT. SO HUMID.
Summer in Numazu is evil.
I worked an early shift today and got to spend my evening with The Penpal. We ordered pizza and watched Friends. Believe it or not, there is a lot of material to cover on both topics, so I’m breaking this up into two posts.
Living in Winnipeg you are never short of options for pizza delivery; the market is competitive and prices are low. Pizza delivery in Japan is harder to come across. The best option in Numazu is the country’s largest chain, Pizza-La. The pizza is much more expensive than back home, but the quality is great and the range of toppings is impressive. Also, they deliver the pizza on a cool motorcycle / scooter thing, perfect for narrow Japanese roads.
A rough translation of the price would be 100 yen to the dollar, so a large Sweet & Sour Chicken with Tatar Sauce would be about $35 delivered. Usually we order the Italiana, which is even more delicious than it looks.
Although there are a lot of interesting variations involving different sauces and toppings that all look delicious, I usually end up getting something pretty familiar. When I am paying $30+ for a pizza I want to make sure that I’m going to like it!
One important note: in Japan corn is considered to be a normal pizza topping. I am an open minded person who loves trying new foods, but I will never, EVER order a pizza with corn on it. It’s just wrong.
Happy Birthday to me! As part of my birthday present, my roommate Klaxman switched his early shift for my late shift so I was able to go to Numazu summer festival with The Penpal. I went to her house after work, and her family helped me to get dressed in my new yukata which we had bought a few days earlier. Overall it was comfortable, but the bottom of my robe was fairly tight around my legs.
I’m not a tall person, so I usually have a long stride in order to walk quickly. The bottom of my yukata prevented me from taking big steps, which took a lot of practice to get used to. Things got more difficult when I put on my geta; thong sandals with wooden blocks on the bottom.
The combination of the yukata and geta slowed me down quite a bit. Stairs were a very unfriendly sight for my restricted legs and awkward wooden sandals. When crossing the street to get to the train station I held on to the railing tight to avoid rolling an ankle or tumbling down the stairs and wiping out the rest of the people like a pale bowling ball.
We survived the train ride and walk into Numazu’s overcrowded downtown area, and watched an amazing fireworks show surrounded by tens of thousands of people, most of whom were also wearing yukatas. If you ever have a chance, see fireworks in Japan; they blow away anything I have seen from back home, with the exception of Canada Day fireworks in tiny Wabigoon, Ontario, a town that seems to spend their entire budget every year on airborne explosives. Numazu’s fireworks are launched from either side of a central bridge, offering great views from downtown and along the riverside, and amazing views if you are lucky enough to be on the bridge.
It was a very cool experience to see Numazu festival in traditional Japanese clothing. When I first moved away from Canada to teach English, I wanted to experience Japanese culture. Thanks to my wonderful fiancee and her family I have been able to participate in things that I wouldn’t have dreamed of when I left Winnipeg behind.
Although I had a fun evening, I was very, VERY happy to get back into my comfortable jeans and flat, safe shoes.
Summer in Numazu is unbearable. The heat isn’t much higher than what I experienced in Winnipeg (yes, summer temperatures can be hot), but the humidity is horrible. The damp air comes in from the ocean, gets stuck on the mountains, and then hangs over Numazu, turning it into a city sized sauna. It’s typical to have humidity over 80% in July.
I have one air conditioner in my 3 bedroom apartment, located as far away from my bedroom as our apartment layout permits. There is not much cool air left by the time it travels through the living room, past the kitchen, down the hall, and into my bedroom.
I have to wear a shirt and tie to work, doing my best not to sweat through them while riding my bicycle to my school. NOVA is extremely well air conditioned, almost to the point where I can see my breath. When I leave the school at any time during the day my glasses instantly fog up when they hit the thick, humid outside air.
After a few years in Japan I have adapted to the crowds, the language barrier, and people staring at me when I walk around. I don’t think I can spend enough time here to ever get used to a humid sauna-like summer.
Teaching English overseas is a fun way to make some money and have some life experiences. Finding the right balance of experiences and saving money can be a challenge. When you are away in a fun, exciting, foreign country like Japan for a year or less, you want to get out and do everything that is available. It’s easy to end up spending as much or more than you earn.
The teachers who hang around longer than a year all find different ways to balance experience vs. savings. I have been doing my best to send some money home to pay off student loans while still getting out and experiencing the country occasionally. One of the best ways I have learned to save money is to find something fun to do at home instead of going out to the izakaya or karaoke for the 900th time.
Tonight, in the interest of being fiscally responsible, I invited some people over to watch Mystery Science Theater 3000 presenting the classic film “Deathstalker and the Warriors from Hell”. Please note: the term “classic” is not an indication of quality in this case.
DSatWfH is actually the third movie in the Deathstalker series. It’s the kind of movie you would get if a group of rich teenagers decided to act out their latest D&D session using only props and costumes they had around the house.
Although I did save money by staying in, I ended up spending more than expected on all of the beer I needed to survive this movie.