Posts Tagged kawasaki
Last night I went to a farewell party with Kim and Kame before crashing on their couch. In the morning we all woke up hungover, and lurched our way out for breakfast like 3 zombies. Fortunately the restaurant we went to sold coffee in one liter pitchers.
After feeding and caffeinating ourselves, we took a nostalgia tour of Noborito so I could take some pictures of Hello House and the new and improved Noborito station. I lived in the area for a year, and the station was under construction almost the entire time. The completed station looked great! Around the station area there were also a lot of changes. Nothing ever stays the same in the Greater Tokyo Area.
Kim and Kame accompanied me to Asakusa for souvenir shopping. The shopping area in front of Sensoji temple is a fantastic place to get souvenirs: I had been there so many times that I already knew which stores I wanted to hit. This was possibly my last chance to do souvenir shopping in Tokyo, so I made it count. I ended up leaving with a fully loaded backpack and several shopping bags, looking like a pale pack mule.
After parting ways with my friends, I decided to take the Tokaido Line home, stopping at Kawasaki station. My first English school was near the station, so I was very familiar with the area. Like Noborito I was shocked at all the changes around the station area that happened over the past 2 years. Hostess bars and pachinko had been replaced by and supplemented with new stores, game centres, and movie theatres. As I enjoyed a delicious burger at Becker’s I realized that Kawasaki would likely be unrecognizable to me when I returned the next time. Kawasaki is usually not near the top of anyone’s Japan sightseeing list, but I’m really going to miss it.
Bouken day (adventure!). My new floor couch was delivered in the morning. I had to use Japanese on the phone when the delivery people called. This sounds impressive, but I basically just said “hai” about 6 times until they hung up and delivered the couch.
After a nice nap, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful weather and go for a walk. I started with a 15 minute walk to the cool park near my place. Upon climbing a really large hill, I found there was an exit on the other side. So I kept walking through this really cool residential area with big houses on a hill. Residential areas are like mazes here, and I was lucky to find my way out the other side after much walking. By this point, I decided to head back home, but I didn`t really know how to get back the way I came. I found a road sign, and started following it. However, the road back had no walking path. So I made a useless 30 minute circle around the area, and started walking towards one of the other stations listed on the sign.
Just after the 2 hour point in my walk, I pass a sign which says I am now in Yokohama city limits. After many more wrong turns and cutting through another park I found a bus route and decided to walk along side it to the next station. Finally about 3 hours after I started, I found Azamino station, which is on the Den-En-Toshi line and the Yokohama subway. I took Den-En-Toshi to connect with the Nanbu line and then returned to Noborito. It took me about 20 minutes to get home by train!
I estimate I walked about 10km in total, possibly more, so I rewarded myself with some Wendy’s. Random walks in huge cities can be fun.
(2014 Update) – According to Google Maps, I walked at least 7.5km, but probably more due to the unexpected loop I made.
I got to work at Keikyu Kawasaki today. It is a satellite branch of Kawasaki NOVA. It was very calm and relaxed, and I was done early. I get to work here every Friday and Saturday in November, and hopefully longer!
In 2003 NOVA was working on a massive expansion. Some of their advertising material included the slogan “learn English near the station”, so they decided to have an English school closer to a train station than any of their major competitors.
JR Kawasaki station is a major train station on the Nanbu, Keihin Tohoku and Tokaido lines. It servies 185,000 passengers per day. The station is connected to a large, sprawling underground shopping centre. Having a large English school near Kawasaki station makes a lot of sense. Kawasaki NOVA usually had a roster of 22+ teachers and featured many classrooms, a voice room and two fully stocked kids classrooms.
Keikyu Kawasaki station is a smaller station on the private Keikyu line. It serves about 58,500 passengers per day. It is not connected to the underground shopping area and is only 500 meters away from Kawasaki station. Since one of the competitors opened an English school close to Keikyu Kawasaki station, NOVA decided to open a small branch slightly closer to the station. Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA usually had 3 teachers (rotated in from Kawasaki NOVA), and had one shared voice / kids classroom.
Kawasaki NOVA had extra capacity and facilities, so there was no good busines reason to have another branch 500 meters away. NOVA’s “I’m closer to the station than you are” expansion policy in a country with extremely expensive real estate was likely one of the main contibuting factors to their eventual bankruptcy. That and gross mismanagement from the CEO, but that’s another story.
As a teacher, I thoroughly enjoyed shifts at Keikyu Kawasaki NOVA, which provided a break from the fast pace and chaos of Kawasaki NOVA.
Hello House was the name of two dormitory style residences near Noborito station in Kawasaki, Japan. The two mostly identical buildings were named Hello House West and Hello House East. Most of the residents were non-Japanese English teachers. I lived in Hello House East for just over one year.
Each Hello House building had two dormitory wings and a common kitchen, shower room, and living room. The dormitory wings had two floors with toilet and laundry facilities on each floor. The rooms were 5 tatami mat size with an individual heating / air conditioning unit. All of the rooms came with a futon, under mattress and some sheets. Some of the rooms came with furniture from previous residents. I was lucky enough to have a desk in my room, but many rooms did not have any furniture. Costs for a typical room were 50,000 yen per month (approximately $500 CAD) plus electricity.
The rooms were pretty quiet, except for the few located directly above the living room. You needed to be a heavy sleeper with a quiet sex life in those rooms.
Outside the kitchen was a wall of shelving for food storage. Each room was assigned one area for food storage. Inside the fridge was the same. The kitchen itself was stocked with plates, glasses, pots, pans, and basically everything else you could need to cook. Since most of the residents were working different hours, there were never usually big traffic jams in the kitchen. As with any communal living environment, dirty dishes were a problem. Just because you were mature enough to move around the world and live in another country doesn’t mean that you were mature enough to wash the dishes you used. The most annoying problem with the system was that occasionally food would “go missing”, usually when someone was drunk or broke. Fortunately missing food wasn’t a regular occurrence.
The kitchen was next to the common living room which came with plenty of seating, a TV, and a bookshelf full of abandoned books from previous residents. All residents could borrow books from the bookshelf and leave unwanted books with the shelf. One of the most interesting features of the living room was the dozo table. Dozo is Japanese for “here you go”. The idea was that if there is anything you don’t want or need anymore, you can leave it on the dozo table and it is up for grabs for other residents. This was really helpful for stocking up your room, and great for reducing the amount of junk that you needed to pack when moving out.
The shower room had a big, deep Japanese style bath tub (which nobody used) and a number of private shower stalls. When I lived at Hello House the showers were coin operated and cost 100 yen for 10 minutes. There was a digital display that showed how much time you had left, so you had no excuse for running out of time with a head full of shampoo. With short hair, I was able to wash myself, my hair and shave in 10 minutes. It wasn’t a relaxing shower, but it sure was efficient. If you were lucky, the previous user would have left some time on the clock which would be added to your 10 minutes. Near the end of my stay in Hello House I was gifted with a 18 minute shower for 100 yen. After a year of speed showering I really didn’t know what to do with the extra time and ended up leaving most of it for the next person.
Hello House was a great place to live for someone new to Japan. Since almost everyone was non-Japanese you automatically had something in common with the other residents. If you ever needed advice on where to go shopping, cheap places to eat, where to go for dry cleaning, where to get haircuts, or anything else about daily life in Japan, there would be someone around with some good advice. Like all communal living environments there were always some annoying things, but overall it was a very good experience and I probably ended up enjoying my time in Japan more because I started out in Hello House.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Well, its Thanksgiving in Canada today, and some sort of holiday here. But did I get any turkey???
It rained like crazy this afternoon. When the rain finally stopped, the water in the street was close to 30cm deep! I got some good pics which I will get around to posting when I can. The drainage in my neighbourhood leaves a little to be desired.
I was bored this evening so I headed to downtown Kawasaki to my usual internet cafe. Some scary lady was trying to hit me up for cash outside the front door. I just played the “gomenasai” (sorry) card and tried to walk away. She kept asking, saying something about her being a “kawaii onna” (cute woman). I respectfully disagree. I hope she is gone when I leave. I have to stop going to downtown Kawasaki at night.
Update from a few days later:
Well, the crazy lady was gone when I left, but the underground mall that I normally walk through was closed. So I had to navigate downtown Kawasaki at night and find my way to the station. I caught the last train with minutes to spare!
(note – this is a rewrite of the original post because it didn’t convey the awesomeness of the experience)
Near the end of the shift, we were told that, as a treat, the experienced teachers were going to take the new teachers out to an exclusive bar called “Le Kiosk”. We started to get excited about going out, and were asking lots of questions; how far away was it? what do we need to wear? was it expensive? can we invite other teachers? The answers all came back very vague, making this mysterious bar seem even more interesting. The only thing we were told was that it was usually quite popular and we would likely be standing.
The end of the shift finally came and we followed the experienced teachers to Kawasaki station and through the gates. Our AT (like a supervisor) calmly walked up to the Kiosk convenience store that is located in many train stations in Japan and bought a can of beer. Le Kiosk was in fact just regular kiosk. The experienced teachers had a good laugh at once again getting the newbie teachers to fall for the Le Kiosk ruse, and then we all stood around in the train station drinking beer and chatting. I have to say – drinking beer in public is pretty sweet.
After a few beers, I went off with one of the other Canadian teachers to search for a bank machine that would provide money from our Canadian bank cards. I was successful, she was not. We were actually both very lucky that sticking our foreign bank cards into random machines didn’t result in the cards being taken away or security being called. What can I say – the beer was good.
In the rest of the time in Kawasaki I ended up making post work beers at Kiosk a fairly regular event. Also, I helped trick several of the new teachers as well. The circle of life continues!