Log in

No account? Create an account
19 August 2008 @ 02:45 pm
So, for the past three weeks...  
A warning--this entry is ridiculously long, since it has all the entries I would have made over the past three weeks. As such, I'm LJ-cutting it. I'd like to think it's neat and interesting, but...well, it's lengthly. Individual entries have been separated to prevent the "Wall of Text crits you for 9999, you die" problem.

I don't actually have internet at the moment, so this might be quite a long entry by the time it's posted, but I'll start writing now anyway.

We got into Hiroshima airport at around 2 p.m., where Yamasaki-san, softlykarou's supervisor, picked us up and drove us to Chiyoda. After ordering us our inkan--"レケル" for softlykarou and "ピット" for me[1]--we went to the high school and met the principal and one of the other teachers, which caught me a bit by surprise since I didn't expect that I would be invited in. The principal and other teacher didn't speak much English, though, so it was a lot of Yamasaki-san and the others talking, and them occasionally asking us questions through him. I missed a couple chances to respond in Japanese because I didn't think of it in time, but overall it seemed to go okay, though who knows if they secretly hated us. :-p I would have brought more formal clothes if I had known that I was going to meet the principal, though.

After that we went to our house, which is indeed in the middle of a rice field. We got set up with gas and water and electricity (internet will have to wait until we get a phone. We can apparently get 50 mbps ADSL, which is like 10x faster than our 'net was in the States). We wandered around, made sure everything worked (softlykarou's predecessor had left notes on everything explaining how it worked, which was nice), and then Yamasaki-san took us to the store to get food. We got some vegetables and fish (rice was unnecessary--there was some in the house already, grown in the field right next door. It's really good), then came back and waited for another Yamasaki (there's three of them at the school. Yamasaki means "top of the mountain," so there's a lot of Yamasaki families around here[2]) to bring us bicycles to use until we get a parking permit[3] and car insurance. Then they left, we went for a short walk and made dinner (rice and berry-flavored miso soup, and a banana for me), and here I am.


I don't think its the heat that bothers me the most--it's the lack of internet access, and the lack of someone else's network to pilfer (which makes sense, as our house is surrounded by rice fields). Still, that should hopefully be sorted out in a few days to a week or so. In the meantime, though, I expect to be really bored--especially at the moment. I can't leave the house because I'm supposed to go with softlykarou and Yamasaki-san to get our alien registration cards today, but I don't know when that's going to be...otherwise I'd go out wandering. There's plenty of stuff to see. Most of the houses here have an ancestral shrine behind them, and we found a map to another shrine in the woods that softlykarou's supervisor left out. softlykarou gets done at 4 p.m., so we can probably try to go then if it's not too hot.

Breakfast was rice and miso soup. I suspect that my standard yogurt/cheese/melba toast breakfast will be gone for a long time.


The house is Western-style on the outside (unlike most of the homes around here, which are beautiful old Japanese-style, with sloping tile roofs and white or wood-panel walls), but Japanese style on the inside. All the floors are either wood or tatami, there's a good dozen closets all hidden behind various screens here and there, most of the tables are low, and the divisions between rooms are low enough that I have to duck every single time I want to walk around. There's no air conditioning (or insulation, really, which'll be fun in winter), the bathrooms are Japanese style (in that there is a "bathroom," where you take baths, and a "toilet," where you don't. The toilet is Western-style, fortunately) and the garage is a curved sheet of aluminum nailed to the side of the house. Cost of living is ludicrously low (subsidized rent + no AC in summer + no central heating in winter + small house + cheap local food all adds up), but there isn't as much to do as in Tokyo.

I've only been here a day, though. Give it time.


So either everyone is astonished that we like eating Japanese food, or they're acting astonished because it's an easy way to be deferential. It's kind of like the whole "You use chopsticks very well," thing--it may or may not be true, but it's an easy thing to compliment a foreigner on.


Some catalogs just came, addressed to softlykarou's predecessor. Since they're from the "Foreign Buyer's Club," though, I don't think she'll be needing them much anymore. They give you a way to ship foreign food, books and other things (teaching supplies, etc) to your house, though some of it is pretty expensive and others we might be able to find at the local supermarket anyway (which is named 'Thanks," amusingly enough). We're heading out to Thanks later on to check out their selection and try to get some more food items. It's not too far away, so we should be okay. They had a much larger selection than Manso (must...not...call it...Manko[4]) down the street, including some freshly-made sushi. Sounds like a yummy dinner in the making.


This waiting is getting frustrating. I don't have any kind of time frame on when Yamasaki-san will be by to take softlykarou and I to go sort out the car stuff so we can legally drive, but I know it'll be in the morning, so I can't go for a walk, I can't study Japanese (at least not with Rosetta Stone), and it's already been almost two hours, so I could have done a bunch of stuff if I had known that it would take this long. Hopefully they'll be here soon and I can stop waiting. At least I have the benefit that the heat makes me want to do nothing anyway.


Well, they came, but I'm not sure why they had to.

softlykarou apparently did all the car stuff herself already, so Yamasaki-san took the two of us to get internet. Except that I'm pretty sure we're getting massively ripped off. The total cost will be 30,000円[5] if we need a modem[6] and it'll take three weeks to get set up--or maybe a week? I'm not sure. There's an English-language service I was planning to join, but apparently we're joining some local service instead! Yay! >_< The car will also take a week, possibly longer, before we can get auto insurance, show the police we have a parking space, etc. Through all this, they didn't need anything from me. softlykarou's name is on the bank account, she's the one who signs everything, the moden and probably the car are in also in just her name...I might as well have stayed home, since I just sat there and listened the whole time. I was the only person who didn't get a business card.


The toilet here is kind of neat. There's no separate sink in the room with it--the sink is built into the toilet. When it flushes, the water to refill the tank comes out of a faucet on top and you use that to wash your hands. That's fine. Toilet water is drinkable (before it gets into the toilet, anyway) so there's no worries about disease, it uses less water that way and it puts soap into the toilet bowl. :-p It'd never sell in America because of people freaking out about hygene, though.


It gets really dark when there are no streetlights.

softlykarou and I went out to dinner today, at a local place called Funky Talky that serves Western(ish) food. Most of the menu was in katakana, so we could read (most of) it. I got hamburger pilaf (rice pilaf with hamburger and gravy--more like Salisbury steak, actually) and softlykarou got some kind of fish/shrimp spaghetti with seaweed on top. It was pretty good and reasonably cheap--1500円 or so for the both of us. We got to use a little Japanese to order (not that difficult--"[Blah] o kudasai" is "I'd like a [blah], please"), the waiter used a little English to thank us, and softlykarou even understood part his sentence when he asked us at the register if we thought the food was good. After food, we popped into the conbini (convenience store) just down the street and got some dessert, and then started walking home.

Now, in daylight, it's really neat when you round a corner and between two Japanese-style houses there's suddenly a shrine, marked off with the rope-and-cloths that indicates the presence of a kami. At night, though, it seems a lot more sinister, mainly because I've played way too much Fatal Frame and I keep thinking of yūrei and "my eyes..." O.o We saw the steps up the shrine we had visited on the way down to the restaurant, but it was pitch black past the dozenth or so step and looked really, really creepy. Even the sound of rushing water from the omnipresent irrigation ditches[7] was a bit weird. It was full dark before 8 p.m., but we made it home okay.


We have to manually fill the washing machine with water before we turn it on. O.o It also sounds like it's not working, but Japanese washing machines don't have agitators, so I don't know what it's supposed to sound like.

It's weird--some things, like washing machines without agitators, just seem really backward to me. But on the other hand, Thanks had electronic price displays for everything, which is something that a lot of retail workers in America would give their left arms for.


Ugh. The heat wouldn't be so bad if it werent' so sticky. And if our window netting didn't have holes it in, which means that when the night does get cool, we can't open them or we get swarmed with bugs.

Correction--I found two windows, one on the first floor and one on the second, where the screen doesn't have holes (well, one small hole that I fixed). It already feels a lot cooler in here.


Trash in Japan is really complicated. First of all, there's two main classifications--moeru gome (burnable), which includes most food waste, paper bits, and so on. Everything that isn't burnable is moenai gome (non-burnable, obviously), including highly processed food (like candy and so on), plastic packaging, metal, etc. That's not counting PET bottle recycling, newspaper recycling or glass recycling. Finally, there's a staggered pick up schedule and some things are picked up on multiple days, so a week might look like this:

Sunday: Nothing
Monday: Burnable
Tuesday Non-burnable
Wednesday: PET bottles
Thursday: Burnable
Friday: Glass
Saturday: Newspaper

Or whatever. Burnables tend to have more days than others because the heat and humidity of Japanese summer makes old food rot pretty fast if it's sitting in a trash can--we moved our can outside after we threw some fish away because of it.


My cash card for the bank came today. I also managed to have an information exchange (in no way would I call it a conversation) with the mailman--he asked if softlykarou lived her, and I told him that she was my wife[8]. So I signed for the card, thanked him and left. There was a bit of confusion about signing--I wasn't sure if I needed my hanko or not, but apparently romaji worked out fine.


There's several ways to refer to "husband" and "wife" in Japanese. The most formal way is to use shujin for husband and kanai for wife, or goshujin and okusan for someone else's spouse. The problem is, these words aren't very...well, sensitive--goshujin means "master"[9] and okusan means "inside person" (form okunai, meaning "inside). When softlykarou and I are talking about each other, we tend to use otto for husband and tsuma for wife, but most other people around here don't. It may be a consequence that most of the people I've talked to so far about our marital status are 50+ years old.


I was going to go for an early morning walk, but I had to turn around because I don't have my passport. I haven't lost it, I just gave it to softlykarou last time we went to Thanks to put in her purse so it wouldn't get bent in my pocket from the bike ride, and she still has it there. In Japan, it's legal for the police to stop any foreigner at any time and demand to see an alien registration card (or passport with valid visa). My likelyhood of getting stopped is extremely low, I realize--I haven't seen a single policecar since I came to Chiyoda, though I have heard sirens--but if I do get stopped, they get to hold me until I produce a valid passport, which would be pretty difficult without any way of getting a hold of softlykarou. As such, I'll wait here and go on a walk tomorrow.


Ugh. The internet people won't be out until the 19th. -_-


"Unable to connect to the Steam network. 'Offline mode' is unavailable because there is no Steam login information stored on this computer. You will not be able to use Steam until you can connect to the Steam network again."

You know, the Steam network online thing didn't bother me until now. I guess I'll have to pirate any future Value games I want so that they'll play when I want them to, not when Steam decides that I'm allowed to.

I'm not sure why it's saying there's no login information stored on my computer, because the first window pops up with my login name and I don't have to enter my password or anything. >_<


We got to drive today. The car stuff finally went through.

Driving on the left side of the road isn't so bad, as long as I stop trying to align myself using the left side of the car (that's liable to end me up engine-first in an irrigation ditch). The big confusing part was that the whole car's alignment is reversed--the turn signal is on the right and the windshield wipers are on the left, leading to a lot of turning on the wipers when we meant to turn. :-p I drove to Thanks and softlykarou drove back, and we didn't kill anyone, get in any accidents or cause any problems with the police, so that's a good start. The big thing I'm worried about is how narrow the roads are here--most of them obviously aren't wide enough for two cars, and some are barely big enough for one, which is a problem when it's a road six inches wider than the car with an irrigation ditch on either side. It's just something I'll have to get used to. In six months I probably won't car at all and I'll have big problems when I come back to America trying to drive.

For example, the white lines. There are white lines drawn on the road to show drivers where crosswalks are. You aren't required to stop there (or even slow down, judging by how other drivers react to them), but they look exactly the same as stop sign warnings in America. I'm convinced that I'm going to come back and blow a stop sign somewhere because I'm used to not needing to stop.



So, softlykarou and I finally opened the bottle of sake that Yamasaki-san got us a week ago. It was apparently brewed locally--we know that there's a sake brewing house nearby[10], and there was no label on the bottle, so it was probably made here. It's really good. Really smooth, with a hint of fruit. Yum yum. There's an advantage to living in the country, not including the yummy local vegetables.

Which reminds me...the bus station apparently has a farmer's market and a bunch of shops. A far cry from the seedy, run-down buildings bus stations tend (in my experience) to be in America. Though I shouldn't be too surprised. Shinjuku station was immaculately clean, brightly lit, and had enough shops in it to be considered a shopping mall in America. I didn't go into any of them--high end Japanese clothing stores won't have anything that fits me anyway--but it was definitely a nice change.


Well, lack of internet connectivity has one good point at least. I finally finished that Darkover/Stephen King's The Mist crossover Unisystem setting I've been working on[11].

I've also been playing a lot of old games on my *coughhackahememulatorscough* Guardian Legend, Illusion of Gaia, and so on. I'd be playing FFIV there too, but I got the DS version so I'm playing that. I'm not sure what people are complaining about with the graphics. Yeah, they're all superdeformed mutants, but at least it's not 16 bit--and it's still better graphics than FFVII, in my opinion. :-p


I kind of wish our car was more Japanese-like. Most of the cars I see here are narrow--maybe 3/4 to 2/3 as wide as the cars in the States. Ours isn't. That kind of car would be great when driving on all the back roads with irrigation ditches on either side that we have to travel to get anywhere. I'm constantly worried that I'm going to make a minor mistake and get dumped straight into the ditch. No accidents so far, though, at least.

More fun facts about driving in Japan:

It is expensive: This is not just in the price of gas (185円 to the liter at the station down the street), it's also travel costs. Tolls on the road from Ōsaka to Tokyo are almost 80,000円. For comparison, a shinkansen ticket from Hiroshima to Tokyo is 130,000円 and you don't have to pay for gas.
It is slow: Speed limits are the same on roads here as they are in the states--30 on smaller or subdivision roads, 50 on major highways and 75-80 on the expressway. Except in Japan, the speed limit is in kilometers per hour.
It is not that different from home: At least, in the behavior of drivers. I saw plenty of people blasting past us at 20 or 30 km/h over the limit when Yamasaki-san drove softlykarou and I from Hiroshima airport to Chiyoda, and the way people drive on these small rural roads I'm surprised I don't see more cars stuck in ditches. Those narrow cars probably give them an advantage when they're whipping around tight turns.

I have seen at least two SUVs here, though, so it's not all small cars and the tiny trucks farmers drive.


"Tell me, gentle flowers, teardrops of the stars, standing in the garden, nodding your heads to the bees as they sing of the dews and sunbeams, are you aware of the fearful doom that awaits you?"
-Okakura Kakuzo, The Book of Tea.

Into the rocks seep
the voices of the cicada."


Apparently, the Japanese movie industry is almost entirely dominated by two things--anime and porn. Anime makes more money than porn, but not by much (and partly because porn is moving to television). The statistics I saw didn't list whether porn anime counted for the first category or the second.

The same source also explains why pachinko parlors are everywhere (Chiyoda, population 10,000, has three huge ones all within a block of each other)--they're run by policemen's associations, which keep lucrative jobs open for any policeman who retires. Political patronage, essentially, not what people actually want.

Source is Dogs and Demons by Alex Kerr, for anyone who's interested. I found it upstairs as one of the books that softlykarou's predecessor left behind, though it was written between 10 and 15 years ago, so I don't know how accurate all the information still is.


I finally cooked something from a recipe while I was here. Previously, softlykarou and I have been most just grabbing whatever we had in the fridge and making something from that. She's away in Hiroshima City right now for her prefectural orientation, though, so I went upstairs and grabbbed the Japanese cookbook we brought over to see what I could make from the stuff I had around, and settled on miso nikomi udon, udon noodles in a miso broth. I had to make a few substitutions (scallops and shrimp instead of chicken, wakame instead of spring onions), but it turned out reall well. The only problem is that it was hot soup in the summer, and even after I threw some ice cubes in I was still sweating when I was done eating it. Atsui and atatakai do not mix. -_-

Here's the recipe if anyone who actually has air conditioning, unlike the vast majority of Japanese homes[12], wants to try it:

200g chicken breast
10ml sake
2 abura-age
900 ml second dashi stock, or the same amount of water and 1 packet dashi no moto
6 shiitake mushrooms, with stalks removed
4 scallions
30ml mirin
90g aka or hatcha miso
300g udon noodles
1 egg

1) Cut chicken, marinate with sake for 15 minutes
2) Rinse abura-age. Cut into squares
3) Heat second dashi stock. When it begins boiling, add chicken, mushrooms and abura-age. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and add scalllions.
4) put mirin and miso paste in a small bowl. Add 30ml soup as well.
5) Cook udon (same as pasta, essentially--bowl in water for 5-6 minutes, then drain)
6) Add udon and miso to soup and check taste--add more miso if necessary.
7) Put soup on medium heat and break the egg over the top. When it bubbles, wait one minute then cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 2 minutes.
8) serve.

When I made it, I didn't have mirin or abura-age and I substituted wakame for scallions. It still turned out pretty good. Dashi is the only thing that'll be hard to get--dashi no moto isn't sold at most grocery stores (to my knowledge) and while you can get konbu (kelp), making second dashi stock by hand takes roughly 2 and a half hours. -_-


Recipe number two!

This one was even easier than the previous one, and requires less preparation. The main thing you need is hijiki seaweed, which shouldn't be too hard to get in the Asian food section of a grocery store. It was written in hiragana here, so there won't be anything complicated to memorize--look for ひじき. It comes dried, so it'll keep nearly forever in a cool, dark place if the bag is sealed.

90g hijiki
150g chicken breast, with skin if possible
1/2 carrot
15ml vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
100ml second dashi stock
30ml sake
30ml caster sugar
45ml shōyu (soy sauce)
cayenne pepper (if desired) or shichimi togarashi (though good luck finding that--it's the spice they give you to go with noodle bowls in Japanese restaurants)

1) Take out hijiki, place in bowl of water, leave to soak for about 30 minutes.
2) Peel the skin from the chicken and parboil for 1 minute. Lay out flat and shave all the fat from the skin, then cuut into small strips. Cut chicken into bite-sized chunks as well.
3) Chop carrots and anything else you want to add in (we used mushrooms)
4) stir-fry chicken skin until golden brown and crispy. Add chicken and stir-fry that until cooked.
5) Add hijiki and vegetables and stir-fry for a minute or so.
6) Add everything else. Lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
7) Remove from heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
8) Serve with rice and sprinkle with shichimi togarashi or cayenne pepper.


When it's overcast and a storm is rolling in, the temperature is really, really nice. Sadly, we can't take advantage of it to go for a walk because, well, a storm is rolling in.

While out on a walk yesterday, softlykarou and I walked by a group of women talking. They said hello, we said hello, and then they said the same thing that just about everyone who says more than konnichiwa says to us: Atsui desu ne? (Isn't it hot?)

Hai, atsui desu! I wonder if they ask each other that in passing as well, or if it's something easy to say to gaijin because they (rightly) assume that most of what they could ask us we wouldn't understand?


Our rice has bugs in it! O.o

This is the downside of yummy-tasted, all natural organic rice, I guess. Fortunately, since our rice cooker takes over an hour to make rice, any bugs in there will be mercilessly boiled by the time it's done anyway.


Green tea chocolate chip cookies are amazingly yummy. Also, "American Soft" (アメリカンソフト) is the best brand name ever.

My only problem with them, and with most Japanese snacky food, is that everything is individually wrapped. We have a big cookie bag, with a plastic tray inside subdivided into thirds like a lot of American cookie packages, except it's not necessary because each cookie is individually wrapped. Because of Japan's laws on trash disposal, this means that if, for some reason, the cookies went bad and I had to throw them all away, I'd have to open up each cookie individually, put the cookie in 燃えるごめ and put the wrapping in 燃えないごめ. It's a bit ridiculous...though since they're so good, I won't have to do that.


A long time ago, softlykarou and I were planning on asking each other do to things in Japanese for practice--like, normal conversation in English, but asking each other to bring a glass of water or start dinner or whatever would be in Japanese. it didn't last very long before it got way too annoying having to look things up all the time, and we kind of dropped it.

Well, now that we're actually in Japan, not being able to talk to people is a hell of a lot more annoying than having to look up verbs in dictionaries. I started with asking softlykarou to open the window after she went upstairs (itsu wa nobotte, mado o akete kure. I'm pretty sure parts of that are wrong, but I'm not going to get it right unless I start using it even at home.

It's actually kind of tempting me to play Sengoku as well, though we should wait until we can speak conversational Japanese. You might wonder why, when I'm already living in Japan, I'd want to roleplay 17th century Japanese people, but A) it'll make perfect sense to run and play the game in Japanese, giving us more practice and B) we get to talk like samurai (Sessha wa ichiban de gozaru!). What's not to like?


You know what's fun? When a game puts a boss battle after a long unskippable cutscene, and then puts another unskippable cutscene after that, and then another boss battle, all without a save point in between. And then what's even better is when the second battle is entirely a guessing game, and if you guess wrong, you die and have to do the whole thing all over again!

No, wait, that's the opposite of fun. Fuck you, Square-Enix.


It's an...interesting feeling being a foreigner. Or, rather, it's an interesting feeling to feel foreigner. In Ireland, I never really had to worry about that--with red hair and an Irish name, I didn't stand out at all. Until I said something, there was no reason to think I wasn't Irish, and even after that they could still understand me.

Here, there's no way I can avoid standing out. Even after I learn the language (which is proving to be just as long and annoying a process as I thought it would be), no one is going to assume that I know Japanese, either because of statistics--the vast majority of speakers of Japanese are Japanese people--or (rarely) because of racism[13]. at the moment, when I can't, there's an obvious separation enforced since I can't understand the signs (except where they're also written in English) or what people are saying. A lot of Japanese people, despite 7 years of compulsory English, don't feel comfortable speaking it to a gaijin. Right now, softlykarou and I can ask where things are, and a few more complicated stuff, but not much--and even then, we can't understand most of the answer. I'm pretty sure the nice old woman who showed us where the hijiki was was explaining the difference between the two types of hijiki as well as what it went best with, but all I understood is that one of the two types (not sure which one) was good with tofu.

I keep catching people looking at me, but I have no idea if that's because I'm foreign, or if it's because I'm really tall. :-p


Having to constantly worry about money is really stressful. They should have told us to bring 400,000円 instead of 200,000円. That or paid softlykarou weekly for the first month instead of giving her a week's pay and then not paying her again for a month. >_< That and maybe refine their English so that "don't worry about" doesn't become "Yeah, you need to give us 33,000円 for a plane ticket" a month later.


This weekend is Obon, which, from what softlykarou and I can tell, is roughly like Memorial Day in America, in that its a time for families to go to their ancestors gravesites to pay their respects. Unlike Memorial Day, however, Japanese families don't use it as an excuse to throw barbecues. Since a lot of the houses in Chiyoda have gravesites relatively close by, it's easy if people live here, but the bus station was hopping when I went to pick softlykarou up a few days ago with all the Hiroshima-shi people coming back to pay their respects. The graves are decorated with red, gold and blue penants. Unfortunately for any festivities (but fortunately for the temperature), it's been storming for days and overcast when it's not storming. What they say about mountain storms is right--the rice field next to us looks like a giant decided to go dancing in it (though the one across the street is, strangely, untouched).


I managed to talk to someone, sort of...futatsu no basu? isn't really the height of conversation. softlykarou was trying to figure out how to get to Higashi Hiroshima for the "cultural camp" thing she has to attend, and we were trying to understand the attendant there. We finally managed to get his point--there is no direct bus from Chiyoda to Higashi Hiroshima, but there is a bus from Hiroshima-shi there. So it's one bus change, and the Hiroshima Center[14] station is full of English signage, which'll make bus changing easy. One worry down, at least.


Minus: ATMs charge extra fees if you withdraw from them when the bank isn't open. Since the bank is only open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays[15], this is annoying.
Plus: At 105円, it's lower than most American ATM fees.

Also, I figured out what I should have asked the bus attendant. Koko kara basu wa Saijō e ikimasu ka is "Does the bus go from here to Saijo?" Or, at least, it's close enough that he'd hopefully understand it. It might technically need iku koto ga dekimasu ka, (or just ikerimasu ka) which would be more like "Is the bus able to travel to Saijo from here?"...but then again, I might not.


I got a letter!

My parents sent me a letter to make sure I got it. It took five days to get here, which isn't bad at all. It also came with a clipping mentioning that a lot of toymakers in Japan are turning to toys for older people since there aren't nearly as many children as before--the Japanese birthrate is like 1.04 (replacement rate is 2.04, for reference). There's a lot of causes for this: expense (land prices are high) and annoyances (women who get married and have children still face pressure to quit their jobs, so a growing portion are taking the obvious solution and either not getting married or not having children) are the two largest. A couple of the example toys are a heart-shaped piggybank that tells you stuff like "I never want to be apart from you" and "let me rub your shoulders" in a strong yet sensitive masculine voice and a robot dog, which gets around the "no pets" rules that a lot of Japanese apartments have. Plus it doesn't need to be housetrained.


Would it kill Nintendo to put multiple save slots on their all games? So that, say, a couple can play simultaneously instead of in sequence?

I'm looking at you, The World Ends With You.


I went for a walk tonight and found one of those scenic paths that the tour books always mention but whichyou'd be hard-pressed to find in most places, what with all the vending machines, concrete and flashing lights.

There's a road that leads a bit into the hills, through a tunnel underneath the expressway. After going past some greenhouses, or possibly storage units, it took a turn into a mixed bamboo, pine, maple and cedar forest, which is pretty rare these days[16]. The road went on for about 50 feet and then turned into a gravel road, winding through the forest and past several gravesites still festooned with Obon flags. After taking a few turns and coming to a fork in the road, I saw what looked like an extremely worn stone lantern on the right-hand side, so I went up to take a look. Just past a little curve, across from the lantern, was an immaculately kept torī flanked by two fu dogs, with a long, narrow set of stone steps leading upward. Climbing up the steps led me to a shrine, which looked in a lot better repair than the other one we came across. There was gravel strewn around instead of grass, for example, and the ritual purification pool had water in it (though it had obviously been stagnant for some time, as there were a few bugs in it). I wasn't about to use the pool, as part of the purification involves washing out the mouth, so I tried the faucet a few feet over but all that came out was a puff of air. Ah well...the prayer for success in Japan will have to wait until another time.

I'll have to go back anyway, since I didn't have my camera with me.


Today is supposed to be the day when the guy from DeoDeo is going to come connect the internet. I don't know, though. I have a bad feeling...


Not being able to talk to someone is one of the most frustrating things in the world.

The NTT[17] guys came about half an hour ago. I'm not sure why they were there, because I couldn't really understand most of what they said. They first showed up asking for Nicole, which, considering how softlykarou's name is written on everything (Last First Middle) and how Japanese naming conventions work, is not an out of place assumption. Once I said "Pitto?" they at least knew they were at the right house, and then he said "ADSL," so I led him upstairs, showed him the modem, etc. I think they were just here to check the physical phone line and make sure the connection works. Most of what they did involved plugging it in, testing it, etc. At the end, though, came the frustrating part.

They printed out what was obviously a bill and said something to me. Seeing my obvious uncomprehending look, they talked to each other for a while and then one of them made a phone call. Then they said something else, which I also didn't understand. I got the dictionary and said jisho (which means "Dictionary") and started to look up what they had when the younger one said Shigoto o arimashita. Unfortunately, that just means "The job is done," and I had already guessed that. Finally, they said Yamasaki-san wa koko ni ("Yamasaki-san is coming here." Note that there is no verb in what they said. You have to figure out from context[18] that it means coming, since he's not obviously already there), so we waited until he showed up. Once there, he confirmed that they were just checking the line, though indirectly--he said that the guy from DeoDeo would be by at around 2 or 2:30 to do the actual hookup, and hopefully bring a wireless LAN as well. I wasn't too sure on whether he understood the last part. His constant aizuchiing[19] makes it hard to tell when he knows what i'm saying.

And, though I feel really bad saying it considering how much he's helped us, his English is not that great. He frequently recites the Japanese of what he wants to say out loud before he says it, for example. If the positions were reversed (he spoke perfect English and spoke Japanese with the same fluency that he currently speaks English), no high school in America would give him a language teaching job.

But is English is light years better than my Japanese. I'm definitely going to study before the DeoDeo guy comes over, though it probably won't help me understand him any more than I otherwise would. Fortunately, network is in the dictionary (nettowāku--aren't loanwords great) but wireless is not. I could always try something ridiculous like nettowāku ga waiyā o mochimasen, which is literally "the network that owns no wires," but I have idea if he'll understand that or if it even makes sense. It's grammatically correct, but so is "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously."

The guys also said ja instead of da. They're clearly from around here, or maybe east of here--west and south of here, they say ya.


All right, internet is up! here we go...


[1]: inkan (or, less formally, hanko) are stamps that everyone in Japan has. You need them for anything which would require a signature in America.
[2]: Also a lot of Yamamoto families, which means "Base of the mountain."
[3]: Part of owning a car in Japan is proving to the police that you have a place to park it. Also, the government actively hates gaijin drivers and wishes they would all just ride bikes, but we have international driver's permits for the moment so we don't need to worry about that quite yet.
[4]: "Manko" is Japanese for "pussy."
[5]: If it wasn't obvious, 円 is the kanji for yen, pronounced "en." It can also be read "maru," which means "circle." Hence the Metroid power up.
[6]: Seriously, 10,000円 for a modem if ours doesn't work? What the fuck? It doesn't help that they could easily say that it doesn't work and I'd have no way to prove them wrong.
[7]: Just about everywhere in the residential sections of town has an irrigation ditch on each side of the street, making sure that all the rain water runs down to the rice fields.
[8]: The bank account is in her name because her salary is direct-deposited into it.
[9]: Workers in maid cafes call their clients goshujin-sama, for perspective.
[10]: We actually suspect that it's the building across the street, but there's never anyone there so we have no clue.
[11]: Why yes, I am a massive nerd. Why do you ask?
[12]: The majority of Japanese houses and apartments have no air conditioning, central heating or even insulation. Around 10% still don't have sewage lines.
[13]: Nihonjinron--"Japanese People Studies." It's the belief that Japanese people are inherently different (usually read "better") than gaijin. Leads to claims like no non-Japanese person can ever learn Japanese fluently, or even more ridiculous stuff like how Japanese people have longer intestines than other people, the better to digest Japanese food, or how the snow in Japan is different so that foreign skiis won't work well here.
[14]: That's its name in Japanese too--広島センター ("Hiroshima sentaa").
[15]: A lot of government stuff is set up with the assumption that a salaryman who needs anything taken care of can just send his wife, who of course doesn't have a job, to do it during the day.
[16]: Something like 50% of Japan's native forests were cut down and replaced with sugi (Japanese cedar) in an attempt to make money through forestry. Unfortunately, when the costs of cutting down the old trees and replanting everything was all factored in, it turned into a huge loss and destroyed the ecosystem of most of the forests. That's bureaucracy for you.
[17]: Nihon Telephone and Telegraph, or something like that would be my guess--it's the phone company.
[18]: The language is full of stuff like this. Subjects and verbs are constantly left off of sentences when it's assumed to be obvious who's doing what to whom. It can make it really damn hard to understand what people are saying, even ignoring my limited vocabulary.
[19]: Aizuchi are...well, I guess the best translation would be "acknowledgements." Saying stuff like hai and un and ee and so on while the other person is talking so they know you are giving them your full attention. This is why Yamasaki-san sometimes says "ha ha ha" in a normal speaking voice when listening--I'm pretty sure it's a Hiroshima-ben variant on hai.
Current Mood: indescribableindescribable
Current Music: Maximum The Hormone - Chu Chu Lovely Muni Muni Mura Mura Purin Purin Boron Nurururerorero (DEATH NOT
Stastee_wheat on August 19th, 2008 06:10 am (UTC)
Well, I thought it was neat and interesting. ^^

Nice to hear that you're both alive and well!
dorchadas: Zombies together!dorchadas on August 20th, 2008 03:50 am (UTC)
Much like zombies, it takes a lot to keep us down. :-p
Kathouse_of_bone on August 19th, 2008 06:54 am (UTC)
Yes, I read it all. Moar plz.

I'm glad you are getting things settled, and definitely glad to see you back online!
Shawninscrutable on August 19th, 2008 06:57 am (UTC)
Welcome back!
q99q99 on August 19th, 2008 10:34 am (UTC)
-It gets really dark when there are no streetlights.-

You're lucky there are many Grues in your area.

-Not being able to talk to someone is one of the most frustrating things in the world.-

This is true. Fortunately, a portable version of Babelfish is bound to be just around the corner, making everyone perfectly comprehensable.
dorchadas: Perfectiondorchadas on August 19th, 2008 10:59 am (UTC)
That like the thought of being superior seems the way. Regrettable, I' Because many complicated nuances are lost, translation is really helped or, which rank truly.

(the previous comment has been Babelfished)
q99q99 on August 19th, 2008 12:21 pm (UTC)
Yesss... so there may be some minor problems ^^

I hold that with some practice, people will get use to understanding babelfisiglish.
Jnytesenvy on August 19th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
i had so many comments on this when i was reading, then i got all the way to the end and promptly forgot them ^^
dorchadas: desudorchadas on August 20th, 2008 01:55 am (UTC)
Read it again and then comment! :-p
Jnytesenvy on August 20th, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
we'll see - i am sure you'll have new entries to comment on in no time ^_~