I’m sorry this entry is a bit long, but it was an eventful day! This entry was written this morning (June 2nd at around 6am) when I was in my apartment with no internet access. Now that I found a Wi-Fi spot, I share it with you all. I’ll write another entry soon, to update on many things, but let me just say that I’m liking Osaka so far! 🙂
Photos posted here (no editing done yet, didn’t have picasa on this laptop):
Adjusting to the Time Change
In preparation for my cross-pacific flight and in order to adjust to the time change of 13 hours I did not sleep much the night before my flight to Japan. I was not going to sleep at all, but I fell asleep for about 3 hours the night before. I woke up panicking because suddenly everything was bright “OH MY GOD I LOST MY PLANE!”, but no, it was 6am. I got to the airport on time and everything seemed just fine.
When I got on my second plane, from Washington DC to Narita Airport in Tokyo, I slept around 6 hours, and then I decided to spend the rest of the trip (around 9 hours) reading and somehow keeping myself awake since at that time it was around 7am in Japan. I finally went to sleep at around midnight local time, after having slept 9 hours in two days. For some reason I’m now awake, at 6:30am. I was expecting to sleep about 9 hours, but I guess I’m still adjusting.
Being on a plane for 15 hours wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. The longest I had been on a plane before this flight was ~5-6 hours from Boston to California, compare that to 21 hours traveling from Boston -> DC -> Tokyo -> Osaka, and adding to that the time it took us after that to get some cash and to make our way to the apartment building, it was a tiring day.
Something interesting I noticed, in all of my flights I was seating by non-Japanese people. It was interesting considering how many Japanese people there were in my flights. On my flight from Boston to Washington DC I sat next to a lovely woman from South Africa who was flying back home a few days after, but in the meantime she was going to explore DC. In my second flight, from DC to Tokyo, I was between a girl from Thailand and an American guy who lives in Japan. In my last flight I was next to a friend from MIT and next to him was another non-Japanese woman.
I must point out, the food on the plane was quite good! The service was also great. The seats were normal, which was sad considering we had to seat there for such a long time. I wanted to seat in one of those comfortable seats in business class… they looked nice. I traveled with All Nippon Airways (ANA).
‘My god, they do not lie when they said apartments are tiny in Japan!’ was my first thought as I walked into my apartment. I felt like a giant considering that the front door is exactly my height.
That being said, the apartment is actually quite nice. In my room there is a twin bed, a couch, a table, a TV and VCR (there were also some movies left here), a TV stand, a shelf, and a closet. The kitchen has a stove, fridge, microwave, and there are assorted bowls, plates and eating utensils. I thought that was quite nice. The bathroom is probably the tiniest bathroom I’ve ever seen if we exclude the ones inside airplanes, maybe. It is interesting that it’s setup to encourage baths rather than showers, which is quite a Japanese thing to do I‘ve heard. I think the last time I took a bath rather than a shower was last summer at home after I was exposed to direct sunlight for too long at the beach and it was possible to fry an egg on my back. I might take a bath tonight ~
I also have a small porch, and there is a washer there so I don’t have to g to the Laundromat.
Although I was quite tired when I got to Japan, I wasn’t ready to go to bed until I found a convenience store to get essentials (shampoo, soap, toothpaste) and more importantly an Internet Café so I could check my e-mail. I walked down the street and found out that there are many places to eat around here. They seem quite nice and also cheap! The average small place seemed to have meals priced at around $5, and they seemed fine to me. There are also two small convenience stores within ~5 minutes walking, and I found an internet café there too. There’s also a train station, an arcade, and a Laundromat. It’s quite a convenient location.
I walked into this convenience store which had a quite interesting dynamic. There were maybe about 4 employees and about 6 customers in the store when I walked in. The interesting thing is that at every second one or various of the employees would say something out-loud in a very energetic tone. The most common thing they’d be saying was ‘Irasshyaimase, konban wa’ which is a common way to say welcome to customers, they seemed to be saying this at everyone and no one in particular simultaneously. They seemed to say it even when no one was walking in, it was just a constant stream of ‘welcome’ and ‘would you like something?’ I recorded a short video in which you can’t see all that much since I wasn’t too bold about recording, but you can hear the crazy dynamic going on.
Here’s the video I recorded:
Soon after going to the convenience store, I had my first ‘Gaijin’ (foreigner) experience in Japan when I walked into an internet café and just roamed around. Contrary to most places, a lot of people seemed to be smoking in there. I was not expecting that! Then, after walking around for a minute or so, an employee came my way. It was a young, nice Japanese guy with brownish/orange hair, and told me that customers were not allowed to enter that area until they placed their order in the front desk! I apologized quickly and walked out to the lobby a bit embarrassed and just looked around in confusion for a second and he told me “hai, sore deguchi desu” pointing out to the exit. I wasn’t ready to leave so I finally said: “How expensive is the internet?” And quickly realized that I was asking quite a broad question. How much does the internet cost? I wasn‘t really planning to invest towards buying the whole internet. What I wanted to ask, instead, was how much it costs to use the internet there. The employee could figure it out, though, so he pretty much just asked me for how long I was planning to use it, ‘about 1 hour’, and said that that cheapest would be 400 yen for an hour (~$4/hour). Since I didn’t know of any other way I could get online, and it seemed that the place was quite popular, I said that it was fine. I immediately took out a 1000 yen bill to pay, but the employee told me that I should pay at the end after using the service and he proceeded to show me where the computer was located.
Using the computer was an experience on its own. I didn’t ask if I could use my own laptop, so I was using their computer with an interesting Japanese keyboard. The keyboard was OK to use when typing roman letters since they keys were positioned in the same way, but when typing Japanese it was completely different. Rather than what I usually do, which is type the romaji (roman letters) and let it convert to Hiragana/Katakana/Kanji, in this case the keyboard had one key for each hiragana character. It took me the longest time to figure out where a few keys were, and I couldn’t even type beyond the first two lines of a message when I gave up and decided to write it later. It reminded me of my first time typing, when writing my name would take me 10 minutes just cause I couldn’t find the keys even when they were right there in front of my face.
O… m… … a… r… space bar … e… back space… E… d… u …, etc.
Something interesting about the Internet Café is the wide-range of options you have. The computers you can get can be in the not-so-private section, in which your computer is on a small cubicle and you have someone right next to you and behind you, etc. You can also get a separate cubicle with a door which is completely private. In those you can have a computer, or a computer and a TV, and maybe even a video game console, I think. It was quite interesting! You can also have more than one display or TV, etc. I think there’s also a non-smoking section, I’ll ask about that next time.
Another thing is, there are food and drinks you can get while you are there. They have a wide range of appetizers and drinks for you to buy inside the café, and I saw it was quite common for people to get something. I didn’t try the food or drinks, though, cause I was already a bit reluctant to the idea of having to pay more than $4 to use the internet for an hour.
There was also a manga section in the café, and that was probably the 5th place with lots of manga that I had seen that day.
One thing I must say is that the quality of customer service in Japan seems to be quite superior to that in the states. Employees are always smiling and attentive, and they are very polite. I also found that as soon as they noticed that my Japanese is just okay, they would always point out at something or show me something to indicate what they were asking. At the internet café, for example, they asked me if I had one of those ‘frequent customer cards’ while they held one in front of me. I said no while simultaneously the employee who had attended me at the beginning pointed out that it was my first time there.
It‘s all been a very different and good experience. It seems like this will definitely be a very enriching experience and I’m excited about it. I just need to figure out how to use the internet at work so I don‘t have to pay at the internet café. I also heard that there are some wi-fi hot spots, so I might look into that.
Today I’m looking for the Post Office, which according to the information I got should be nearby as well. At the post-office there should be international ATMs so I can withdraw some more money.
Oh, something else, Japanese seem to be very interested with the whole GM bankruptcy and what Obama decided. It’s been on the news since yesterday night.