Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Japanese Apartments

Japanese Apartments
 Since there aren't any other girls here for ACA I get to have an apartment all to myself.  When I heard that we'd be living in a Japanese family style apartment I really had no idea what to expect.  I'd heard that their living spaces are small and there's not much room for anything and I'd seen that their tubs were so small that large Americans like myself couldn't fit in them properly.  However, living in a Japanese apartment really isn't so bad.

First off, it's got a (mostly) full kitchen.  I say mostly because the oven isn't much of an oven.  It's more like a toaster oven, so I'll probably only use it to make toast.  It's not like I need to bake a cake or anything anyways.  The apartment runs on gas, so that means both the stove and oven run on gas.  Not only that but you have to push a button to turn on the hot water before you can use it in the sink.

A Japanese bathroom is uniquely different from one I'm used to in the States.  Every component that you would find in an American bathroom is separate with the addition of a washing machine.  The toilet gets it's own room, the shower and tub have their own room, and the sink shares it's space with the washing machine.  This is done, I believe, for hygiene purposes.

What I find interesting about Japanese bathing is that they don't bathe in the tub.  You must first clean yourself either with the shower head or by using a bathing bucket and the spigot that comes out of the tub, as seen here, or the wall.  Then you soak in the small but really deep tub.  It's quite relaxing.  What else is interesting is that you can start filling up the tub by a push of a button.  You don't even need to be in the bathroom to fill the tub.  You can do it from the kitchen if you so desire!  This way you don't have to wait for the tub to fill up when you're done taking a shower and can just hop in.

The bedroom is pretty decently sized.  It fits four desks and two bunk beds, has a balcony and an A/C unit.  It does not, however, have a closet.  Fortunately, there are drawers under the beds where you can put your clothes and standing clothes racks (seen on the left of the second picture) to hang things.  And since I'm the only one living here I can use as much space as I want, not that I do mind you.

The interesting thing about the beds is that they each have two curtains on them, one along the long side and one along the side facing the desks, and there's an outlet on the wall for each of them.  The curtains are useful for if you want to sleep but your roommates want to stay up so you can just close them and shut out the world.  The outlet would be useful if I had brought my alarm clock or could use my phone, but for now I have no need for it.

The balcony isn't there for kicks and giggles.  It actually serves an important part to Japanese apartment life.  On the balcony is where you dry your laundry.  A long pole runs the length of the patio where you hang clothes either on hangers or using clips for them to air dry.  This means that you can't just wait to do all your laundry at one time or you won't have any dry clothes.  Just from walking around the neighborhood here you can see clothes hanging outside most of the time.

That's basically it for my Japanese apartment.  It's not very big, but it doesn't need to be.  It has everything I need and it's comfortable living for one person.  Now, if only the trash system wasn't so complicated.  But, I'll save that for my next post as I continue on my adventure in the land of the rising sun.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Frustrations and Realizations

Being in a country where you know very little of the language is quite frustrating.  Many of the signs I can't read because they're covered in kanji, and the ones I can read in hiragana and katakana I don't know what they mean.  Shopping is embarrassing because the most I can say to the cashier is hello but I can't understand anything they say to me that isn't the total of my purchase so I just nod and make affirmation noises like I know what they're talking about.  I attended a meeting at church where I could barely follow along based on the Engrish and a few Japanese words, and the one lady who could speak English would only give me the basic premise of the conversation every once in a while.  I got lost on my way to the store once but didn't want to ask for directions because I knew I wouldn't know what they were saying.

But although I am constantly frustrated I believe that the frustration will push me to learn more.  I want to be able to read basic street signs.  I want to understand the cashiers.  I want to understand what's going on in meetings.  I want to be able to take directions.  I want to know more Japanese, and since I am in Japan I cannot give up when it gets hard.  I can't throw in the towel and focus on something else because the reality is that no matter where I go there will be Japanese.  My sensei or the church translator can't follow me around to let me know what's happening.  If I really want to live and work in Japan one day I'm going to have to do it on my own.  It's a scary prospect but I must get over my fear of the unknown.

Japan is a whole new country full of different food and places worth exploring, and if I'm to have a proper adventure in the land of the rising sun I'm going to have to "buck up mister" and "put [this] big brain of [mine] to work."  I'm not going to learn Japanese by beating myself up over my current lack of knowledge. That's almost the stupidest thing I've ever heard.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Pilgrimage to Mecca

Thoughts in the Columbus Airport
Sleep?  Who needs sleep when you're about to take the trip you've only dreamed about for as long as you can remember.  Sure, travel sites suggest a good nights rest before a long haul flight, but that's what the flight is for, right?  So what did this traveler do before embarking on her hour journey?  I stayed up all night, still packing, still making sure everything was in order, still calming my nerves and not eating so that I wouldn't barf when the inevitable nausea would set in from the excitement of traveling to Japan.

We started out on the road to the airport around three to the sounds of Weird Al's album "Straight Outta Lynwood".  My mom said it would calm my nerves, and I sang along to all the songs I knew by heart to little effect.  I was still feeling anxious.  I knew that these feelings wouldn't go away so easily.  I am making the longest and farthest trip away from home (university excluded) in my 21 years of life.  It's one thing to travel to Grand Cayman where everyone speaks English, all the food is familiar, and I'm traveling with a large group of my friends.  It's another to travel half way around the world to another time zone, another country, and another culture.  Sure, it's the place I've been dreaming about visiting but it is still a massive change.

After the Journey
After many hours of sitting/napping in planes and wandering around airports, I finally made it to my mecca: Japan.  I stepped off the plane relieved that I had made it all in one piece, passed through immigration like a pro and headed down stairs to baggage claim to wait for my luggage. 

And wait. 

And wait. 

 And wait. 

My luggage never made its way down the black belt of shame and I just stood there dumbfounded like the others who were missing bags.  One of my fears had come true.  I was without bags all the way in Japan.  Fortunately I was smart enough to pack a change of clothes, my toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant in my carry on along with a small washcloth and a small bottle of body wash.  This way I can at least be clean tomorrow.  I can only hope that my bags get here by tomorrow or at least Friday.

Other than that setback, everything seems to be going well.  I've got an apartment to myself because there aren't any other girls this summer (I'll post about it later) and the guys seem nice, so it should be fun.  My adventures in the land of the rising sun have only just begun!