Thursday, September 16, 2010

Japan in Bullet Points

Me, Okaasan, and Otousan at the Welcome Party

My host family's name is Iwai (岩井), but if I want to be polite. I must say Iwai san. There are three people in the family: my host mom Kimiko, my host dad Akira, and my host sister Tomoko. They also have a son, Atsushi, but he is happily married and currently living in Tokyo with his expectant wife. As you may guess, I do not call my host family (except for Tomoko) by their first names, but rather Okaasan (お母さん) and Otousan (お父さん), mom and dad. My host parents are both born around the year 1950, and my host sister is 28 years old. They also have and old German shepherd called Coco, who always barks loudly when anyone comes in or leaves through the front door. They have been great so far and really helpful with everything. Okaasan cooks great food every day for dinner, such as Katsudon, Miso soup, Karaage, Curry, and other delicious meals. She also does the laundry every day(!) for the whole family, myself included. On Saturday, Okaasan and Otousan gave me Okaasan's old cell phone and helped me get a plan. Even though the phone is "old", it is still much better than any phone I have ever owned in my life, and it’s free. In fact, there are no shitty phones sold in Japan; I guess it's just culturally unacceptable.

When I said we live in a house, I sort of understated things. The Iwai have two houses. One house which they live in, and one in which I live. Yes, I do have a whole house for myself, and yes, it is great. The only slight problem is that my house does not have a bathroom, and so I have to go to the big house. We live in a town called Seika, located about 30km south of Kyoto city, or about an hour train ride. Therefore every day I spend two hours in transit, which is sort of a pain. On the bright side, it means that I have two hours a day to actually do the readings for my classes. Also, my house is situated about three meters away from the train tracks of two different companies (three tracks in total), so approximately every five minutes my whole house starts shaking as if there were an earthquake. Finally, I bike every day to the train station (about five minutes away), and park my bike in a parking lot not different from the ones in Helsinki.

At school I am taking a Japanese class, an anthropology class about modernity in Japan, and a class about religion in Japan. The latter involves a weekly field trip to a temple, which should be awesome. The latter two are of course conducted in English. These two classes meet on Mondays and Wednesdays, which gives me some time off on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I only have Japanese. Finally, I have already made quite a lot of Japanese friends, which is great, because having them is helpful. Also, they are quite different people from for example Americans, of whom I have been seeing one too many in the past two years (no offense to any of you who are reading this!). My point is that Japanese people are quiet, polite, and respectful. That's it for the boring stuff, and now let's go ahead with the bullet points that you've all been so impatiently waiting for (if you haven't started with them)!

PS: Sorry for the length of this entry, I know long entries are boring. I'll make it shorter next time, I promise!

  1. There are vending machines EVERYWHERE in Japan, even in the middle of a bamboo forest.
  2. People wait in lines to get into the metro (this goes for both Kyoto and Sapporo).
  3. Bikes are allowed on the sidewalks, which is a super scary experience for pedestrians.
  4. Commercial beer in Japan is better than commercial beer in America (though worse than in Czech).
  5. In case you didn't know, cars drive on the left,.
  6. You do not tip in restaurants.
  7. Humbleness is the way: even if you are really good at something, you must say that you are not.
  8. There are free public bathrooms everywhere (Actually, bathrooms deserve a separate entry).


    1. Martin it sounds like things are going very well for you and I am thrilled. Seems you have a wonderful host family...I am enjoying reading all about your time there!!