English button, gooooo!
So it's taken me a fortnight to recognize 日本語 as Nihongo, Japanese. From there it was a short search up the dropdown menu until I found English, Tom'syeruncle, now I can read the Blogger controls and post again. Holla.
The only problem now is getting Internet (I mean the Internet, of course, but I'm trying to blend in with the culture over here, and they don't use articles, even when I ask them to). Right now I'm totally scoring on this signal at work, but I've no such luck in Shin Matsudo. That said, this'll be a short, but informative post.
Shin Matsudo, occasionally spelled Shim-Matsudo, or Shi Matsudo, depending on if you're at the train station, the police station, or the post office, is one of possibly ten thousand all-purpose suburbs in the Greater Tokyo area. These burbs are structured around the train station, beginning with a commercial district, and slowly and haphazardly blasting out into a residentals. Japanese city planning is very interesting, in that the only zoning law is that buildings must be at least two inches apart. No other laws: this means that apartment blocks, traditional/historic houses, and ye old typical suburban houses are all stuck against one another without rhyme or reason. This is cool on the one hand, because I imagine it allows people from lots of different backgrounds to be in close contact with one another, as opposed to the seclusionist homogeneity seen in many US suburbs. On the other hand, tragedies do happen. My apartment block is known as a gaijin block--gaijin being the Japanese word for foreigner--and our low-rent low-quality apartments are snug up against a very old, traditional house with a big family living inside. The family, I sometimes imagine, hasn't slept in years because a typical street around here is dead silent during all hours of the day, while the gaijin block is quite the opposite during all hours of the night. They hate us around here. I feel bad. Honestly. I'd like to make some Japanese friends, but I need to travel outside the neighborhood to do it.
On the other hand (which makes 3, I think), my fellow gaijin are like family already. We have gaijin night drinking every Tuesday and we take turns making communal meals every Thursday. Every Sat/Sun/whatevurday night we (and by we I primarily mean they) drink like fish. We look out for one another, like meercats. I'm really lucky to be where I am, on a social-comfort level.
On an artistic level, not so much. But I'm working on my clever muscle, so I'm going to make the most of it. There are no forests around here, as far as they eye can see. [bitter]Even though that's the one thing I requested and so many other folks are in the middle of bloody greeny Nagano Prefecture.[/bitter] So in lieu of my daily jaunt through the woods, I've taken to snapping pictures of the beauty of the suburban mundane. After I've gathered a small load of them, I'll start a GooglePage and post them up.
The food is delicious. Nori--seaweed--is where it's at. I'm as surprised as you. Sushi is wonderfully filling for its size, and you can grab it at 70% off retail if you stop by the grocery store 15 minutes before closing time. Korean barbecues (I can't remember the Japanese term) are great little places with an open hot-coal pit in the center of the table, above which you grill your own meal, delivered bloody raw.
Rawness is a theme over here. In fact, if I should die while over here, you can pretty much blame it on a slip of judgment on my part. Japan isn't ravaged by Sal Manela's angry slobber like THE WEST is, so undercooking food isn't just safe, it's sorta tasty. I cooked a plate of half-raw bacon this morning and it was delish. I imagine that'll be my last mistake when I return to the States.
I went to an onsen (hot naked public manbath) last Monday. It's about time I was allowed to be naked in public with no moral or emotional repercussions. I think I'll catch up on all the past missed opportunities while I'm here.
And the job: the job's okay so far. I'm getting quicker at planning lessons, which means more time to figure out the paperwork (of which there's a damn ton), and more time to figure out how to get kids to understand my ambiguous, flamboyant gestures during classtime. On the bright side, I work with awesome people who teach me Japanese and make me food and make me feel very welcome indeed. One of my students, a pharmaceutical chemist, gave me his cell number and e-mail today and told me to call anytime I wanted to hang out somewhere more interesting than Shin Matsudo. Another one, I think, hit on me, but I was drunk and jetlagged, so I don't remember.
Anyways. That's two weeks of story ejaculated with little precision. I'll be calmer after this, so my stories will be a little more coherent, tolerable, and, if I write them earlier in the day, less cynical-sounding. I'm having an awesome time, really, and I haven't even gone sightseeing yet, let alone learned any usable Japanese. That, I think, is when the experience will really deepify.