It’s taken me a few days, but I am finally sitting down to properly blog about the start of my life here in Japan. I actually wrote some of this while sitting in Mister Donut yesterday morning, but I wasn’t able to post anything until today. I’m planning on doing a video tour of my apartment soon, but that will get its own post because I don’t want to do it until my fridge has been delivered (my kitchen looks really sad without one) and apparently the lady at KS thought I wanted an afternoon delivery, even though I said morning. So I’m still waiting. After freaking out a little that maybe they came and I missed it.
Anyway, I’m not going to say much about Tokyo Orientation because, while it was crazy busy, there really isn’t much to say. We stayed at the Keio Plaza in Shinjuku, I had cool roommates, I went to a bar in Shibuya and a bar in Roppongi with one of them on Tuesday night, and I got enough paper that I look like the sole culprit of deforestation in some tiny country. It was fun, but we were in such a gaijin bubble it didn’t really feel like being in Japan.
But, I got to Matsuyama with the other five Group A JETs on Wednesday morning and it’s been a total whirlwind of moving and buying stuff and doing things – totally mad. My apartment is pretty fab, though: I have a kitchen/dining area, a living room, and a bedroom with tatami mats, in addition to the shower and toilet, and it’s just been remodeled, so everything is new. Unfortunately, I had to spend a ton of money the first day getting appliances and a futon set and a fan and whatnot, then more on Thursday getting a phone. I went ahead and upgraded my plan to include unlimited web and mail, so I’m not restricted to just other Softbank users who don’t have iPhones. The phone is pink and was the most affordable model they had.
My apartment is in a part of town that’s a 5-10 minute bus ride from the centre of downtown (depending on traffic). It’s a pretty straight shot, so I could walk it in about a half-hour. In the picture I took from the landing, you can see the ferris wheel on top of Takashimaya department store (it’s attached to the train station – the transportation company here is Iyotetsu), as well as some of Matsuyama Castle. So it’s pretty convenient. And it’s not like there’s nothing where I am – it’s quieter than downtown, but not a suburb or strictly residential. Matsuyama is a really nice city and I think I’m going to love living here. It’s just as ugly as any other Japanese city (a lot of exposed wires, concrete buildings, uneven streets), but it’s surrounded by mountains and Shikoku is gorgeous. There’s also this massive hill with a castle on top of it right in the middle of town. And Dogo Onsen (the oldest onsen in Japan) is a short bus ride away. Pretty awesome.
Yesterday I got my transit pass (good on everything Iyotetsu – so not the JR trains that go to other cities, but everything within Matsuyama, including the street cars) and we visited the international centre and ate [Indian] curry, which was all good. I also got coffee spilled on me and a little in my bag, so my bag smells slightly of coffee and my alien registration paperwork is kind of ruined. It’s not a big deal, because I get the real card soon and the paperwork is just what stays in my passport until them, but it was kind of sad. I also had a conversation with a tiny old lady on the street car and have done a lot of talking for other people because I’m the only new JET in my group who speaks Japanese. There might be a couple of others in Group B, but I don’t know.
Speaking of which, apparently the reason I’ve been given only elementary schools is my Japanese. They said that I don’t need a Jr high base school as much as the others, because I can get by without an English speaker, so they didn’t assign me to one. Which is not the only advantage of being even a mediocre Japanese speaker, let me tell you. The gas man couldn’t come turn mine on until yesterday evening, so I was here alone, and he didn’t speak any English. I was also able to get through alien registration faster because I can follow basic directions without having to wait for English clarification. The others made me go last for jikko shokai (self-introduction), though, because everyone had to try some Japanese regardless of skill level and I have a standard intro I always use that’s more advanced than just “Alexis です.” It’s sort of simultaneously gratifying and annoying that I’m automatically set apart by my experience. I’m not trying to show off, but I’m living in Japan and I want to improve my Japanese, so I try to talk to people when I have the opportunity.
And for now, that’s it for me. Even though I can’t go anywhere until after the delivery, it’s kind of nice to just be able to do nothing after a week of insanity. I got a C.C. Lemon at Family Mart, so I think I’m going to sit here next to the fan and watch a movie and just relax.