Little Differences

Date: Wed, 3 Oct 2001

Subject: Re: Kanert


I usually try to get what I can out of whatever situation I'm in. Although I spent the last few years hating what I was doing, I also realized that life is too fleeting to keep yearning for a future that is in no way certain, particularly since so many of the variables can't be controlled. I decided that there must be something fundamentally wrong with anything that made me want time to run faster.


The people I'm teaching are pretty decent in general. Most of them have paid to come, so they're generally willing to work with me. Some of them are quite interesting, and I'm looking forward to getting to know them better. I'm teaching anyone from high school to about age 65. Some of them don't like to talk, though, so I have trouble filling the time when they refuse to respond with anything longer than a single sentence.


I'm not really living Japanese life, so I can't say too much about it. People tend to have a lot of patience with me, which is nice, and, oddly, they tend to assume that I speak Japanese well enough to understand them until I give them a blank look. I always have to pluck up a little courage whenever I walk into an unfamiliar store—especially the small ones where they instantly start asking you questions. Ordering food is an adventure in and of itself.


Interesting features: there are vending machines every 150 ft on any major street, there are almost no garbage cans anywhere, there are very few stop signs on small streets and people just tend to stop anyway, bikes aren't allowed on major roads so the sidewalks are kinda dangerous, and just about everybody rides a bike or drives a scooter, including old people and businessmen in suits. There are, of course, a million cars, too, but all the small trucks and vans look like Lego vehicles –they seat two side by side, but they're about two-thirds as wide as a normal car.

Castles May Be More Complex Than They Appear

Walls of Shizuoka Castle
Walls of Shizuoka Castle

Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001

Subject: Hello!


I hope you managed to get access to free e-mail... I've been making good use of the facilities here, although I tend to get lost on the way. There's a castle in the middle of Shizuoka, and it's at a 45 degree angle to everything else, so it totally messes up my sense of direction. On top of that, nothing is arranged straight east-west, so it’s kinda hard to use the sun to get my bearings. Today I discovered that said castle has two rows of walls; I thought it only had one. The place I use for e-mail is attached to the outer wall, which I didn't know when I started circling what turned out to be the inner wall half an hour ago... the inner wall is really neat, though: it has a 30-foot wide moat full of giant carp with 20-foot walls on either side. The outer wall has another, slightly smaller moat. It's very cool, although there's not much left of the castle beyond the walls. Most of the interior is now a park. I should check it out sometime...

Random Gaijinning

Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001

Subject: Re: Country Roads, Take me Home


I get my gaijin touroku card on Friday... which means I'll be able to pick it up on Monday since I work all day Friday... which means I'll be able to get myself a phone when I have a day off on Wednesday... which means maybe I'll give you a call next weekend?


Man, why didn't I just get myself a credit card before I left? Oh yeah... cause I didn't have an address and I didn't want to pay premiums for something I wouldn't use... oh well...


I got randomly gaijinned for the first time the other day! Some guy in the grocery line came up to me and asked in English, "May I speak to you?" I wonder if I'll ever get so jaded that I won't want to talk to random people about where I'm from...


I also got some old guys a little excited when I did sword fighting on this 100 ft "yama" near my house. I'd been worried that I wasn't supposed to do that sort of thing in public places, but they were mostly interested in which budo I was doing and where I studied. Pretty cool. On a clear day - okay, on a REALLY clear day, which it happened to be the first time I went up there - you can see Mt. Fuji from the top of this hill.


I also discovered from one of my students that there's an art museum around here somewhere full of Rodin sculptures, including the Thinker and the Gates of Hell. Now I just have to find it...


It's stupid: I'm in Japan and I can't find a teriyaki restaurant because I can't read the signs... whereas in Canada, all you have to do is look for something that looks Japanese...


Oh, and hey, do you find it impossible to find street signs here? There just aren't any... and when I find one, I can't read it anyway. Cruel irony. At least I've learned the Kanji for my city name.


It's so weird... when I get days off, I get tense because I have nothing to do. I need a phone so I can meet people and get them to call me. Just another week...

Cash Flow

Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001

Subject: Re:


All of Japan except Hokkaido is covered with a giant cloud, and I have a dozen things to do today. And of course, your idiot son steps out of his apartment with his umbrella, completely forgetting that he has a lovely, brand new and untested MEC jacket on the rack in his room. I'm a little wet.


In other news, I'm going to get paid in 5 days and I've probably also received my cash advance, and I've still got about ¥50,000 ($500) in cash and all of my traveller's cheques. I'm considering sending the traveller's cheques back to you guys so you can top my account up above $1000 and keep the rest to help with Sis' expenses. There should be about $500 left over for you.


I'm living comfortably on 10,000 a week (that's about $100). I've also still got Opa's $US and about $25 Canadian. I'm going to confirm the state of my bank account after I've finished doing e-mail.


Hmm... who deposited $228.61 into my account, and why? No worries.

The Job

Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001

Subject: Yo yo


I'm running out of time on this computer, so I'll just check some things with you and give you details later...


Teaching here is pretty cool. The administration’s uninspiring (I've got the classic boss who exudes no authority but thinks he's the man), but the students really make it fun sometimes. Of course, other times they make it suck (like when they refuse to talk), but they're usually pretty cool. I had some guy tell me about his grandkids the other week, and another guy explained to me the procedure by which they're replacing all the oil-based heating gas lines with natural gas, and how they have polyurethane pipes since they're more resistant to snapping during earthquakes (which, apparently, they have monthly here - yet to have one).

Japanese Haircut

Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001

Subject: Man in Vancouver


I just had a Japanese-style haircut... which you wouldn't think is much of a big deal, but it included total pre-wash and post-wash of my hair by one of the girls at the place, and a pre-cut shoulder & neck massage! All that for ¥1000 (about $12 Canadian) and no tip expected!


[Editor’s Note: It normally costs ¥2000-3000 for a haircut in Japan. The place I visited also ran an English school, and they offered low rates to foreigners in order to keep tabs on potential teachers.]

Man With A Dial Tone

Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2001

Subject: I have a phone!


Well, it only took three weeks, but I now have a phone.


I'll try to call those of you whose numbers I know on this side of the Pacific soon. Anyone on the other side who feels like calling... remember, we're 13 hours ahead of you here, so 2:00 pm for you is 3:00 am for me. Otherwise, feel free =)

Untimely Calls

Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001

Subject: Re: phone number


I got your messages on the phone - one time I was in the shower, the other you called at 4:30 pm your time, and I had thankfully left my phone on "vibrate" mode... because that's 5:30 am out here.


As for the laptop, Dad's probably right... and I found that there are indeed cheaper models out here than I'd initially suspected, although the processor speeds are rather pathetic compared to what you can get in the US (about 6 mos behind). I might look into that... I'm told you can get an English OS in Tokyo.


As for bills and things... are you sure you don't want a hand with them? You had enough trouble with just me in university, and I had a big chunk of cash coming from Queen's most years. At least let me cover a chunk of the Visa bill. I'm responsible for about $500 of it anyway (pants, jackets...) I'll work on getting a money order to you soon anyway... I need to top off my account.


I've realized, though, that I have a rather large advantage over most of the other people here: I don't have to send money back to pay off my own debts.


I'm trying to see how long I can go without touching my bank account... we'll see how it goes.

Assorted Nuts

Date: Tue, 16 Oct 2001

Subject: Re: sushi bang!


Shizuoka's not doing much except raining... all of Japan, I think, is like Vancouver - it catches all the weather off of mainland Asia and just holds it in the mountains. When it rains in one area, it rains in the entire country. The weather maps are great on TV: "Look, it's a giant cloud over the entire country YET AGAIN." Only Hokkaido seems to be immune.


I'm eating a fair bit of sushi or sushi-like things. You can buy sushi within 2 minutes of anywhere and if you buy it in little plastic take-out boxes, they actually charge proportionally to the value of the contents. I can get a dozen cucumber rolls for ¥240 or one shrimp sushi for ¥100.


I'm not making a ton of cash, but I haven't been paid yet...


I had some random Philipino guy come up to me in the street with the words, "Hello, my friend." Then he talked to me in English and I went into a store. I've been asked by random people if they can speak to me in English, but that one was a little weirder than most...


Your students sound like some of mine:


"Say this"








"Yes! Again!"


"Good work! Next!"


Although your students also remind me of me in Physics, so don't go too hard on them...

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