Friday, September 3, 2010

The First Week (Updated)

Updates: Pictures and conversions added
Now that I have finally acquisitioned some internet at a nearby café, I am geared up and ready to go with my updates. I promise this will be the longest of my posts.

New Beginnings

It has only been five days since my arrival in Japan, but already I have formulated many topic ideas for future blog posts. For now, I’ll simply cover the basic events up to the present.

From Japan

I departed from O’Hare Int’l Airport in Chicago bright and early Monday morning, Sept. 1st. The cheapest airfare I could find, negotiations compliments of Priceline, involved two legs, Chicago to Toronto and Toronto to Narita. In total, I was airborne for 14 hours, slept a grand total of one hour, and watched a whopping four movies.

From Japan

Airport Security

Obviously, American airport security is notorious for being a pain to get through, but I wasn’t so surprised in the difference in strictness between O’Hare and Toronto as much as I was by discrepancy between their scanners.

As it would turn out, I had to get patted down at O’Hare because I kept setting off the alarm. After a thorough frisking and much, “Are you sure you have nothing in your pockets?” the magic wand revealed that the rivets on my Levi’s pockets were the culprit. I’m particularly fond of my Levi’s, so I’m not at all discouraged to continue wearing them with the possibility of the same happening again.

Additionally, I was forced to throw my travel sized contact solution out because it contains hydrogen peroxide. I guess that would make sense because that stuff burns like hell if you get any in your eye without having let it neutralize for six hours.

I also set off the scanner at Toronto. The first time I had forgotten to remove my studded belt, and the second time the officer didn’t even bother scanning my body, he just asked for my passport and scanned that. Turns out Canadian detectors don’t like American passports or my passport cover, because both set off the alarm.


Japan basically runs on trains. You can get practically anywhere with them. From Narita Airport I boarded the Narita Express to Tokyo Station. From there I transferred to the Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train) which delivered me to Nagoya Station (375 km./230 mi.) in under two hours.

Trains vary between reserved and unreserved seats, with reserved only being slightly more expensive. Both of my trains were of the reserved variety, and they were impressively clean. Every so often a young lady would walk by pushing a cart with drinks and snacks for sale, but I didn’t take the chance to buy anything.

My Family

I have spent a lot of time with my host parents. Both are extremely nice, a little eccentric, but overall hilarious. I’m also pretty excited that they own a cute dog named Tarou.

At 63 years old, my host mother does volunteer work at a local middle school, and once a month she goes and plays “dodge-bee,” a spinoff of dodge ball involving foam Frisbees. I can’t wait till next month when I can see this in action. Aside from that, she spends her time going to the market, running various errands and cooking delicious food at home. I accompanied her on one of her excursions to the Toyota dealership/repair shop, where the salesmen are just as slimy as they are in the U.S. She went in knowing exactly what she wanted, and her solution for escaping was to pretend she needed to go home and consult her husband about the purchase. Of course, he was still at work and she just called the dealer on her own when she got home. As we were leaving the dealership I was thoroughly amused by the slang she was using to complain about the salesman.

My host father, 64, works from about 8:00 a.m. till 6:00 p.m. at a carpenter’s shop. He comes home, showers, changes into lounge clothes, and sprawls out on the hardwood floor. He’s pretty un-cordial in many ways. He does a bit of farming in the countryside on some weekends, so they said I am welcome to accompany them at my leisure, but usually they’ll just leave the house to me for the weekend. They expect me to go out on most weekends and have fun. I’m their 11th host student, so they are well experienced with

The House

My host family’s house is in a hillside in what I suppose one could consider being the “suburbs” of Nagoya. The terrain is very hilly and densely forested. To get to the house you have to go on a one-lane gravel road up the hillside. The house is two stories with the front wall consisting of huge single pane glass windows and sliding screen doors. From the driveway, the first floor is actually up three flights of stairs. The interior is entirely hardwood, and rooms are divided by sliding doors. There are no locks at all. The house doesn’t have any air conditioning, so the screen doors are left open to catch any breeze.

The shower room has a wooden crate bathtub and slatted wooden floor. The shower faucet is at floor level, and the hose only reaches to sitting height. Japanese people shower before entering the bathtub for a soak.

My room is on the second floor. I sleep on a real futon, basically long floor cushion. It’s a pretty large room, and I have a huge desk.

The Bugs

My one complaint: the bugs. Being that the house in is a forested area the number of creepy-crawlies is excessive. Every morning as the sun peeks over the horizon, the trees explode with the largest cacophony of some strange cricket-like bug. There must be one on like every branch of every tree, but I have yet to see one. This daily wake-up call lasts for thirty minutes solid, by which time I am wide awake and ready to go at a glorious 5:30 a.m. Who needs an alarm clock anyways?

My biggest complaint however is not the lovely morning symphony, but rather the bugs that exist in the “hundred-legged” variety. My very first morning, when I put on my shoes, sans socks, to help my host mother carry bags of scrap wood up the hill, something began writhing near my toes. Before I could get my Chucks off, a large centipede gifted me with two friendly chomps to the foot. My host mother quickly rubbed some medicine to the bites, but the bites still burned for hours (I am certain it wasn’t the medicine that burned). I’m going to be shaking my shoes from now on before donning them.

And as if to make matters a bit worse, as I was drying off from my quick shower yesterday, an even larger centipede decided to crawl up through the floor slats and mount my foot. I jumped and shook it off before it decided to make a meal out of me too and it scurried under the washing machine.

The Japanese Love Paperwork

Let me break down the red tape we foreigners have to go through to accomplish anything.
As a student, obtaining a Visa is pretty easy, but upon acceptance to a program we must receive a Certificate of Eligibility from our destined institution. Our Visa and passport grant us entrance to the country, but after we arrive we are required to register as aliens and receive documentation. As part of my program we need Japanese bank accounts and national health insurance, and in order to get health insurance we need a bank account. In order to get a cellphone we need a passport and our alien registration. As you can guess, I have run into several problems with not meeting all requirements at once for anything, but that should all be fixed by Wednesday when I will have acquired all necessities.

The Weather
Last, but certainly not least, Japan is HOT! We’re talking 36C (97F), with today forecasted for 38C with high humidity. I don’t think I’ve sweated this much at any one time ever.

That’s about it for today, but you can anticipate frequent updates from here on out. Thanks for suffering my onslaught following a period of internet deprivation.


  1. Wait a second there bucko... How are you getting your ARC (Alien Registration Card) so quickly? There's usually like a 3-4 week wait... I'm itching to get my keitai as I do NOT want the pre-paid one that everyone has, but as things are right now, I can't go get it till the 22nd when I can pick up my ARC.

  2. The house you described with all the stairs sounds just like some in "Whisper of the Heart"! :D

    The bugs are going to be a trial, aren't they? I've never know you to care for them!

    Sound like fun going. Good luck with all the paperwork (ick) and keep in touch!

  3. Woot to the temperature section. I haven't stopped sweating since we parted ways after Softbank and the 100 yen shop... (笑)

  4. Sounds like the beginning of a wonderful adventure!

  5. Heya Evan!

    Sorry I missed you on facebook last night. I'm glad to hear you're having a good time with your family so far. It sounds like you're a little farther out than the suburbs! I am excited for your future blog posts! :D

    (this is Allison, btw)

  6. Hi Evan,
    I've added your blog to my favorites.
    Very much enjoyed this post & look forward to future writings.
    "Squigglies" make my blood run cold. Once in a while I'll find one that my cat has tortured to death. I make my husband dispose of the nasty creature.

  7. God does have a sense a humor with that wake up call!
    - Your alarm clock shopping buddy, Dad

  8. OK, I'm new to this whole blogging thing. I'm trying this again. I had a message written but lost it in cyber space somewhere.

    I'm glad your travels went well. I still haven't attempted the Facebook thing but since Grandma hooked me up with this blog, I think it might cover it. I am really looking forward to hearing about your adventures.

    I'm not liking the whole idea of the bugs, YUCK, CREEPS ME OUT!!!

    I'm glad you are settling in well with your host family and that is awesome that they have a dog.

    Enjoy this adventure but remember to make smart choices.

    Love you!

  9. It sounds like you're having a similar experience that I had, and I mean that in a good way. My host family was also in their early sixties, had many students before me, and were very lenient. I also ran into the same problems with being unable to get a bank account or cell phone without all the required alien cards and registrations. It was frustrating, but I had everything fixed within a week.

    Excited for your next blog!

  10. Thanks for the comments everybody! Can't wait to get this thing really rolling.

    The bugs just keep getting better. There was a spider the size of my palm in the shower the other day, and there was one the size of my fist dangling in the stairwell at school.


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