This was not actually my first thought upon entering the country, but of all my initial impressions it’s the one I like best: wherever I go, I find nuns. I thought my weirdest case of Random Stumblings Across Clergy would always be when I saw a couple of nuns on a moped in Sicily, heading for the beach – but no. Not Japanese nuns, I’m afraid, but nevertheless, um, unexpected nuns.
Yeah. That was pretty bizarre. I mean, I don’t have anything against nuns, but they were the last thing was expecting to see coming out of the convenience store by Yutenji station. Is there a world nun organisation keeping tabs on me, do you think?
Other first impressions? I’m just back from Shibuya; I stopped for lunch in a greasy chopsticks place near Yutenji, and that’s the third time since my arrival that I’ve sat down and happily put away a meal, all the while absently wondering exactly what it was that I was eating. My read Japanese is not fantastic, and needs improving upon; I suspect (shock horror!) that reading manga might be a good way to do this. I flipped through a volume of Death Note in the bookstore this morning and all the kanji had furigana; that’d be a good start. Not, you know, that I’m suggesting manga would be helpful for my education or anything. Just, um, something to think about.
Anyway, as I was saying, my read Japanese is not fantastic. In addition to this, the fast food (ish) Japanese joints tend to work something like this: there’s a vending machine-type thing, and you pick your meal from it, pay, and are issued with a ticket to give to the waitress. Pros: quick, convenient, saves me trying to figure out exactly which verb forms I should be using to order (my spoken Japanese is also pretty shameful so far). Cons: the writing is all squished together and you can’t ponder your choice too long if there is a queue forming behind you. Results, therefore, in a lot of split second “um…that one!”-type ordering. I tend to end up picking the cheapest option. I had some kind of don for lunch today; it wasn’t bad, although I also seem to have a talent for unwittingly picking spicy meals. I may never know what kind of meat that was, though. If it was meat. Anyway, it only cost 430 yen, and that is about £3.50, which is good news for my wallet and also my sanity. So this luncheon tale has, on the whole, a happy ending.
In less happy news – why did nobody tell me before I left that my age was going to be a problem over here? I knew that the drinking age was higher than that in the UK, but Akemi told me that as long as I didn’t get drunk and start trashing things I’d probably be okay, and anyway it’s not as if I have anybody over here I’m particularly interested in drinking with. I was not expecting to have to adjust to being a minor all over again. I can’t open a bank account (endless grief there. Even Japanese branches of English or American banks won’t let me open an account with them); I’ve managed to book a trip to Hokkaido in February, but that was only by luck. If the travel agent hadn’t been the sort of travel agent that thinks that if somebody is an adult in their own country they should be able to take responsibility for themselves, I wouldn’t have been able to do that either. Similarly Softbank mobile, who were kind enough to let my host mother vouch for my reliability in being able to pay for my phone contract – not the norm. So that’s a bit of a downer. Still, at least there are those people, or I wouldn’t even have what I do.
Speaking of Softbank, actually – we went there yesterday to sort out my phone contract (phones in Japan – I had to interrupt this blog entry to reply to an MMS, which was an experience in itself and means my computer has had the chance to run down to half battery in the time I spent experiencing it) and the employee we spoke to realised only later that she needed my host mother’s countersign. The result? She came to the family home, with the forms, to fix it. Apparently if it had been a mistake on my part I would have had to go back, but as it wasn’t, she came to us. I thought that was pretty incredible. Also incredible is how cheap my phone contract is – I’m paying 1000yen a month (not even ten pounds) for a credit limit of about 150 MMS messages to foreign mobiles – calls and texts to other Softbank users are free. Misa-san and Hikaru-san are both with Softbank, and they’re the people I’ll most need to contact; luckily Julie-senpai is with Softbank as well, so I have someone vaguely my age to communicate with in this country. That’s good to know.
A photo-tour of the Nakasuji house will be forthcoming as soon as I have furnished myself with the necessaries of such a venture (i.e. a camera). My host family are wonderful people – they welcomed me with a sukiyaki party on Saturday night, during which I was introduced to Misa-san’s sister, Mami-san, and her husband, Ace-san. Ace is his nickname. I am not qualified to laugh at this, as he is officially the first Japanese person I’ve met to use my nickname without prompting. Seriously; I am not happy that a whole new world in which everyone calls me Jyuria is opening up. I demand respect for people’s nicknames.
I’ll end this entry here; I have lots more to write about, but I think I hear the pattering of tiny feet on the stairs, and that gives me half an hour to prepare the afternoon’s English lesson. A quick note on the name of this blog before I go – I realise that “Memoirs of a Gaijin” isn’t particularly original, but my darling father was supposed to help me with the name and he, well, hasn’t yet. So for now, this is what you get.