Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-11

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I have reposted them separately, as they were meant to be.

Small Victories

Originally posted on October 16, 2005.

I have successfully explained binary and how to count in binary on your fingers to a Japanese person who has no computer programming experience using the Japanese language. You have no idea how awesome that felt. I can feel the power of the Japanese language growing within me daily. Soon, I shall conquer the universe.

I mean, be fluent.

Anyway. The other day, Sato introduced me to a large group of her fellow Okinawans, and we went to a robata. A robata is a restaurant where the table is a grill with boards around it on which you can set your plate. You pick a table, then go up and pay for the food you want (Actually, you paid at the register for vouchers that you could then take to the food counters to exchange for the tasties arranged before you, but whatever), then take it back to your table and cook it. They have small portions of some things on sticks, some whole fish, some whole shellfish, a few things that come in a tin so you can cook them together for flavor, some plain ol’ vegetables, squid — all kinds of stuff. So.

Okinawans at the Robata

This was taken with my cell phone at the robata. (Photo added to this post on August 17, 2010.)

Taste-O-Meter!

Ika (Squid): 3
It tastes fine, but the texture is a bit rubbery, making chewing and swallowing take a bit more time.

Tama, Sanma, and Hokke (each a kind of fish): 3
I’m not so fond of fish.

Hokke bones: 4
Once a fish had been divested of flesh, the Okinawans placed it back on the grill. Later, I saw Sato chowing down on Sanma skeleton, and went o_O . Then, one of the guys (I never found out his name, though I talked to him a bit) offered me the opportunity to try some of his Hokke skeleton. It’s tastier than the fish, and since it was well cooked, the bones were brittle and not dangerous.

Kaki (a shellfish): 3
I prefer oyster, but this is pretty good, too. Bigger than oysters are. The meat of the kaki is bigger than an oyster in its shell.

Aspara-Bacon (Pieces of asparagus wrapped in bacon): 5
Hot diggety-damn. I don’t know who came up with this idea, but it was a good one. This is some tasty, tasty stuff. (August 17, 2010 Edit: Since returning to the States, this has been a major hit every time I’ve shared it. You should try it — it’s easy and delicious!)

Hitsuji (Lamb) and Sprouts: 4
This actually came in a pan. When we told the person behind the counter that we’d have that, she added some sort of oriental-flavored sauce to it. It was good, but I still prefer my baby sheep meat on pita bread.

Toriniku (Chicken): 5
Chicken on a stick. Speaks for itself, I think.

Butaniku (Pork): 4
Three pieces of pork on a stick, with some kind of vegetable (from the onion family, maybe) in between the pieces. The vegetable is an excellent choice to go with the pork.

I didn’t try the chicken skins on a stick (though I will next time, I think). Between what I paid for and the massive amounts of food that got shared later I ended up trying almost everything the store had. At the end, everyone was full, so I ended up with the leftover vouchers. They had to be used by Saturday if they were gonna get used, but I forgot until it was raining pretty hard Saturday evening. The robata is in a nice spot on the riverfront, but it’s a 15-20 minute walk, and I didn’t want to go there in the rain with no umbrella.

I’ve never been much of an umbrella-user, but now that I’m walking everywhere I’m starting to see the appeal. It’s sunny today, so I’ll probably see if the nearby 100 yen store has any. I know that the first 100 yen store I went to had a bunch. If nothing else, I know they sell them at the Co-op, though it’s a bit more expensive there.

Old-Fashioned Kettle

Traditionally, the kettles are heated over coals in a pit set into the floor (with a trap tatami mat to cover it when not in use). The school washitsu had such a pit, but fire is dangerous and so we were required to use electric heating devices. (Photo added to this post on August 17, 2010.)

Friday, I got my own supplies for sadou club. ^^ It was a lot of fun; I got to run through the whole tea ceremony three times. There are multiple tea ceremony set-ups. I got to do the one with a good old-fashioned tea kettle twice, and the one with a kama (the kind you usually see in pictures; it’s an iron kettle with a small lid that you have to dip water out of with a scoop called hishaku) that is set into a table.

Taste-O-Meter!

Kusadango (a candy eaten with green tea): 5
They tasted a little weird at first, but I quickly fell in love with them.

After that, I headed home. Two of the other girls in sadoubu live in my apartment building, and one other lives up towards the buddhist tower just up the hill from me. Ryoko is one of the girls who lives in this building, and she invited the other three of us to her house for dinner. When we got into her apartment, I discovered that I really don’t have a lot of stuff. I’m pretty sure that if I were in America with all my stuff in an apartment this size, it’d look pretty similar to hers, but at the moment, I have like nothing. (On the plus side, when Conrad, Jordan, and their friends come to Japan, there’ll be room for them to sleep at my place when they come to Kushiro. [August 17, 2010 Edit: The bastards never came!])

Ryoko has a Gamecube. :D The first person I’ve socialized with in Japan to play video games is a girl with the exact same color Gamecube I’ve got back home. That was pretty awesome. It may not sound like much, but there are more Gamecube colors available in Japan, reducing the chances of the same color. While cooking was getting started, we talked about games in America and Japan. I ended up listing some game franchises in America; the only ones that got really spiffy reactions out of the other girls (all three of these knew something about games) were Mario (eternal), Suikoden, and Katamari Damacy. I also found out that Jak & Daxter have made it over here, but aren’t very popular. Didn’t surprise me at all.

Conversation moved on to other things, too, as conversations, do. The other long-standing conversations was how much pizza and beer North Americans down. One of the girls went to Canada on exchange, and her host mother wasn’t much of a cooker, so they had lots of ravioli and pizza. Then the food was done and ready to eat. There was kabocha (pumpkin), which was dished out in equal portions on small plates. In the center of everyone was a plate that had somen (a kind of noodle) and tuna.

Taste-O-Meter!

Somen with tuna: 4
Somen is a pretty tasty noodle. It’s got a milder flavor than ramen or pasta, but it went really well with the tuna. Originally, Ryoko was going to use pasta with the tuna, but she didn’t have any sauce. She had a zillion packages of udon, though, it turns out, but I guess udon doesn’t go well with tuna, ’cause as soon as she found the somen, everyone but me was like, “Aha!” (August 17, 2010 Edit: After this, somen with tuna became a common meal for me.)

I didn’t catch the other girls’ names, but next Friday we’re to have dinner together at the apartment of the other girl in my building, then mine. I’m planning to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Yum.

Realizations of the Period

1) Joining a club has proven the best way for me to immerse my ears in Japanese so that I can get my brain more used to processing it. There’s a lot of friendly conversation going on during and after sadoubu.
2) Sato and the other Okinawans all transferred here for this semester, so they know just as little of Kushiro as I do, though they’re obviously far better versed in the Japanese language and customs.
3) This stupid blog post is done. DONE! AHAHAHAHAHA!

August 17, 2010 Edit: Done, indeed. The next BGGP blog entry will be Post 4.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-10

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.

More News

Originally posted on October 16, 2005.

It’s been a week since I updated this… o.O Holy Hand Grenade, it HAS been a week. Well. Let’s start with…

Taste-O-Meter!

Natto

Natto up close. Fermented soy beans. Definitely an acquired taste. (Photo by Jasja Dekker.)

Natto: 3
Ever since I got to UAF, I’ve heard about natto. It’s slightly fermented soy beans. Generally, foreigners come to Japan can’t stand the stuff. I’ve heard horror stories about how the first thing people wanted to do after putting it in their mouths is to spit it out. I did not have that problem. Maybe it’s my faulty nose making my taste buds think the wrong thing, but I just found the taste to be… interesting. I don’t really want to eat more natto, but I’m sure that if I had to eat it every day it would quickly become palatable, then tasty. Foreigners who’ll eat natto are rare, so Sayaka wanted a picture.

Korokke: 4
I’m not sure what, exactly, korokke is, but I like it. I grabbed it ’cause I wasn’t paying attention and thought it was tonkatsu. (August 10, 2010 edit: It’s like a breaded potato fritter. Carbs, carbs, carbs. Delicious carbs, but carbs.)

Aka Ringo, Ao Ringo Apple Juice: 5
The Sunkist apple juice pales in comparison. This is more like the apple juice you get in America yet still more apple-y, in the Japanese Sunkist apple juice style. Aka means red, Ao means blue. Blue here means green; the Japanese word for green is a pretty new thing in their language, so they still use blue to mean green as often as not.

Other Apple Juice: 4
I forget the name of this one, but it comes in a black box. Better than Sunkist, not as good as Aka/Ao.

Bacon Mayo Roll: 5
I don’t really like mayonnaise, though I do like it cooked into things at times. Deviled eggs, potato salad, and the like are actually some of my favorite foods. The bacon mayo roll (which I have so far only found at 7-11 stores [which are kind of cool to see again after so many years, coincidentally]) has enough of a mayo taste to be noticeable, but the main flavor is still bread and bacon. I woke up this morning and wanted one, but I went to Sunkus (another convenience store) and discovered they don’t have it.

Pork Winter Roll: 5
This is a lot like the bacon mayo roll. It was, in fact, my breakfast today, since I couldn’t find a bacon mayo roll at Sunkus. It’s got the same kind of bread as the bacon mayo roll, but instead of bacon and mayo, it has a hot dog and some kind of cheese sauce. Yum!

Mister Donuts Donuts

I couldn’t find a picture of a Mister Donut milkshake. Have some donuts instead. The third from the left is the brand’s iconic donut shape, which looks kind of like a teething ring. (Photo by Yumi Kimura.)

Mister Donuts Vanilla Shake: 5
It’s a good shake. But it’s tiny compared to the servings you get of milkshakes in America. This thing was only about 8 ounces. For 200 yen… kind of expensive. The donuts at the shop were good, too. (They don’t get their own Taste-O-Meter entry because, as usual, I got glazed. A glazed doughnut is a glazed doughnut.)

Anko-Filled Rolls: 3
Anko is a sweet bean paste. Not generally something I look for inside a bread, but it doesn’t taste bad.

Japanese Nabisco Saltines: 5
These get their own Taste-O-Meter entry for two reasons: first, they’re less salty than their American counterparts (which is actually pretty nice); second, when I opened the box expecting two packages of crackers, I actually found nine. There were like 6 crackers to a package. It was convenient, but made the crackers even more expensive than they already were.

Random Blue Cup Noodle: 3
It had some kind of fish in it for meat. Didn’t taste bad, but wasn’t really good either. Noodles.

Random Green Cup Noodle: 4
Pork. Mmm.

Pork Ramen: 5
Real ramen is better than instant ramen, and the portions are big, too. Hallelujah. There’s also large chunks of pork and some vegetables in it. Woot! (I still think Harlan should do a ramen cook-off as a dorm program, btw.)

So there’s the Taste-O-Meter for the past week. Eating isn’t all I’ve done… in fact, I’m skimping on food a bit to save money. Not going hungry, but making damned sure not to overeat and eating cheaply. My morning bacon roll or whatever and a box of apple juice is about 200 yen. For the evening, I have spaghetti. It’s like 125 yen for a kg of spaghetti, and I only need about an eighth of that to make a meal. :D

I am indebted to Nacilik; he gave me 200 dollars before I left Japan so I could buy him some manga. Without it, I would be in trouble. m(_ _)m I find myself having to borrow from his cash, since it turns out that my scholarship gets disbursed at month’s end. That’s good to know. I found out because I was like, hey… I need to pay my rent somehow. Fortunately for me, my landlord is willing to take my rent at the end of the month, along with next month’s rent. >.> I’ll be poor again for another month, but then it’ll be smooth sailing.

Japanese Crossword Puzzles

This is three puzzles with a mixed set of clues. Harder than the ones I tackled, but gives you a look at the magazine. (Photo taken by Nemo’s great uncle.)

I’ve bought myself a Japanese crossword magazine. I suck at Japanese crosswords. I need a kanji dictionary just to read the clues. Thankfully, all the answers are written in katakana. Not all of the puzzles in the book are traditional crosswords, though; some are the kind of puzzle where you have a word list and a blank grid and have to figure out how to place the words. Those I can do. I would like to get better at this for two reasons: one is mastery of the language. The only answer I’ve gotten so far (I haven’t bothered with the kanji dictionary ^^’) is Cairo, being the capital of Egypt. However, all throughout the magazine there is talk of “presents” which somehow relates to the completion of the puzzles. Among the presents are a DS and a PSP, as well as various spiffy-looking household goods, so… I need to get that translated as well.

I have done a lot more exploring. There are ramen shops all over the place. I’ve found or been shown a furniture store, two more karaoke places, two “recycle shops” (used stuff stores), a sushi bar, a big book store (which is likely where I’ll find the manga Nacilik wants, as well as the stuff I want), two kimono shops, a large clothing store, a couple of more places to buy food, several convenience stores (they’re more everywhere you want to be than Visa around here), and some other stuff I’ll probably remember next time I need to think about them. Woot! Good stuff.

茶道の道具 -- Japanese Tea Ceremony Tools

This picture was taken much later in my stay. This super-fancy equipment was used for more advanced tea ceremony forms. (Photo added to post on August 10, 2010.)

I’ve also joined the Sadou (Japanese tea ceremony) club. Sadou is awesome, on many levels. It’s very relaxing, for one. It’s all about hospitality and getting good at it. The constant presence of boiling water makes the place warm, too. It’s also interesting to watch (and perform — I’ve learned the basics) the exact movements required. It’s got an all-around meditative air to it. And I’ll tell you what: real, honest-to-goodness Japanese green tea is so much better than the kind of “green tea” that you can buy in American stores that I can’t believe I ever liked the latter. The foods that go with the tea ceremony are also traditional, and complement the taste of the tea so well I don’t think I can give it words. Glory! I wonder if I can get tea ceremony equipment in America. This is already something I’m interested in continuing after I go home.

Yeah. So.

Realizations of the Period

1) I don’t read kanji as well as I thought I did — though thankfully, part of that is rust.
2) Japanese sounds really cool with a heavy Russian accent, even if it is a bit more interesting to understand.
3) I can get to a lot of places when I walk for an hour. It’s an odd feeling.
4) I’ve been asked by multiple people what sort of sports I like. The only good answer I have for them? Curling. I really must take that up when I get back.
5) True green tea is the bomb-diggity.

August 10, 2010 Edit: I can get sadou equipment, even here in Alaska, thanks to web sites such as eBay. I still don’t read kanji as well as I’d like, though that’s improving as I read more Japanese so that they’re in context. I still haven’t taken up curling. :(

Getting to lots of places with an hour’s walk felt weird because everything’s so spread out in Alaska — right now I can walk for an hour and end up in a shopping district, but when I go back to Fairbanks, an hour’s walk from campus will get me a couple of restaurants and possibly some railroad tracks. In Kushiro, an hour’s walk was an adventure no matter which way I went.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-9

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.

Finishing Up the Official Stuff

Originally posted on October 16, 2005.

I met Sayaka-san the next day after her first class. We went to City Hall again (by foot this time since there was no rush) and got me a piece of paper that will serve me as a substitute alien registration card until I get the actual card later this month.

The Japanese post office is one of the largest banks in the world. o_Oa (Photo by sekihan.)

With that, I was able to get a post office account and a bank account. These are both savings accounts. This is probably one of the weirdest things I’ve seen here. I couldn’t get a cell phone without a savings account at the post office, but I can only pay my bills to the city government through the bank. What??? I like how the latter works, since it streamlines your bill paying to the one office. The former really boggled my mind until I looked at the ATM books I got and realized that the post office one looked a little more formal, considering the fact that the post office had officially sealed my hanko into the book.

So yeah, I got a cell phone. It’s green and shiny. My cell phone ringer is a J-pop song, because it’s the best thing that came on the phone. Cell phones in Japan also come out of the box with sub par ring tones. One thing that was interesting to me about it though is that two of the pre-loaded ring tones have a visual component. Not impressive visuals, but I’m sure impressive ones could be made.

The last thing we did was sign me up for a student card. I need to take that to the cell phone company so that they have something official to base my 50% off month fees on. Hooray for student discounts.

After that, I started exploring. I went for a while on a random road away from the school. I found a lot of houses and a second way to the food store Sayaka-san had showed me the day before. I then went toward downtown to actually look through all the stores there.

I found a lot of different things. I went into the game store, but didn’t see any actual game systems for sale, and didn’t want to ask ’cause I didn’t intend to buy just yet. I also didn’t see Minna Daisuki Katamari Damacy. :( Ah well. It can wait. I found a ramen shop, an art gallery, a sewing shop (that was lucky, ’cause I need a needle and thread to fix the clasp on my cloak; the old man who ran it was really nice, too), what appeared to be a used book store (it had Harry Potter OotP, but it was the British version), an arcade (Haha! Right within walking distance of my house!), a pachinko parlor, and a karaoke place.

I went inside the karaoke place to do some karaoke for an hour and get a feel for how it works and how much they have in terms of English music. I had always been told that there are English songs in the back of the karaoke books, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was surprised. The karaoke books were actual books, not binders like you find in America. These books were also the size of phone books. As for English songs, you can find almost anything in there. I even found a Blind Guardian song. The only things I looked for and didn’t see were System of a Down songs and the song “The Dolphins Cry” by Live. There were other songs by Live, though. I also tried a couple of songs I know in Japanese. Woot!

After that, I headed home. I’ve been battling a headache since I got to Japan, and sitting in a karaoke box… well, it didn’t help. I wasn’t doing too bad with the headache until I got halfway up the stairs to my apartment. Blarg.

I ate some different foods in this day that didn’t come up in the non-blow-by blow version.

Taste-O-Meter!

Melon Pan (Pan is Japanese for bread): 4
This is what Utsuki recommended to me. It doesn’t really taste like melon, which is good ’cause I don’t like melon. It’s got some kind of glaze on top that reminds me of sugar cookies.

Wantanmen (a random instant noodle from the loot pile earlier): 3
It was noodles with vegetables. It had cute little pig heads made out of what tasted like pork floating it, though.

Special Sweet Bread: 5
It looks kind of like cinnamon rolls, but I could tell before I bought it that it wasn’t. It is, as it claims, a sweet bread. I’m noticing that the Japanese are fond of sweet breads, which I am finding is really quite spiffy. While I ate it, I read the label, and realized at once that the label must be shared.

To this day, this is one of the most delightful bits of Engrish I've come across.

To this day, this is one of the most delightful bits of Engrish I’ve come across.

Aquarius, The Sports Drink: 3
I had to try it. The name intrigued me. This would rate a 4 if I liked grapefruit, but I don’t.

Sprite: 4
It’s different from its American counterpart, but still good. Reminds me of ramune — a Japanese drink that I have not had the opportunity to try yet in Japan.

Realizations of the Period

1) “Conrad” is very difficult to say in Japanese. I’m shortening his name to Con (pronounced more like “cone”) any time I mention him to Japanese people. Con-kun.
2) I have blisters on my left foot from walking around so much. :(
3) Since the one class is all about playing the koto, I have one guaranteed easy class. Yes!
4) I need to pull a Ted and set up an image gallery online. I’m taking way too many pictures for a blog.
5) I pasted this into Open Office to spellcheck it, and it’s 20 pages long.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-8

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.

City Hall

Originally posted on October 16, 2005.

Ishida-sensei gave Sayaka-san money for a cab, since there was only an hour until her second (and last) class of the day. We first hoofed it to a place to get some pictures of me taken (I’ve gotten my picture taken more times in the last three months than in the preceding year, by the way), then took a cab to the city hall.

Japanese cabs are funny-looking. Like American cabs, they have lit-up signs on top. However, they also have antennae (often v-shaped) symmetrically placed on top. The drivers all wear gloves, though there’s no standard glove type. One thing that’s really awesome about them is the fact that the driver can open the passenger door at the push of a button.

We got some alien registration stuff done, then went back to the school. Sayaka-san had her class, and I got to go to my first class. I had indicated an interest in music, and there was a traditional Japanese music class at the same time as Sayaka’s English class, so I went there. It sounded interesting; history, studying the forms, appreciation.

"Koto Strings". Photo by Adam Chamness, licensed under Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA).

This awesome koto photo was taken by Adam Chamness.

PSYCH!

How about, “Let’s play the koto?”

It was so awesome, especially since I didn’t see it coming. I got to the class, asked if I could join, and was heartily welcomed. I helped get some more equipment from storage rooms, and as we pulled things out of boxes I saw that it would be some kind of practical class, since these were obviously stands of some kind that we were putting together. When I saw the finger picks for the koto, I finally realized that this class was going to be WAY more awesome than I had thought. Score!

So after that, Sayaka-san and I went back into town on foot to get me a cell phone. The cell phone company had a brochure on rates in English, which helped quite a bit, as well as some phones for sale that were bilingual. Yay! But because I don’t have an account at the post office, I couldn’t get the phone yet. Alas. The next day, then, since the post office was closed.

But to get an account at the post office, I needed an inkan. The Japanese don’t actually use signatures, but stamps. The stamp itself is called a hanko, and the thing that does the stamping is the inkan. Up to this point, I had been using my fingerprint.

"Hanko this" by Neko1998, licensed under Creative  Commons (BY-NC-SA).

This is what shopping for an inkan looks like. I can read a lot of these now, but then? Totally dependent on Sayaka’s help. (Photo taken by Neko1998.)

We sought a store that Sayaka-san thought made inkans. Turns out that they had stopped offering that service, and that it’d take a week or so to get one personally made, anyway. We kinda needed it faster than that. So we went to the nearby 100 yen store, which had common-name inkans just inside the door. I obviously don’t have a common Japanese name, so Sayaka-san asked what kanji I like. I ended up with an inkan carrying the name Mizuki (水木). [2010 Edit: It turns out that my name is a common name in Japan if you go by pronunciation. They didn’t have any Rina (里奈) stamps in stock at the time, though, and it would have taken a week to get one custom-made at the professional inkan store down the street.]

After that, she showed me a decent-sized store near the college where I can get food and such, then we parted ways. I wasn’t tired necessarily, but I knew I would be soon, and my brain was starting to reject Japanese. I went home for the night.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-7

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.

Now What?

Originally posted on October 16, 2005.

This was the view out one of my apartment’s side windows. If my illiterate reading of the sign behind the fence at the end of the block was correct, this used to be a landfill. I wouldn’t trust that translation, though, if I were you. (Photo added to post on June 23, 2010.)

At this point, I was tired. But it was only like 15:00! So I decided to work on this blog post. I did that until I got to my recollection of waking up in the hotel room. Then I realized if I was to hand-wash my clothes with time for them to dry, I needed to do that. I’ll tell you what: hand-washing your clothes in a kitchen sink with no drain plug is interesting, especially if you’re using cold water ’cause you don’t want to use the gas to heat the water and are not wearing much ’cause you’re washing most of your clothes. Continue reading

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-6

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.

Yay, I Have Stuff Now!

Originally posted on October 16, 2005.

So after that, Nei-san drove us back to my apartment. We pulled up to unload my loot and discovered that a guy had shown up to turn on the gas. We took all but the futon upstairs and let the guy in to do that. There was a lot (and I mean a lot) of dust inside the heater until it was turned on. :P After the gas guy and the girls showed me how to work the stove, heater, and water heater (You have to open and close the valves to each before using it, and the water heater works so fast that you don’t have to turn the power on until you want to use it), the gas guy left and we brought the futon upstairs. At this point, Utsuki-san and Nei-san took their leave to allow me to rest/set up the place, with my thanks for their help. ^^

This is the first time since I got to Kushiro that I had taken any pictures. I could have gotten pictures of the stores, but didn’t really want to while I was doing heavy shopping. So here’s my apartment, empty.

This ended up being the corner where I did most of my living. That box in the middle of the picture was the only heating in the apartment.

This picture was taken from the same spot as the picture above. All I did was rotate myself.

I put the curtains up before taking the pictures. As you can see, I accidentally put the one set up backwards in my desperation to get the sun out of my house and away from my migraine. The heater in the corner is gas powered and came with a Doraemon sticker on it. Seen in the kitchen is the shlack, the water heater (which also heats the water to your exactly specified celsius temperature — boilers seem so stupid now), my little gas range (no oven, but a place to broil fish), cabinets, and a sink.

Bathroom-1

The Japanese have separate rooms for bathing and peeing in. This is the bathing room.

The bathroom has a shower and a bath, in good old-fashioned Japanese style. Well, not old-fashioned; the Japanese have really gotten to prefer the removable shower head over the bucket for rinsing off. I forgot to buy a stool to sit on when cleaning — traditional Japanese bathing involves washing your self meticulously, then rinsing off and soaking for a while in hot water. It feels quite nice, actually. But the bathroom door is very skinny, and interesting to get through.

The bathing room was in the middle of the apartment; the toilet was just inside the door to the apartment. The plumbing for both this room and the bathing room were on the shared wall.

Toilet gets its own room. You can’t see it in this picture, but it’s one of the toilets with a big and small flush.

The wall that the plumbing there is attached to is the same wall the bathing room and toilet room plumbing goes into.

A place to put a washing machine. Yay! I need one of those.

Around the right side is a shelf high on the wall, with a rack underneath it to hang stuf on. Like you’d see in a closet.

I’ll try putting my futon over here.

The box on the back of the door is a collector for mail from the mail slot. It was jam-packed with junk mail when I moved in.

And the entryway, concrete ending where the floor begins. No shoes inside the house! Hooray for living in a culture that echoes what you were raised doing.

I kept these turned off as much as possible at night during the summer. I liked my windows open, ’cause it was hot, but there were a lot of strange bugs attracted to light in Japan.

This looks like an ordinary light, but I assure you that it’s actually special. It has three “on” settings — both fluorescent bulbs on, one florescent bulb on, and one weak yellow light on. There are two of these in the apartment, one of which is also connected to a power switch near the laundry machine spot.

So there’s my apartment. Let’s evaluate the day’s loot, shall we?

Total cost: 22,150 yen. Right about $200 at the time. Most expensive single item was the futon.

Not bad for 22,150 yen. And zoom in a bit…

The saltines were mostly purchased out of sheer, “Tee-Hee! Same brand and everything!”

Featured here are a plate, a cup, a bowl, three random instant noodle packages, one random package of bread, a bread chosen after asking Utsuki-san what she likes, bananas, Nabisco saltine crackers (“America’s long seller cracker” according to the box), a random yet tasty-looking rice dish with shrimp and wasabi, some cucumber rolls (I’ve already eaten two; I was hungry), a bread knife, a straight-edged cooking knife, and a cutting board.

Taste-O-Meter!

Cucumber Rolls: 5
Just like American ones, if you buy them at a place that does decent sushi in America.

Most of the kitchen utensils were purchased at 100 yen store — the Japanese equivalent of the dollar store. Unlike Alaskan dollar stores, 99% of the stores goods were the price advertised in the store’s name. The other 1% were 300 yen. (All plus tax.)

Skillet with lid, sieve, tea kettle, saucepan, spatula, ladle, spoon with holes, whisk, 1-cup measuring cup (the only non-metric measure I found, and the only one I need).

I went with the Dove brand hair products and body wash simply because it was the only familiar brand I saw.

Towel, various cleaning sponges, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toilet paper, laundry detergent, lemon dish washing liquid.

I was rather distressed when I discovered my inability to plug my laptop into the wall, due to the absence of a hole for the grounding prong in any of the outlets. This power strip had a grounding wire sticking out of it next to the power cord

Futon set, covers for the futon pieces, an alarm clock almost identical to the one that won’t get here for two days because it’s with my baggage, and a power strip that will let me plug my laptop into the wall.

Ultimate riches, yes?

Time to put them away. Yarr!

The previous occupant left this rolling rack here. That and the fact that it was a corner apartment with extra windows are the two reasons I picked this over the empty apartment on the ground floor.

I should probably put some of these in the cupboards, especially since I am likely to be hanging clothes on the rack to dry from here on out, but for now, this will do. Time to put my futon together.

Japanese-style futons aren’t quite like American futons, and not just because American futons come with racks that make them function just fine as couches. The futon was originally designed to be modular — you pick it up when you get up in the morning and you can air it out or fold it up and put it away. So a futon has three parts plus covers for them (sheets, essentially, only they zip up around the whole thing). The shikibuton is the bottom part, on which you sleep. The kakebuton is the part that goes over you. It’s like a really thick comforter. Then there’s the makura, which is a pillow.

Let’s do this.

I was so glad this fit in there. I dunno how I’d have arranged the apartment if it hadn’t fit. I can only assume the place was designed with this use in mind.

Success! The shikibuton fits the alcove exactly. Time to put on its cover.

Since the futon mattress gets covered up, I didn’t need matching sheets, but I got matching ones anyway.

The futon has now been covered up. O Snap! The reason the cover seemed way too big is that it was actually for the kakebuton. Let’s try that again.

Looking back on this post as I transfer it, I’m not sure why I took so many pictures of the futon getting set up. I was jet lagged and high on travel, but that’s a poor excuse.

Much better. Now, the kakebuton…

I found out later that the Japanese generally also get foam padding (kinda like the ones they sell here for camping) to put under the futon. I would need that now, I think, but at the time this was perfect.

Almost there. Makura! I don’t know what they put inside this pillow, but it rattles on one side. Very interesting.

Japanese pillows take time to get used to, but they stay cooler than western pillows, for some reason. They’re also only as big as they need to be.

Victory is mine! … Wait… something is missing. Oh, I know what it is!

Yep… I had put my teddy bear in my carry-on, but not a spare change of clothes. I no longer make that mistake.

Ultimate victory!

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-5

avatarMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.

Operation: Lena Needs Stuff

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

So I met Nei-san. Nei-san is a fourth-year biology student, with a car. She took us to my apartment to drop my stuff off, then the three of us went shopping. We got a lot of things to get me started here, general necessities I was without either because I had no intention of bringing it or because my baggage didn’t make it. Stuff like a futon to sleep on, food, dishes, and soap.

We went to three stores; the first was a “home center”. It’s full of good fun stuff like mini-fridges, vacuums, towels, washing machines, alarm clocks — good, old-fashioned home necessities. I didn’t get a mini-fridge or a washing machine because with the futon there wasn’t going to be enough room in Nei-san’s car, but I did note that suitable but cheap ones would be about 28,000 yen in total. [2009 Edit: At the time that was about $260 US; now it’d be closer to $300.]

The next place we went was called “100 Yen Plaza”. It’s what a dollar store should be and isn’t, at least in Alaska. In Alaska, dollar stores rarely sell anything that’s actually for a dollar, and it’s all cheap, useless crap. This 100 yen store is chock-full of useful stuff, and (for those who understand this reference) about as big as the old Fred Meyer used to be in Fairbanks. It carried dishes, cooking utensils, measuring spoons and cups, dish soap, laundry detergent, notebooks, binders, small storage and organizational stuff, sushi mats, umbrellas, and a whole lot of other stuff I didn’t even look at. When I got to the register, the cashier started counting, then multiplied the number by 105 (100 yen plus tax). It was great!

The third place we went to had food. I didn’t get too much, ’cause I live near a convenience store and don’t yet have a fridge. This was a place to buy eating food, not gift food, so the fruit wasn’t of the ungodly expensive variety, but it was still more expensive than we’d expect to pay in Alaska. Four or five bananas each came in a bag at a flat cost of 198 yen. But I didn’t see a bad banana in any bunch. There was plenty of non-fruit, too. Whole fish, fish pieces, fish eggs, shrimp, other seafood, bread, more bread, crackers, snacks, cup ramen, cup other noodles, eggs, drinks, and a whole lot more.

This picture was taken later, after I’d settled in. I ended up getting a lot of my juice from convenience stores. This is a stack of apple and orange juice boxes waiting to be recycled. (Photo added to post on June 23, 2010.)

Now, the place that we got the food from was actually a store inside of what was a kind of mall. The Japanese don’t call it a mall; Nei-san told me it isn’t big enough. It’s called a Co-op. Like I said, it’s kind of like a one-floor mall as we think of it, but no mall I’ve ever seen seemed to have no truly secure way to close the shops off for the night. These stores also spilled out into the hall, sometimes almost halfway into the walkway. You could still tell where once place ended and the next began, but it was interesting. The only two stores that I saw which didn’t spill into the hall was another, smaller 100 Yen Plaza and the media store.

I wish I’d gotten to go into the media store. Over the low wall around it, I saw manga and anime and CD’s. The low wall itself advertised PlayStation 2 and Xbox and Gamecube, and the TV’s on either side of the entrance were all about the new Katamari game. But that wasn’t why I was at the co-op.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-4

avatarMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them seperately, as they were meant to be.

Haha! Finally in Kushiro!

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

This is the college I went to when I was in Japan. If I recall correctly, I took it while leaning out one of my apartment’s windows. Angle looks right for that. (Photo added to post on Jun 23, 2010.)

So anyway, when we landed I was sadly reminded of my lack of baggage. I went past the baggage claim and out to where you meet people and started looking for a piece of paper with my name on it. Before I saw it, I heard “Lena-san!” from my left. Lo! It was Utsuki-san! She lived in my dorm building at UAF last school year, though my shy-ness with the Japanese language meant that I didn’t talk to her nearly as much as I should have. Still, seeing a familiar face was so much more awesome than I could have imagined, even if I’d put two and two together and thought that maybe Utsuki might be there to meet me at the airport.

Utsuki-san wasn’t the only one, of course. There were Hiruta-sensei, a biology teacher, and Sayaka-san, a second year English major who is to be my tutor while I’m here. The fact that all three knew some English helped at first, ’cause my brain wasn’t exactly working very well. I have forgotten basic words and some grammatical structures (though I am picking them up again very quickly).

As Hiruta-sensei drove us from the airport to the college, we talked about the sort of things people chat about when going from airport to wherever. Where did I stay last night? What did I know about Kushiro? Hey, what bird is that? General stuff. I also found out that an apartment was not already found for me, and that that was the goal of the day. They found out that I hadn’t had breakfast.

So we got to the college. Hiruta-sensei went to his office while Sayaka-san and Utsuki-san took me to a room for students of English and foreign students — a place where I could drop off my stuff temporarily. We then crossed the street from the college to go to the convenience store right across the street (how convenient!) and I got breakfast. There were some things that looked like doughnut holes that I grabbed, along with some apple juice. 210 yen total, 105 yen each. We took it back to the room where we dropped my stuff off so I could eat.

Taste-O-Meter!

Japanese Sunkist Apple Juice: 4
It’s not like American apple juice, though. I don’t know if it’s a lack of preservatives or what, but the apple juice itself is not quite clear, and actually tastes more like apple flesh than its American counterpart.

Japanese Doughnut Holes: 4
They actually turned out to taste like cake doughnut holes, which rate a 4 at home, too.

Operation: Find Lena A Home, Yo

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

After that, we went to talk to Hiruta-sensei in his office. We went over the fact that I wasn’t too particular about where I live as long as I have room to sleep and the fact that I can cook. Turns out that Sayaka’s landlord owns multiple buildings, and had a couple of places open in a building about two blocks from the college. We hoofed it over to Parkside Q to check the places out. One room was on the second floor, the other on the third; generally I prefer to be lower to the ground because I’m a lazy bastard who doesn’t like steps, but the third floor room was nicer. It was almost identical, really, but it came with a shelf/rack thing on wheels (hereafter referred to as the shlack) and the second window faces out with a nice view instead of looking at the stairs on the building. The apartments are both the same size, and both bigger than I expected. A bit bigger than I need, perhaps, but not unwelcome. (Haha! A place for Conrad, Jordan, and their friends to sleep when they visit!)

My apartment was on the third floor, directly above the red sign advertising that they were looking for renters. Having the end apartment meant more windows for me. Woot! (Photo added to post on June 23, 2010.)

Once I’d decided on that, we headed back to the school, then past it, to the landlord’s office — which I think was actually in his home. I wouldn’t swear by that, though, as I didn’t try to poke my nose around and we were taken to an office right off the entryway. As a foreigner, I needed a guarantor. My sponsoring teacher is to be one Hideo Ishida-sensei, I have been told, but I was not to meet him until the next day. Hiruta sensei arranged to sign for him somehow (legal lingo in Japanese — I didn’t really understand it), and we fill out paperwork.

My monthly fee is to be 29,000 yen for the room, plus 3,000 yen for water, plus whatever I work up in gas and electricity. Better than I expected; I figured it’d be about 10,000 yen higher than that. I was given a key and instructed to take my payment to that office once a month. The landlord also called someone in my building, a Korean named Kim. At the time, I thought she was calling someone in charge of the building, but I have since met a Korean named Kim who’s another exchange student at the school and also lives in my building so… I dunno. Either way, she told the Kim person that I only understand basic Japanese.

:'( I’m just out of practice! There are so many words I’ve encountered that I just need to recall, and I’ve noticed that any time I say, “Please say that again,” the person I am talking to assumes that the way they said it was too complicated, rather than that my brain is just not used to processing Japanese and I didn’t actually quite pick up what they were saying. That’ll change soon, I figure, but for now I may as well just let them think that. It’ll certainly help impress them if I perform above expectations.

Anyway, after that we returned to the University. Back in Hiruta-sensei’s office, I was told that information on classes and the scholarship and such would come the next day, when I met Ishida-sensei. Sayaka-san used her cell phone to call United about my baggage, and I found out it’d get here in two days. I am to meet again with Hiruta-sensei, Utsuki-san, and Sayaka-san in Hiruta-sensei’s office at 9:00. Given that, Utsuki-san, Sayaka-san and I left. The three of us went to the cafeteria; I didn’t eat anything, but they had lunch. Then Sayaka-san left us to go to class. I asked Utsuki-san about dropping my baggage off at my new place (get this heavy stuff off my back!), and she said that she had a friend coming.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-3

avatarMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them seperately, as they were meant to be. And hey, this segment isn’t as long as the others have been. Whee!

On to Kushiro

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

When the alarm went off, I reset it for 4:35. When it went off again, I reset it for 4:40. Then I got up. I did morning things, then went down to the lobby. Before checking out, I got on line and checked some Neopets stuff, as well as sending an e-mail to everyone to say, “Yo, I am alive.” It seemed like my contacts on gmail did not include someone, and it wasn’t until I got to the part about the hotel key card in writing this that I realized that for some reason, Zeal was totally not on there. Sorry, Zeal. m(_ _)m Did Gokuiroth tell you? :s

Anyway, I checked out in time to catch the 5:40 AM shuttle to the airport. No lateness again for me! Everything happened smoothly. The young woman at the ticketing counter seemed to be in training, but there was no slowdown of services. Even if there had been, I would have been fine with it. I usually am fine with new trainees, but even if I wasn’t, the service I had received the day before was so good that I’d have been patient anyway. At one point they informed me that there was a flight change charge. It didn’t surprise me, so I was like, *sigh* “Hai.” Then they told me the charge was 100 yen.

What do they charge you for stuff like that in America? I doubt it’s as low as like 90 cents. That’s a rough equivalent of how much I paid. Delight!

So anyway, I got through that with a pink airline ticket and a Yokoso Japan! ticket envelope. I went straight to my gate — skipping food because I wasn’t all that hungry and I was damned if I was gonna miss this flight — and sat down. I was at the lower domestic gates. And very early.

While waiting for boarding time, I took this picture of a TV that was playing ads for those who waited. In retrospect, I wish the picture I had gotten was of the segment boldly labeled “Space Station TV”, but by the time it came around again I was heavily enmeshed in starting this blog post in notepad.

Airport-Entertainment

Gate, gate, gate, television!

The Japanese domestic boarding seems both less organized and more efficient to me than its American counterpart. See the picture below for how close the “gates” are to one another.

Domestic-Gates

They remind me of the concession stands at a movie theater.

This is, indeed, where boarding passes were collected. But they didn’t start taking people until 15 minutes before the plane’s scheduled departure. When I got through the gate, I got onto another Friendly Airport Limousine. The bus left for the plane 10 minutes before the scheduled departure, completely full of people.

Friendly-Airport-Limosine-2

Couldn’t be friendlier if it waved. Hello!

That took us straight to the plane, a trip of about 2 minutes. There were two doors open on the plane, and thus, two staircases. Somehow, a plane big enough to have three seat sections filled up with everyone stashing their bags with plenty of time to leave on schedule 8 minutes later. None of this, “Now boarding section 3,” crap. Just pure, unadulterated, “All aboard!”

It was a short plane trip, 1 hour and 20 minutes. I’m pretty sure the seats on that Japanese plane were wider than the seats on its American counterparts, since my hips didn’t feel squished for once. No leg room, but it’s Japan, so I expected that. Got work on the blog post in up to… some point. I was gonna remember exactly where so I could tell you, but I’ve forgotten.

Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-2

avatarMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them seperately, as they were meant to be. They’re still long, though. I’m sorry. I was a noob.

The Hotel

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

One thing which is just flippin’ awesome is the key card I received. American hotel key cards each have a magnetic strip, which is somehow swiped in the door to unlock it. This key card did not have a magnetic strip. The door did not have a place to swipe it. what it did have was a shiny black dot about an inch in diameter above the door handle. When I moved the key card in front of said dot, the door unlocked.

What’s even cooler is that just inside the door was a little fixture on the wall that said, “Please insert card. When I did, the lights turned on.

light_switch

Best light switch ever.

Sweet-tastic. So I plopped my stuff on the bed and looked around. Let’s start with the bathroom.

Hotel-Bathroom-Overview

It’s not uncommon for Japanese hotels to have communal bathrooms only.

It’s a nice bathroom. Removable shower head, like just about every Japanese bathroom has. Sink, toilet — dude, the toilet!

Hotel-Toilet

The sort of thing you hear about and don’t expect to encounter on your first day.

It’s one of the high-tech toilets, complete with bum-washing mechanism. Well, I needed to go to the bathroom anyway. When I sat down, the toilet beeped and the standby indicator started flashing. I’ll tell you what, the idea of a spray of water coming from the toilet to wash your bum is weird, but it works. The water is warm, so there’s no discomfort. The blue setting was aimed too high, but the pink setting (does anyone know what bidet means?) was practically perfect in every way.

OK, toilet aside. Bring on the desk!

Hotel-Desk-1

What’s that handle for?

Hotel-Desk-2

Surprise!

Hotel-Desk-3

Also, a flatscreen TV.

The left side is your average hotel desk stuff. Lamp, tissues, memo paper, phone. It’s made much niftier by the lift up mirror with compartment. The right side, however, is a treasure. That’s one sweet TV. The left-hand remote is for that. The right-hand remote is for a heater or something in the corner — I’m not sure what exactly it does, honestly, because the middle remote was for the air conditioning. Hallelujah!

Embedded in the wall over the bed was the clock/alarm clock and some light switches.

Hotel-Clock-and-Switches

He’s not the king, but he’s still so proper.

There was also a trouser press.

Hotel-Trouser-Press

Ironing boards are SO last country.

At this point, I made a choice. A bath (so longed for), or food and a bit of exploration? Well, I needed food. There was a cafe downstairs, and vending machines on all floors, and I wanted a picture of the fountain across the street… bath would make me sleepy, so exploration.

Pictures! This is what I had seen upon first exiting the elevator on my floor.

Hotel-6th-Floor

Just in case you forgot which elevator button you pressed.

And the vending machine on my floor.

Hotel-Vending-1

Anti-climactic, after all the things you hear/read about Japanese vending machines.

Hmm. Drinks only. Floor 2 is supposed to have a vending room instead of a vending corner. I’ll have to check that out. But first… those fountains!

Green-Fountain

Reminds me of Slimer.

Pretty awesome. I think the building they (there were actually two of these green fountains) were in front of was another hotel, but I wouldn’t swear by that. I took this next picture of my hotel’s foyer on the way back in:

Hotel-Foyer

Step into my hotel, said the Japanese to the Lena.

Both sets of doors slide open; the second set has bars. On the right-hand side of the foyer is an intercom for use between 2:00 and 7:00 for the purpose of obtaining entry. On the left is an umbrella rack.

Hotel-Umbrella-Rack

It wasn’t until much later that I realized how awesome it is to have an umbrella rack like this.

It’s a coin-operated, lock-the-umbrella-in-place umbrella rack. One of the foreign exchange students had told me that the thing that struck her as most weird in Alaska is that no one uses umbrellas. I think I’m gonna find out, on the first rainy day I encounter, that I’ll be surprised by how many people have umbrellas, even though I have warning.

The last leg of my jaunt, the second floor vending room.

Hotel-Vending-2

Yeah… still kinda anti-climactic.

Excellent, there’s food, too. After some deliberation, I decide to grab a random instant noodle bowl — but not before taking a couple of pictures of other things in the room. Like the laundry machines.

Hotel-Laundry

In retrospect, I don’t think I saw dryers outside of hotels the entire time I was in Japan.

And what is (I think) related to fire safety. I saw very similar fixtures at the Narita and Haneda airports.

Hotel-Fire-Alarm

The right-hand compartment has a fire extinguisher in it. I believe the lower left part has a fire hose fixture.

So I returned to my room and contemplated my food.

Food

I hoped, since there was no microwave in evidence, that the directions I had no intention of translating stated that I just needed to add hot water. So I added hot water and prepared, otherwise, for a bath. I turned on the TV at this point, too, watching first a movie (which had a character named Benkei — maybe had a connection to the Tale of the Genji?) then a wacky variety show going over some guy’s best pranks, dating back to at least 1980.

I also discovered that I was having an interesting time with the whole slippers thing. In case you are unaware, the Japanese take their shoes off at the door, donning in their place a pair of slippers. These are worn around the house, unless one needs to use the toilet. At that point, one switches into toilet slippers. That way you don’t go tracking things from the bathroom floor into the rest of the house. Pretty ingenious, actually. (If there’s a room with tatami mat floors, you take your slippers off at the entrance and walk in your socks, but this hotel is a modern hotel with no tatami.) The hotel included free slippers for the room, but I kept accidentally wearing them into the bathroom or slipping them off in the middle of the room for no apparent reason. Oops.

I recalled my food when I went into the bathroom and saw it sitting on the counter. It was not so hot anymore, but the noodles were soft and pliable. I looked at the flavor packet. It had two sections. I poured in the contents of the big section. Then I opened the small section and started pouring that on, but O SNAP! It was schechwan stuff. Didn’t put all of that in there.

It’s at this point that I wish to instate the Taste-O-Meter. It works on a scale of 1-5, as follows:

1 = OMFG, get this out of my mouth!
2 = Somewhat untasty, but edible in a pinch.
3 = It’s food.
4 = Hey, this is pretty good stuff.
5 = I think I shall actively seek this out from now on.

Taste-O-Meter!

Random Green Instant Noodle Bowl: 2
It had some sort of bread on top that complimented the flavor nicely and was easy to eat after soaking up some of the water. The noodles were odd; they didn’t even taste like rice noodles in the states do, so I’m not really sure what they were made of. But it was edible, and I was hungry.

After that I tried to go Japanese style and shower, then take a bath… however, I was so drowsy by the end of the shower that I was afraid I’d fall asleep in the bath and drown (though I’d have at least done so in Japan! :D) so I just went to bed. The bed was harder than I’m used to, obviously made to emulate a futon on a floor. Fortunately for me, I like that. It was shortly after 21:00 at this point. I set the alarm for 4:30 and laid down to sleep. Initially I planned to have the TV on all night, but for once the noise was distracting, so I regretfully turned it off.