Friday, June 11, 2010

Safe, Sweet and Super-hi-tech

Wen's got some giveaways going on. All this book love is making me SMAIRU! (how Japanese kids say Smile!)

Guess who's just got back from a work drinking party! Woo hoo! lol! I'm not drunk guys, I'm just playing it up. Although, if I were drunk, you'd never be able to tell. I post so much madness without the help of alcohol. *Ponders for a moment if I'd make more sense drunk*

Today's Far Out Friday is a set of randoms.

I was kind of late for my enkai (work drinking party). Well I wasn't really late. If I'd been sure where the place was, I would have been on time. They gave me a paper with the name of the place at school on Tuesday. (It's JHS and I'm only there Tuesdays and Wednesdays.) The teacher who gave it to me- one of the few that actually lives in town, we live on the border of a decent size city and pretty much all the teachers at JHS live in that city, it's only like a 15 minute drive to school anyhow- tried to explain where it was. I asked her if it was the sushi joint near the Board of Education. She said it was nearer to my house. It was near Kozenji Shrine. My district's name is Kozenji.

So I walk over to the shrine in the area. Lo and behold it's not named Kozenji. I know enough kanji to tell that the name starts with "Ya". Probably. Darn kanji. Why on Earth would one thing have more than one pronunciation??? I guess that's what happens when you steal someone else's writing system and transpose it into your language.

Then I see two of my 6th grade (11 year old) students. I ask them what the name of the shrine is. Yasaka. (Yay! I was right about the Ya.)

Me: Do you know where Kozenji Shrine is?
Girl 1: No, we don't.
Me: It's kool. Never mind.
Girl 2: Wait! It's Claire-Sensei!

Um!!! Who did you think it was? I'm the only black female for 100 miles or so! AND you see me for 45 minutes every week!

Anyhow, I wonder down to the main road, and turn back towards my house. If it's in Kozenji, it has to be somewhere in that direction. So I ask and old man.

Me: Do you know where Kozenji Shrine is?
OM: Kozenji Shrine?
Me: Yes
OM: There is no Kozenji Shrine. There's a Kozenji Temple.
Me: Okay, where's that?
OM: I'll take you
[This would have totally been my cue to run away screaming in the rest of the world. Here, no biggie. Japanese people, especially the rural ones are just nice like that. It's even safe to leave your house unlocked. Everybody does. But, be forewarned, the entranceway (genkan) is considered public property. So if you leave your door unlocked, and your neighbours come to ask you something, they'll just open the door and shout your name, rather than knocking. Which is pretty much the only reason I lock my door.
This town has only had one murder in recent history, too. It was in my first year here. Three old dudes were sitting around drinking. Old dude number 1 got up and went home. Old dude #2 beat old dude #3 to death with an axe handle. Apparently when they were young, old dude 2 used to own a shop, and old dude 3 (I think he was yakuza) used to come in the shop and take stuff without paying. So old dude 2 waited 40 years or so for his chance and took revenge.
Since I'm not yakuza, nor do I owe anybody anything, so I figure I'm safe. That's not to say something couldn't happen. But in my town, there doesn't seem to be any animosity towards foreigners. Seriously, if you think there's animosity in Arizona, you should try living in Japan. You don't leave home without your gaijin -foreigner- card. If a cop asks for it and you don't have it, BIG TROUBLE. And that's the nicest of it. But like I said, my town is laid back and sweet.
Anhyow I hop into the car.

Me: I'm going to the sushi place.
OM: Oh, that is by the shrine. Yasaka Shrine.

It's like two minutes away, but the old guy drives me anyway, and I duck when we pass the two students who I asked for directions. I get out of the car and apologise and thank him profusely bowing all the while.

The enkai itself was pretty cool. It wasn't the whole school staff as usual. It was just to welcome the trainee teacher. I don't know if I was invited as part of the 3rd year staff - not that I actually do anything with the 3rd year staff, I just happen to sit at their block of tables, or because he was training as an English teacher. We won't even get started on the fact that he's only at my school for 3 weeks and he only has a week left. But any excuse for an enkai.

Conversation was fun. The Vice Principal had the gall to rag on Koreans for their language being difficult. I almost choked on a cucumber slice! Then he said that Koreans always sound like they're arguing but Japanese people always sound sweet. Which is so true. I'm at the point where the minute I start speaking Japanese, my voice rises an octave. That's just how it's done.

Then we got into the different accents of Japan. I related the story of my recent meeting with some of the coordinators of my programme in Tokyo. They demonstrated the difference in a Tokyo accent and an Okayama one. Tokyo says 'arigatOU' and Okayama says 'aRIgatou'. Sounds like nothing big, but the Jpeeps think it's hilarious.

All of this stemmed from the "Claire-sensei, what are you going to do when you finish JET?" I said, I wanted to go live in a Spanish-speaking country. I told them I read Spanish newspapers every day, but I can't say the last time I read an English language one. (But who needs newspapers when I've got facebook and you guys? MUAH! KISSIES!) That's how I'm feeling this week. If they ask me next week, there'll probably be a different answer. (I'm also toying with being a UN volunteer, or going to do my MFA.) But I don't worry about it too much yet, since I'm here 'til at least August 2011 and maybe I'll stay another year after that.

So where's the hi-tech to this story? First let me issue the usual disclaimer: Japan goes from extreme to extreme. For example: Japan may well be the only country in the whole world where people still use glue to secure an envelope!

But the ultimate dichotomy in technology is in toilets. I've never been so interested in toilets 'til I came here. Either the toilet is a hole in the ground. OR it can sing to you and hide embarassing noises from the neighbours!

Some buttons on a typical Japanese-Western toilet.

Anyhow, my hardware store got new cash registers. They work like drink machines do. The cashier puts in money and money comes out. Maybe they've got these in other countries but it's the first I've seen of them.

Speaking of vending machines they have beer (and cigarette) vending machines here! Unfortunately we can't use them, because they don't process foreigner ID's. :(

And to wrap up today's random, the 13th episode of Iwate Swan, where he also randomly mentions toilets!


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's fascinating learning about a completely different culture than the US. I definitely would lock my door if people were to just open it and shout out. Even if there is hardly any crime. I like my privacy too much. Wow, the toilet looks a little complicated, but definitely interesting to have all those options.

Carrie Harris said...

I don't have anything useful to say, just that this is FASCINATING. Especially the toilet. Embarrassing, but true. ;)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I agree - it's so interesting to read about different cultures. :) I'm in France, and even here the toilets are so different from what I'm used to. And yeah, there are still holes in the ground here, too. (Like at the park. Seriously? There's not even a public toilet in the PARK? *sigh*)

Karen Yuan said...

Oh my goodness, Japanese toilets. Aren't they awesome and terrifying? The ones that flash rainbow lights and have sprinklers inside...whoahness.

Also, your neighborhood sounds so FRIENDLY! Very interesting post, and great blog. :D

Marsha Sigman said...

I don't know where to start. I laughed out loud at the kids not recognizing you at Because thats so are really the same everywhere.

The old guys beating each other is just creepy for some reason...I get it. Which is even creepier.

I must HAVE that toilet. I mean it. That is the coolest thing I have ever seen. I;m still facinated with sensor faucets, so this freaks me out and pleases me in so many