Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day 1

Today in short (because I'm tired as all heck):

I'm in the city of Otsuki, which is in Yamanashi. This is a development over yesterday when I thought the city's name was Yamanashi.

Breakfast - Egg over medium, ham, rice, miso soup some kind of new years food wrapped inn sea weed that was sweet but with something gritty in the center.

Movie commercials in English. Yeah, you can bet I was pretty surprised when I saw a bunch of movie commercials in full out English with Japanese subtitles. I was going "what the heck!?!" Ayumi says this happens a lot and only sometimes are things translated. From my American point of view, which, by the way, almost nothing shows up on the TV unless it's in English, this seemed really backwards.

Laundry - yes, it's hanging outside. In the front yard. Next to the car. Or at least it was this morning. Nothing like my red panties flying like a flag in the breeze for all of the city of Otsuki to see. In Japan it seems the norm is to wash your clothes in the machine and then hang them to dry. I was particularly perplexed at this habit when out and about and someone's clothing was practically on the sidewalk.

Bedding - Hanging on the balcony. I don't know if Ayumi's father, who insists on being called Papa, was just being nice but he took mine and Ayumi's bedding out and hung it on the balcony. I didn't see anyone else's bedding go outside, so I have no clue if this is the norm.

Garden - There is a fairly large yard here and there is even a garden. In fact, it seems like everyone has a garden and they all seem to be growing this cabbage/lettuce cross plant. Haven't found the nerve to actually ask what it is called. I'm told that in the summer the area around Otsuki is full of rice paddies in the summer. Definitely planning a trip to come back and visit in the summer.

Awkwardness - So, being entirely unused to actually, you know, being in Japan, when Ayumi's sister came home and called out "tadaima" or, I'm home I didn't think anything of it when Ayumi and her mom greeted with and "okaeri" or welcome home. As she walked into the room she very pointedly repeated herself several times to which she then said something to Ayumi and I was then informed upon the "tadaima" "okaeri" response protocol when someone comes home. Boy do I feel silly.

Kotatsu - Finally sat under one. If you don't know what it is, it's basically a coffee table, with a warm blanket coming out from all four sides with a heater underneath. Unfortunately I'm not used to sitting cross legged or otherwise on the floor so my legs fell asleep fairly quickly.

Lunch - sushi and daikon miso

Shopping with okaasan - Everything is small. The roads, the cars, the stores (well, not super small, but definitely small compared to Safeway or Winco). There were Kit Kats and lays potato chips (sour cream and onion) at the store which surprised me so much I mentioned being surprised by Okaasan who then proceeded to purchase them. Making me feel totally guilty, but hey, at least now I know I'm not totally without some of my vices here.

Cars - Again, if you don't already know, I'm from the USA. Yeah. I know. The country that seems to do everything backwards, or so I'm told (In my defense, it's forwards to me!!). So it was strange getting in the car to go shopping and sitting up front in the passengers seat. Which to me, should have been the drivers seat. I could cope with that though, that was totally fine. It wasn't until we pulled out onto the road and my brain started screaming, "Wrong lane! Wrong lane!" That it felt weird. It seemed easy enough to get over though.

Embarrassment - Okay. So, I'm assured by my friend that this isn't the norm with her host family, but my host father seems to have a thing about coming out from the bath in nothing but a towel and chatting with the family for 20 minutes before he goes to get dressed. Needless to say I have been flabbergasted both times, but haven't had the nerve to say anything. In any case, I'm totally embarrassed. I think I might hide upstairs when he uses the bath tomorrow.

Cell phone - So my cell phone situation has been figure out. Thanks to my awesome host family I should be getting my cell phone in the next couple of days. I'm using a company called Willcom and I will actually be on my host sister and her soon to be husband's plan. The phone itself will be free because they already have two phones, however I don't get a choice in the phone style as it's pre-selected. No biggie though.
I will essentially have the "unlimited" plan for about $11.50 a month, or 980 yen. How it was explained to me is this, I can text as much as I want, to whoever I want, within the limits of the Japanese border. For calling I can make up to 500 calls a month of no longer than 10 minutes each. If I hit the ten minute mark I have to hang up and call back. That's pretty awesome considering I know a total of about 3 people in Japan at the moment. Oh, and incoming calls don't count towards my limit. As far as I understood from my host family, when it is time to go there is no cancellation fee, I just don't make a payment and return the phone and I'm off scott free. All in all I consider this one heck of a deal and I'm totally grateful to Ayumi's family!!! I was told Willcom is a company for people who want to talk and text a lot, but don't really care for internet (I'm told its' super expensive and if I use it I'm basically getting kicked from the plan, so I am marking it forbidden zone, but hey, I have a tablet. So I'll be fine.). I'm not sure how viable this company is as an option to other exchange students, but it's worth a looksies if you're considering phone companies in Japan.

Bank - We're still trying to work out that one. Right now we're at the decision of 7 bank (7-11's bank. Yeah. 7-11 has a bank, anyone else totally thrown for a loop right now?) and something like UFC Bank or something. I'll get the details later once a decision has been made. One thing that has surpised me so far though is that it seems like all the banks have certain hours on different days that you can withdraw money from the ATM without an ATM fee, which runs about $7 I'm told. Seems like a pretty sweet deal.

Dinner - Fried stuff (brain is gone, so I can't remember the names, I'll update later with pictures too!) something like kohatsu (sp?) something or other that was a kind of deep fried pork, mashed potates, beef, carrots, peas and corn (sounds like something dad whipped up back home) all mashed together like a hamburger patty then covered in flour, egg and breading stuff before being deep fried, squid which had gone through the same process, salad, rice, sea weed miso and strawberries for desert

Bath - So yeah, I wasn't tired enough to just rush through a shower tonight, so I actually got in the bath this time. How it works is you sit on this little stool and use a handheld shower head and wash off entirely. After you rinse you then sit and soak in bath. But the bath is NOT for cleaning yourself. In any way. Everyone shares the bath water, so it is very important that you DO NOT wash in the bath. On a humorous note, the bath water is green at my host family's home and smells like cologne. I'm not sure what's in it. Maybe I'll ask tomorrow.


Tomorrow - I'll make Mochi w okaasan and Ayumi is heading in to Tokyo for a class assignment. See you around!

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