Daily Archives: February 3, 2011

What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

During a momentary lapse of judgment and after hearing enough requests and compliments that stroked my ego, I promised a few people to get back to blogging when I reach Japan. Considering I have work to do, hideously long and unproductive commutes as well as a fucking master’s thesis to finish, this promise is now considered a bad move. By me, mainly. And by my parents once they see the first  superfluous use of the word “fuck” in the first paragraph after them repeatedly telling me to stop the cussing because “someone might see this”. However, I like writing (and swearing), and keeping a travelogue will allow me to later reminisce what I’ve done in my youth when I’m a sad old man sitting in a rocking chair on a veranda somewhere.

I apologize for being late with starting the blog but it’s been a pretty hectic first week here and I haven’t really had time to sit down and think about what has happened. Workdays including commute time take me about 10 to 11 hours after which I’m stuck in a cold room with broken internet from too many connections and I can’t be arsed to do anything else but sleep. I also haven’t had time to sleep off the jetlag so the bags under my eyes are making me look like some weird anthropomorphic tanuki gaijin. Besides that, though, everything is fine and dandy. I’ve learned how everything critical works around here and all I need now is a bike with too specific characteristics: a) doesn’t cost a fortune and b) doesn’t lead to my demise (looking at you specifically, brakes). From here on out all that’s left are standard salaryman workdays. Also, the amount of photos in the blog may remain negligible because I managed to break my camera about a year ago in Germany during an evening of drunken stupor.

But let’s begin at the beginning. After the final days in Finland spent in bullet time I finally got on the plane and enjoyed a night flight to Tokyo. A couple of movies, Final Fantasy III and Golden Boy helped me through ten boring hours because sleeping just didn’t work out. So off to a nice start there, no sleep whatsoever and plenty of stuff to do the following day. Once at Narita, in order to start with a proper win, I bought the wrong train ticket and had to pay an extra 2000 yen for the ride downtown. After a few quick calls that were interrupted by tunnels, an ingenious plan was devised that I first go to the Finpro office and then check with Sakurahouse whether or not I can move in to my supposedly pre-reserved semi-apartment directly or if I need to find a hostel for the first night. As it turns out, there are very few things I enjoy less than riding on a crowded Yamanote line dead-tired and carrying luggage.

After some struggling, I finally got off at the Hiroo station. I was supposed to walk to the office but after having emerged from the chikatetsu I was standing at the first red lights (not the district thereof) when some interviewer approached me with a huge tv-camera, asking if I can speak Japanese and if I have time for an interview. I had to decline because I really wanted to just get to my apartment and get some sleep but man did it feel good to be charisma man again. And then people wonder why I keep coming back here. Soon after deftly dodging the interview my sense of direction kicked in and I spent the next half hour walking around wrong places trying to find my way to the office. I did finally find it though, met with some of the people and left my stuff there before going to eat and explore. Man, eat & explore should be a game. I would own at that game. At around 6 pm I was able to go pick up the keys for my apartment in Shinjuku. I picked up the keys from Shinjuku, the apartment being located somewhere slightly more affordable and far less convenient. And when I say pick up, I mean I had to sign half a dozen documents over and over with several signatures each until I had a seizure. In order to rent a house I needed to agree basically not to do anything in there. I also agreed to being fully responsible and liable for everything that happens in my room, in the house, in Nerima ward, in Tokyo, and in Japan during, after and before my stay. I think there was a fine print in the agreement that if the city was razed by Gamera or Godzilla I would reimburse 50% of the damage to public buildings. Boring story, I eventually agreed to whatever, emptied my wallet and got access to the most expensive key of my life thus far.

<interlude: 1-hour train ride from Shinjuku to Nakamurabashi>

Finding a Sakura house building, even with a map, in the dark, in an area you’ve never been to before, is a depressing experience. Comparable to Hirakata in 2008, the neighbourhood was so quiet I was worried about waking people up with the sheer sound my suitcase rolling on the ground. Eventually I did find the right building and my first day tribulations were finally coming to an end.

The apartment itself has its advantages and disadvantages. The natural characteristic of Japanese buildings is unfortunately far too apparent, meaning that it’s fucking freezing throughout. My room is nice, clean, with a nice kitchen and all the appliances I need, except a rice cooker, the only thing I would really need. The toilet is outside the room, and also shit. The shower is downstairs and very nice if you happen to enjoy temperatures around zero right after the water stops. The cold I caught before Tuesday morning will testify for me not exaggerating that part.

Sakurahouse Nakamurabashi A

The first night of sleep was good, though. I eventually fell asleep while watching a movie and ended up sleeping next to my laptop. Sakurahouse might charge extra for additional entities in my bed so I probably won’t tell them. The following morning was training and evaluation time. I needed to find my way to work quickly enough so I could start comparing different train connections and travel methods. Train rides are always mind-numbingly boring, but luckily I’ve come up with a great game to play during commutes. I call it 電車の王, which roughly translates to king of the train. The rules are simple: The tallest person in the car is the king and wins the game. So far I’ve won every game. I keep all the trophies in my head. Meanwhile in the real world, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday were all spent at work. Due to the fact that blogging about work has recently become a dangerous phenomenon for employees and I have no job security whatsoever, I won’t mention anything work-related in this blog again. It shouldn’t be relevant anyway.

Wednesday evening my arch nemesis Joona finally made it to Tokyo so we had our official Akihabara memorial day, avoiding underage girls’ maid café offers and checking out stores for cheap Apple products (Joona) and 3rd to 5th generation game consoles (me). Thursday evening was the first visit to Torikizoku in one and a half years so I had to prove myself I can eat some of the dullest traditional dishes available in Japan, ochazuke. Once that feat of strength was completed we enjoyed some umeshu drinks and cheap happoshu until it was time to take trains back to our respective dwellings. Oh yeah, nobody besides me can sleep at my place without paying Sakurahouse an additional 2000 yen, and if they catch me breaking that rule “the lessee faces immediate eviction“. Due to a high risk / no profit situation, I returned to Nerima alone while Joona took the Tsukuba line to Asakusa back to his hostel.

Everything in Toriki is 280 yen, starting with the 0,75l mug of happoshu

tl;dr – I’m in Japan now.