Cooling off. 26.09.2013

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Having been baked in 30+ degree heat for almost four weeks the wind has picked up a soothing cool edge today, we are all very happy about that. We’ve also got thunder storms coming next week, my fave! The weather is a popular topic here, as it is in England. Every time you greet someone they’ll mention the weather followed by ‘ne?’ Which means..yes? Or.. Do you agree? And everyone agrees and makes complementary noises. It’s a neat little ice breaker. There are either always typhoons coming nearby or everyone just loves mentioning them, or maybe I notice the word all the time amongst waves of Japanese that go straight over my head.

I’m starting my private Japanese lessons this week. This is very good timing because I’ve broken my external hard drive which had my language software on. I pick up little bits of Japanese all the time but I rarely remember how to use these snippets in the correct context, I’ve been closing deals instead of thanking people for about three weeks I think – should have stuck to standard Japanese instead of walking blindly into the Kansai dialect. Yesterday when I was ordering my meal the waitress was trying to ask me politely for my money but I thought she was asking if I wanted any extras, it would probably sound like this in English:

Waitress ” ok, you’d like meal option x, that’s x amount please?”

Me ” ah, no thanks.”

Waitress “… Please.. Pay”

Me “just that please *points*”

Waitress ” ¥????”

Me “yes, thank you very much.”

Awkward. Eventually she resorted to pointing at the price and and my bag, she’s lucky I didn’t steal the menu. But yes, soon I’ll be ordering food without a side order of misunderstanding.

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You might have noticed that I’ve been to lots of temples and shrines recently, judging by all the snaps. I love them! They are beautiful and have so much history and meaning behind every tiny piece of architectural detail. I was lucky enough to see a family who had just been married in the traditional Shinto way, I was given the biggest incense stick I’ve ever seen, and I touched a lucky ball. The area I visited on Monday is called Gion and is famous for shrines and Geisha, every time I see a Geisha or Maiko it’s a wonderful shock – they are so striking. I want to take a tonne of photos but it seems disrespectful (not that they aren’t used to it).

Finally, having had a wave of homesickness I’m starting to feel more established here in Japan. No longer do I fear automatic doors not opening for me or freeze at every question anyone asks me In Japanese. I’ve Skyped a few people and this weekend I’m looking forward to seeing and speaking to some very special girls over the Internet, congratulations on moving into your own flat Katie and
Jack!

Lots of love,

Rachel xoxox

Settling in (featuring the unsettling). 20.09.13

This week I’ve been observing classes and doing my further teacher training, I’ll be training for another couple of weeks and then they’ll be letting me loose in the classroom. It has been an apt week for training as a sensei because on Monday in Japan it was ‘Respect your elders’ day for which there is a national holiday. So far I’ve only made one little girl cry, but my B-I-N-G-O dance seemed to reassure her that I was more silly than scary. As a company Browns English is planning lots of events over Halloween and Christmas so I’m also busy thinking up lots of ideas to involve the kids and parents.

Last weekend I learned that Japan is fully wired up as an early warning system for both weather and earthquakes. 5am on Monday morning I received a text message with the title in English ‘evacuation/shelter information’ which was alarming, upon opening it I realised that the instructions were in Japanese (duh). I don’t know how to read kanji yet so I’ll admit I called my parents to check the news but there was nothing! Apparently the instructions were to find seek shelter on higher ground because the river had burst its banks. Kyoto usually escapes typhoons but it seems we weren’t so lucky this time. Anyway, please see the before and after photos below, the river was pretty high. I’ve also attached a photo of the weather warning that kept flashing up while I was watching TV.

That’s all for now, hopefully I’ll get some time to write more soon.

Rach x

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The basics. 10.09.2013

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So, as of late last night I’ve officially survived my first week in Japan.

The Japanese seem to have mastered avoiding awkward situations and making good use of tiny spaces. For example, lots of toilets I’ve met have got a sink on the top which makes use of the water being pumped into the flushy compartment for you to wash your hands in (pre flush of course) here’s an example I filmed earlier https://vine.co/v/h5Q9neJuTHI. Also, for those of you who are pee shy or wait days for a private #2 need suffer no longer; here in every cubicle there is a ‘flush noise’ button to drown out those awkward sounds. Many loos also have bird song or music instead. So you can be sitting reading a text on the loo and if you hear birdsong coming from the next cubicle you know they mean business.

If, like me, you’re often looking for a stress free eating experience then you can visit one of Kyoto’s many vending machine restaurants. Choose a picture, put in your cash, take a ticket, give it to the chef, receive your meal. So. Easy! There’s no misunderstanding or awkwardly long wait for the bill. Also with every meal and even drink I’ve ordered I’m a cafe or restaurant so far I’ve been given free water, how’s that for great customer service.

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Train tickets, bus tickets, drinks, and even clothes, can be bought from vending machines here so one could probably avoid human contact for however long one wanted to. But I’d rather try and fail at bluffing my way through with broken Japanese than live through the dead eyes of a vending machine.

Yesterday I moved into a one bedroom apartment, I’ve not tried swinging a cat in it yet but it’s a good size I think. There’s a separate kitchen and bathroom then a big old living space that I can roll out my futon in. A futon In Japan isn’t an uncomfortable old sofa – it’s a simple fold up mattress which is thinner than our springy ones. It is almost pronounced by breathing over the ‘f’ so more like ‘hooton’. I slept very well last night, which is great because I’ve been waking up at 3 pr 4am every morning – it doesn’t make sense because that doesn’t even translate to English waking hours!! I bought lots of essential furniture yesterday from a recycle shop and my bill came to under £35, extremely reasonable.

I’ve started working at events to earn some pocket money before starting my training next week, I’ve learned some of the Kansai dialect, and I may be doing life drawing in Osaka at some point. Oh, and one of my very best friends at home got engaged yesterday so – Congratulations Sophie and Justin, I’m so happy for you :)!

Let me know if I’ve made any mistakes, it’s too hot for proof reading today.

Lots of love, Rach x

Despatch 01.09.13

So in just over 24 hours I’ll be landing in Kansai international airport – Japan.

I’ve spent the last few months preparing for my trip; I’ll be covering everything to do with ‘how to emigrate’ in a future post. More importantly I’ve been spending quality time with friends and family all over south England. I’m actually far too nervous about my flight and getting to my hostel to be writing a decent blog entry but I thought it would be important to get an entry in from this side of the world.

I’m expecting lots of temples, beautiful nature, quirky fashion, and good quality sushi. There is a list the length of my arm filled with things I want to see and experience in Japan. Truly, though, I know nothing (John Snow) so I’m ready to be bombarded by everything new, shocking, and exciting.

A huge thank you to my family and friends, I love you all and I’ll be coming to a phone/inbox/post box near you very soon. Watch this space!