Time is flying!

There is a lot to do around Tokyo, and Google offers a lot of activities too. I finally got my bank account and my alien registration card sorted out, and started buying stuff for my room. I haven't cooked here yet because of awesome free Google food, but I've met some interesting people at this guest house. And the agency offered a Sushi workshop on Saturday, pictures will follow.

I also arrived just in time for the Google ski trip. They have a lot of snow here! We had to take a bus for three hours, but apparently you could get to the resort in an hour with the Shinkansen (bullet train). The slopes were quite easy, and the general skill level not very high, but it was a lot of fun. And then Onsenthe Japanese hot springs to relax, a wonderful experience!

Some of my other activities so far include climbing with a group of Googlers, Salsa and Hip Hop dance lessons and shopping. As it turns out, I can't wear 70% of the tops I brought to Japan because their necks are too wide. The skirts are very (very!) short here, the heels high, but you never see an uncovered shoulder. So I went shopping for clothes. I didn't even try on any pants, because the Japanese don't have hips. At all. The sizes for tops go from M to XXS. Very cool, except that shirts also eventually hit the hips. I bought some nice stretch shirts and feel a little bit better adapted to the local fashion now.

There are very few foreigners here. One would think that in a city like Tokyo, there would be a colorful mix of people from everywhere around the world, but no, on the streets everybody is Japanese (well, I have to admit I can't distinguish Chinese, Korean and Japanese yet, so let's say everybody looks Asian). In Roppongi, also called foreigner town, there are quite a few foreigners (maybe about 10% on the streets), but not in the other parts I've been to so far. In any other country one would be stared at and feel uneasy, but the Japanese are so polite and respectful that such feelings don't come up here.

The English level is catastrophic. Most people don't speak English at all, or at least don't dare to try. Signalization is quite good though, so often there's no need to ask somebody (Google maps is a life safer here). They really appreciate it if people try to speak Japanese, but if the communication doesn't work immediately, they run away and find a superior or somebody who speaks English. It's a bit sad, because I don't get to try to bring my point across with hands and feet, but that seems terribly barbarian anyway when talking to a Japanese person.

Japan is definitely the politest country I've ever been to, and especially their service culture is eye-opening. All the people working in restaurants and shops are smiling, seem to be enjoying what they're doing and treat you with respect. It's quite funny to enter a restaurant, because all the staff will chime in saying "IrashaimaseWelcome!", no matter how far away they are. There are several other formulas that people use for thanks, and when you leave the shop. All that can really be heard is a long nasal "..maaaaas", and I can't help but think of sheep every time I hear them. The funny thing is that even in the middle of a multi-floor clothes store the person next to you might all of a sudden start saying Irashaimase with a loud voice. Quite startling the first few times.

I'm slowly getting used to the daily flow, but I have come to realize that I don't know any Japanese. It's been a veeery long time since I was in a situation where I couldn't communicate at all. It's interesting philosophically, but I don't plan on leaving it that way, and hope to start classes next week. The excitement of the first week over all the Kanji surrounding me has worn off too, and made room for disillusionment. I hope to channel that into motivation for sleeping less and studying more though, so let's see what comes next!

3 responses to “Time is flying!”

  1. No disillusions please; this

    No disillusions please; this makes part of the fun, an opportunity that will never come back; and not less sleep - just take it easy; not being able to communicate has its advantages: you are always excused for any misunderstanding. Elisa

    Submitted by Elisa

  2. Language shock

    I remember well how hard it was when I first got to the U.S. -- I couldn't understand anything that was spoken normally. But this got better quickly, so don't lose hope...

    It's too bad if the other person doesn't enjoy the challenge of making the conversation work. The Googlers are more open I hope...

    Submitted by Hans

  3. If ever Japanese conversation

    If ever Japanese conversation partners continue to be too polite to have a talk in japanese with you, there is a trick: tandem. You offer a Japanese person conversation lessons in english (french, german) and the other person offers you japanese. So your roles are clearly defined and less stressy. I hope you find somebody!

    Submitted by Suzanne