Bathroom, the john, the oval office, the loo, toilettes, whatever you choose to call it.. can be quite an experience in Japan. They are actually quite representational of the culture, a mix of ultra forward thinking and deeply rooted tradition. Yes I’m still talking about using the facilities….But really some toilettes out here are practically from the jetsons. In my hotel room, the toilette had a seat warmer, bum shower, and bidet function. I have heard of others that even fold the toilette paper roll into a neat triangle after each person. Then on the other end of the spectrum are some public toilettes. They are basically a porcelain hole in the ground, even for the ladies. Seat toilettes or “western style” are available and there will be signs. So there ya have it, Japanese toilettes and their cultural symbolism- something to consider while using the “loo.”
So I’ve been in my “home” base of Okayama for about a week and this is what I have figured out about the city. Okayama is a city with a central business district surrounded by a large suburban area also considered part of Okayama. I live in the suburban area close to the hills and about 4 miles away from “the city.” The neighborhood I live in is called: Other than random apartments such as mine there are mostly large single family homes build into the hills surrounded by random rice fields. Just down the road is a business district with a train station. I am able to ride my bike to most places including the home center, 100 yen store, grocery store, and most importantly karaoke. Other than my neighbor Kerrie, most of my friends live in the suburban districts just south of town. The city itself is quite large with plenty of great shops, restaurants, and night life that we have just begun to tap into. There’s even a beach and beautiful mountains that I have heard great things about. All in all I love Okayama and I am excited to explore all the city has to offer.
lemon vitamin water, milk tea, and puffy rice crackers – i just can’t get enough of these. the vitamin water is so much better than in the states- i don’t think it is at all the same. milk tea is the perfect combination of strong tea and milk – that satisfies like nothing else. rice crackers- i love those little puffy guys….
Smile and bow. That’s pretty much all I did today. I spent the day meeting the principles and teachers from the schools that I will be teaching at. Since the principles and teachers know very little English my IC Sue was there to translate. By this point I have gotten used to standing in the middle of a conversation about me, but I don’t have a clue of what is being said. Today was slightly uncomfortable for a number of reasons. The first was the principle would be talking to me but I had to look at Sue to figure what was he was saying. Second, there seemed to be much more talking than translating. I don’t think Japanese requires that much more language to convey an idea, and felt as though I was really missing something. So I threw out the 2 Japanese phrases I know, smiled like a fool, and bowed more than necessary.
On Friday I moved from my training in Hiroshima to my “home” city of Okayama. I have been lucky enough to have been placed with 6 other new ALT’s from orientation. We rode the bullet train together to Okayama city where we were greeted by our IC’s. My IC goes by Sue, and she has been my life saver. An IC is basically a Okayama resident that knows English very well. So far Sue has taken me to city hall to get my foreign registration, shopping, cell phone, and to get my bike. She is also going to get my bank account set up, help me learn the train system, and take me to my schools. Sue is my life saver.
Although training was long and a little boring at times, I am so glad that I went. I got to meet some really cool people and it helped me to transition into Japanese life. The city of Hiroshima was so fun and vibrant, despite the tragedy just 50 years ago. But after a week of going out and exploring I have gone off to my town of Okayama.