Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Today, moist and cloudy, 32 degrees, air like paste, heralds the one month anniversary of my arrival in Japan. It seems incredible that that much time has passed - in keeping with the typical traveller`s cliche, it seems only a short time ago that I was boarding the plane with nothing but 1000 kilograms of largely disposable luggage and an open mind.

A month later, I now feel like a seasoned resident. Despite the fact that a large part of the communication I encounter daily still passes me by, I am comfortable in my city, confident in my ability to find myself again, should I get lost (near daily occurence). My commute to school has become routine rather than an occasion to count the minutes and check and re-check train schedules and bus-timetables - I am now one of many who plug into their iPod, open their book (currently Wuthering Heights, being reread for the enth time thanks to the joys of iBook) and tune out the universe. I now carry a sweat towel rather than dabbing surreptitiously at my forehead with the backs of my hands. I sprint for the incoming train despite knowing that the next will arrive in precisely three minutes. I like to think that I am being accepted by those who commute alongside me, this last being determined by the fact that nice old ladies now fall asleep on my shoulder rather than standing up for fear of sitting next to me. And I can squat with the best of them (this is conjecture, have not asked about nor observed specific technique).

Even though my routine has become familiar, nothing is boring. New things become clear to me every day, I find myself in more and more peculiar situations, I am suprised anew daily at life in Japan. The supermarket alone remains a new frontier; don`t even get me started on the underground shopping malls.

Now, enough of this sentimental retrospective. I know that I have been reticent in my blogging as of lately, due to sad lack of internet in my flat, but (all things going to plan, which is rarely the case) internet is due to be installed TODAY so if God (Buddha) is smiling, there is, at this very minute, a skinny and awkward Japanese man poking around my knicker drawer in my flat, having completed the task of connecting me with the world at large. At this point I am so greatfully anticipating the ability to watch Grey`s Anatomy online in bed, he can have the knickers as a gift. I recommend the leopard-print ones.

Today, Kaisei first graders have internship experience, which takes them out of school, and therefore out of my classroom. I am thusly located in the Board of Education computer room, Coke Zero at one hand and my iPhone at the other, precisely perched beneath the airconditioning vent, with five hours in which to leisurely recount to you, faithful 19 readers, the events of this last week. WARNING: I am so delighted to be in an environment in which it does not feel like my skin is melting away like hot yoghurt that I am feeling magnanimous. This means that the following blog will contain at least some information that you would probably have a better first day of spring NOT knowing. Be brave.


1. 6 Hour All-You-Can-Drink Karaoke Commnecing at 12am

You do not need details. We danced on tables. We took off clothes. I stole a hat and had a minor mental breakdown at approx 5am. Good times had all round. Following day, death. Death and many, many Kit Kats.

2. Watched Kendo

For those of you out of the loop, Kendo is a sport in which highly padded young Japanese men (and, more recently, women) in baggy trousers take to each other with bamboo swords while screaming at the top of their lungs. I witnessed it as part of a sports day, in which five Sapporo Senior High schools met at various locations to indulge in various sweaty pursuits (WATCHING was a sweaty pursuit). My high school being of the academic bent, participation is a matter of honour more than competition - future physicists and biologists do not great baseballers make. But the Japanese attitude is one of optimism and eternal eagerness and so even anticipation of ultimate failure does not dull their enthusiam (possibly would have been more successful netballer/waterpolo-er/tennisplayer/human being in general if had had same attitude. Alack). It is quite something to see the students, so earnestly subdued in the classroom, attack as though they want to cut the other in half and dance amongst the entrails. The oral aspect is as much a part of the sport as the physical, and so the noise is deafening when the competition takes place in a high school gym. Despite the violence of the sport, it is beautiful to watch, like a dance. And they look like something out of a samurai movie - Tom Cruise, but without the cripplingly embarrassing awfulness.

3. Visited Parks

This may sound like nothing out of the ordinary, but for the past week, hemmed in by highrises, I had been craving greenery and water. I would show anyone who could be coralled into it, the location of my family home in Devonport, stranded at the end of a peninsula, in order to justify my longing for the coast. Sapporo is essentially landlocked - two hours dirve to the nearest port feels like an impossibility when you a. can`t drive and b. don`t know anyone with a car. So I asked for recommendations and ended up, on Saturday and Sunday respectively, in Nakajima Coen and Maruyama Coen (coen being the Japanese word for park, congratulations on your newfound biological bi-lingualism). And these parks, despite being stranded in the middle of the city and surrounded on all sides by train stations and convenience stores, are truly beautiful. Nakajima Coen boasts a lake, whilst Maruyama Coen contains both a zoo and the Hokkaido Shrine, all of which I dragged boyfriend around. Visiting these parks felt like leaving the fifth biggest city in Japan behind and getting back to something familiar, something green. Although it was the weekend, the parks were not busy, and it was a zen and soothing experience. I felt more myself after visiting them (typically, feel more affinity with NZ landscape and beauty now that have left it behind, must address this tendency to be constantly contradictory). Even with crows visibily scoping out babies with a view to lining their nests therewith and the heat slowly squeezing my brain out of my pores, the discovery of this (albeit limited) nature in Sapporo made me feel all the more a proud resident.

4. Purchased laxatives

Those of you unfortunate enough to know me well will know that my digestive system is the bane of my existence. It does what it likes. It is like a petulant child with ADD. It rejects all kinds of good food on a whim (an URGENT whim) and witholds white bread like a ransom. The day finally came when my body had jealously guarded all input for no less than six days (yes, gross, you were warned) and a Japanese chemist needed to be visited. Here, at this essential juncture, my faithful phrase book failed me. This small blue book, shamelessly stolen from boyfriend, has accompanied me everywhere and furnished me with such phrases as `May I have stamps please?` and `Don`t touch me!` (awkward moment in which to stop, open handbag, rummage around and turn to contents page, but). Though it contains such gems as `rash`, `pedicure` and `oxygen treatment`, at no point therein did the publisher see fit to provide the traveller with the translation for `laxative`. As such, I was forced to enter the chemist, approach the smiling older woman behind the counter and announce, with zero fanfare `I am constipated`. To her credit, she did not pause nor laugh. Even though I`m sure I was the highlight of her day and the subject of ruthless subsequent dinner party conversation, she swiftly provided me with what I needed. The box was, of course, all in Japanese, so I think it is some testament to my faith in human nature and the extent of my stomach pain that I blindly swallowed three of the hot pink pills (laxatives here are pretty, the results less so). Had been told that Japanese medication was weaker in dosage than Western, so general rule of thumb was to double intake. Can faithfully now inform the reader that this was not good advice with regard to this particular product. One or two would have sufficed. More than sufficed. Three led to a fifty minute sojourn and the use of nearly a whole roll of toilet paper in our unventilated bathroom. Such a waste of the delicious Pad Thai boyfriend had created for dinner.


(Am feeling much better now, thanks for asking).

Think that this post has degenerated ever so slightly. No need for bathroom humour. And as I have unadulterated internet access today, it is a great occasion to catch up on news of the world and favourite blogs. And Bejewled Blitz.

Will let you know tomorrow whether skinny, awkward Japanese-man`s knicker drawer investigation bore fruit in the form of wireless internet access. Fingers crossed. Also, for your future reading pleasure, will be my first experience of a professional Japanese baseball game. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, those of you in NZ, have a beautiful first day of spring and spare a thought for those who long for grass (the underfoot, rather than underhand, kind).


  1. Was going to tell you to post pictures of parks and the like, but then I got to the bit about the laxatives and my sentiment changed.

  2. The word 'constipated' is worth a thousand pictures.