Sunday, March 28, 2010

Nagoya Day 1: Second Half:

It was around 11am Nagoya time when I made it to the Kanayama Washington Hotel. I dragged my luggage onto the elevator and spoke with the woman at the front desk, explaining in rather broken Japanese that I was with Altia Central and that they had reserved my room. Alas, I was soon to discover that I had intrepidly journeyed to the wrong hotel. I needed the Kanayama Plaza hotel, and that was a good 3-4 blocks away. Which considering my travel speed meant a good hour or more of wandering around Nagoya asking people “doko desu ka” until I staggared to my intended destination. The woman at the desk pulled out a lovely map and drew a line from where I was to where I was going. Then she asked if it was okay. I kind of shrugged and said "hai, daijoubu." What was I going to do, take up residence in her hotel lobby? So with a Genki grin I set out again. Once more into the streets of Nagoya.

About halfway to my destination, I ran into a lovely Pakistani man named Suni who ended up giving me a ride to the hotel. I'd never have accepted this ride in Philly, and probably it was poor judgement here, but I did have pepper spray. There is a certain bond that comes from being a foriegner here though. No matter what country you're from, if you're gaijin (ie: not from Japan), there's an automatic point of common ground. In my time here, I've met people from all over the world, so in a way I'm not just learning about Japanese culture but also getting a different and fascinating perspective on the rest of the world.

Once I got settled into my hotel, it was time to venture back out for necessary supplies (namely hairbrush and watch) as well as get my health check done. I went first for the health check, but in keeping with my theme for the day, ended up first at the wrong Mizutani hospital (Mizutani was recommended I go for the health check by my company). The correct one was just around the corner though, and the first hospital had a small map which they gave me. That along with simple instructions got me to the second hospital. They were of course closed on afternoon siesta, so I had to come back two hours later. Which was fine, because this gave me the chance to whip out my hotel map and wend my way to the Donkiyote store (sounds like Don Quixote, I kid you not--which felt appropriate, because in regards to Nagoya navigation, I've totally been chasing windmills).

Don Quixote's store was made of amazing. It was like fifty of those “health and beauty” stores on Chestnut street combined with twenty dollar stores and a few sections of Walmart squashed into one floor of my house. All with multiple TV's going constantly, and a small food section. In short, I was completely in love. In this store I found a watch (which apparantly doesn't work, so I'm going to try my first return probably tonight after training (note from the future: this was all on Friday and it's currently morning Nagoya time...blogging the events of ones life are awfully time consuming). I bought an excellent hairbrush, a nonfunctional watch, some canned mangoes, this incredible peach chewing gum and bottled tea. In Japan, bottled tea comes in a sea of flavors and types. This is also where I got my picture of the famous “Black Man” underwear, that seems to be designed to make a man look more well endowed. I couldn't stop laughing as I snapped the picture. That' s also where I got my canned tuna Onigiri, which I've been informed is actually Tsuna (ツナ)not Shina(シナ)。Thanks Rally! That's a huge difference.

The health clinic checkup was also really interesting. I am very proud that through gestures and broken Japanese, I was able to explain my physical state (in vague, broad terms) as well as some of my family medical history. Luckily one of the nurses spoke some English, which became necessary especially when I saw the doctor because he was wearing a face mask, and between the muffledness of his voice and the fact that I couldn't read his expressions, I couldn't understand him at all. One unexpected event at the health clinic: on the giant flatscreen TV in the waiting room, I saw a commercial for beer featuring the actress who plays Yankumi in the live action version of Gokusen. From what I was able to glean from the commercial, before trying this particular type of beer, she didn't like beer, but now beer is GREAT!

I was also completely amazed by my physical. I got an ear test, eye check, x-ray, and (very) brief physical all for about 4,500 yen ($45). This was the rate without insurance. The same physical in the USA would have costed me over $200 with my crappy insurance, without the X-ray (I know because I called my PCP on this before I left and decided to do it in Japan). In Japan, there are no appointments: you just walk into Japanese clinics and wait. I was admitted to the clinic in under 15 minutes, and was seen in under an hour. The place was really hopping. I think about 30 people were in and out in the time I was getting seen. People with obvious limbs in casts, people wearing “I'm sick” facemasks and a number of healthy looking people as well. This really put our healthcare debate in the USA into a different perspective. I'm sure the Japanese system has it's own flaws (that I'll discover soon, especially when I try to get more birth control...sigh...), but their nationalized system seems a huge step up from what we have (and are probably going to have with this new bill, but hope springs eternal).

Reflecting on my first full day in Nagoya, I can say it's a good thing I enjoy being lost, because my life in Japan is all about being lost. I'm lost in restaurants, only having a vague idea of what's on the menu. I'm lost on the streets, only having a vague idea of where I'm going, and I'm lost in conversation, only having a vague idea of what people are saying. But the other half of this is the magic of having a condensed rush of new experiences that are at points amazing, maybe a little frustrating, and wonderfully strange. It's been ridiculously fun, and I'm so happy to be here!

Photos of Day one posted at Facebook on my profile. Hopefully that link will work.

Next post: Orientation/Training and Karaoke!