Saturday, April 3, 2010

JUSTCO + Izakaya = Great Times in Toyota!

I think today was my most fun day in Japan yet! It was not without its mishaps, of course, the major one being my discovery that my company's website's directions for where the Immigration Office is in Nagoya are wrong. The Immigration office has moved, and the building it is now in is a bike shop. But I did get some lovely pictures of the areas between Nagoya and Toyota as I traveled by train, as well as a snapshot of two girls in Kimono who were at the train station. But that's not the real fun. The real fun comes in two waves, domestic and social.
On the domestic front, I found the local post office and got money out of the ATM! Yay! I've spent a fair amount of it today, but most was start up costs so I'm not worrying about that too heavily. Across from the post office, visible through about a block of parking lot was the JUSCO! It wasn't nearly so far away as the guy at the train station said. And with a skip in my step, I started across the parking lot towards in in search of more household items.

What I hadn't noticed on my previous trip but was thrilled to note now is that the JUSCO also has a grocery store on the bottom floor. An amazing and wonderful grocery store! My fridge is now filled with food. Some classics of my repetoire, and some new items that are wholly Japanese. I realized when I trekked it all home that I'd forgotten cooking spray and milk, so I'm going to have to make a run somewhere tomorrow, but overall the trek was great!
As an aside, the big piece of news yesterday that I forgot to mention is that I found the Visitors Center and got an English Map of Toyota. I also have the Japanese one and a Japanese bus map. These three tolls make my getting around so much easier. I only had to ask for directions once today, to the CoCo Curry where I had an amazing dinner (this was not listed on the map). All in all, navigational success!

On my way back from my non-useful trip to Nagoya, I also stopped at the 100 yen store (Hyaku-en-Shoppe) and picked up more household items. I think with one or two more good trips, my house will be stocked and locked and ready to go! As it is, it's an incredible improvement from that first night. And I am so happy!

But the real creme-de-la-creme of the evening came tonight. Over the course of the day, I began to notice that I was feeling a little disconnected and lonely here. I talk to my mom everyday, my best friend almost as much, and others periodically, but those are faraway connections, not the ones that will make me feel at home here. I realized that I was having a hard time getting to meet and know people in part because my poor language skills were having me fall into the trap of only speaking when necessary. So instead of complimenting someone's outfit or hair at random, as I would do in the States, I was just being quiet. I made a decision to stop this and actively make connections. The only way I'm going to learn how to speak good Japanese is to speak a lot of awful Japanese, and the only way to making friends is through the same path. So on my way to the 100 Yen store, I saw one of the clerks was wearing really incredible looking purple heels, so I turned around and complimented her. We had a small conversation, and I began to feel less lonely and more happy as a result.

Sean gave me some great advice to meet locals by going to my local bar, or Izakaya. I tried to go into one bar on the way back home from the 100 Yen Store, and I think (though my Japanese isn't good enough to be sure) that I had my first experience with Japanese racism. The bar was in no way full, though it was somewhat busy, but the clerk told the woman at the door “iranai” when I asked if they had beer. “Iranai” = “Don't need.” I debated how angry I should be as I took myself and my goods back to my apartment, and messed around with my knitting a bit (there was yarn and needles at the 100 Yen Shoppe). I then called my mom, left a message, and after that decided to get back on the horse and find a bar that would want me and my money. I wandered around for a bit, passing a bar with only the staff inside (among others). At first I said to myself, “no, I should go to a bar with more people in it” but my gut told me after about five more minutes of aimless wandering, peeking in windows to see if various stores were a bar or restaurant, that I should go back to the uninhabited bar.

So I did. And boy am I glad I did! The bar staff was so friendly, and within 20 minutes the regulars had begun to trickle in. I felt like I was in an episode of Japanese “Cheers”. Everyone wanted to talk to me, and we had an incredible night of laughter, drinking and fun. One of the regulars, or “jyouren” (as I am now also) even bought me a round of Japanese Sake with a Fugu fin (Kie) in the glass for flavor, something that is not cheap, and we drank until he had to take a cab home. I met a group of wonderful people with whom I felt instant camaraderie. Also, my Japanese is more comfortable and happy already from this one night of conversation. I'm totally going back tomorrow night. Also, Arisa, the girl who helped me find my way to my apartment the first night, is excited to get together with me, introduce me to a good Toyota Restaurant, and we can practice English together (the very least I can do for the fact she helped me drag my luggage all through the back alleys of Toyota). It's going to be so much fun!

In short, I'm feeling like I'm making connections here in Japan. I'm becoming a part of my local communities, communicating, and having a great time!

Life in Toyota is coming together! At last!