Hello Tokyo

Writing from our dining room table, looking out the windows to the little woodsy park in a light rain:

Jen and I had an uneventful 14 hour flight made much more tolerable by a massive on-demand movie/tv collection (cinematography and costume prize goes to Midnight in Paris, although especially by the end Kung Fu Panda was a little more my speed). We touched down at Narita a little after 3 in the afternoon, where our sponsor met us and herded us into a van. She showered us with interesting Japan-related tidbits on the way back to the compound: in order to get the equivalent of an ezpass in Japan you need a Japanese bank account, you can get just about anything in a donki (Don Quixote, abbreviated I think?) store but they warned us that the childrens toys and the sex toys are all mixed up together, and if you take the train on vacation you can have your luggage shipped overnight separately for quite cheap (space on the trains is at a premium).

Our apartment is really nice, although we were warned several times that the park area that our windows overlook is where roving bands of nerf-gun toting eight-year-old boys congregate early on weekend mornings. Apparently one of our neighbors is infamous for adding to the din by bellowing at them from his balcony in his bathrobe. So… perhaps we will become morning people.

Molly and Kris were kind enough to cook us dinner (steamed pork buns — amazing) and help us stay awake until a reasonable hour. I’m afraid we weren’t particularly good company, being largely brain-dead from jet lag at that point, but we did manage to stay awake until about 9.

This morning I woke up bright and early at 4:30 am, made myself a cup of tea, and sat on our balcony watching the sun come up. The parkish area around our apartment is very nicely kept, and is full of bats, cicadas, and frogs. So when the sky went from gunmetal gray to pink-striped, the trees erupted in quite a din. The bats swooped around, the cicadas buzzed, the frogs chirped. At any rate, despite being smack-dab in the middle of Tokyo, we live on a beautiful green compound. There are little koi ponds between the buildings and very well-pruned asian gardens all over the place.

We had an early appointment at the embassy to check in, then I wandered back to the compound while Jen dove into her first day of work. There’s a little store on the compound, so I got us some food, set up our internet, and then did a lap of the compound. Found a couple little shrines on the way (all in Japanese, no idea what they were for), walked past some of the tiniest little restaurants I’ve ever seen, and stopped in a store to get some fresh veg and garlic (not available at the store on compound, and garlic is the key to a happy Jen). The compound is in a very business-y district, but there are also a lot of restaurants around, and a little further afield Roppongi is a big restaurant/nightclub area.

So far my interactions with the locals has been limited to “i’m sorry/excuse me” and “thank you” (both in japanese, the extent of my vocabulary) and a lot of head bobbing. Poor guy where I bought veg kept trying to talk to me, and my responses of “sorry. english?” (which in japanese sounds a little like “sue me, ego?”) just increased the speed of japanese coming out his mouth. Fortunately talking is largely unnecessary to purchase groceries — you give me food I give you money is pretty universally understood.

So far most weirded out by: rather explicit instructions for “washing your bum with hot water” on airport toilet.

Most impressed by: I suppose in comparison to Comcast anyone else seems like an angel of connectivity, but the guy who works in the office that helped me get internet access is the nicest person ever.

Next task: Figure out how to make google stop displaying everything in Japanese, made somewhat more difficult by the fact that all the help and menus are now in… Japanese. (palm:face)

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