It’s been a crazy week! Monday was a holiday, so we headed up to one of the biggest markets in Tokyo that’s only held two days a year — Setagaya Boroichi — with Vida, Vicky, and Sarah (a friend of Vida’s from Yokosuka). We got up there bright and early before the crowds, but boy was it cold! Jen and I found some fun stuff to begin our Japanese bits and pieces collection, including an antique wooden saddle which makes a great side table. It’s hard to imagine that anybody’s butt every fit into it, nevermind riding a horse on it, but it suits our purposes nicely!
We also bought a little shelf thingy which is made of old tonsu pieces, in which we can display some of the knickknacks we’ve picked up. Speaking of which… we found some of those too. And we got a larger statue of a wandering scholar which we’ve admired elsewhere and were able to talk the vendor down to a reasonable price this time. We also ate a bunch of the little snacks and drinks they had there — anything hot we pretty much swallowed whole. They’re really into the hot lemon drinks here, so we had a nice cup of hot lemon and honey from a stall that specializes in local honey, and we found some grilled mochi balls (the woman selling them insisted they weren’t mochi, but they tasted like mochi to me). Jen also tried the hot sake that’s traditional around new year, which tasted more like runny rice pudding… but it was hot, so we weren’t complaining.
Then on Tuesday I started the new job! It’s been a bit of an epic process trying to get all the paperwork, bureaucratic nonsense, etc taken care of, which continued into the first day a bit — lots of papers to sign, boxes to check, offices to visit. But the people I am working with seem really nice, so that’s always a good sign. Our office manager is on it (as office managers frequenly are), my supervisor has a great sense of humour, and the tech guy is beyond nerdy, but good at what he does. Most of the folks I work with are Japanese, and I’m seated in a section where everybody around me speaks Japanese most of the time, so it’s certainly a different atmosphere than I’m used to, but they’re all very nice.
They all call me Tara-chan, which is a little unusual — normally to show respect you’d refer to people as __-san, or __-sama if you’re showing extreme respect. Chan is usually used with children, or used affectionately. So using it in a business context is odd. They’re certainly not the first to do so, however — most of the Japanese folks I know call me Tara-chan, and lest you think it’s because I’m just so gosh-darn cute, let me disabuse you. I apparently share my name with a children’s show character — it’s an animated show called Sazae-san which has been on forever and everybody watched when they were kids. The character is a 3 year old boy who everybody calls Tara-chan, so (as multiple people have explained to me now) -chan just seems to follow naturally after “Tara” to most Japanese speakers (when you’re talking about people — tara means codfish in Japanese, which is actually what the character is named after). Anyway, I kindof like it, and they seem to as well — it’s cute. And the fact that I’m an enormous female gaijin only makes it funnier.
At any rate, the rest of the week went well — I’m good at what I’ve been hired to do (read and summarize news) and pretty efficient, so they’re going to add more stuff to my plate soon. The usual quirks (and some unusual quirks?) of government work reared their head of course… endless training in what I can and cannot do with my computer or say to my coworkers… and I was issued a gas mask the first day (!) but they first asked me how many hours I’m working (!!), so apparently I fall within the “preserve from gassing” population. So that’s good news….
Friday I went out with a bunch of other folks from the embassy community to dinner at a Moroccan place, and boy was it terrible. Bad food, abysmal service… they kept adding additional fees onto the bill that weren’t marked on the menu so by the time we left it was also the most expensive meal I’ve eaten in Tokyo. Tokyo’s restaurants are usually so good we’ve been getting spoiled, but this place was just horrendous.
Jen has been really sick all week, but she’s not been able to take time off, so this weekend we curled up to recoup. I did a bunch of cooking — all variety of soup since Jen’s throat is unhappy, and fresh bread. I had some fun making the Cooks Illustrated “almost no-knead bread” in a plain variety, and also a sundried tomato, olive, rosemary, parmesan loaf. The recipe commands me to wait several hours before cutting them open, but the whole house smells like bread now and I’m not sure I can wait!