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I'm an American living in Japan for three years while my wife is on assignment here. (Three years has come and gone so I should probably say three years and counting.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Living in Japan

So for all those people that thought we dropped of the face of the earth, we haven't. We just moved to Japan.

Let me explain. Early this year, Marcia was offered a three year contract to work with the Moog operations in the Pacific and be headquartered in Japan (specifically, Yokohama). She expressed interest and we were flown out in early April to Japan for a week to see what it would be like to live in Yokohama. We were pleasantly surprised. We talked it over and decided that living in a foreign country would be interesting. So Marcia accepted the position. I sold my business and we packed our bags. We left Stephen in charge of our house and Abby (old dog), Trofast (old cat) and Maggie (young, weird cat). We arrived in Yokohama on August 11 and the adventure began. For all those people that knew we were moving to Japan I apologize for the above synopsis. However you, also, probably still think that we've dropped of the face of the earth. I apologize and will try to be better with my communications in the future. In our defense, our shipment of furnitiure was delayed and we spent the first three weeks living in a hotel. So we have only been getting settled into our apartment for about three weeks.

Our apartment is modest by American standards and huge by Japanese standards (3 bedrooms and 1 bath). The scaled down lifestyle suits me fine since I am the one mostly responsible for keeping the household. (Having no job at the moment and Marcia being reponsible for human resource operations in seven or eight countries, it was sort of a "no brainer" who was going to keep the home fires burning.) It's very likely that I could teach English here in the future, but at the present time I'm exploring Yokohama and the train and subway systems and studying Japanese. Someone has to find the fun places to explore and, of course, good places to eat so when Marcia's not working she can be entertained. It's a tough job but I'm willing to sacrifice. Ha. Ha. Marcia is very busy at work, but we have been getting out and around and it's been very interesting and fun.

Contrary to popular belief, the food here is quite varied and very good. There are plenty of fish and rice dishes, of course, but also pizza, steak, french fries, etc. There's even a Fridays that we like to visit when the need for traditional American food gets too overwhelming. Obviously, all of the "chains" are here also, ... McDonalds, KFC, Shakeys Pizza, Hard Rock Cafe. For the more adventuresome, there are many dishes that are delicious if one is willing to risk ordering without really knowing what you're getting. A lot of menus don't have any english, but they do have pictures of the dishes. When we're feeling experimental, we'll go to restaurants where very little or no english is spoken and just point to what we want. Believe it or not, these have been some of our best meals. However, there are no guarantees that what you think you see in the picture is what the picture actually is. Marcia thought she saw chopped red tomatos as a topping on a noodle dish when what she got was salmon roe (fish eggs). Not to her liking. The tempura is fantastic. We keep exploring and discovering new places to eat and drink. The variety is amazing. From traditional Japanese and Chinese to expat sports bars. The fruit and produce here is fantastic, but very expensive. The other really expensive item is beer! Six packs from $12 to $15.

The Japanese people are very helpful and courteous and are very appreciative of any attempt we make to speak Japanese. The written Japanese language is different from english in that it is not based on one alphabet but three. I'll try to give a very simplified explanation. One alphabet is used for Japanese words (hiragana), one alphabet for foreign words (katakana) and to make things interesting an alphabet borrowed from the Chinese (kanji) made up of thousands of characters each representing a single thought or concept (with variations, of course). I've taught myself the basics of hiragana and can sound out words, even if I don't know what they mean, and can write very slowly. But, here's where things get complicated. These three different forms of writing are completely intermixed and will all appear within the same sentence. So the best we can really hope for is a very basic "get by" kind of understanding. I've had more time to study than Marcia and am getting some phrases down that I can use, but the main problem is understanding responses from the people I comment to. They speak quickly and throw in a lot of words I don't know. Needless to say, it's a slow process.

I've attached a few pictures to give a sense of where we're living. We're in a relatively quiet part of the city. We live in an eight unit building built up the side of a hill on a dead end street that faces a park. The good news/bad news is that it's quiet but we have over 60 stairs to get to our front door.

Now for a quick tour of our neighborhood ....

This is the view from the bottom of our street. We live on the back side of this building.




Some of the stairs to our house.



Next three shots are walking down our street to the "main drag" of our neighborhood, Motomachi Street.






A more quiet way to get to Motomachi Street and a shortcut to the train station.




The "main drag" of our neighborhood. Motomachi Street.



Last picture is a view of Yokohama Bay from a park a short walk up the hill from our house.




Well, that's a brief update on our latest adventure.

Ja mata (se you later),
Gary

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Post more!

Anonymous said...

More!