About Me

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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.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Journey Begins

Well, here goes. Although I consider myself computer literate, I am pretty much blog ignorant. A friend of mine, Frank, who is very literate in more ways than I can count, including computer and blogging, (see his website at ravenweb.net) has set this site up for me. He also posted my first blog which was a newsletter that I sent to friends back in the states. Based on some positive response to the newsletter, I've been encouraged to chronicle my experiences while living in Japan. So without further ado, the journey begins.

I've now officially been in Japan for 3 months. The time seems to be flying by. First to all those people who are more knowledgeable about Japan. I apologize for any simplifications or gross inaccuracies that I may put forth. I'm just sharing my experiences and I certainly don't claim to be an expert on anything Japanese. Anyhow, things have certainly been moving along. I've learned both Hiragana and Katakana and can read and write very slowly. Since Katakana is the system for foreign words, and many of the words come from the English language I can actually figure them out. The other day while shopping with my wife, I sounded out kurisumasu kado. Masu is pronounced mas so the two words were Christmas card. Since I was standing in front of a large display of Christmas cards, the deciphering process was made much easier. It's strange to be so excited about reading and sounding out words as if I was a four or five year old.
But, speaking of Christmas, I was surprised that it is such a big deal here. Decorations have been going up since Halloween, which also seems to be enjoyed here.

I'm continually surprised at the number of celebrations and festivals that occur here.
Japan, at least our area, seems to be very event oriented. Almost every weekend some event takes place on Motomachi or Naka street. Motomachi Street is the main drag of our shopping area with many trendy shops and restaurants and Naka Street is the next street over. In late October we had an event on our street called the "La Pesta Mille Miglia 2006", a classic race car event. I guess they drive (race?) these really cool old race cars from Harajuku to Yokohama and the "finish line" is on Motomachi Street. Quite the event. The street was blocked off. A large stage was constructed with ramps at both ends so the cars could drive down the street, up the ramp, onto the stage and then down the other side and continue down Motomachi. A full band was on the stage and played swing and jazz pieces. Also on the stage were local dignitaries and, of course, car manufacturer executives who sponsered the event. There must have been at least 75 cars, if not 100. I took lots of pictures. The cars were old and in immaculate condition. I saw English, German, Italian, and a few American cars. Very few , if any, were from Japan. I think most of the cars were from a Tokyo classic car club. Quite the event. The street was completly mobbed with people. This event was held on Tuesday evening of a normal work week.

In early October (October 9th) Monday was a holiday here so there was some kind of street celebration all weekend in our neighborhood. Each evening, Naka street was closed to traffic. Venders sold food from booths set up on or near the street. The rest of the street was covered with tables and chairs. People were eating and drinking everywhere. Some were eating at the tables. Others just claimed a part of the street and spread out a tablecloth. Musicians played on street corners, and there was even an exotic dancer.

We have had a shopping week called a Charming Sale, where Motomachi street was jam packed with people for a full week including two weekends.

A celebration for dogs, including a dog beauty contest. Dogs are very popular here, especially small dogs. People dress them in very elaborate costumes. My favorite costume, which I was unable to get a picture of, was a small dog dressed in a black leather Harley Davidson outfit. Vest, pants and even leather hat.

The dogs are wearing grey and white sweaters with pink front sleeves.

The strollers in the above pictures are for the dogs.

Obviously some people also get dressed up.

There seems to be no end to the number of events and all are well attended. This was the grand opening of a new department store near Yokohama station.

One last side note. We recently spent a week in Rome (Marcia worked and I toured). Rome is a truly awesome city and the history is overhwelming. That being said, I was truly delighted to return to our home in Yokohama. Within half an hour of being in Rome, we were ripped off by a cab driver and within the first two days, two others of our group had their pockets picked and their money stolen. After living in Japan for three months, I had let my guard down and had forgotten to be paranoid. Two very distinct differences between Rome and Yokohama are the level of crime and the level of service. I have been to Italy before and I love the food and the country and the friends I have there are very warm, loving, caring, helpful people, but my experience with restaurants is very different. I'm often made to feel like an outsider who is intruding on a private party. This is not always the case and I'm only speaking about my personal experiences, but I have made requests to waiters that have been completely ignored. Glass of water, check, these are not outrageous requests. Maybe I'm just getting spoiled living in Japan, but the eagerness to serve that Japanese waiters display is quite refreshing in comparison. One last comment. Yokohama is the cleanest city I have ever lived in. Let's just say Rome isn't.
More later as the adventure unfolds.
Ja mata,


Anonymous said...

Gary, I appreciate the opportunity to share this experience with you and Marcia, albeit vicariously. Thanks much! Tina S. (EA)

Anonymous said...

Very nice post chronicling your continuing adventures in Japan. I like the descriptions as well as the interspersing of pictures.

Sorry to hear about your misfortune in Rome!

Anonymous said...

I miss you guys, but am happy to hear that things in Japan are going so well. Thanks for keeping us informed...I truly enjoy learning about the Japanese culture and your experiences. Keep 'em coming!!! See you at Christmas.

Anonymous said...

Gary this is great! I love not only reading about your experiences but seeing photos of them as well. We miss you guys but are so glad that you're enjoying the adventure. We can't wait to see you in December. Take care,
Cec & Frank

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for all the detailed info! We're so excited for you and Marcia. We miss you and can't wait for the Holidays as well as the Sabres game:)
Amie and Nate

Anonymous said...

Gary & Marcia:

The blog is a GREAT way to keep all of us Pats (vs. ExPats) informed. You have a real talent for story telling. The pictures add perfectly (but where's Marcia? ... Gary, you need to hold the camera now & again). Keep 'em coming. We've been missing you guys for a LONG time! (And seems California is closer to Japan that NY... alas...) Ja Mata right back at ya! Nancy & Michael