With the exception of my adventure in Tokyo Station, my transition to pseudo-Japanese life has been rather smooth. The only hiccup has been my JET lag, which has no end in sight.
The problem with the JET lag is two-fold: Over the last four months I have gotten used to sleeping less than 8 hours a night AND in Japan, by 5 PM it is as dark as the recesses inside George W. Bush's heart. By the time 6 PM rolls around it feels like it is the middle of the night. So I fall asleep. Then I wake up 7 hours later. It's a vicious cycle.
Everything else is great. Homesickness won't be a problem (famous last words, right?) because of the amazing technology found on my computer. I leave it on all day and I am constantly being bombarded with chat requests, blog comments, and emails. At the touch of a button I can turn on my webcam and watch live video of Jim, Donna, Alex, Kevin, Catie, Tiana, and Jumper Thunder running wild in the Ford Asylum.
Emily has really eased me into getting out and about. Now the park, I could have done that on my own. I can go to any natural place anywhere in the world and understand what is going on. Enjoying the outdoors is a universal experience. Buying bread at the grocery store and trying to figure out the grill at the okonomiyaki restaurant aren't - hell, trying to figure out what the hell okonomiyaki means in English is a chore in itself.
Those things can be very intimidating. If I had been here on my own, I would have probably just gone on a diet for a few days while I tried to decipher EVERYTHING. Just trying to figure what things are, never mind actually trying to eat them, can be an adventure.
Just yesterday I bought myself an onigiri. I talked about those a few days ago; they are the stuffed rice balls wrapped in nori. When you go to the store there are usually about ten different varieties to choose from. The wrappers all tend to be different colors and what I assume are the different flavors are drawn on the front in either Kanji or Katakana. Kanji is the character alphabet that has about 25,000+ characters. I know about 10. Translating those packages are going to require several taste tests. The rest of them are written in Katakana, which is the phonetic character alphabet that they use to spell out foreign words that are not in the Japanese language. Some examples are computer, cheese, and America.
I haven't had much chance to brush up on my Katakana since moving to Japan, but I do remember most of the characters from the Japanese classes I took in the mid-1990's. I was able to decipher one particular package. When you sounded out the characters, it sounded something like "SHIICHIKIN MAYONEEZU." My best guess was that it was some type of chicken with mayonaisse. Chicken with mayonaisse is chicken salad. Chicken salad onigiri sounded pretty good.
I bought it.
It wasn't chicken.
It was tuna.
I had just learned another THING TO KNOW WHILE VISITING JAPAN.
THINGS TO KNOW WHILE VISITING JAPAN #5: You need to read all of the characters when trying to translate characters into English. Just because a package says chicken, doesn't mean that it is chicken. It may be tuna.
My fatal mistake was to ignore the SHII character that came before the CHIKIN characters. The SHII sound translates into SEA. I was eating SEA CHICKEN. Chicken of the Sea. Tuna.
Maybe Jessica Simpson isn't as dumb as we all thought?
So you see, there are lots of little things that I am just going to have to learn ONE AT A FRICKIN' TIME. It helps to have my best friend here and it is exciting trying to figure everything out together. I also love having someone to laugh with when I buy a tuna onigiri thinking that it is chicken.
(It also helps your self esteem to have a tall, leggy blonde tell you that she loves you every five minutes, but I don't need to get into that.)