Saturday, 3 September 2011

" グレイム アンダソン " です


The title of this post is my name in Japanese. The lovely Cambridge House people had prepared a poster with all of our names on, welcoming us to the house. Here it is:



My iPod has decided that does not accept being in the time zone it is in fact in. As such, whenever I set it to the Tokyo time zone, it waits a few hours before changing itself to a random time. So, though it is midday here now, my iPhone thinks it is six in the evening. John Scroggie informs me that it is four in the morning in the UK. Silly machine. Still, this means that setting alarms is futile. Nevertheless, on my first day in Japan, as the sun rose on the land of rising suns, I was awake. 6 am. Jetlagged or otherwise I was awake, ready and raring to go. I had some tea from the immense vat kettle and watched some extremely enthusiastic Japanese TV. The only English channel was some horrendously violent American film that I chose to avoid and so, got up properly for breakfast at 7: 30.

Breakfast was incredible: those of you that know me well, know that joy is one of the few pleasures in my otherwise unbearable existence. I was worried that, in moving to Japan, food was going to be low quality, highly processed, and expensive.  I love being wrong (sometimes). For breakfast there was an omelette, miso soup, rice and loads of tea. It was oishii, as they say.
True to form, of course, I caused complete embarrassment when returning my tray and chopsticks. They have a system whereby one places the chopsticks in their own tub, glasses in another, and then all crockery gets thrown into a pond sized vat of warm soapy water (some good fun to be had there, I dare say). On an ordinary day, the place would have been fully staffed, thus protecting against the intervention of idiots like myself. Unfortunately, Cambridge House had let its guard down for the summer holidays. Understanding little, I launched the entirety of my tray into the soap-pond. This caused consternation, panic and amusement from the skeleton staff, one of whom had to half dive in to retrieve my chopsticks. A good way of breaking the ice, I’d say. Nevertheless, it was smiles and bows and apologies all round.

It had become clear to everyone, I’ve no doubt, that I had not brought deodorant, hoping to be able to buy some in in Japan. That was my first task. We set off on an intrepid adventure through the warm rain and wild wind (the spillage from the Typhoon that is currently tearing up Shikoku and central Japan) to the brand new mega mall, called AEON, where we spent about three hours trying to ascertain what various basics might in fact be. The supermarket was confusing, first of all, because they seemed to have the same thing for sale in different areas at different prices. I had stocked up on shampoo, razors and the like, muttering under my breath about how I’d already spent a grand or so, before coming across the same stuff on the other side of the titanic-sized hall (an appropriate adjective, because the place was full of fish!). Eventually I got what I needed, though my rudimentary Japanese didn’t half cause panic among the staff, who couldn’t work out whether I was after tea bags or cold, bottled tea. They were most bemused, as well, when I pointed to Rob’s umbrella, asking if they sold them. Though we got as far as determining that the word I wanted was “umburera”, I think it was just too much excitement for them, and they promptly fobbed me off.
I managed to get my slippers though.

I had instant noodles for lunch which were super salty but, I fear, an imminent staple of my diet.
In the afternoon, Seb gave us our tour of Cambridge House and bade us welcome again.

Dinner was delightful, with a very fishy seaweedy soup instead of miso, and various unnameable condiments to go with another bowl of rice.

The most exciting part of the day, however, was the bit that included FULL FRONTAL NUDITY. That’s right, just calm down. 
The “Onsen” – public bath – is a major tradition in Japan, especially on our island, Kyushu. Throughout Japan, Japanese people come to scrub up all squeaky clean, then soak in the soothing hot waters. Natural springs abound on this volcanic archipelago, so there are loads of charming pictures of red faced monkeys taking baths in the outdoor pools, which are just as popular among humans.
Laurie and I, with nothing to be ashamed of, went down to Cambridge House’s onsen (it was boys’ day on Saturday, girls’ day on Monday), got our respective kits off, sat on a bucket with the rest of the blokes of the building, had a little shower and a nice hot soak. It was extraordinarily civilised, especially the naked water-fight that inevitably ensued among the showering Japanese guys.
Suitably relaxed, we enjoyed some shochu, a rice spirit that is the spitting double, spitting often being the operative word, of vodka, with some orange juice that Cambridge House had given us for free!
Sunrise, and so sunset…

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