ようこそ

Maybe I’ll fill you in in some homely details in post. Here is the living room that I’m currently writing you from.

Pretty cool eh? The house is a pretty awesome fusion of eastern and western style. Western kitchen (gas stove, fridge, sink linoleum floors, etc.), office, and bathroom (sit down toilet that will not wash your ass for you), with a pretty Japanese living room and bedroom. The flooring throughout is mostly hardwood, but as you can see in both the above and below photos the traditional Japanese rooms are decked out with tatami mats (composed of rice straw.) The wall behind the couch in the living room slides open and closed and I’m always tempted to jump through the opening. There are some pretty cool sliding paneled doors that go in front of the glass doors in the living room but it appears that a forerunner of the place might have had some sort of punch out with the panels….I’m reminded of that one Simpsons episode where the family went to Japan and Homer would just walk through the walls instead of sliding them open.

Below is my bedroom.

Woken up every day by soft sunlight and a bell that is rung outside if the light doesn’t do the trick. My neighbors are nice folk. One of them has a very young little daughter and its nice to see her running around and learning about life.

a little touch from home.

Above is Iwamoto-san, my supervisor (we’re the same age, pretty rad right?) and also my best friend in the area. His role at the moment is basically to show me the ropes around here and to make sure I don’t get into too much shit (and so far so good!). I love his sense of humor and I find basically everyone that I’m working with the be awesome human beings. More on the “big boss”  (my actual boss, quite a character) and the others on a later date.

An important note from Iwamoto-san:

: )

My ride.That there is what is known as a K-car and is the most popular style of car in Japan. K-cars are super small and are really good on gas, and they actually have a bit of punch to them if you give the pedal a little love. Driving on the left side of the road was a bit strange at first and if I had a dollar for every time I opened the door and sat in the passenger seat instead of the drivers seat I’d probably be $100 richer. Some habits take a while to retrain.

As you might know, there is a stereotype that exists in America that asians aren’t the best drivers out there, but let me tell you, I may only speak for the country folk, but any and all truth that stands behind this generalization comes from the fact that driving is just an entirely different game out here. Driving here consists of thousands of blind hairpin turns, flying at warp speeds through dimly lit tunnels, constant vigilance for old people walking in the middle of the road on the other end of turns, and occasional earthquakes and mudslides. I imagine that after living in this all your life a straight wide road with a bunch of organized lights and multiple lanes  full of other cars might take quite a bit of getting used to! If you are from the west and would come out here to see these people drive your jaw would drop. The drivers out here are unparalleled professionals at racing through astroid fields of obstacles, and most impressive of all the drivers are the old fogies that have been doing it all their lives (except the ones who drive 20km/h. Some things are the same anywhere you go.)  I’m getting the hang of it now but its definitely taken a lot of crazy mistakes to get me where I am so far.

The food here is absolutely incredible. Pictured above is a plate of soba (cold buckwheat noodles) and a special type of sushi (kakino ha zushi) that is wrapped in persimmon leaves to absorb flavor, and is only found in Nara prefecture. The persimmon leaves themselves aren’t ingested….definitely the most unique and possibly best tasting sushi I’ve ever had. The grocery stores are a completely different game here as well. As you would expect, some things that would normally be super expensive in the USA are incredibly cheap here (e.g. sushi, and type of fish/seafood, miso paste, delicious mushrooms, and other Japanese things), and a lot of stuff from other places in the world that in their home countries are considered ordinary foods are considered delicacies here and run for top dollar prices. A few examples are mangos, cantaloupes, and tiny boxes of frosted flake($12,$10, and $6.50, respectively). Crazy. Generally though, I find that the stereotype of groceries being more expensive in Japan doesn’t really hold true so long as one aclimates to the local cuisine. The only major shifts that I have noticed that I will have to make from my western diet (if I don’t want to blow all my money) is a lowered consumption of fruit and red meat. The tradeoff is more than worth it.

There are literally at least like ten different species of mushrooms sold in the grocery stores here (the majority of which I don’t think you can even find in the USA) and so far all of them are incredible. Most of them come in little individualized cultivations and they’re so cute I sort of just want to keep them around the house as decorations. They’re just too tasty for that, however.

FRESH wakame (seaweed)!!!!!

the subsequent mushroom wakame miso breakfast, accompanied by nato, which I’ll describe some other time. It appears this has become a daily breakfast for me.

Many adventures were had today and throughout the week as my co-workers and townsfolk have been welcoming me into the Yoshino society, and on Monday I will meet my kids! But more details on this later. Off to Osaka tomorrow to see if I can manage to request some camera repairs in my broken Japanese….

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