Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Nine Day Update

I've been here in Japan for nine days now. It has gone fast and this is actually the longest time I’ve spent in Tokyo. Some interesting things have happened starting with the heat. I wasn’t expecting it to be as frustrating as it has been but it will be gone soon and things should become more comfortable.

I have been having problems with the furniture in my apartment. The chairs, tables, and the desk are all very low and I am straining my back to use them. As a result I lay on the floor with my notebook on my stomach to work. It is tiring my back quite a bit and I even looked into another apartment that had beds and what looked like higher chairs but it was too expensive. I’m going to go to a second hand furniture store on Sunday and see what I can find.

The area of Mitaka is the Tokyo pilot site for sorting garbage. I am lucky enough to have arrived during the program so I can participate. There are many rules, a tricky schedule and some sketchy drawings that I have to rely on to get the garbage right. The written parts are in Japanese. On different days I have to put out different types of garbage and I’ve already received a notice from the garbage police that I’m not doing it correctly. I found out the combustibles have to be placed in government approved plastic bags that you can buy at the 7Eleven and I now have the correct bags.

There are separate days for plastics and plastic bottles; combustibles and paper; hazardous and non-combustible. I’m getting to know my garbage intimately and, for each type’s individual characteristics. If I don’t learn it, it appears that the garbage police will help me learn.

Japan is considered a leading nation when it comes to being Eco-friendly so I’m glad to help.

As far as work goes, to this point I have accomplished a lot. The publicity campaign I started required quite a bit of material to get the ball rolling including, three articles that will be published in a national Ezine. I was able to complete the articles and also fill out questionnaires relater to my writing experience.

Once that was done I started to work on the fourth draft of my second novel. This is the one I will send to my editor. I will be working on this draft each morning for the next few weeks.

My Japanese language skills have been useful to a certain degree. I usually do one of my lessons on the computer before I go out so that I have wrapped my tongue around some Japanese words as a kind of linguistic stretching exercise. Not long ago my lessons were dealing with modes of transportation and yesterday I was able to put some of the lessons to use. I went to buy a present for my friend who I hadn’t met up with yet on this trip. I was going to make a 15 minute walk (Jyugo fun aruite imasu.) to the next area of Tokyo called, Kichijoji. I walked toward the trains and then saw a young man and asked him which road I would take to get to Kichijoji. (Donna michi wa Kichijoji e ikimasu ka?)

He pointed at the bus stop and said why don’t you take the bus? (Asoko ni basutei ga arimasu. Basu de imasho ka?) I asked how long it would take to walk ( Donna gurai aruite imasu ka?) and we had a little discussion about getting to Kichijoji. I had to ask him to repeat himself a few times but I realized that part of his argument was that it was hot out and the bus had air conditioning and it was only 100Yen. ( Atsui desu ne. Basu no naka ni air con ga arimasu. Hyaku en dake kakaremasu.) I decided to take the bus.

The young man walked me to the bus stop and told me the bus would be there in about 5 minutes then confirmed with a lady at the bus stop that the bus would go to Kichijoji. The young man left but quickly turned around and returned because he remembered that there were two buses that stopped at this location and he wanted me to catch the right bus.

Another man who spoke good English joined in and said he was going on the same bus and would make sure I got on the right one then got off at the right place. Again the people of Japan are willing to help strangers make there way.

I was pretty happy that I was able to communicate my intent and understand their suggestions.

After purchasing the gift I had time to kill so I went to a small Izakaya (Japanese bar) for a beer. The man and lady were polite and asked me in Japanese where I was from and wasn’t the weather hot. We had two or three short conversations after that about golf, sumo and baseball. I am so slow at hearing and understanding that I think sometimes they give up on getting me to understand but I’m getting more confident which is what I want to develop while I’m here.

Later I met my friend and we went to a newly opened Izakaya in Nakano. He and I met when I was trying to buy Japanese movies over the internet. He worked in the international sales department for the company that sold the DVDs and I was having a problem getting my AMEX card accepted. It turned out I had typed the number incorrectly.

At one point in our email exchanges I expressed that his English was very good and then I wrote a few sentences in Japanese. He corrected them and offered to let me email him every so often to test my Japanese writing.

On my next trip to Japan we went to sumo together and we’ve been getting together every trip since. His English is very good. It turns out he went to school for one semester in Arizona and then lived in Philadelphia for a number of years after graduating. He says he only speaks English when I am in town and likes the practice.

The new Izakaya is owned and run by a lady who was once a professional wrestler. She had wrestled in the WWE in the US and also on the circuit in Japan. When she dropped out of wrestling she moved to Orlando, FL to become a professional golfer but that didn’t work out.

On a big screen television behind the bar you could watch some of her matches as a non-stop highlight reel played on a DVD player. Her ring name was, Bull Nakano, like the town we were in. She weighted about 240 lbs as a wrestler and was one of the bad guys. Her hair was either purple or blue and it stood straight up like a pointed crown. Her face was painted and she sneered a lot at her opponents.

Since then she has lost 110 lbs and is a very shapely and attractive woman with a constant smile on her face. To date the bar has been filled with her fans wanting to see her and we had to have a reservation to get in.

An Izakaya is a small bar with mostly counter service but sometimes a few tables. Her Izakaya called, Bull Nakano, is all counter service. The dishes are small, inexpensive and tasty and I had not had anything like her dishes anywhere before except maybe for the pork ribs.

One dish stood out and that was shark cartilage and umeboshi, the cured-salted plums sometimes called Japanese apricots. The cartilage was chopped fine and then mixed with a paste of the umeboshi. It had a distinctive sweet-sour flavor with the cartilage crunching between your teeth for texture. I enjoyed it a lot.

The owner told me that it was an energy dish and that I may have trouble falling asleep later and she was right. I tossed and turned for a long time and don’t know when I finally slept.

Before we left the Izakaya my friend had me take a picture of him with Bull Nakano and then he produced a collector’s card like a baseball card, of Bull Nakano and she signed it for him. He’s a fan too and that’s why he chose that restaurant.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that thanks to the internet I would be able to follow my favorite television shows from home while I was living in Japan. It turns out that that just isn’t so. I went to catch up on episodes of, Last Comic Standing, and Hulu indicated that they weren’t allowed to broadcast American content in the geographical region where my PC was connected.

I then tried all the major networks and discovered this is true for all of them. Minutes ago I was trying to catch up on, Top Chef, and Bravo is also blacked out.

Next I tried my Netflix account to see if I could watch movies online. Again, I’m blacked out.

Interesting development but I guess to protect other regions cultural identity you have to draw some boundaries. I should have known though, last year my sister in Canada told me she couldn’t watch shows on NBC due to the regional blocking.

So, if the US networks can determine that you are outside of the US based in the address of your entry point to the internet, why can’t the NFL Network figure it out as well and only enforce local blackout rules when the entry point is in the US? They would do themselves some good if they could also determine if the entry point for the specific session was away from the user’s home city. Then their online offering would make sense and people traveling on a game day could see their home team play.

After nine days it’s been what I expected it to be except I thought I would get along better with being on the floor most of the time. It’s amazing how much we take a good chair or a sofa for granted.

Don’t forget that you can find out all you need to know about me and my novel at my publisher’s website,

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