Wednesday, 29 August 2012

First couple of weeks in Osaka

10th

I'm sat in a McDonald's in Osaka. Just eaten a bright blue 'Tropical Soda' McFlurry. Both flights were fine. I watched some films on the first one and then tried to sleep during the second.  By the time I arrived at Kansai Airport it was about 10pm so I caught a train to Nanba and walked over to Shinsaibashi to find a place to stay for the night.  I'd stayed in a capsule hotel here before, and it took me a while to remember exactly where it was, but you can't beat 2,900 yen for the night, and included in that price you get access to the onsen. There's literally nothing better after a long flight than relaxing in an onsen, and after that I headed over to the TV room and relaxed on one of their reclining chairs. 

In some ways a capsule hotel is better and more relaxing than a normal hotel, but once you head up to your capsule and attempt to fall asleep you remember why the price is so cheap.  I did actually fall asleep fairly quickly at first - I'd barely slept on either of the flights - but I was woken up around 3:30 by the loudest snoring you can imagine, made worse by the fact that this person was in the very next capsule. He disturbed quite a few other people, who attempted to subtly make enough noise to wake him up and stop him snoring. After a while he did stop and I slept through till 8:30 this morning.

I went down to the onsen and had another wash, as I wasn't sure when my next one would be, and then checked out. Unfortunately, there's no free internet in Starbucks or McDonald's here, so I'm typing this without a connection and I'll upload it later.

By the way, the films I watched on the flight over were The Five Year Engagement (Jason Segel is always funny and the plot wasn't your typical rom-com storyline, but the ending was fairly typical), The Cabin in the Woods (gory cross between Battle Royale and The Truman Show) and Rise of the Planet of the Apes (involving story about a super-intelligent chimpanzee, dealt with fairly realistically), all of which I'd been wanting to see for a while - I've hardly been to the cinema over the last year so haven't had chance to keep up on many new releases.

I have to admit, this time I wasn't that excited about coming to Japan - nowhere near as excited as the previous two times - but now I'm here I'm starting to remember why I like the place.  I haven't really been studying Japanese lately, but I seem to have still got it.

I got to check Facebook in the hotel last night, and tonight I'm planning to meet up with a friend and stay at hers until I land my own apartment.

15th

It's now Wednesday in Japan, marking basically a week since I set off from Sheffield, but I've spent most of my time here lying on my friend's apartment floor. I met up with her on the Friday night, as planned, and headed over to her apartment, but before I fell asleep I could feel some kind of illness coming on. I was jet-lagged, and sleeping on a floor, and it was pretty hot and humid, so I didn't get any sleep, and by the time morning came around I felt pretty ill. For the next couple of days my friend was out of the apartment and I just spent the whole time trying to sleep and watching Twin Peaks or HORSE the band's Earth Tour. I'm limited to things I have on my laptop as there's no internet here.

After a couple of days of not feeling like I was getting better I went to the doctors and he checked me over and gave me some medicine to take. Since taking that it's started to clear up, and last night was the first time since arriving here that I actually went to bed at a decent time and got a normal amount of sleep, so I'm feeling good today. 

It's not been the best start to my time in Japan, and having nothing to do but lie on the floor gave me a lot of time to think about whether I should have come here.  Like I said, I wasn't that excited about coming this time, and I've already decided I'm not gonna stay that long. I'm just gonna use this period as a time to work as much as possible and save a decent amount of money. I'd probably earn more money here than I would be able to in the UK so there was some point in coming, but the novelty of Japan has definitely worn off. When I walk around everything still seems bizarre, and that keeps me entertained, but I don't feel a strong urge to stay here. For example, I just went to the conbini and on the way back saw a 60-year old dude riding a badass motorbike and wearing trousers with Disney characters all over them. Things like that give me a chuckle, but is that really enough of a reason to be here?  I feel like my fascination with Japan has become rather post-modern, in that I just point and laugh at things now and don't feel any sense of attachment or involvement. Now I can see that much of the reason I wanted to come back was for nostalgic reasons. I had such a good time in my previous two stays here, and there are a lot of good memories, but those times are over and it's now time to move on and have an adventure somewhere else.

My friend's apartment is in a place called Juso, which is famous in Osaka for being something of a 'pink district' - kind of like a red light district, but less actual prostitution and more massage shops etc. In the basement of this apartment building there's loads of vending machines selling porn DVDs. I should take a video of it. To be honest, everyone seems pretty poor round here, and in that way it feels less like 'typical Japan' and more like home.

I'm not sure where I'm gonna live yet, but I've taken a few steps on both the apartment and job fronts.  The only reason to sort either is to settle down as soon as possible and start earning some cash - I only have limited funds that won't last long.  But now that I'm feeling better I should be able to move things along quicker, and I'll be able to meet up with my mates now, and they might be able to hook me up with a job etc.

20th

I had an interview for a job this morning, and I got it, although it's a job in the loosest sense of the word. By the sounds of it, the company basically find you students who want one-on-one English lessons and you turn up at a certain place and time and help them practise English conversation. I have another interview tomorrow evening with an English school, and if I get that it will be more of a regular job, although still not full-time. There are plenty of opportunities to teach English here, but no-one wants to employ you full-time.

Things are progressing on the apartment front as well. I handed in the application for a place, but they now want more documents so it's going to take time to get hold of them. Still, I'm aiming to have an apartment and be working by next week.

I got a mobile phone recently (Softbank 740SC). I'm not sure how long I'll be staying in Japan so I went for a pre-paid one, meaning I won't have to pay a cancellation fee when I leave.  They gave me the wrong charger when I bought it initially, so I had to go back and change it for the right one - a rare Japanese mistake - but it works fine. It's basically the same as the ones I've had before in Japan.

On Saturday night I went to Kobe and visited a family I'm good friends with. We had such a good time that I stayed too long, missed the last train and had to stop over on their sofa. It was good to be back in Kobe, riding Hankyu trains. It's still a really chilled-out city compared to Osaka. The next morning I went to the shopping mall area and played the electronic drum kit in the music shop, like I used to on my year abroad.

The other day I met up with a CIR friend from JET and we went drinking at the HUB (English-themed pub chain) in Nanba. Even though it'd only been a week since leaving England I enjoyed my fish and chips and English beer. I've gotta admit, I'm missing the football back home as well. Waking up to the results on a Sunday morning isn't the same as watching it on a Saturday afternoon.

26th

It's been a productive weekend. On Friday I got to move into my apartment, and I'm living here with another British guy (on Tuesday I got another job and this British guy got a job at the same time, so we decided to live together to make things cheaper). Yesterday we went to the hundred yen shop and bought a load of stuff for the new place, then caught the train to ニトリ in Amagasaki and bought some big things like a table and futons. Today we both got bikes (fully-fledged ママチャリs) and then rode over to a nearby supermarket to stock the cupboards with loads of fresh food. I'd returned to my normal habit of frequenting McDonald's when in Japan, so it was good to get to the supermarket and see shelves and shelves of fresh fruit and veg. We went on a big vegetable binge but we managed to fit it all in the fridge.  

The last few days I've been out a few times, mainly in Umeda. We've been searching for a regular watering hole there, and last night we finally came across a couple of decent places. One is an Irish pub called The Blarney Stone, and the other was a sports bar next to it. There we watched the Man United vs. Fulham game - all the Japanese people there enjoyed it when Kagawa scored.

Tomorrow my training starts at the new job. It looks like I'll be spending more time at this new job, rather than the first job I got. It's an actual English school, whereas the first one is basically just a company that matches up students with teachers for one-on-one private lessons.

This week I'm planning to get a bank account, and then internet, and then I'll be pretty much set.

29th

Within 24 hours the genius and the sheer pigheadedness of Japan was confirmed to me.  On Sunday night I went to a nearby 7-Eleven to scan my passport for some paperwork I have to put together. It's awesome that every 7-Eleven in Japan has a photocopier that can do all manner of things, including scanning something and transferring the resulting file to a USB stick. However, the next day I tried to get a bank account, as I knew we'd need one to pay for internet. We went in three separate banks, and all three said I have to live in Japan for 6 months before I can open an account, which is bizarre.  I'm pretty sure it's possible for foreigners to somehow open an account within their first six months, but in the end we're sharing internet with a friend who does have a bank account.  

We got the Wi-Fi WALKER from au and it's pocket wi-fi so you can take it anywhere as long as it's charged, but we're running a system where we have it in our apartment for one day and our friend has it in her apartment for one day. It does the job.

Training at work on Monday and Tuesday went well, then I was called up this morning to cover someone's shift, and ended up working 10am-9pm.  I want as many hours as possible, and you always learn best by being thrown in at the deep end so I enjoyed it.  Not working again now till Monday.

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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

もうちょっとで...

My room is looking bare as I've packed most of what I'm taking with me, but I love this feeling of an empty room in preparation for moving on.

Last night I went to Corp for a mate's birthday and we all had a good time, finishing it off with an early morning McDonald's session. Then today I've just been for tea at my aunty's house. They cooked me pork belly in cider and mustard mash, and crumble made with rhubarb freshly picked from the garden. Gonna miss you English food.

I've just found out the mate who said he was gonna come out to work in Japan in a month's time is having second thoughts. It's fair enough, and to be honest, it gives me more freedom to do what I want.

So one coach and two planes and I'll soon be setting foot on Japanese soil for the third time. Goodbyes are always tough, but they're only temporary, and are balanced out by the excitement of starting a new chapter.

Finally, as I leave these fair isles I hope all the sport and celebrations of this summer can bring some unity and change to help solve the deeper problems that will no doubt reappear once the festivities have finished. Stay classy GB.

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Monday, 6 August 2012

近づいてる

The masters is done. I finished writing the critical appraisal and handed it in on Thursday. It's been an interesting course and broadcast journalism is something I've wanted to study for a long time now, but I don't think I'll be looking for a career in journalism any time soon. I've come to realise recently that my priority for the moment is traveling, and I'm going to do everything I can to make that happen. People have been asking me how long I'll stay in Japan this time, and you can never say for definite, but I don't think it'll be longer than a year. When I get to Japan I want to save some money, then I'll look to heading out to another country or continent and experiencing life there. I also want to take some kind of English teaching course while I'm in Japan. English teaching is my ticket to traveling and some kind of qualification can only open more doors for me.

Friday night was my last shift at Pizza Hut, and then on Saturday I visited both sets of grandparents. Talking with them about the future was interesting, and it always gives you a good sense of perspective speaking to people who've been there and done it all before. I visited my mum's parents in Hillsborough, as that's where they live, and where I grew up. Then I visited my dad's mum in Crookes, as that's where she lives, and that's where I lived during uni. I haven't been to either of those places lately but I enjoyed visiting again before leaving Sheffield for a while.  Last night I went out for drinks at Bungalows and Bears with friends and family.

This summer on the whole has been a lot of fun. The weather's turned fairly decent, or at least as decent as you can hope for, and things like Euro 2012, the Olympics, Tramlines etc. have meant the time before leaving has flown by, rather than dragging like it has in the past.  Most of my stuff is already packed and it's just a couple of days until I leave now.

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