Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Goodbye Japan, hello California

My last week in Osaka was pretty fun. Saturday was my last day at work, and that night I went out with a bunch of mates to Shakey's for one last pizza binge, after which we met up with more people and went drinking in Nanba and Shinsaibashi. We went to the usual places (The Little Clover, Cinquecento) and then to Rock Rock, and finally karaoke with a 15-strong team. My mate, a JET from Kochi, had come up to visit as well and it was a great night.

On Monday I met up with my Spanish friend and he gave me some last-minute phrases and advice for Chile. I'm nowhere near the level I wanted to be at, but I haven't had enough time to practise speaking it. I'm planning to start taking classes as soon as I arrive in Chile though.

That night I went to Kobe and met some friends at the restaurant I often go to in Sannomiya. As usual the 店長 cooked us a great course of different dishes, and then we went to a bar and played poker until last train. 

I spent most of Tuesday clearing my apartment and doing odd jobs. Usually when you leave an apartment in Japan there are pretty strict rules and you have to clean the room really thoroughly, but when I was leaving this place the caretaker was really chilled and it was pretty easy to move out in the end; I managed to give away pretty much all my stuff to friends.  That night I went out for a final meal at a buffet restaurant with a friend in Umeda (they had trifle, which is the first time I've seen it in Japan) then carried my rucksack, suitcase and futon to my friend's house in Nakatsu. I stayed there on Tuesday night, woke up at 6am, threw out the futon and caught the train to Kansai Airport.  The whole place was really busy and some of us passengers were late boarding. Exchanging my yen to dollars took up a bit of valuable time.  I was flying with China Eastern Airlines so that first flight was only a couple of hours to Shanghai, then I transferred to my next flight to Los Angeles. I got hardly any sleep but enjoyed the food - for some reason I really like airline food...

I arrived at LAX at around 9 this morning (Wednesday) - basically the same time I set off from Japan. I had to kill a couple of hours in the airport while waiting for the shuttle bus so I talked with my family on Skype, then I boarded the Santa Barbara Airbus. I'm staying with relatives of my old roommate from Juso and I'm sat in their guest room right now looking out over the lush hills of Santa Barbara. We went to Habit Burger for lunch and the warm weather is a big change from the low temperatures of Osaka, and apparently this is colder than usual. I think I'm gonna have a lot of fun this week.

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Sunday, 10 February 2013


I have about ten days left in Osaka now. I taught my kids class in 関目高殿 for the last time on Thursday. Some days I enjoyed that job, but I learnt that teaching kids ain't my thing. When they didn't behave I couldn't be arsed with it and the place was pretty far from where I live. I had fun hanging out with the kids though. Japanese children are really clever with their humour. 

Last night I went to visit a family who I've known since my time in Kobe. I caught the train over to Sannomiya and then to their little suburb and we ate cheese fondue for tea. I had an epic hangover (maybe third worst of all time), but the cheese made me 元気 again.

This made a difference from the noodles and pasta I eat most days

Me and the dad always end up talking about 80s metal. He says none of his friends like it, and I'm in the same situation, so we just trade stories and favourite albums for ages. It's times like these when it sucks to be always changing where you live, because you don't know the next time you're gonna see these people. You find good mates and then you say goodbye and move on and then don't see them for ages, or maybe never again...

I was originally gonna visit those guys last Saturday but I lost my wallet that day, which sucked pretty hard. It had my debit card inside and some cash (about 15,000 yen). Speaking of money, I finally put the cash I've been saving up since I got here in my British bank account. I used the GoLloyds service and it worked out well. It took a while to register - the website says they'll send you the welcome pack within 7-10 days but it took over two weeks - but transferring the money was pretty easy. I went to my local Shinsei ATM and 振り込みed the money into the GoLloyds account and they transferred it to my British account the same day. I had to make the payment in three parts because it was a lot of cash, but GoLloyds put the money in my account in one payment, meaning I only paid about 2000 yen for the transfer, which is fairly cheap. When I was in Aomori I'd transferred money using the Post Office, as my bank account was with them, but this time I haven't been able to get a bank account. I tried at Mitsui Sumitomo and the Post Office but they said I needed to live in the country for at least six months, which is one of the stupidest things I've ever heard, even for bureaucracy-loving Japan. To be honest, someone told me Shinsei might have let me open an account but in the end I just decided to operate in cash instead.

I was getting dangerously close to going over my overdraft, and by transferring what I'd saved I'm pretty much back to 0. When I came to Osaka I had a bit of money in that account, but I've had to make various big payments, mainly for Chile (flights, insurance etc.), so I guess my six months here has basically paid for getting to Chile and a week in California. Other than that I haven't saved anything, but, overall, for six months that ain't too bad.

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Friday, 1 February 2013

Movin' Out

I've been working a lot since my last post even though I've been ill for the last few days, but I'm over it now, and the weather's turning warmer so I'm feeling great.

I'm ready to leave Japan, and it's starting to dawn on me that I'll be in Chile in about four weeks' time. Can't remember feeling this excited about something in a while, even coming back to Japan this time. At that point I was more looking forward to getting away from the situation back home. Recently I realised that I've never had a full-time job and my own place in the UK. The only times I've had that have been in Japan, and maybe if I had that I'd enjoy life back home a lot more.  Anyway, I don't want to set my expectations for Chile too high, but I'm looking forward to it. It should be a big change from life in Japan. Things are starting to get too predictable here. Work all week, go out at the weekend, spend too much money, be hungover on the Sunday, rinse and repeat.

I've been here for two and half years in total, and it's not a place I can stay long term. Towards the end of my stays in Japan I always get quite bitter and I think it's been sped up this time because of my job where I sit and talk to Japanese people about nothing (There are a few cool students though. This past week I taught a high school student who loves MxPx so we just talked about music the whole time.) Some people can deal with Japan and stay optimistic, some people can't. Obviously, the former will enjoy Japan much more 'cos they feel like they have a purpose here and possibly a long term future. It's never felt like that for me. I've always known I'll be moving on after a certain period of time because, while there are things that are great about this place, there are also things that I don't wanna put up with. When I chose Japanese as my major about seven years ago I was a completely different person. I was really excited to come the first time, and life was really stimulating and interesting every day. But this time I knew I wasn't gonna stay for long because I'd already started looking at jobs in South America before coming.  Who knows what Chile will be like. I've never lived in a country where I can't speak the language. I'm learning as much Spanish as I can but I'll still only be able to do a basic self-introduction by the time I arrive. 

My leaving night out is gonna be on the 16th, which is also my last day at work. I've always enjoyed going out in Shinsaibashi and Nanba. The nightlife is one of the reasons I wanted to come to Osaka, and those first two months I was here I was going out all the time and it was a lot of fun.

I've had some great times over these two and a half years in Japan, and now that I'm about to leave I'm starting to value the good things about this country. My year in Kobe was an absolute blast, and so was Aomori for the most part. Who knows if I'll be back? Like I said, at the end of my time in Japan I always get bitter, but then I always come back. 

The other day I got my masters certificate in the post. I couldn't attend the graduation ceremony in Sheffield, which took place on January 11th. All that work last year adds up to this piece of paper, and I'm not even using journalism now...

In other news, something a bit odd happened last week. My Japanese friend's mum had been saying she wanted to take me to a group she goes to every week, so we went on Sunday. She didn't tell me much about it, but that it was a group "where you learnt to be a better person". When we arrived she had to introduce me and paid for me to sign up, at which point I received a membership card. We went to a big hall full of people, like 500 or so. We sat down near the front and my name was called out and I was congratulated for joining. There was a lecture about treating your parents with respect and changing yourself to make others' lives easier, and there was also a picture of the founder in the corner and you had to bow to it every time you entered and left the hall. Everyone was dressed up smart and had beaming smiles on their faces, although I was in a t-shirt and jeans. People were talking about how they were all rude and inconsiderate before they joined, but how their life improved after they starting using good manners. It was a pretty random experience. Another scenario that could only take place in Japan.

Today's my day off, so I'm about to bike it to McDonald's and use another free Big Mac coupon that I got. Then I'll study Spanish for most of the day.

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