The City No Longer Forsaken

"They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted." ~Isaiah 62:12

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Livin' in Japanese

Still no internet, but life is good.

We have had a couple days to settle in and pretty much just be. On Friday we went to get our alien registration cards and to sign up for bank accounts. Since all of us are living on an advance right now, we didn't want to deposit much. Sarah and Matt put in a handful of the little aluminum one yen coins each (equal to about a penny) and I put in a single 10 yen coin. It is a mark of the Japanese politeness that they didn't laugh at us openly when they saw it. :)

Saturday we went to the Meiji Shrine. My favorite part was the gardens. There were tons of laceleaf maples! *bounce bounce bounce* No red laceleafs yet, though. There are also some wonderful sculpted black pine trees near my house. People seem to use polls and the like to support one branch so it can grow pretty far horizontally. It's kind of like bonsai for normal trees. The shrine itself was gorgeous as well, and we saw two weddings, which boosted my kimono count from five to an uncountable number. I also learned that it is never okay to sit down while in a shrine. Sarah started to sit down on the steps for us to take her picture and was immediately swooped on by a guard who talked Japanese at her until she stood up.

Sunday was our first Japanese church service. I am so glad I learned hiragana already because it meant that I could mostly sing along with the hymns. I also learned to recognize the kanji pronounced "shu" which means "lord". We were served a wonderful lunch by the congregation that included onigiri (rice balls), various forms of tofu and fish, a vaguely sweet roll of rice wrapped in tofu, and cookies. The girls sitting next to me were extremely encouraging. They would say "ju ji"--kind of like, "good job" when I somewhat successfully managed my chopsticks. I'm getting much better with chopsticks.

Monday was "Respect for the Elderly Day", so it was a national holiday. Sarah and Matt went into Tokyo to see a museum and I stuck around the house and sorted our garbage--the Japanese garbage system is ridiculously complicated. We must sort everything into: burnables, plastics, non-burnable non-plastics, metals, plastic bottles, cans, paper and cloth, and harmful garbage. The garbage is picked up every weekday by a truck that comes by playing music...think ice cream truck, except collecting garbage instead of handing out sweets. Sarah and I are afraid of being 'black listed', as some of the previous residents of our house were, for not doing garbage correctly. Anyway, so I sorted our garbage and put up nice little signs so we will be able to sort it more easily as we're throwing it away.

After dealing with trash, I took the train into Musashi-Sakai (about five minutes from my house) to buy a jacket. A lot of the jackets I could find were too tight in the shoulders, but I finally found a longer rather nice jacket that I liked. I wandered through the grocery store after that. I enjoyed asking a woman in Japanese about the fruit prices and whether or not they were for individual items or for weight--the conversation completely failed, but I love trying to talk to them all the same. My best discovery of the grocery trip was that they have instant curries here. For about $1.50 I can have Indian food whenever I want! It was so, so yummy.

Friday we are leaving for about a week. We'll be in Hiroshima (bounce bounce bounce) for the J-3 Retreat, so I'll get to meet the other J-3s. Then we will head down to Kumamoto to see the school that two of us will be going to this coming spring. I am starting to hope that I stay in Tokyo, but I don't really know how I feel about either place. I think I will be happy either way and am trying not to hope in either direction.

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