Image From Tonoharu: Part One
Here is the sixth in my Tuesday mini-series of reflections on my experiences in the JET Program, lazily culled from e-mails sent to friends and family at the time. This one looks to be from January 2004ish:
It’s been a while since I’ve sent out one of these mass e-mails. I guess the main reason is for this lapse is I’ve been here long enough to have fallen into a routine, so there’s less to write about. Also, and I don’t mean to be melodramatic about it or anything, but I’ve started to forget some of what is exclusive to Japan, what is exclusive to America, and what is ubiquitous. Obviously there are some things you could never mix up, like eight-story malls and smoking areas in McDonald’s, but for other things the lines have blurred. Like, do we have skinny, one person wide escalators in the U.S.? I don’t think so, but maybe. Lapses such as this has made it a little harder to make fun of Japan from the framework of a culturally superior point of view, because I’ve forgotten what is funny and backwards, and what is normal. So please start sending me tapes of Paris Hilton exposes immediately!
Lacking anything of substance to say, I’ll retreat to discussions of the weather. It hasn’t been Minnesota-cold or anything, but it’s been pretty cold over here. It’s been the coldest it’s been in twelve years. Actually, I’m not sure if that’s true, but I seem to recall someone saying something that related the weather to “twelve years” so let’s run with that. It’s been the coldest it’s been in Kyushu in over a decade. There was talk of an accumulation of two centimeters of snow, and talk of road closings. I don’t think either happened, but it’s still cold.
Talk of two centimeters of unrealized snow probably doesn’t seem very impressive. And to be frank, a handful of really cold days notwithstanding, the weather has generally been the equivalent of the colder autumn days in Minnesota. I guess the thing that makes it rough is the lack of heating (central or otherwise) in my apartment. It’s sort of funny that I live in an apartment with a singing microwave and a toilet with a control panel, and yet no heat. Last night I could see my breath as I watched tv, for example. At the monthly meetings I attend with fellow expatriate teachers, people shared advice on how to stay warm; wear black, open curtains and let the sun shine in, and so on. One person went so far as to recommend leaving the door to your toaster oven open after you’ve used it, to let out that one square foot of warm air out.
Speaking again of the toilet, its control panel has both a button to heat up the seat AND a button to blow warm air on your posterior. Somehow this tip to keep warm was never mentioned at any of the meetings; maybe I’ll bring it up at the next one. Another tip that didn’t seem to occur to anyone was buying a heater. I did buy a little heater that can get my bedroom pretty warm; it takes about thirty or forty minutes, but then it’s pretty nice. The funny thing about this heater is it looks just like a little fan, except instead of blades inside the little cage it has a big concaved mirror that reflects back the heat. Completing its fan-lookalike aesthetic, it even has an option so make its top sway back and forth. It reminds me of one of those old cartoons where the characters would go to “Crazy Town” or something and see fish flying and birds swimming and stuff like that. I have a fan that makes you hot, ha ha! Please shake your heads and say “Only in Japan, only in Japan”. Unless we actually have these things in America, in which shrug your shoulders and wonder why I’m mentioning all this.
Wow, I’ve spent this whole e-mail writing about the weather, and writing about not having anything to write about. And now I’m writing about what I’ve written about. I guess I’ve underestimated my ability to write about nothing. I’d make a good nihilist author Hahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!
PS-One of my corespondents has informed me that contrary to my speculation, the whole “Christmas Cake” phenomenon in Japan is actually a British import. It’s funny, because the UK is one of four countries I’ve spent Christmas in, and I didn’t even notice. So there you go.
Check back next Tuesday for Part Seven.