Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I'm back!!

Long time, no write, eh? Well, I finally got internet on my own computer, so expect some updates soon. Unfortunately, it's the end of the semester, which means that I am super busy, so updates will be scarce for a while.

I most certainly didn't forget about you, my loyal readers. I'll write when I get a chance.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

My new home!

I found a new place to live, and it's GREAT!!! One of my super hero friends (you know who you are) helped me find it.

Real quick, I'd like to talk about finding places to live in Japan. First off, anybody who reads my posts regularly knows that I am quite fond of being here and I'm generally greeted with warm feelings or basic apathy by the Japanese people. The only place that I've heard of this not being true is house hunting.

I have heard several tales of people who have applied for an apartment and have been denied over reasons ranging from vague and fishy to straight up 'we don't accept foreigners. Sorry.' Some retailers are straight up racist and absolutely refuse to speak to you if you're not Japanese or Japanese looking. Other companies have policies that are a bit xenophobic in nature by, among other things, requiring someone who lives in Japan to be a gaurntour.

Some companies try to help, but miss the boat so much it almost hurts. Take, for instance, a company called The-You. They came and talked to us at Temple University Japan, and their website talks about how they are trying to help foreigners find a place to live. At least that's what I was told, because I can't read the website. I know it's not always possible to have an English website, but there should at LEAST be an option for a hiragana/katakana site, as Kanji is damned hard to read.

Also, people seemed very surprised that I wanted to move into an apartment with Japanese people. I already feel silly living in a dorm that is 100% foreigners, with the overwhelming majority of them being American. I think it would be just foolish that when I have a choice, to voluntarily live with foreigners. Not that there aren't some cool people I've met that'd have a good time living with, it's just that it would be like eating American food every day. I'm not here so I can keep my life as much like it was before I moved as possible, I'm here to immerse myself in a culture that is new to me.

Anyways, because of my superhero friend, this process was a lot easier and more fun than I had planned. I'll save the details for later, but I'll have 2 roommates, both of which seem awesome, my own room that's bigger than the room here, and while it's small by American standards, it's not bad at all by Tokyo standards. I like the location I'm living, as it seems very exciting, but not overwhelming. I just like the whole situation.

Of course, I am fully aware that I am viewing this whole situation through rose-tinted glasses and there are some bad sides. Both of my roommates smoke, which I'm not thrilled about, but it's more fine, as people in Japan smoke a lot and nobody smokes in my room, plus they've lived there for 2 years, and it would be dick of me to say "stop smoking", so that's fine. It's on the 3rd floor, meaning that there's someone below and above us, but the roommates seemed a bit perplexed when I asked if you could hear the neighbors, as it has never been a problem. Also, geographically speaking, it's quite far from school, but thanks to the express train, it's a lot faster to get to school than my current resident. The only real problem I foresee is the previously mentioned express train is known for being the most crowded train line in Tokyo, most likely making it one of, if not THE most crowded train line in the world. It is also apparently known for the large amount of suicides, which is something I really hope I don't have to deal with.

Anyways, I took some pictures, but it's a little odd to view pictures of my room with someone else's stuff in it (the current roommate moves out today), but here's a picture of the living room/kitchen.

No, it's not very big. Yes, it is comfortable. It feels very 'lived in', as in it's not a sterile, lifeless environment. I feel like some fun times have been had in this room, which makes me anxious for some more fun times.

Anyways, the neighborhood is called Mitaka, and I didn't take any pictures, but I'm sure I'll have plenty more to write about that in the future.

After the whole 'meet and greet' business, me and my soon-to-be roommate and I went to Kichijoji, which is one stop from Mitaka or a 10 minute bike ride. Once I get a commuter pass, I'll be able to go to Kichijoji for free, which I'm sure I'll do a lot.

I really liked Kichijoji. It kind of reminded me of Umeda in Osaka, as it was very busy, lively, large, and surprisingly not pretentious or overly fancy.

I was pleased to see lots of canopies, which I'm sure makes this area a great place to go when it's raining.

Wait, does that canopy have a screen on it?

Yup, it sure does! Several of them had projectors displaying what seemed like nice, serene fall scenery. It was lovely.

I don't know if it's because Christmas is coming (which seems to start the day after Halloween), or it's always like this, but there were tons of lights up, and it made the whole neighborhood sparkle.

After leaving the train station, this one display was an amazing site to see.

I'm pretty sure the number 60 refers to the amount of days left in 2007. What a year it's been.

Anyways, for any gamer, this site almost brought a tear to my eye.

Plaza CAPCOM? Fuck yes!

There was also a CREPE MOBILE!!!

My newfound friend/roommate was so incredibly not surprised by this bright pink snack-mobile, but I was shocked with delight to see it.

Here's another awesome manhole cover.

There are entire websites devoted to Japanese manhole covers. I can see why. They're all so interesting for something that's really just there to stop people from falling into the sewer.

Much like Shimokitazwa, this place had some painted gates too. There weren't as many, but this one was incredibly large.

If you look to the right, that's a normal sized metal door. That should maybe offer some perspective.

We ate some really delicious and fairly inexpensive Thai food at my friend's favorite Thai restaurant. It was fabulous.

But, the highlight of the neighborhood to me was what I think they call 'harmonica alleys' They are these tiny tiny little streets built shortly after WWII that are completely crammed with tiny food stalls that smelled great and looked really fascinating.

Well, I think it's a bit of an understatement to say I am really excited about living here.