I'm back from my trip, safe and sound. I had a good time in America, but I'm happy to be back.
However, I am not happy to have come down with a bit of a cold. It's not much of a surprise, considering that I was in a big metal tube for over 10 hours with 400 other people. If one person was sick, it would have been easy to get sick myself. It's not so bad, however I feel like if I go out, it'll only get worse, and I want tomorrow to be fun as it's new years, so I didn't do anything today except for rest. It's kind of a depressing way to spend a Sunday in a town that loves to party on Sunday, but if I'm fine tomorrow, it's totally worth it.
In America, I got a lot of questions about my life in Japan. I thought I'd take time to answer them. First off, I've been asked multiple times what I eat here. I do eat a healthy bit of American food, but I also eat a lot of curry. Another favorite Japanese food of mine has always been tonkatsu, or a fried pork cutlet. I also eat a lot of chicken in various forms, including chicken livers and stomachs which I don't like all that much and chicken cartilage, which I liked more than I thought I would. I'm willing to try pretty much anything once (with some exceptions), so I spend a lot of time eating rather strange items. Of these, some are really bad, but some are great. There is no question that my diet has changed. I hardly ever eat sandwiches, pizza, or many bread products. I do eat a healthy amount of hamburgers, and a new favorite of mine is a teriyaki burger.
Another big difference is I don't ever get in cars. I don't drive, I don't have any friends that drive, and I only have one friend who has one friend that has a car. My roommate (age 25) just got her driver's license, yet she can't drive around here unless she rents a car. Besides a taxi cab on the first day here, I haven't been in a car in Tokyo. So, I spend a lot of time on trains and walking.
I also wanted to talk about my daily life and my home for a bit. I live in a 3 bedroom apartment with 2 other people. It's a cosy place that is in a nice neighborhood. I sleep on a futon on the floor, but other than that, life here isn't too different than the US. We have a couch, we watch TV, we enjoy a good beer now and then. It's not this radical lifestyle change living in a Japanese apartment with other Japanese people. But, here are some differences worth noting.
First off, there are no shoes allowed in homes around here. Every home has a place for shoes once you walk in. Here's mine:
You'll notice that the shoes are in a tiled area that is slightly lower than the regular floor. This is quite common here. Also, you'll notice a box on my door. We have a mailbox here and one in the entranceway of the first floor. Apparently, the first floor mailbox is for normal letters, but this box is for important things. I find it quite odd, as it's an apartment building with only 4 units on each floor, assuming they follow the same pattern as this one. It seems quite time consuming to use the front door boxes.
The most different part of my home is the bathroom. Bathtubs and shower rooms are a bit different.
You'll notice the unusually deep bathtub (by American standards) and the tiled walls. The whole room is designed to get wet and if you're taking a bath, it's the same, but in a shower, you just stand in the middle of the room and get clean. It's hard to take a good picture, but this room is not really that small, but not so big. It's comfortable to shower, and while I'm still a fan of the American style bathtub, this is not a bad way to do things.
The toilet is a little strange, but something I've come to really like and understand.
The water is filled in the back via a sink head and a small sink. That way, you can wash your hands with the same water that's used to fill the toilet. This is quite logical, as any water that you use in a toilet is wasted, and there's no need for it to be completely hygienic. So, washing hands with soon-to-be toilet water is quite clever. We also have a normal sink for brushing teeth and shaving and all that other stuff.
Another thing we have in our bathroom is our own personal washing machine.
It's quite small, but it gets the job done. I'd much rather have a small washer than have to lug my clothes to a laundromat. Most people in Japan don't have driers, and we don't either.
The only thing that really bugs me about my bathroom is when I look in front of the mirror in front of the other sink, I see this.
I also seem to be the only person living here with this problem.
There is no seperation between my kitchen and living room. I've seen places in America like this too, but this whole room isn't very big. Here's a shot of my rather cluttered kitchen area.
You'll notice that there is no oven. Well, there is a tiny, tiny gas oven designed for grilling fish apparently. Other than that, it's quite a normal, but small, kitchen area.
Another curiosity is my light switch. It's a remote control.
I don't quite understand WHY it's a remote control, but it doesn't seem unusual here. Also, that phone is linked to my doorbell, so you can talk to someone without letting them in.
One thing that I described numerous times is how I keep warm. Looking around my living room, I don't see a heater. Of course, we could always get an electric space heater, but instead, like a lot of people in Japan, we use what's called a Kotatsu. It's like a coffee table with a blanket and a heater. It looks like this:
Under the blanket is a small electric heater. You sit down and wrap the blanket around you, and it keeps your legs and whatever you want warm. If your hands get cold, you shove your hands under there. It's much more efficient than having a heater warm up the whole room, and it heats up really fast, as there's only a small area to warm, and it stays hot for quite some time, as the blanket traps all the heat. People keep asking me what I do if it gets REALLY cold... Well, this heater gets quite hot and if I'm wearing a sweater or a light jacket, if it's really cold in the room, it's really not bad under the blanket. Also, some of the heat inevitably leaks out and warms the room too.
So, that's my life here. If anyone has any particular questions about the similarities/differences in my daily actions, feel free to ask.