In her last week, Sharon said “I want you to have a wonderful life.” I wasn’t quick enough to say she had already given me one, but did say I would do that for her. I am doing it.
My plan was to live in the busy heart of Tokyo, but on the first day my Ota City friends ganged up on me and said I should live in Ota where they can care for me. I have come to realize I am the first member of the Salem-Ota club to actually move to Ota, so I am special! I was even visited by the president of the Ota-Salem club.
I was shown several apartments, and chose a beauty – three rooms (living/dining/kitchen, bedroom, and study room), with a large balcony, two air conditioners, smallish bathtub (I have to sit with my knees out of the water), next to standard Japanese shower. All renovated (all new floor, kitchen, etc) just before I moved in. I’ve added drapes, dining table and chairs, comfortable chair for tv, great tv and stand! And more (all these free from Ota folk) a bed, desk and chair, table lamps rugs, etc from furniture store.
I have met with five former Salem State students, and five Ota friends, and two new friends.
Here, you tell where you live by the nearest rail/subway station and the walking distance to it in minutes. I live 10 minutes from Nishi Magome station (bottom left). My school is about 4 minutes from Yotsuya station (center). It takes three lines to get there – about 40 minutes.
Sunday I am invited to a festival at a nearby Buddhist temple.
Nearest store (7/11) is about 3 minutes, but big grocery and drug store and dry cleaners are 8 minutes. My immediate neighborhood is upper middle class residential, with no businesses.
My biggest frustration is some bureaucracy – I cannot buy a cell phone or open a bank account until I have registered as a resident of this city. I cannot register as a resident until I have a long term visa. I sent all the info to the school last summer. The day after I arrived Immigration gave me a Certificate of Eligibility (to have a student visa). I thought that meant I just take it in and get the visa. Oh, no, it means Immigration will take five or six weeks to issue a visa. Until then, no cell phone, etc. I also have to wait to get a Silver Pass (for $200/year) which lets me ride free on most subway and rail lines. Meanwhile, I have a “Charlie card” so I don’t have to buy tickets for each ride.
I have visited the school. Temporary building while a new one is under construction. Nice classrooms with but 16 desks – good! Classes begin in October.
They gave me a page in Japanese to read – I did not do well – reading was not my sensei’s focus. So I start as a beginner, which is fine with me, but I did pick up two children’s books and am reading a bunch every day. Children’s books because they do not have kanji (Chinese) characters. I don’t have to translate, just read aloud the words.
When I arrived it was very hot – almost as bad as China had been. But a week later it cooled off and is probably much like Massachusetts. Occasional rain, but mostly at night and not often downpours.
One last thought. You may have seen the opening scene of Newsroom, a cable tv series several years ago, in which Jeff Daniels declares that America is not the greatest nation on earth (https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BJWKccHQFOA). He is so right. I think a typical American (none of us) believes Japanese live in the paper houses of the Edo period, or even pre-war wooden housing, etc. Japan is more modern than almost any place in America. So are parts of China, and I would bet, Sweden, and many other countries. I was embarrassed to take Japanese students on the Boston subway – the stations here are clean, have good stores and restaurants, live employees to help you, etc. in China Yao bought noodles from a little shop using his smartphone to scan the shop’s Q-code and send the money to her bank.
That’s enough. I am enjoying being here, and learning my way around.