Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An impossible view and an impractical drink.

I will be telling you nothing new by saying that Japan is one massive contradiction. You have heard it before and you will hear it again but that does not tarnish the truth of the statement at all. One minute you are walking, with hair straightened, new sunnies resting on your head, past inventions you have literally never seen before and fashion you have never imagined before in a 6 story shopping plaza that laughs heartily at our malls and the next you are just left of the middle of nowhere, standing on a dam wall decorated with Japanese mythology, drinking a fizzy drink introduced in 1876.

In the battle for my attention, modernity is doing its best to lure me to its side. Shopping in Japan is an art and I am fast becoming a great master. My preferred palette is usually colored in the shades of food. Everything is exciting and tasty and comes in either strawberry or melon. The bread tastes like cake and the cake tastes like heaven. You can choose between 6 or 4 slices as your loaf of bread and they only come in one variation: impossibly thick. They are the kind of slices that only my dad can slice (however, they don`t always have jam on them when given as school lunches, even though my sister and I both don`t eat the stuff). My toaster would never accept this breads advances and I have trouble fitting it in my lunchbox, which is the size of a 2 liter ice-cream tub. The sheer amount of variety leaves your head spinning and not an evening goes by without Roland and me walking to the convenience store to try a new desert. 

Shopping in Japan

We have points cards for Mr Donut, Tokiwa (grocery store), three hardware stores, two furniture stores and the Max Value where you can buy cans of sodas for 29 yen and tofu for 40 yen (that’s about R4 baby). We even have a card to take out DVD`s near our house even though it almost killed the shopkeeper to explain the terms and conditions to us in his best English and most simple Japanese. For all I know the conditions could say that after failing to return any DVD`s they are entitled to me washing their car and giving Roland over as their new personal slave

The other side of the coin is nicely illustrated by how Ducky, Roland and I spent our lazy Sunday. We drove into the jungles of Kunisaki and found the most incredible spot. It was a huge dam wall, surrounded by forests with a view of rice paddies and little Japanese style homes, stone tile roofs and all. Next to it was a tunnel through the mountain that had a chilling echo and Roland could not resist belting out an evil laugh every few seconds. While standing on the wall, admiring the mythological scenes depicted with mosaic all around us, we drank our first bottle of ramune. This 134 year old soft drink has a strange bottle neck that has a marble resting on it. The aim of the game is to pop the marble down into the neck of the bottle and then, if you are not a world class ramune drinker, spray it all over yourself.

Other contrasts appear every minute of every day. Girls here always have their shoulders covered, there is not a spaghetti strap in sight and even short shorts are an endangered species in the 35 degree heat but then there are about 4 love hotels from my house to Ducky`s and very naughty reading material right next to the morning paper.
My school has the fastest internet in the world, literally, but computers so old that I saw `Fred Flintstone was here`, carved on one of them. The paper cutting machine in my office is so advanced that you need a degree in engineering to start it but they hang everything on the walls with sticky tape and stare with slack jawed amazement at my Prestic. I can buy a CD player for the price of four oranges and a digital camera for the price of anything made of wood or stone. I have decided not to pass away while in Japan because a gravestone is the price of a sports car.

It is scary how much fun I am having, my job is more hectic than I thought it would be but it is far from being the salt mines. I will tell you all a bit more about teaching when I get the chance. Oh and thank you for leaving comments, I read them all and miss you guys a whole bunch.


  1. I'm left with a sneaky suspicion that the damn wall was left their on purpose. Maybe as a dam wall. ;p

  2. Holy Moly, this is super funny!!!! I still can't believe they don't wear spaghetti strap tops in 35degree heat. doushite doushite doushite?????

    By the way, the 'Fred Flinstone' thing is hilarious. You need to write a book about your experience!

  3. Lol, that was funny. The bread's advances on the toaster and mention of world class ramune drinking had me laughing my head off! :D

    Mmm, would love to know what the teaching itself actually involves.