Howdy folks. I have a lot to tell you about. Let me start from the start. That seems as good a place as any.
Well, since coming to Japan, I’ve been having some good times. I’ve been meeting up with lots of friends who I met in Waterloo or from Osaka when I was there for a month 2 years ago. But, I haven’t really made any new friends. Work was harder to find then I had thought. Money was running out fast! I started working at an English conversation school, which is good, but there aren’t enough hours for me there to pay rent, buy groceries, and all that. Having moved into this new house, it’s been alright, but you know, unknown people who all know each other and don’t know me. Since leaving my friend’s house, and even for a few days before that, I’ve been sick. At first, I had a cold that wasn’t too bad, but draining and annoying nonetheless. Then, as luck would have it, that cold nicely segued into a new and different one. This second cold really killed my throat. I’ve lost my voice completely a few times, accompanied by my eyes starting to water. This is not cool in public, especially when it’s during conversations with people you’re meeting for the first time. Anyway.
Since I arrived in Japan, I’d felt a vague feeling of loneliness which turned into a big, hearty loneliness during my first week in this house (not just because of the house, but because of not having made new friends, all my other friends being busy, not having any music or vegetarian connections here). I had some almost panic attack sort of situations while wallowing a bit in my room. Kind of scary. Freaking out over how lost I was feeling, and how little money I had, and how little direction I had (in the bad way). And of course these feelings, along with bad, convenience store eating habits, fueled my cold and prevented recovery. In turn, the cold made me feel even worse.
Okay, so I’ve painted a sad picture for you. Here’s where things start looking up!
So, last week on a job seeking forum I saw a post by a teacher who had been teaching students privately for about a year and a half and had a LOT of them, and that was his sole income. He also lived where I had previously lived, which is still very close to where I live now. So, since he was leaving soon, he wanted to introduce his students to a few teachers so that their English studies weren’t interrupted. (What a good guy!) So, I responded to him and he then, surprised that I’d responded so quickly, invited me to his farewell party that Saturday. He also had me send him my contact info, picture, and a brief message in english and japanese for his students that he would, along with the other potential teachers, put on a page to hand out to them.
As I mentioned, I had found out about a Why? concert that Friday. That week I went through the pain-staking process of attaining a ticket for it. Register online – go to a certain convenience store, use the machine there to find the right concert – get a receipt – wait for at least a day – go back to that store with receipt – get the ACTUAL ticket. Don’t ask me why. But I guess since there are so many people in Japan, they don’t want all of them to go to concerts, ’cause they can’t possibly all fit. Therefore, they must make it as painful and difficult as possible to deter a large many from coming.
Anyway. Got that figured out and dealt with.
Thursday night. I was thinking, and since I’ve never been to a vegetarian restaurant in Osaka, I thought that I should treat myself to some the day of the concert. I also needed to get some healthy food (vegetables) into me in order to recover from my cold(s). So, the particular place I had in mind was to close at 5:00, and the concert opened up at 7:30. And they were only 1 subway stop away from each other, so I could walk it no problem. Friday came. It was hard to get out of bed (just like everyday here). I started drifting toward thoughts of just going some other day. I was also unsure of going by myself. Sometimes (sometimes=usually) when I go somewhere like that by myself, I end up feeling severe social anxiety and get in, eat (or whathaveyou) and book it out of there. But I forced myself to do this. I needed it badly. So I went.
The directions I had from the station to the place began from Exit 15 and then i had drawn a small map to get there from said exit. But at the location I came out of the train from, it was impossible to get to that exit. And it was actually far enough away, so I left through exit 3 or something, and tried walking in the general direction of where I thought exit 15 might be. After a while, I figured I was lost, so I thought I should ask someone about the one landmark that people might possibly know close to that area. The guy had no idea. So I tried making my way back to the station. During my walk in the general direction of the station, I looked up and there it was “Green Earth”. Thankfully it found me, ’cause I was incapable of finding it.
I went in, and it was a cool looking place. The waitress/owner let me sit wherever I wanted, and then brought me a menu. I thought I’d make sure, and so I asked if everything was indeed vegetarian, being vegan myself. And she assured me everything was vegan. Right on. Everything on the menu was really reasonably priced, so I went with one of the most reasonably priced items. Hummus sandwich. It was really good. The next time the owner came out to ask how things were. I started asking her some questions and we got into a fairly lengthy conversation, about vegetarianism, where i’m from, being vegetarian in japan, and other things. I then ordered the pumpkin cake (which came with a creamy tofu icing-like thing on the side) half because I wanted to support her and half because it sounded really good. And it was fantastic! It was even more fantastic not having to worry about feeling bad or uneasy about what I was eating. Again, the owner and I talked more. I’d never met a vegetarian in Japan until that point, and it was really so nice. Through our conversation she also encouraged me to start cooking and what things I could cook. Things that are relatively cheap in Japan’s grocery stores. I hadn’t cooked yet in Japan at that point. She came back once more while I was eating my small slice of cake and asked if I wanted coffee. So I said yes, since it came with the cake at a cheaper price than normal. And let me tell you, coffee is really expensive in Japan for some reason. At your regular coffee shop, a small cup of black coffee, no frills, will set you back about $4.00 if not more. Once I was finished, she brought me my bill, and the coffee wasn’t on it. So I asked about it, and she said not to worry. That’s so nice of her! I went up to pay her for my meal, and we asked each other’s names, and she asked for my email (since earlier she mentioned her husband has an english school, although i was busy the times she mentioned were possible) in case something opens up. I also mentioned that I would love to work there if she ever needs any help. She asked if I had any recipes. I kind of do, but I’d have to sort them out more and practice. She said that next time I could try some of them and she can taste them, and we could see what happens from there. Wow! That would be awesome to work there! I mean, it’s not possible in the immediate future. I wouldn’t feel ready enough to do that. But I’ll practice and think of new things, get used to Japanese ingredients and tastes, and maybe some day I’ll give that a shot.
Following this, I began walking toward the area of town the concert was in. I got there, with about 2.5 hours to spare. Seeing as how I had no money, not even enough to waste on coffee or a drink or something, and I had no idea of what else I could do with my time, I walked. I walked around and around, hardcore. Not even a leisurely walk, as when you find yourself walking in huge crowds of busy people, you speed up, and all of a sudden are in a rush. I wasn’t. But you know.
Time came for the concert. I was kinda nervous about it. I wanted to meet some people there, some like-minded people to relate to and chill with, instead of spending another concert by myself. The concert was at a place called “11” or “Onzieme” (the French, squeezed through Japanese, still sounding a little something like it). It was on the 11th floor of a big building. Doors were at 7:30, so I got into the elevator at 7:31, but the button for the 11th floor was not having any of it! “Sorry, man, not gonna stop there. Won’t do it.” So I went to near the front of the building again, where there was one guy looking at the concert posters. I asked him if he was going to the Why? show and he said he was, he had also tried the elevator. We decided to give it another shot. It was finally working, so we went up, handed over our tickets and the required 500 yen for a drink ticket, and we were in. We went to a table and started talking. It was cool. We talked about Canada/Japan, the usual where/when/why are you from? Then we talked about other bands we liked, after I mentioned I was surprised anyone in Japan even heard of, let alone liked Why?. He also really liked some of my favourite bands, Deerhoof, Broken Social Scene, etc. How wonderfully strange!
After a while, two of his friends showed up, who also liked said bands, and we talked more. At first the one guy looked kind of “what the hell is going on”, but the first guy assured him Japanese was OK. Haha. From there on we were like normal friends. They’re all in their early 30s, but for some reason, I’ve been meeting other people around that age here the past while and it’s not weird at all. I’ve got an old heart and an old brain.
The concert itself was really good. The band was tighter than the other time I saw them in Toronto. The drums sounded better and more intense too. Really good. And after I exchanged numbers with the guys, we said our “see ya later”s and I stuck around a bit, and had a good talk with the keyboardist of the band. A funny thing happened when some crazy Japanese fan in a suit came over to the keyboardist with a huge mauling hug and then a handshake, and then he continued to furiously shake my hand too. I’m guessing he thought I was in the band. He must’ve had a few drinks! But he had obviously enjoyed himself.
All in all, great day!!
Saturday. Crawled out of bed. Ate breakfast. Went to my friend’s house, where I had been staying, for a visit since the teacher’s farewell party was a 5 minute walk away. His family was there, with the exception of him, since he was busy. It was nice seeing them again, and talking a lot. Then I dropped by a grocery store to pick up some food for the party, seeing as how it was a potluck, and then made it to the party safely. Prior to the proper party, was a showing of a feature length film noir the teacher had just finished editing, which was shot 6 years earlier in America. It was really good actually, and had Japanese subtitles for all the english students of his who came. Fun.
This brings us to the party-party. We got the room set up, food put out in the centre of the room on tables and people started socializing. I talked to a couple people, and that was nice and enjoyable. Then, the teacher said a few words, and had us other english teachers say a few words, our names, where we’re from, etc. There were only 3 of the 5 or 6 people on the page there and by this time, the teacher had passed out the sheets of paper which had the messages from teachers with pictures. Immediately following this, I was swarmed by people!! People were seeking out a new English teacher, so they came to me, matching the picture to my face. People were even waiting patiently until I was free to talk to them next. It was bizarre. I was Mr. Popular all of a sudden. The party continued on like this. I was handed a plate of food and some tea, but I wasn’t even able to take a few bites (until much later on) because I was talking so much with everyone! I should mention at this point, that during the teacher’s few words at the beginning of the party, he thanked everyone for bringing mostly vegetarian food since he was vegetarian! I’m thinking, “am I being punked?” What a strange coincidence.
I continued talking with lots of people, and by the end of the party I had set up lessons with about 5 students, and had about 10 other people who said they would contact me about setting up lessons. Wow. I talked to the teacher a few times as well. He seems like a really good guy. I asked him about vegetarian-ness in Japan, and he said that he has a book on it. And since he was leaving, and I’m the only vegetarian he knows in Japan, he should give it to me. Cool! I’ll get back to that in a minute. The party wrapped up, my voice was wrecked. At one point, my voice gave out and my eyes started to water. I was talking the whole day long. But I made it through it. There was a lot of food left, snacks and such, so the ladies who were taking care of all of it, stuffed my hands full of it.
And I said some goodbyes to all these new people I had met. What a great day. What a great situation to have found myself in.
From there, I went straight to a party at my Italian friend’s apartment! He is so delightfully Italian! There were a few friends I already knew (from Japan, Spain, Germany) as well as some new people. It was cool meeting some more people, including one from Taiwan, and two from Korea who were currently in Japan going to a Japanese language school. The two from Korea didn’t know any English, so we spoke in Japanese, our common language. Again, a very strange experience, but very cool. We all had a good time. Oh yeah! My first time ‘missing’ the last train! Got home in the morning, slept for a while, and basically rested all day.
This brings us to Monday. Today. The conclusion to this beast of an entry. Woke up. You know. An hour after my alarm. Showered. Breakfasted. Went to meet the first of my new students. Met at the train station (in Kuzuha, the one next to mine when taking the express train, also where I stayed for a month). We then walked over to a nice little coffee shop called “Donnez-moi”. Up til that point, I had never been to a mom and pop style coffee shop, I’d only been to the chain ones like Starbucks, Mister Donut, etc. The Mama-san of the place seemed to have a good rapport with people there, including my new student. She noticed I was a new teacher immediately, as my student had been going there with the American teacher for about a year. But she knew I was coming. That guy had passed her the vegetarian book which she gave to me, and then started to ask me things like where I’m from. I said Canada, and then she started talking to me in French. In ACTUAL French! We seated ourselves, and then the owner came over again and asked some more questions when she brought us our coffee (which was the cheapest coffee I’ve ever had in Japan!! Yay! Only about $2.50 ish). She asked me, again in French, if I could speak Japanese. In Japanese I responded that I can speak conversationally. She then told to my student what I said, and of course the student said she knew that. I said it in Japanese. Haha. The owner broke down laughing, realizing this, thinking I responded in French. Haha. Good times.
The 2-hour lesson went very well. Very relaxed. But still very productive. Now. For me, finding music that I’m interested in, in Japan, is pretty difficult. But during this lesson, I noticed the music was absolutely amazing! I prayed that by the end of the lesson, the same artist’s music was still playing so I could ask the owner what it was. Luckily, it was. And I asked her. She showed me her ipod that it was playing off of, and it had a few lines of text, and I wasn’t sure which was the artist, it wasn’t so clear. She wasn’t sure, herself, so she said that she would find out and then tell me next time. I did remember one word that I saw that I thought might be the artist’s name. Asana. So I searched it after I got home. And I think I’ve found what I was hoping to. Check it out. ( http://www.myspace.com/asana73 )
Following the lesson, I went to the grocery store near my home station. I was determined to finally begin cooking. This would save me some money, and get me some health. I didn’t know what I would cook today for dinner, but I just bought a bunch of things that were cheap enough, and that I could use. Here’s my post-shopping grocery list:
Soy milk (coffee flavoured + matcha flavoured!)
Frozen mixed greens (for emergencies)
Oh, Wait! GARLIC! (That’s right)
I chopped up some stuff, tossed together a stir-fry, ate it, not too bad, not too bad. In doing this, I learned the kitchen. Which is very important to have done. Now that I’ve done it once, it won’t be a big deal to do it again. And I hope to do this frequently!
This anti-climactically brings us to the end of today’s story. But there’s a few things I can now say.
I feel good. I have successfully conquered my cold. My throat is better. I feel happier in general. And I feel more hopeful about my life here. Phew! Now what I feel is relieved to have got that all out. Being happier now, I now feel happier about all my family and friends back home (or wherever). I feel even more fondly for all of you. Take care. I will try to.