October 8, 2008: “Day #6: Adventures in Machida”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008: “Day #6: Adventures in Machida

Konnichiwa!

I’m sorry to say that today was a much more low-key day than past days.  I was tired from feeling under the weather so we only ventured out to do a little shopping.  So, I will fill you in on more Japanese customs that I have not mentioned in previous emails.

Today we went to Machida and we went to a five story 100 yen ($1 USD) store.  Their dollar stores are nothing like ours!  They’re amazing and full of so many wonderful items (some of which are over a dollar, but that’s OK).

Afterward we went back to Zama/Atsugi and Lisa taught her English class to her older students.  I was the “guest” speaker so I talked about how we buy and sell real estate in the United States.  In Japan it appears to be customary to buy one house and live there until they pass on.  I think our culture is as shocking to them as their culture is as shocking to us.  Instead of Washington being associated with apples, we’re now associated with Starbucks!  Whenever I tell anyone I’m from the Seattle area they immediately say, “Ichiro and Starbucks.”  Ichiro is considered almost god-like to the Japanese.

Speaking of customs, it is popular for the women to be very pigeon toed.  I can’t begin to stress exactly how pigeon toed, but in some cases it’s VERY severe.  I don’t know how some of these women can even walk!

Everyone in Japan is cremated, but they are still buried in a cemetery.  The family’s pay “rent” for the cemetery space – some pay approximately $300 a year!  Some of them are still paying rent for their great-ancestors!  Lisa and I haven’t figured out what happens if someone doesn’t pay … there are some questions that are not appropriate to ask in the Japanese culture.

The Japanese are very private.  They give gifts for everything and once a gift is given you are expected to give a gift in return that is approximately half the value of the original gift back to the giver.  This can obviously go on for quite some time!

Lisa and I are getting rather tired of the Japanese taking our pictures.   They think we don’t notice because they hold their cell phones rather low but it’s fairly obvious they’re taking a photo.  Once I return, I am looking forward to blending in with the crowd again and feeling more normal.

The train ride is also an experience.  You’re supposed to look straight ahead, up, down, or close your eyes.  People whisper at times on the train, but they don’t talk.  Talking on cell phones is prohibited on the train so people watch TV on their phones, listen to music, or text message.  Text messaging is all the rage in Japan, too!  Everyone walks around texting!  You also aren’t supposed to eat or drink on the train because that is considered to be quite rude.  I’m so glad I have such an excellent tour guide (thank you, Lisa!) otherwise there are so many customs in Japan I would not know about.

AND last night I took a bath at Lisa’s (she has a traditional Japanese house).  The Japanese are so intelligent!  They recirculate the hot water and the thermostat maintains the water temperature for the duration of the bath!  Now, why don’t we have that in America?

We are driving into Tokyo tomorrow rather early in the morning.  We’re planning on making yet another trip to the kitchen/restaurant supply district, Ginza (Beverly Hills 90210), the Imperial Palace, and the very famous Tskigi Fish Market where nearly all the sushi from around the world is originally sold to bidders.

I can’t begin to tell you how much walking people do in Japan.  Think about taking the longest walk of your life and then multiply it by five … with hardly any places to rest.  I’ve already had to take my belt in another notch because of how much exercise I’m getting!

I’ll write more when I can … it may not be until tomorrow night or Friday (Japan Standard Time) (meaning Thursday Pacific Standard Time) since I’m sure we’re going to be overwhelmed with everything to do in Tokyo!

I can’t believe I’m writing about Day #6 already … time is just flying by!

Machida

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