Monday, October 31, 2005

One step closer to being truly Japanese

Today I finally gave in and rented a cell phone. I had to go all the way to Narita airport , $10 each way, but this special bonus price I got was still cheaper than anywhere else. On the way home I fit in so well with the other travellers playing games on my phone.

In other news - changed my flight to a month later, the day before my tourist visa expires. Pretty excited - a whole other month to bleed money and not find a job! Seriously, though, I got my first job offer today, I could go in and interview for an Executive Search Consultant (headhunter) job tomorrow if I... well, if I were a different person. I didn't apply for the job - they saw my resume on a job bank. Still, it was nice to see something in my job mailbox. And now I can finally put a Tokyo phone number on my resume. Hopefully that will cinch the deal.

Got sick today, too - yippee! It's beginning to get cold here and I think my body is noticing the change. It's been five years since I've been through an actual change of season!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Autumn celebrations east and west

Yesterday friends and I went to a Halloween party at the Foreign Correspondents' Club. It was quite a party - I dressed as a Tengu with a long nose and wings and was unusually popular. Not much chance to "network" with expats, as I spent almost every moment being photographed with a Japanese person. Had fun in any case.
Our costumes, mine the silliest. Sachi is the one drinking, and Etsuro is on the far right

Today I went to the Edo festival in the center of the city. There were several floats like this one, along with dancers and jugglers.
Finally, on the way to Meiji shrine (this has become a weekly pilgimage for me), I ran into these bears and, uh duck?

Friday, October 28, 2005

Chanpon (or Potporri)

Today, a mix of things.

First, I think I'm going to stay in Japan for another month at least. I have a return ticket for Nov. 14th, I think it is, but my visa is good until Dec. 12th. So I'm going to try to change my ticket. It'll probably cost some money to change the ticket, but it'd be a waste to go back without really giving this thing the best try I can.

At the same time, I've found a place in a part of Tokyo I really like for not much more than I'm paying now. Today or Monday I'm going to go take a look at it, and then I'll move in the middle of next month. I'm very excited, and I hope it is better than the place I'm in now. It's in the same part of town as the Basho museum and a beautiful park.

Next - I thought maybe you'd like to know where I am an what I'm doing. The other day I wrote up a thing on the subways and in the process decided to put up a map of the subways. Unfortunately I shut down my computer before I posted the article on subways, but I'll go ahead and put up a subway map with key locations, so you can at least get a feel for what I've been doing.

If you click on the photo it'll bring up a large version (like all the pictures I post on here).

Quick note here - usually Japanese maps don't point north; instead, they show where you are facing. Little quirk I have been meaning to mention - it is both very confusing and, once you get used to it, more intuitive than having every map point north. This map, though, does point north, though of course it isn't an accurate representation of Tokyo.

First of all, notice the skinny, banded railway line that encircles the city - it is sort of hard to see because it is black and white, but it is there. This is the Yamanote ("In front of the mountain") line. This is sort of the unofficial boundary of "Tokyo proper," where all the cool stuff is.

To the north I've circled in dark green the place I am now. You'll notice that I'm outside of the banded line, and thus I'm outside of Tokyo proper. That's okay, because it is kind of nice to come home to a quiet area (it's still pretty urban, though, sort of like Brooklyn, say). On the other hand, it is a pain in the ass because it takes forever to get to where I want to go. For example, to get to the Meiji shrine, my favorite place in Tokyo, circled in black in the southwestern corner, it takes about 40 minutes and 210 yen (~$1.90) each way. Shibuya, also a neat place and the location of the huge intersection scene with thousands of people crossing in Lost in Translation, is a longer trip and is 290 yen each way. But that's nothing, of course: many people spend 2-3 hours commuting each way, and who knows how much that costs ! (companies often pay for transportation, though)

A more central location, but more expensive, was the first place I stayed in Tokyo, the "Guess T House," in Azabu Juban (Hemp Tenth??), the place circled in light green to the south. I once walked from Shibuya to that hostel and it only took about an hour and a half. It would probably take about 6 hours or more to walk from here to Shibuya.

There's a nice used books section, not quite as nice as Paris's but still good, in Jinbocho, marked on the map in blue, near the center. Cheap books, with tons of books on mythology and religion! Yay!

Finally, to the east is Morishita, the place I might move to next month. It's also sort of "in the boonies", and it is only served by two railway lines (the place I'm at now is served by four), but it is beautiful and historical. I fell in love with the area the first time I was in Tokyo.

Okay, that's today's lesson in Tokyo geography. I want to try to label a satellite image at some point, but not today.

Because today I need to find a costume! Yes, that's right, Halloween in Tokyo. I guess it is a pretty small affair here, nothing like San Francisco, but it ought to be fun in any case. I'm going with friends to a party at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, which may also be a chance to "network" with expatriots. Later, I've heard, the gaijin make a ruckus on the previously mentioned Yamanote line in their outfits. Sounds like fun. Also sounds a little dangerous and expensive (Yamanote is fast but expensive). But I'll have to give it a try for the experience.

Finally, I'll finish my Chanpon soup (chanpon means mixing everything up in a stew-like thing) with a visit yesterday to an important shrine in Akasaka. It has something to do with a mountain god, though I'm too lazy to research more than that at the moment. But it is closely connected to the Emperor and fairly well-maintained.

First, the entryway torii. I thought this picture would work well in an elementary school World Geography textbook with the caption: "Japan is a country of contrasts." (That's humor, by the way)

Umm, a monkey priest. Don't know the story.

Thought the emblem that adorns the shrine in many places was very pretty. So I took a picture of it.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Tokyo at Night 2- Bridges of Tokyo County

Blogger only allows you to put 5 photos in one article, so I decided to split my night photos into two sections, the second (ie this one) focussing on bridges in Tokyo.

Last night, sort of arbitrarily I decided to take a tour of Nihonbashi and the Sumida River's bridges. There are some very interesting bridges along the Sumida, and though unfortunately I didn't do a very good job of capturing them, you'll get the general idea. These are only a few of the bridges: I'll have to get the others later (they are farther away, and thus it takes more money to ride the train there).

First is Nihonbashi. When the Shogun moved his powerbase to Tokyo (then called Edo), all of the roads were measured from Nihonbashi, and this continues today. The Nihonbashi, unlike the other bridges in this collection, isn't over the Sumida river, but over a river nearer the imperial palace (during the Edo period the site of the Shogun's fortifications) called... Nihonbashi river. By the way, Nihonbashi means Japan bridge. I'm guessing that the river was called something else previously, but I don't know what it was. It's not such a great river, and like many of the rivers in Japan, there is an expressway directly above it, so is somewhat depressing. But history, history is the important thing here. And this bridge is very historical, with very interesting dragons that are a nice mix of Asian and Western dragons.

I realized recently why the streets in Tokyo are so small: they have no sidewalks. There are, of course, large thoroughfares with wide sidewalks, but, like this Nihonbashi alley, most do not.

Next I wandered towards the Sumida. The Sumida was once a particularly beautiful river, and I tried to imagine its former glory as walked along the promenade. Unfortunately now it is completely encased in concrete and is as much a man-made thing these days as is the Tokyo Metropolitan government building (a vaguely threatening, Gotham-looking building I have yet to visit). In spite of that, however, it is still a body of water and, as such, still very interesting. The promenade, too, does its best to forget that it is all just concrete, and it succeeds as best it can. It is pretty in its own way. I imagined to myself how beautiful it must be to watch the competing fireworks that take place over the Sumida every year, trying to forget that at one point the power and threat of a river was just as beautiful as safety and economic prosperity.

Anyway, it truly is beautiful there, especially looking at the bridges as you walk along the tamed river.

First ( that I saw, there are actually many more to the north of this bridge) is the Kiyohashi, fairly boring looking other than its lights illuminating it in purple.

Finally for this trip is the Eitai bridge, a cute little thing with a particularly impressive light display. The lights change over the course of the year, though I'm not sure what the pattern is. This bridge and the buildings behind it capture, I think, the influence of Tokyo on Blade Runner.

Tokyo at Night

I've been doing a lot of walking at night. I spend most of the day looking for jobs, telling myself I'll go out and see the city as soon as I get that... last... email sent. By the time I end up doing that, however, it's already 5, which means I'll be going out at night.

So I walk around after dark, taking photos and thinking. I've found taking photos is particularly relaxing because while I'm sightseeing and discovering new parts of the city, taking pictures for myself and others, I get absorbed in that and forget that I can't find a job and that in less than three weeks I might actually get on a plane and leave this place.

Here are some of the fruits of my nighttime travels. Unfortunately I'm not very good, so many of the photos are slightly out of focus, though at the size you'll see you can't tell very well.

This first is of night construction going on near the place I'm staying. Not all that interesting, I suppose, but I like the glow in the dark traffic cones. That red circular thing, though you can't tell, is actually a rotating light to catch your eye.

Next, these are some lamps at a bridge near my apartment, a bridge called "no sound bridge." I've walked under it, though, and it makes echoes just like every other bridge I've seen/heard.

Last in this collection is Kaminarimon at night. Not only is this a very famous site in Japan, it's a gate dedicated to Thunder! How can you beat that! Unlike the other two, this is quite a ways from where I'm staying, in an older part of town called Asakusa (wet grass).

Monday, October 24, 2005


Beginning to feel the pressure a little bit. Naively, I thought I could easily get a job here based on the fact that I know some Japanese, but I'm beginning to realize that has very little to do with it. More important, perhaps, is what skills I have, and unfortunately, the only proven skills I have are related to computers, work I absolutely will not do. I do believe I have something to offer, I'm just not sure what yet.

I have heard many times that networking is important, and I know from experience it is true. I think maybe 95% of the jobs I've gotten have been through friends. But how to build a network in a country where I can barely speak and that is notorious for avoiding strangers? If the stupid American government would reciprocate a working holiday agreement (where you can work for six months or more - Canada, Australia, and many other countries do it), I could do part-time crap jobs while I built a network. But no. Honestly, I'm very angry at arrogant and unilateral policies in the US, especially when they keep me from getting a job... As it is, I either have to accept a job in Japan sight unseen - the most you see before you find out whether you got the job is a few days while interviewing, during which time the employer can put on a pretty face - or come to the country, as I have done, on a tourist non-visa under the terms of which it is basically illegal to even look for a job. I'm not here to work for less than a Japanese national, and I'm not here to work in the sex industry - I really just want to work, and have higher aspirations to bring together the cultures of Japan and the US than your average fresh-out-of-school American youngster.

I shouldn't whine like this, it is unbecoming, but I feel helpless. I suppose I'd have a hard time finding a job in the US, too, but at least I could work at Starbucks or something while I look for something better. Like every other humanities graduate...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A Few Observations and A Couple of Translation Notes

I'm still doing some "summarizing" of the things that I have seen, heard, learned, etc., over the last month, and there are a few more things I find humorous and a couple of extra-linguistic culture notes that helped me to better understand the translation of the books I've read in Japanese.

Again, the observations are in no particular order.

Sunglasses are extremely rare here, and when you see darkened glasses, they are never very dark : usually nothing more than a light yellow or very light brown. I asked a friend why this was true, and he said that Japanese don't generally like darkness. I doubt that is the true answer - I mean, what culture does like darkness? - but I let it slide.

When cars stop at a light, they'll often turn off their lights. I haven't asked why they do this, but it is very common. I think it is either to save a miniscule amount of gas, or else to avoid bothering the person across the intersection, much as Americans will turn down their brights when another car comes from the other direction.

Japanese people place great value on community and discussion. I heard this before I came, but I didn't really realize how prevalent it was. One place this is particularly noticeable is on television. Nearly every program, it seems, has a panel of celebrities commenting on it. There are, of course, the Hollywood Squares-style programs that you often see from Japanese television broadcast in San Francisco, but it goes further than this. Documentaries, like those shown on Discovery channel, are commented on by a panel of celebrities (celebrities, mind you, not experts in the slightest, just entertainers). Another show chooses a celebrity, showcases their diet, then, while the group of celebrities around the celebrity in the bad diet spotlight make comments, a panel of actual experts (I don't know their qualifications, but they aren't funny and they wear white frocks, so I assume they are experts) - and notice it is a group of experts, not just one - make predictions about how the diet will affect their health in the future. These are examples, but it really is astonishing when you watch much Japanese television to see how important group discussion is to television culture.

Okay, that's it for the "quirkiness" observations.

I also was pretty happy to come across a couple of things on my trip that have helped me understand books I've been reading Japanese better - because, heck, if it weren't for the fact I want to be a translator of Japanese, I might not be here.

Beyond a general feel for the culture and a chance to put images to the names of Japanese places that come up in Japanese literature, there are a couple of specific things I was happy to come across that made a big difference in my understanding of, in this case, Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle and Kafka by the Sea.

First is from Kafka by the Sea, and while it is simple and really not a big deal, if I had not come here I would have had to spend a great deal of research on it: the word ローソン. If you can't read Japanese or that is just a bunch of gobbledy-gook, the word was Rohson. I came across it as I was reading the other day and, as I often have to with words transliterated into Japanese, I had to sound it out to myself, but finally after a few seconds it was obvious, from the context and from the experience I've had here, what the word meant. If anyone can is studying Japanese, can you guess what the word is?

The word is Lawson, and it is the name of a famous convenience store here in Japan. There are four main "conbinis" that I have seen: 7-11 (yes, that's right, and the 7-11 company even has a bank now), ampm, Family Somethingorother (can't remember the full name), and Lawson. There are others, but those are the most common. Convenience stores are where you go to buy fairly good prepared food, beer, cables for your electronic devices, where you pick up packages, and a great many other things. They are not (usually - there are exceptions) the dirty and often unsafe places that they can be in San Francisco.

Anyway, I know it is a small deal, but the fact that this so quickly came to me was a real validation of the belief that coming here is essential to continue learning the language.

The second occurred to me when wandering home today after getting lost for the billionth time. The streets, other than the main streets that cut across the entire metropolis, are usually very short and small and follow no particular pattern in Tokyo. Instead of groups of parallel streets, the streets here often cut across each other, end after a few meters, and/or are about an arms' length across.

Houses are found not by walking down a street until you find the right number, but by a slow narrowing of areas until you have narrowed the possibilites down to a very small number. In the US we would first find the city, then the street. It helps to have some idea of the area the house is in, but if you use the brute force method, you can usually start at 1 and walk to the address if you know the street, and if you see the address of houses in a particular area of that street you can guess how far you are from your destination. This is not the case in Tokyo. For example, the place I am staying now is in a numbered area 15 of a subsection called Sakae town of the Kita ward of Tokyo. This means first you have to find Tokyo, then the Kita ward. Once you have found Kita, you have to figure out where Sakae town is. The only way to do this is to have a map with a good index or ask a local. I had both Japanese google's maps and a paper map, so I didn't bother to ask a local. But even when you have found the town, you still have to find the section, called a Chome, then find the numbered part of that chome that corresponds to your address. It took me about two hours, I think, to find this place the first time, and now I've managed to lower that to, on average, about 15-20 minutes, depending on where I am coming from. But it can be a crap shoot.

There is a point (sort of) to all of this, if you've managed to make it this far.

There is a part of Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle where he describes an alley the main character enters while trying to find his lost cat. When I read this both in English translation and in Japanese, I was imagining to myself the wide alleys we have in the US - even the narrow alleys can usually acommodate a Hummer. Not in Japan. As I said before, many of the alleys are only a meters wide, if that, and only very small cars (there are many small cars here) can get through.

In Murakami's story, this alley has been blocked off by construction over the years. In the US, while plausible, this would be a real oddity, and thinking of the alley the way I had been thinking makes the whole scenario much more surreal than it really is. In fact, you run into deadends all the time here, without any explanation, and as walls go up to protect the miniscule gardens of the tenants within, it is very likely that one of these tiny alleys might get blocked off.

It is an important point, because the alley helps to create the atmosphere of isolation that is a trademark of Murakami's style and, I think, one of the reasons he is so popular. The main character, stranded in the alley - almost a sacred space because it is cut off from the normal thoroughfares of human life - pauses for a moment to consider what connection there is between the lost cat and his ailing marriage, beginning a subtle undertone of jealousy and misplaced trust that come to a climax only hundreds of pages later. The alley, once useful to connect houses, people, places together, now only serves as a barrier between them. It is a potent symbol that only grows in relevance the more I focus on it.

Knowing that this closing off of an alley is very plausible in Tokyo takes away some the of the absurdity that I originally read into the alley, but it doesn't take away strength of the symbol itself.

I'm sure no one is reading anymore, and I'm tired, so I'll end it here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A month in Japan!

Well, as of today, I've been here a full month!

It's been a long month, a lot of fun, with occasional worries and a few missed opportunities, but overall a very good experience. I thought I'd celebrate the last month by writing down some interesting things I've noticed about Japan in the past month.

In no particular order:

Vending machines
There are vending machines everywhere. EVERYWHERE. I walked up the mountain at Fushimi inari shrine - the one with the billion torii I mentioned in an earlier entry - got a bit off track and ended up in the "middle of nowhere" (the middle of nowhere doesn't really seem to exist here, but for the sake of simplicity...) and there was a bright, shiny vending machine, carrying my favorite canned coffee, Georgia brand espresso latte.
I was so impressed, I took a picture.

Kuru kuru sushi and hamburgers

This is kuru kuru sushi. If you've seen those sushi boat restaurants in San Francisco, it's sort of like that, except that it's nothing like it. A wide variety of sushi floats by your table on a conveyer belt, you take what you want, and then at the end you put your empty plates into a machine at your table that counts the dishes and gives your your receipt. The sushi is usually 100 Yen a plate, which makes out to be about 85 cents or so. The sushi goes around the entire restaurant, though, and I believe it comes back around again, so the sushi tends to get gross and kind of sweaty after awhile (at least at the place I went in Nara - I've heard there's a better place here in Hiroshima). But it's an experience.

If you can't tell, that is hamburger sushi. Yes, a slimy clump of hamburger (cooked, you'll be happy to hear), on top of your usual sushi rice wrapped in nori seaweed. It even has a little mayonnaise on top! The guy in the picture above is a big fan of American culture, drinks Coca-cola all day, and loves hamburger sushi.

The Condition of the Service Industry in Japan

This has been the hardest thing to adjust to so far, I think: customer service is on a whole different level in Japan, especially Tokyo. Whenever you go into a store, everyone in the store (everyone, this can be 10-20 people) will say "Welcome" (Irasshaimase) This happens everytime someone comes in, so you will hear an almost constant stream of "Irasshaimase"s while you are shopping. In addition, most stores will also thank customers who are leaving, so when someone pays or leaves (very often both), you will hear "arigato gozaimasu" or the slightly lazier "arizasu".

Even more, the servers will often inform other servers or the cooks of customer's orders. Before I go on, I should note that almost all women and many men use a higher than normal, very nasally voice (a habit I am very curious about) when they are doing this. So, when a customer orders something, you will a long, very ritualized conversation about the order. I don't have a full understanding of everything that is said, but in coffee shops (Starbucks and Tully's are popular here) here is the gist of a typical order-conversation. Remember, most of the time this is in a high pitched, nasally voice.

I come in
The first person notices a customer has come in, says "Irasshaimase". Everyone else then follows, in a sort of echo.
I fumble out my order: "short cappucino"
The person taking my order says to everyone (in Japanese): "I'm going to make a request".
A customer leaves: "Arigato gozaimasu, arigato gozaimasu, arigazasu..." then, going back to the order...
Everyone else says "Go ahead"
The person taking the order says "One short cappucino, please".
The person making the drinks says "One short cappucino" in answer.

This is all done very matter of factly, though it is in the ritualized manner I've described. They go about their business (and they are always busy doing something), firing off responses without looking away from their work. It is very hard to get used to, but I admire it.

However, this leads to a much greater amount of noise pollution than most americans are used to. Much worse than this last situation, though, are the supermarkets I've been to. Here, there is not only a soundtrack (usually a store radio), there is also a pre-recorded message thanking you for visiting the store and telling you to "Please take your time and enjoy shopping at...", and even more, there was one store where there were two guys talking on microphones in different parts of the store recommending various items: "How would some celery be for that nabe you are making tonight... Eggs are 2 cents off today... How about some beer...", all of this very loudly. I had a terrible hangover the day I went to this store, and was about to lose my mind in all the noise. Certainly there are noisy department stores in the US, but they cannot compare.

Then you step outside and there are two young women handing out napkins with pictures of either cute little cats or half-naked young women, adding to the noise by asking you to come to the dry cleaners or hostess bar they are promoting. The next corner is the same thing.

Bookstore segregation

Female authors are separated from male authors in the bookstores I have visited. I won't try to explain this one - I'm sure you can come up with your own ideas.

Well, I've spent too much time on this, I want to get back to looking for jobs, but I'll probably
add other things as I think of them.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Pottery and Barbeque

First, a belated picture of the family I'm staying with here in Hiroshima. My friend Shinsuke was still working when we did this, so he's not in the picture, but in back is the Father, in front grandmother and mother, and cat (Kuu).

This was taking just before we had dinner that night, a "make your own" style of sushi.

The father is heir to a line of pottery makers, and though he has a full time job as a public servant of some sort and thus can't make any money on the side, he does pottery as a hobby. Yesterday, a friend of Shinsuke's came over to make pottery, and so I was invited along.

The finished product is probably three-quarters the father's doing, but it was interesting to participate.
Then, after that was done, we had a big barbeque, with many of Shinsuke's friends coming to visit and eat with us.

It lasted (or, really, I lasted - the party continued after I went to sleep) from 12 to 12. It was fun, though I ate and drank too much.

Friday, October 07, 2005


Well, I've been in Hiroshima for almost a week now and I've pretty much stopped all of my sightseeing activities while I try to find a job. It seems my options are pretty limited here, and I may, in the end, need to head back to Tokyo. It's hard for me to really understand, but it seems like the head office of every company in Japan is located in Tokyo, and that is really the place to be for any sort of good chance at a job.

I have to admit the reason I'm not working harder to find work in Hiroshima (because I'm sure there must be some sort of work as a proofreader here) is that, despite all of my predictions to the contray, Tokyo really grew on me. Osaka, Hiroshima, even Kyoto, or for that matter San Francisco or New York, are just cities. But Tokyo is a whole other matter altogether - it is a huge sprawling mess filled with way too many people, and yet it somehow seems to work. The fact that it works, along with its array of options for intellectual and other stimulation, really is attractive to me. I haven't made any decisions yet, and I think it probably would be better to stay here in Hiroshima, but because of many factors, I might end up back there.

As usual, I'm trying to figure out a good reason to choose one plan over another. I was, optimistically, hoping that once I got to Hiroshima I would feel "at home". It is definitely nice to see Shinsuke, I really liked Miyajima, the place with the big Torii, and Hiroshima is nestled in between the sea and mountains, but the city itself isn't very attractive.

Ah, anyway, I'm just writing this down because I haven't used English much lately and it is nice to be able to express myself. It feels like most of the time I'm staring blankly at people, trying to figure out what the hell it is they just said at a million miles an hour. I still get the thrill of learning new words in Japanese, but I don't get much of a chance to communicate intelligently for any length of time these days.

Don't take that to mean I'm unhappy. I'm enjoying myself, but I'm looking forward to the next, real adventure in Japan - working. I know that sounds absurd, but after so many years of not being self-reliant, the only thing I want now is to have a job and pay for everything myself. Well, more than that, start to develop a skill at something, ie translation. Hopefully I'll find something worthwhile to do soon.

But tonight, I'm going out drinking with a friend who lived in San Francisco I haven't had a chance to see yet.

Monday, October 03, 2005

omatase shimashita

It's been a while since I've written anything. The title means "I made you wait," or, more naturally in English, "Thank you for waiting." It's said over and over again here - even if you haven't been waiting, people serving you will say it.

I haven't experienced all that much culture shock here in Japan, but this is one area where Japan and the US are so very different: people are unbelievably polite, sometimes so much that it makes me uncomfortable. I myself try to be polite as much as possible, but I often am selfish and impolite, and even when I am being polite, it can't even come close to the great lengths taken by the people that I have stayed with since I got here.

My friend Kazumi and her family in Kishiwada/Osaka, another friend in Nara, Tomo, and the family I am staying with at the moment here in Hiroshima, the Fujiwaras, have gone to great lengths to make me comfortable, taking care of almost everything for me.

I appreciate this so much, but I am not accustomed to it and not sure how to respond in return. I feel unworthy of it, especially since I am not much of a host myself. It seems so natural to them - perhaps living here for a while, it'll become natural for me as well.

So, I've finally reached Hiroshima, and after a few days of sightseeing I plan to start looking for a job. I'm glad, in the end, that I chose Hiroshima - it is a beautiful place, surrounded by mountains, with much of the big-city conveniences of larger cities but without the overwhelming size of cities like Osaka or Tokyo. I don't know if I'll end up here, but if I do I think it will be fairly easy to settle in.

Today, Fujiwara (his given name is Shinsuke, but I usually call him just Fuji-san) and I went to Miyajima, with the famous Torii. It is an island fairly far away from the main city and is very beautiful.