G's last day of school was on Friday. During good-bye circle time (parent participation), I couldn't help but tear up as this little international school and G's teachers have been so fantastic to us as we were complete newcomers to the city and to the school. In the fall, he will attend ASIJ - the American School in Japan whose curriculum, activities, vacations etc. mirror the school system in the United States as well as the other American schools worldwide. One day we'll be back in the U.S., I promise!
During our remaining days here, G and I will be a fixture at the Tokyo American Club swimming pool, outdoor play area, library and restaurant. This all in one entertainment complex (complete with bowling alley and billiards!) has become a lifeline for us for all things familiar and convenient and we never fail to run into someone that we know there.
As I was wrapping up loose ends today, I was thinking about the completely random things that I've discovered during my past 6 months here in Tokyo and I came up with the following list(absolutely not all inclusive as I'm sure I'll post this and think of 10 more):
- Byoin and byoin mean either beauty salon or hospital depending on which syllable you place the accent, this can prove slightly problematic leading me to my number 2.
- Most taxi drivers speak little to no English. The words for right, left, straight and stop are the first Japanese words that one should master if planning to visit this country.
- The 100 yen shops are fantastic for souvenirs, knick knacks and household items - all for just 100 yen. Thus far the 4 story shop in Harajuku is my fave and is the reason that we are the proud owners of Hello Kitty chip clips, plastic hard boiled egg container (with smiley face) and chopsticks with every design imaginable.
- Not all sake is created equal. Enough said.
- Try as I might, I do not love green tea ice-cream. Same goes for the sakura/cherry blossom latte.
- Number four is considered very unlucky, as are all even numbers to some extent. The Japanese word for the number four is shi which also means death. You won't find room 404 or 414 at a local hospital. When giving a gift of, for example, wine glasses, the preferred number to give is 5 - not 6 and definitely not 4!
- Although blowing your nose in public is frowned upon here, when walking past one of the numerous public restrooms (door open natch), you are likely to witness a local man using the urinal or even better, the public park bushes. So boogers = bad but full frontal male nudity = okay.
- Traditional Japanese kitchens do not contain an oven. Cooking is done on stovetop, with ricecooker and via microwave.
- It is next to impossible to find self tanning lotion or bronzer here in Tokyo. But I can find a plethora of whitening cremes.
- My three year old now screeches "no shoes on carpet" to anyone who visits our home in Tokyo. That's right, no shoes on the carpet or actually anywhere in the house. Slippers, socks or barefeet only. In some homes (not ours) there are different slippers to wear upon entering the bathroom versus the rest of the house.
- Bathrooms are generally not heated. To compensate, there is either underground heating in the flooring or heated toilet seats. Please see previous blog post regarding the other amazing features of the toilets.
- Watashi wa nihongo wa muzukashi desu. I think Japanese is difficult. But I am trying and have to give big kudos to my teacher who has the patience of a saint with this gaijin (foreigner) who doesn't do her homework.
- Doors are opened and closed automatically (by the driver) in a taxicab. Do Not Touch The Doors. Seats are covered in a white cloth material, oftentimes a white lace material -just as practical as it sounds. Even during a torrential downpour in rainy season, carrying 2 umbrellas, a handbag, a backpack, Curious George and wearing muddy wellies, you should not allow your child to put his boots on the seat and soil the white lace. This is your challenge.
- Japanese women over the age of 19 do not wear shorts. Skirts or capris are okay. Generally with stockings. In 85 degree heat.
- All things considered....despite the cost of living and the language barrier and despite the earthquake and aftershocks, I really really love this city. The people are lovely and gentle, the food is top notch as is the public transportation, the customer service cannot be beat, and it's been an amazing cultural experience thus far for all three of us.
Until my next blog post, from the US, have a wonderful summer!!