I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore

Hello lovely readers, sorry it’s been so long between blog posts but we have been a bit busy lately, what with me FINALLY moving to Japan and settling into our new neighborhood and our new apartment!

So I flew in on Tuesday morning and it has been total chaos since then. The flight over was fairly long since I had to go through Kuala Lumpur rather than direct, but my flights were largely baby and chatty old lady free so I can’t complain too much. No hassles getting through immigration and customs either, but I was very cross that they didn’t even check my Yakkan Shoumei because I totally had it and everything!

Tamago met me at the airport and there was much rejoicing. Then we hopped on the Narita express train to Tokyo with my four bags (as a side note I would recommend STA Travel and Malaysia Airlines to all students reading this. They were the cheapest flights by far and gave me an extra 10kg of luggage allowance just because I’m a student!). It’s a long train journey actually, an hour and a half, but it was an excellent train. If someone out there is planning on doing this in the future and you’re planning on staying for an extended time in Tokyo, it’s a good idea to pick up a ‘suica’ card from the lady at the train ticket desk at the same time as your Narita express ticket. A suica is like a multitrip train ticket that you load money onto and then swipe when you go in and out of train stations. There are little machines at most train stations where you can load money and then just go right ahead and start using it! Don’t worry, they have English option menus. Very handy.

My first impressions of Japan have been that it’s a crazy crazy place. It’s nothing like what I was expecting in some ways. For example, I kind of thought that being the biggest city in the world and all, I would see more gaijin like me. But really there aren’t that many. I know that Tamago and I fit in about as well as the Wicked Witch of the West at the Miss Universe Pageant but it still takes you by surprise whenever you see other gaijin. As a duo, Tamago and I draw a few odd looks and stares. A woman actually gasped with surprise in the supermarket tonight as I popped out from the cup of noodles aisle. Can you imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t been wearing makeup?

So I’ve been here a few nights now and most of you are probably wondering how the ol bed situation has worked out. Well most of you will be pleased to know that I have finally met my match in our real estate agent. Let’s just call him the Wizard for now; I’ve never met him face to face and he appears to wield great power and a booming prophetic voice but I suspect it’s all a charade. Despite my many many assertions that a semi-double bed was NOT OK the Wizard has failed to provide any alternative. So Tamago and I have been giving it a go. And I’m not going to lie, it’s not great. I’m not a small woman and Tamago is not a small man so there tends to be a bit of a battle for territory in whatever bed we sleep in. However, I will concede it is not the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had. Especially because it’s 5 degrees here at the moment! Not sure how it’ll go in the summer though…

Maybe you think I’m overreacting but it’s smaller than it looks in this photo!

The biggest issue with our apartment so far is actually the location. It’s in a great spot…mostly. The only main issue is that it’s rather close to what looked like a big grey area on Google maps which has turned out to be a fruit packing factory. Tamago checked it out a few days before he signed the lease and it wasn’t noisy…during the day. As it turns out, fruit packers love to operate at night, between the hours of 11pm and 9am. It’s a smidge noisy. However again, still not the worst night’s sleep we’ve ever had so we’re optimistic that with a bit of persistance and a bullet for our fruit packing next door neighbour with the squeaky electric fruit trolley, all should be well.

Around the corner from our apartment. Behind the giant white wall is the giant fruit factory

So apart from the bed and the fruit factory there have been many many positives. It’s wonderful to finally be in the same country as Tamago, the food has been excellent and Tokyo is unbelievably quirky and interesting and goes at a million miles an hour. There are so different things to see and I’m completely charmed so far by the people and the places.

My favourite thing so far about Tokyo has been the greenery. I’m told that this city has some beautiful public gardens but I have yet to visit them. I’m talking about the tiny pot plants and twisty trees that grow by the doors of every home and business here.

Our neighbour’s house. I hope they didn’t see me take this picture.

In every tiny plot of un-concreted land there are plants growing. It’s probably very boring to people who live here but I’m fascinated. I am finding it very beautiful and confusing and surreal. For example on the main road near our house in the middle of Shinjuku, a major hub of Tokyo, a sunflower is growing by the road. In November. In the car exhaust, amongst the skyscrapers and in a patch of soil between a busy road and a concrete footpath. How amazing is that?

There’s no place like home.