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Settling In

I am settling in. Initially the changes are small. I had some trouble with time: a radio alarm clock that I found was moving too slowly because of a problem with wattage and a windup clock that wouldn’t wind. They have a different Google here and it’s tougher to compare prices in supermarkets.

Most signs use Kanji symbols, others spell words out with the Japanese alphabet of Hiragana or the loan words of Katakana. I speak some scattered Japanese phrases, however I cannot write and I cannot read the language. I believe that makes me illiterate in this country, and my use of the currency a dangerous one to my economic survival. That survival is already tenuous because of this expensive city that doesn’t treat our American currency very kindly.

Shopping is agonizing (rough exchange rate; expensive regardless). I managed to figure out how to tell what is on sale in the supermarket. Four liters of soon-to-be expired 100 percent apple juice, dented cans of fruit cocktail, and all the rice and noodles you can imagine. Match that with peanut butter, kasugai green peas, and four boxes of 45 percent-off frozen dumplings. This is my diet, with splashes of store-bought tonkatsu or fresh sushi rolls.

This is my first weekend here in Tokyo that ends a week of classes. It is about organization and preparation and habit forming. I have schoolwork to catch up on and future plans to make.

There are moments of hesitancy and regret, but it is my experience with travel that once you find your routine, time goes faster than one is able to count. I am awaiting that, readying myself to not miss a moment of the Japan that is around me.

A Japan made of 47 prefectures, though Tokyo, one of the 47, and others have special labels. In that sense, Tokyo may be more like a U.S. state than a U.S. city. Controversially outspoken Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara oversees 23 wards and other smaller municipalities, which could be considered cities and towns.

But my learning and reading and explaining is done for now. Food shopping (and spending) is done for a week or two, too. I need to get some school work done in the hopes I can enjoy some of the coming week beyond classes.

Jaa ne
(Note: Changing day to day, there are about 116 yen to one U.S. dollar)

Somewhere in the exchange rate when I came into Japan, I went through a bit of a transformation myself. Here, I’m taller, quieter and more oblivious (also, as noted earlier, I am illiterate and far less educated). When it rains (as it has a lot with the humidity of Japanese late summers) I’m contemplative, and when it’s sunny I try to speak Japanese to Japanese women who patently ignore me.

It is all about finding my place and finding some sense of comfort and stability in a land so foreign to me.

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