While my sweet husband has been traveling the world and is still currently in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I have meanwhile been here in Tokyo taking care of the more mundane aspects of establishing our “home” for the next two years. After he left on Sunday for that tedious 30 hour ordeal to get to South America, I spent my last night in the Celestine Hotel, Tokyo.
Bright and early Monday morning, I packed up our belongings and met the relocation representative in the lobby to move everything to our Tokyo apartment. At the apartment, after inspecting for damage, we left the rental company to set up the furniture, and walked to Minato-ku City Hall to register the residence and have the residency cards updated with the new address. I somehow thought that this would all be very quick and routine, but no… The person behind the desk knew no more English than I knew Japanese, and while I stood blankly watching, the relocation rep handled the paperwork (which was all in Japanese.) At one point they turned to me to ask if I could write the Katakana (Japanese characters) version of my name. OMG… What? Finally, I remembered Google Translate, and typed my name into the app in English, and out popped my name in… Katakana.
After an hour listening to our relocation representative speak to the City Hall staff, finally we were officially registered, signed up for the national health program, and had filled out the waiver for the Japanese pension fund. Yikes! How can this really be so complicated? I never imagined all that was involved in this process.
After that mind-numbing ordeal, I was taken by subway to the Softbank store to buy a Japanese cell phone to use here. I have always been an android user, but now I have in my possession a brand new iPhone 6s… with a brand new Japanese phone number! (Still trying to figure out how to set up the iPhone.) Buying the iPhone was also somewhat of an ordeal… the salesperson spoke English — and in fact, had gone to school in California for a while — but still… the language is so difficult to follow.
That brings up a really important point here. Of course there is a language issue, but it is even more than me not knowing very much Japanese. I have found that even if the person I am speaking to knows English, I still have trouble understanding. They speak to me with Japanese-tainted English,and I speak to them with English-tainted Japanese! We are both trying so hard to listen and understand, but it is very difficult, and time consuming. This process of acclimating and learning to fit into Japanese culture is going to take time… lots of time. It cannot be accomplished in 3 short weeks. Much patience is required… on both sides. It is easy to get frustrated… but, I am learning.
Yesterday, I received our air shipment from home. The movers brought in the boxes we had shipped, and now the apartment is feeling a bit more like a real home. I have the kitchen more or less set up,and have actually bought some groceries and cooked a meal there. There are still things we need to get the place organized, but it is coming along.
Today was getting the internet set up and configured. The first technician was very cordial, but spoke not one word of English. He connected the internet, and left. The second technician brought the wireless router and configured the network. He spoke English, but again… it is that Japanese English that I am working so hard to listen to and understand. Anyway… it all got done, and we are connected to internet.
Again… I am in no way criticizing or complaining about this process. I know it all has to happen. I am just trying to explain what an involved and mentally exhausting process this has been. I look forward to learning more Japanese so that I can communicate more effectively while we are here. The communication issue here is such a complicated thing involving not just the words, but the writing system, and the culture and history of this wonderful society. I am happy to have my little apartment all set up now… a refuge. Not a place to hide, but a place to recover before my next adventure in Japan.