Hello everyone from KYOTO!
After more than 24 hours of total travel time, I have arrived once again in the Land of the Rising Sun. And it feels very, very strange.
When I first got off the plane and into the taxi at Osaka International Airport, I was every bit as nervous as I had been for the past few weeks. I kept my fingers crossed that the feeling would change as soon as I saw the familiar streets of Kyoto, but in my daze of jetlag and exhaustion I barely even noticed where I was until just moments before the driver dropped me off in front of my new office building.
Here I was met by the company’s PR guy with whom I’ve been in very close E-mail contact over the past 5 months. We had a quick laugh about the excessiveness of my luggage and he helped me upstairs for a first glimpse inside my future workplace. But before I could even get through the door I was greeted by 25 smiling faces – some French, some British, some American, and some Japanese. Phew, there’s one thing to scratch off my list of worries: my co-workers seem to be pretty damn cool!
The president and a few of the core employees then escorted me into the conference room, past a big leather massage chair, every video game system known to man, a ping-pong table, and my soon-to-be workstation. A good work environment with a fabulous location. One more off the list 😀
During our brief conversation/orientation I learned that I wouldn’t have to start working until November 1st. This is wonderful news. Not only will I have ample time to get settled, set up a cell phone, bank account, and find an apartment, but it’ll also give me an opportunity to wrap up the next version of Dean’s GPR software (which I was right in the middle of when the visa arrived, leaving it half-finished and pretty much useless).
Next, a couple of my future coworkers walked me over to my new apartment. In addition to sponsoring me for a visa and covering my flight over, the company was kind enough to put me up in a fully furnished apartment for my first month while I look for my own place to stay. And while a bit on the small side (especially in comparison to the giant houses I got used to back in LA) it’s actually quite nice, with internet, a TV, a video-link to the front gate, and even a full set of cooking utensils ready and waiting. Even better, the location is as convenient as can be – the last time I lived in Kyoto my apartment was so far out-of-the-way that even a trip to the nearest convenience store for a quick snack or a beer became quite an ordeal. But here, the nearest convenience store is visible from my front door, as is a subway station and supermarket. No more food-shortage emergencies for Justin! No more beer shortages either.
Since I was pretty exhausted (and filthy) from the long trip over, I was soon left to shower and unpack, which I did before heading downtown on bike (a company loaner) to get my bearings. It was during this ride that my feelings of fear and apprehension truly began to melt away. Little by little that “something special” about Kyoto started to reveal itself once again, and before long I began to feel like I’d never even left at all.
It’s almost strange, sitting here in my apartment and listening to an old lady clap two pieces of wood together at a nearby shrine, seeing the faint lights of scooters driving past the 400 year-old Nijo Castle down the block, and smelling the familiar scent of nikuman and oden from across the street. I’ve been gone for exactly eight months now, yet everything is still so familiar that it barely feels like I was gone at all. Was that whole time in LA really just a dream? Did I really do all of those things I remember doing? Yes, I did leave, for quite a long time, and my whole life changed quite dramatically. Weird. I guess it’s good to know that whatever happens I’ll eventually be able to settle into either place. I’ve always loved traveling, but who could’ve guessed I’d end up having this international of a lifestyle…
Anyways, after a much-needed night’s sleep I got up bright and early to start the long process of “getting settled.” But because most businesses don’t open until 9:30 or 10:00, this ended up turning into a trip across town to an apartment that I found on the Elitz website (a Japanese real estate agency) and have been drooling over ever since I learned that I’d be moving back to Kyoto. It was every bit as awesome as I thought it would be, but unfortunately too far away from the company to be feasible. Damn.
But the trip served its purpose. By the time I got back to my neighborhood the ward office had just opened, so I got my alien registration paperwork in order and met up with the company’s PR guy once again. Together we headed to the bank where he proceeded to put my Japanese completely to shame. This guy is so unbelievable at the language that when I closed my eyes and just listened I honestly couldn’t tell which one, him or the teller, was the native speaker. I guess that’s what ten years in a foreign country will do to you. But it doesn’t mean I’m not jealous 😛
As usual, the paperwork-lovin’ Japanese took unreasonably long to open my account, so by the time we parted ways it was already time to meet up with a group of other employees for lunch. They walked me over to a nice local restaurant where I got a set meal – rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, and a whole baked fish of some kind. Yum. A nice complement to the morning’s meal of Tantan Udon at Nakau (one of my favorite seasonal fast-food dishes).
After lunch I spent the rest of the day on the run-around; scoping out the supermarkets in my area, stocking up on groceries, looking into the various cellphone companies, comparing gym membership plans, etc. I was absolutely overjoyed to learn that not one but two mega-gyms (with actual heavy weights!) opened up during my absence. One of them, a Gold’s, is only a few blocks away from where I’m living and has astonishingly long business hours for a country where most gyms seem to be opened for the ludicrously short hours of 9:30-7:00. The only negative is that I’ll end up having to pay exactly triple what a membership costs in the US ($75 a month vs $25). But it’s still worth it. To me, Kyoto’s lack of quality workout equipment was a very big counter-argument towards my coming here that has just disappeared entirely.
You know what? Rather than continuing with boring details of my running around town and getting settled, I’ll stop here by just saying that the next day (today) and probably tomorrow will consist of pretty much more of the same – looking for apartments, looking for furniture, signing contracts, and so forth. It’ll be interesting to see how I feel when things settle down and I get into the regular grind of long work hours (the last and probably largest on my list of concerns for moving here), but for now I’m feeling pretty good about things. While I definitely miss everyone and everything that I got used to back home (IN-N-OUT!), I’m relieved that Kyoto does in fact still feel like the second home that it felt like when I left eight months ago. Justin has once again started a new phase of his life. Banzai.