Day 2, March 31 (travelling around with Shinko)

Rainy first day in Japan! A beautiful canal in small town Ootsu


Breakfast table
The next morning, Shinko made us the most amazing breakfast of salad, egg, yogurt, pastries, juice, tea and coffee.  It was pouring rain that morning, more rain than I’d seen in a long time. We went out anyways, because we had many errands to run that day.  Shinko first took us around to see a Shinto shrine just up the road, and then we walked down through a market street that was covered overhead.  Our shoes were soaked within 5 minutes, and there was a river of water running down the market street.  The cars are so small, and the roads in her town are all like alleyways, only wide enough for one car to fit across.

Our beautiful morning walk in Ootsu.

Covered Mall area in Ootsu
    We went back to the subway line and made our way to the real estate office in Kyoto to follow up on our apartment that we were to move into April 15th. The real estate agents didn’t speak any English, so Shinko did most of the talking while Ben and I sat there and picked out the occasional word.  We could sense that they were hesitant to rent to us because they would have no way to communicate with us on legal matters if anything went wrong.  They wanted to have the head office call Ben and talk to him on the phone to see if his Japanese was good enough to qualify as a tenant.  Thankfully Shinko convinced the real estate people to let us rent the apartment, and Ben didn’t have to be tested on the phone after all.  What a relief.  I’m sure if we’d had to do the phone test, the head office wouldn’t have let us rent from them.



    We decided to have lunch at this very small, but amazing curry place with only barstools and one guy running the whole place.  He spoke with Shinko and they helped us find a hostel for the next few days where we could stay before moving into our apartment April 5th.  After phoning around to 6 or 7 places, we finally found one that had reasonable prices and a room available.  We’d been finding it difficult to withdraw money from any ATM, and found out from the curry guy that foreign cards were only accepted at the post office ATM down the street.  We thanked him for his help.
Running errands! This pic at my university
    We then went to find out about cell phones.  For that we went to the massive shopping center which is in Kyoto station underground.  They have everything there, and in the electronic store had probably 10 booths of different cell phone companies.  We found out that we needed apply for alien registration first to prove that we’d be in the country for more than 90 days first before we were allowed to sign onto cell phone plans.  We hadn’t done that yet, but at least we were researching and finding our way around.  
    Then we need to go to get Ben an “inkan”.  An inkan is a personalized stamp carved out of wood that Japanese people use to sign important documents.  It’s used in place of a signature and the real estate office required it of us to sign the papers before we move into our apartment. 
    The whole time we were really learning the most important phrases to know in Japanese which are: “gomenasai –sorry, sumimasen – excuse me, arigato gozaimas – formal thank you.”  Everyone says these things all the time, and it comes from the buyer or the seller at a store, or if someone moves for you when they’re in your way, or when someone helps you in anyway even for a very small thing.  And there is lots of bowing.  The depth of the bow marks your sincerity.  We discovered quickly that it’s very important to do this so as not to offend people.  
    One cool thing that happened while on the subway was when I said hello in English to a little girl.  Her mom immediately prodded her to try and speak English with me.  The girl said “nice to meet you” and the mom then lifted her arm up to shake my hand.  It was very cute.


Beer Vending Machines?!
    Next we went to a cultural center for the arts where Shinko had arranged for us to meet her friend, a flamenco teacher, who could possibly let me practice on the piano in her house.  The flamenco lady was so funny, so energetic, and spoke very fast Japanese.  She and Shinko were old friends from high school and they chatted away and were obviously very happy to be meeting up.  They took Ben and I to a traditional restaurant somewhere nearby and what we had for dinner was very interesting.  First they served us some sort of seafood which looked like slugs.  It wasn’t the best tasting food I’d ever eaten but we managed to choke it down.  Then we had a mixture of other things in a three course meal that made us so full we could hardly move afterwards.  The flamenco teacher took us back to her house and I tried out the piano.  The piano was…. not so great, but I didn’t say so for fear of offending Kazu’s mom or the Flamenco teacher.  They arranged some times for me when I could go there and practice if I wanted. 
Our room in Shinko's lovely house in Ootsu
 I hope to find a piano to practice on sometime soon, but right now we’re focusing on getting ourselves set up in Japan and learning the language.

    At the end of the day my brain was so tired from trying to speak and understand Japanese.  It takes so much effort.  When we got home that night, we were again exhausted but so thankful for Shinko and all her help.  We’d be kind of helpless without her.
Day 1 (Travel from the airport)<<<Previously                                Continue reading>>>Day 3 (First night in the Hostel)

Ben and Kailey lived in Japan not too long ago and also visit Kyoto every year.

Ben is developing a Japanese Practice site. It's current main functions are:
1. a Flash Card system that features a leveling system where you must answer correctly and "level up"to gain new cards, receive money and buy new decks - anime decks included!
2. Fill in the Blank system where you can choose to focus on particle practice or verb practice etc.
Japanese Practice Blog is here. Check out the Japanese Practice site here

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