Remember Golden Week? No? Oh. Whatever. Here's what happened.
The first thing that happened was that Miwako and I went to Otaru. まずは最初の長い週末に小樽行ってきた。
In Otaru, we decided to eat something, as we often do. We opted for soup curry, as we also often do.
Then we got on a boat and were chased by some seagulls, at which time my index finger was inserted up to the second knuckle into the beak of a seagull who probably mistook it for some kind of delicious man-made foodstuff.
The boat took us to the Otaru Aquarium, where out of the many fancy pictures of beautiful sea creatures that I took, I decided that the following two pictures would be the best to put on my blog.
Then we returned via seagull-infested boat to Otaru proper, where Miwako took me to a fantastic restaurant where we gorged ourselves on a variety of earthly delights. The fried chicken and salmon sashimi were especially fabulous. Then we ate too much and it was painful but totally worth it.
After dinner, we went to our favorite bar, Bar Modern Times, where we drank fabulous cocktails and presented wedding photogs to our favorite bartender, who was nice enough to come to our wedding. UNLIKE EVERY SINGLE PERSON READING THE ENGLISH PARTS OF MY BLOG YOU STUPID JERKS oh whoops, sorry Mom and Aunt Cindy, you're cool. Please don't tell everyone else I called them stupid jerks.
So here's the thing. The bottom line is that Golden Week is like... a three day weekend (YAAAAAY!), then a couple of days of work (BOOOOO!), then a four-day weekend (YAAAAAY!). I assume it's named after the golden wedding anniversary of some crusty old emperor or something, but please don't tell the Japanese people that I said something so incredibly offensive to their culture and heritage. Just to be fair, I'll write the exact same thing in Japanese for the Japanese readers of my blog. But anyway, some other things that happened duruing Golden Week Part 1 are that the family gathered for a house-warming party at Miwako's oldest sister, Yuki's new house, we finally started building our veranda garden, and we went to a nearby onsen. Those are definitely some things, for sure.
When Golden Week Part 2 came around, we spent the night at Miwako's dog's house. Also, her parents live there or something.
The next morning, we got in a car and Miwako trusted me to drive on the WRONG SIDE OF THE STREET on our way to Lake Toya.
After checking in at the hotel, we had some time to kill, so we took a fancy ferry to the island in the center of the lake, where we saw a crow fit FIVE crackers into its beak before flying off to hang out with its family. Also, the island and the lake and whatnot were beautiful, and we saw some Hokkaidoian deer and squirrels, but the most important thing is that that crow was a total badass.
Back at the hotel, here's what the view looked like from our room on the 8th floor.
Also, we had dinner in our room, which was fantastic.
Apparently every night for the past 20 or so years, there's been a fireworks show over the lake. So we went out into the rain to check it out and to try out the fireworks mode on my camera.
We weren't able to see the Supermoon, but holy crap the rooftop bath overlooking the lake was mega wicked sweet, though a little small. Then we randomly woke up at 5 in the morning and saw this.
Breakfast and the bath in the morning were great, and the weather was nice enough to clear up for us so we could enjoy the view, but eventually we had to leave. So we went to a volcano.
We then rode a ropeway thing to the top of a different volcano so we could check out the first volcano.
Then we drove home and hung out with this guy that was totally hiding in the clouds on the way there:
We also stopped to look down upon Otaru. Take THAT, Otaru.
And finally, Miwako needed to use her company's fancy camera to take some fancy pictures of fancy grilling food in fancy crappy weather, so Yuki & Co. met us at her parents' house and were all like "damn, yo, I'm not ready to go back to work tomorrow". Exactly like that. True story.
For a much better version of this story, see Miwako's blog. NOW GET OFF MY LAWN YOU KIDS.
Road to Rising Sun 2011 in EZO Part 2→ Animal House Husbandry (there are like... 30 jokes embedded in that title)
So I've been in Yarpong for like... 2 months now, but I still have yet to tell you about my first few weeks here. Why bother reporting on events that have already transpired, when my real goal is to tell you about actual factual interesting events? Well, because I have this weird annoying obsession with documenting things in chronological order. It's why my flickr account is no longer used... once I fell behind by a month or event or whatever, they started piling up, until eventually it got all overwhelming, and now I don't have the patience to upload pictures from ANY event. Anyway... why are you criticizing the things I choose to report here? Just who are you? Is anyone even reading this thing? According to the comments posted on my last post, Trina is. Sorry Trina, I didn't mean to get mad at you. It's just that sometimes YOU MAKE ME SO ANGRY.
What in the hell HAVE I been doing here in Yarpong, anyway?
Well, pretty much as soon as I got here, I went to a wedding. Asahi and Satoshi are part of my Rising Sun group o' frieands (aka "Sachikun Kingdom"), and I first met Asahi way back what when I was an exchanged students. So it was basically a pre-Rising Sun reunion for the Kingdom, and a good chance for me to see a a huge number of friends and be like "hey, I'm here now. What up."
Can you guess which one is me???
It was a nice wedding, but kind of hectic... the ceremony was at a chapel (no photographs, please), but then we all rode a bus to a building where the reception was held (where you pay 15,000 Yen per person, which is normal in Hokkaido, though it's up to as much as 30,000 per person in Tokyo). There were all kinds of music and displays and such every time we were suddenly supposed to turn our attention towards somethings new, and that happened like every five minutes. I would have liked a little more time to eat (just kidding I would have liked more time to get ripped dawg, do you know what I am saying???). After things wrapped up there, we took another bus to Susukino (the night distract area place zone in central Sapporo town city land) for the after-after party. Then we paid another 4,000 Yen, but it was all-ye-can-drink. Miwako had to work on this day, but was able to join the action at this point, so it was good to have her meet many of my friends for the second time, and many others for the first time.
Here's Yo-chan winning a raffle prize, as he often does.
After the after-after party, it was time to go (this time by foot) to the after-after-after party. This involved more drinking, but also a lot of eating. Interestingly enough, the freshly-married couple never showed up for some reason. They probably went to a different after-after-after-after party-party or something.
We were sitting in the middle, so you don't get to see the other side of the party SORRY STOP WHINING.
So yeah, now that I've dedicated several terabytes of Blogger server space to my description of the wedding, it's time to move on. It was a nice wedding, though way more fancy (and expensive-looking) than what Miwako and I want for our own. Still, it was a good first-wedding-in-Japan experience for me.
The next weekend, Miwako's family had a "welcome to Yarpong" thing for me. Everyone gathers at the parents' house fairly regularly, so I see her sisters and their kids a lot, but it was pretty neat that they gathered everyone together at an outside venue in my honor.
Here is my family now.
After the craziness and confusion of my first couple weeks in Japan, things started settling into what is now my normal routine. Basically, I'm a house husband. It's pretty great. I do a lot of cleaning and laundry, wash the dishes, go grocery shopping, and try to cook whenever possible. Miwako is way better at thinking up things on a daily basis than I am, and she can also create edible meals much faster than I can, so I've been trying to work on my skillz so that she doesn't have to do that every day after work. Also in the morning.
Here's the path from behind our mansion to the what I like to call the "Suspicious Supermarket"
I call it that partly because its actual name sounds a lot like the word for suspicious, but also because everything about it is weird. It only sells edible things (as in, no plastic wrap or diapers or solid-gold golden marmosets), everything is suspiciously cheap (or strangely expensive depending on the season), and the parking structure seen in the right side of this photo has very few lights, big piles of garbage, and the windows are all smashed out. Also, it shares the building with a video rental store and a gym, but you can't get to the other businesses from inside the building, instead you must navigate a series of dark elevators and corridors (or just go outside and walk around the building, which I never really thought about trying until just now while typing this). Anyway, it's pretty neat, and even though I see the same staff working there every time I go in, the background music playing is radically different on a daily basis. Our other choice for groceries (including things such as plastic wrap, diapers, and solid-gold golden marmosets) is the Seiyu attached to the train station. It's only slightly further away than "Ayashii Super", and way more convenient (though not necessarily as cheap), but I feel dirty shopping there because it's owned by Walmart. Jerks.
Here's a view looking west towards Otaru from a foot bridge near Teine Station. The green thing is a [golf] driving range, and the orangish building to the left of it is our mansion. Note the dismal grey skies... that's pretty much what it looked like every single day for my first month in Japan.
So besides being a house husband, I've spent a lot of time doing tedious paperwork. Like... a LOT. The Teine Ward Office is right next to the train station, so it's not terribly inconvenient, but I can't believe how much paperwork EVERYTHING in Japan requires. Even when you can see that everyone in the office (ANY office) is sitting in front of a computer, everything still has to be done by hand. So when I first got here, I had to register myself as an Alien Resident. That wasn't terribly complicated, but I still had to wait quite a while to get my actual Alien Registration card (which I'm required to carry with me at all times in case Johnny Law (or in this case probably something more like "Takukenji Law") decides he doesn't like my face). The next challege once I received that was for Miwako and I to get married. Besides her needing to submit her family register and various other things, I actually had to go to the U.S. Embassy in Sapporo in order to get a notarized document (i.e. I signed it in front of some American guy I've never met and then he signed it) stating that this is my first wedding and that I'm not secretly married to someone else back in the Motherland. I wish I could have taken pictures, but the security at that place was not surprisingly mega strict, and they took pretty much everything I was carrying other than my important documents away from me. Anyway, eventually we were able to submit our wedding documents and came to realize that the people at the Teine Ward Office probably had very little, if any, experience in dealing with foreigners doing these sorts of things. We officially got married on July 25th, but the REAL challenge came when I tried to change the visa on my passport from "temporary visitor" to "spouse or child of Japanese national".
The first challenge is that the English version of the Japanese Immigration website listed three things I needed to submit. Okay, great! But wait... the Japanese version of the website lists 10 things I need to submit. Okay... uh... great. So Miwako called them, and they gave her a slightly different list of things I needed to submit. Oh... okay.... what? I ended up calling them myself, and they walked me through the list of things (I still decided to go by the website and prepare everything, just in case). One of the items listed was "Japanese Certificate of Acceptance of Marriage notarized by US Embassy". I told the guy that the U.S. Embassy's website clearly states that I DO NOT need to submit anything of the sort, as a legally valid marriage in Japan is recognized by the U.S. government as being legally valid. Also, we're not planning on living in the Americraine, so what's the point? Also, going to the embassy to get yet another notarized document is expensive. Still, he said I needed it. Sure enough, when I called the Embassy to schedule an appointment, the guy told me I totally do not need anything of the sort, and the immigration office should know that. He told me that I should write a letter explaining why I'm not submitting their stupid notarized document, and if they don't like it they should call him directly. So I wrote that letter in both English and Chinese. I mean Japanese.
These are the documents I ended up submitting to the Immigration office. Especially note #8, photographs of Miwako and I together.
And here's en expansion of #7, and 8-page questionnaire that asks everything possible about us, our families, and our relationship, including an essay that I wrote explaining the time we've spent together. Good thing NONE of this was listed on the English version of the website.
So after gathering all of that crap (which took more MANY trips to the Ward Office, sometimes with Miwako's mom because they're only open on weekdays and Miwako has a job) and going to the Immigration office, sure enough, they hassled me about the notarized document. Also, one of the documents that Miwako submitted was slightly inaccurate, so she had to redo that one. But... about a week later they called me back in and my visa was changed. For one year. So next summer I presumably have to go through more trouble to get an extension. Great.
Okay, sorry about typing all of that. You probably didn't even read it. I KNOW BECAUSE I'M WATCHING YOU. GO BACK AND READ IT AGAIN.
Done reading it again?
In other news...
Sometimes Miwako and I go out to eat.
Many times we borrow her mom's car (or just make her mom drive) so that we can go to Nitori to buy furniture/housewares. It's kind of like IKEA in that you have to build your own furniture and things are relatively, but it's way nicer quality.
Here is my step-daughter, Ann-chan (I always assumed it was "An-chan" for whatever reason).
Because we drink a lot of booze, we bought a thing(s) for drinking sake (not saki) at the famous glass-making place in Otaru.
Speaking of Otaru, one weekend we met up with our Otaruian frieands from college and camped out on the beach. In Otaru.
Some of my favorite people in Hokkaido and also some people I met for the first time (or at least I don't remember meeting them 9 years ago).
Here's a similar picture to the previous picture because I don't know how to delete the previous picture from this blog thing.
Le Ocean. Actually, Le Sea of Japan.
Then one day we got married and went out for dinner in Sapporo.
For the first time in nine years, I went to the Otaru Ushio Matsuri (festival thing, yo).
My "host" parents (I never actually lived with them).
I assume these fireworks were in honor of our marriage.
The next weekend, we met up with our mutual best friend Erina (what does that MEAN???) and her boyfrieand/soon-to-be-husband Shin-chan at the Sapporo Beer Festival in Sapporo of all places. Actually, only the one place. Sapporo. Odori Park. Actually.
After this thing, we went out for karaoke, which was probably a bad idea. They were going to stay with us, but they ended up going back to Otaru because Shin-chan drank way too much. The next morning, I discovered that I had also draunk too much, and unfortunately feeling nasty all day made me have to skip out on a concert featuring two Sapporo bands I've been wanting to see for years. Damnit. Oh well, it was still fun.
The next thing that happened after that thing, not including all the things that happened in between, was that it turned into the week before Rising Sun. It is tradition for Kutchan, Yo-chan, Asami and myself to hang out the night before, then wake up grossly early in the morning to go wait in line so that we can rush the gate when it opens and get the best possible tent spot possible (because we always go in a group of 30+ people, it would be impossible to get all of our tent sites in a block if we didn't do it this way). This time, a whole bunch of people met up for drinks and eats. On the way to the thing, I randomly ran into Yattaro in the subway. Remember that name because it will be important in a future blog post. Sort of. Not really. Anyway, this happened:
This. It happened.
We went back to Yo-chan and Asami's place for sleeping, and for some reason Hiropon also stayed (even though he didn't go with us in the morning). Yattaro also slept over because he and I ended up doing most of the waiting in line duties the next day (and he ended up being the one running to reserve our tent area when the gate opened). And even though we were planning on waking up at 4:30 AM and there wouldn't be much sleep to be had all weekend at Rising Sun, he and Kutchan stayed awake until about 2 watching comedy TV while I desperately tried to sleep.
And that brings us to Rising Sun, which is a separate blog post that I bet you're just DYING (not literally, hopefully) to read.
Backflip double fist pump!
I finally wrote about my damn adventures in damn Japan that I've been damn putting off for ass forever.
I doubt anyone will even attempt to read through this thing other than maybe Trina and/or my mom, but I feel better for having finally accomplished it. Now it is time to go do whatever it is that I do on a Saturday afternoon when Miwako is working. Thanks for reading, chump and/or chumpette!
Just kidding it's not over yet.
By the way, if you're still reading, I tend to compile mental lists of worthless information, and here's one that's kind of been going through my head since I got here.
Things that are hard to get used to living in Japan (or things that I have to re-get used to because I got used to them when I lived here 9 years ago but then forgot about them):
・ Whether there are bike lanes or not, every sidewalk in Japan is crowded with bicycles AT ALL TIMES.
・ I rarely speak English unless it's via the interweb, and it's kind of a weird feeling.
・ Seriously, why with all the tedious paperwork?
・ For some inexplicable reason, the theme song on the morning news is "Heaven is a Place on Earth" by Belinda Carlisle.
・ I miss having a drier for clothes, though our gigantic balcony kinda makes up for that.
・ Olives and peanut butter, two of my favorite things, are both expensive and come in very small qualities (thanks Mom for solving that problem!!!).
・ There are basically only two boring kinds of cereal in Japan, and they're NOT made from 100% high fructose corn syrup, as cereal is meant to be.
・ Japanese pop music (or "Jpop" if you're a gross nerd) never changes, and is always pretty terrible.
・ Not surprisingly, trying to find a job when I have no Japanese certification is wicked difficult. Damnit.
On the other hand...
Things about Japan that are pretty easy to get used to:
・ Booze is mysteriously cheap here.
・ The cost of living in Sapporo is freakishly cheaper than Seattle.
・ Mass transit here is just as awesome as ever.
・ Having both a mountain and the ocean within walking distance (well, less than 3 miles) of my home is pretty fantastic.
・ And many, many more!
Road to Rising Sun 2011 in EZO Part 1→ Goodbye forever, Thee Americraine! Hello forever, Jaguapanther!
I wish you were a diary. How have you been? I have been fine. Thank you for asking. As you know, it has been weeks since the alien insect hive mind came to Earth and enslaved all humanity, forcing us to create grand works of art and science in their glorious names. It has also been several weeks since I moved to Japan. Exactly slightly more than one month's worth of weeks, in fact. Oh, what adventures you have missed. Please allow me to tell you about them in painfully tedious detail.
I slept approximately 3 hours during my last several days in Seattle as I tried to divide the past 30 years of my life into piles of things to take with me, things to get rid of, and things to sort of hope someone will ship to me later. Super sexy special thanks to Matt Smith, without whom I would have had approximately several thousand billion million tons of crap to try to take with me to Japan. He stopped by one last time as I left the key to my home of the last five years in the kitchen, locked the front door, closed it forever, then got in Kim Gold's car to head for the aerospaceport. MAN, that was a weird feeling. Not the feeling of Matt being there, I mean the feeling of leaving my home FOREVER.
Speaking of luggage, I wish I had a better picture of the luggage that I took with me, but I ended up with two suitcases, one very large duffel bag (with no wheels so that you MUST carry it on your shoulder), my backpack, and three massive cardboard boxes. In addition, I had two carry-ons... one was a normal sized thing but contained things such as my KORG Electribe, Wii, my USB hard drives, and various fragile pottery and/or glass objects that I didn't want to check through. I also had a "laptop bag", which contained my laptop, monitor, DVD player, and several other heavy objects that I'm fairly certain disqualified my laptop bag from being a laptop bag in the way the major airlines intend. At the airport, we had to disassemble several of my check-through bags to make sure they were under 50 pounds, so we ended up hastily throwing random objects into a plastic shopping bag which became my third carry-on. 7 checked bags and 3 carry-ons. And THAT'S how you avoid long lines at the airport. Speaking of which, terrible tarantula of tinnitus thanks to Kim, Jihee, Travis, and Ghostie for taking me to the airport and seeing me off. Had it not been for your help, I'm certain that I would have had the life crushed out of me by my massive pile of luggage. Especially the box filled with LEGOs. Did I mention that one of my massive cardboard boxes was filled with nothing but LEGOs? I'm pretty sure I did.
So hey, I made it on my plane. So long, Seattle/suckers. Then I got to Vancouver and I had to check in with Japan Airlines. There was all kinds of confusion about my checked luggage as I explained repeatedly that I had already paid a shit ton of money for my five extra bags to Alaskan Airlines and didn't especially want to pay it again (a hilarious side note to that is that they didn't actually debit my account for a couple of weeks). While they were figuring that out, the guy at the desk happened to notice how much crap I was carrying, and asked for me to weigh my carry-on luggage. Well, it turned out that all three of them weighed about 10 pounds each. Oops. After explaining that I didn't especially want to check through my fragile items, nor did I want to pay for yet another bag, he let me go and suggested that when I'm passing through security and onto the plane and such that I "pretend that the bags are light". 30 pounds in the form of bags with uncomfortable handles gets heavy really quickly when you're walking through various massive airports, but I did my best. At any rate, several hours I got on my plane and was on my way to China. Or Yarpong or whatever. Goodbye, Northern and Western Hemispheres. Thanks for all the oxygen and whatnot.
Many hours and a viewing of "Hankyu Railway" later, I landed at Narita International Airport. Not the one in Tokyo, but the one in Canada. JUST KIDDING AHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As the flight went on, I got progressively more and more panicky about my landing in Japan... I had no return flight, a shit-ton of luggage, and no visa to stay. I assumed I'd get asked a ton of questions by Immigration, but all they really cared about was the "length of stay" box on my disembarkation card, which I wasn't really sure how to fill in since it lists "__ days __ months __ years". But as a bonus for Customs being surprisingly easy to get through, I got to pick up ALL of my bags and re-check them in. I was actually able to drag my suitcases behind me with one hand while pushing everything else on a single cart, but fortunately an airport worker came to my rescue and helped me get to the check-in counter. Then I waited many, many hours, and after threats that our plane might have to return to Tokyo because of heavy fog in Sapporo, we took off and all went according to plan. Then I got to the airport in Sapporo and no one was waiting for me. Surprise! Just kidding, Miwako showed up with her sister Saeko and her husband Naoya (DEAR READER REMEMBER THOSE NAMES, DAMNIT) a few minutes later, so I didn't have to stand in the airport panicking for very long.
Then they drove us (also, it's a pretty long drive from the New Chitose Airport to... anywhere... so I had another whole hour to realize how ridiculously exhausted and badly in need of a shower I was) to our new home, "Light River Sanbankan", a literal MANSION (at least, according to the Japanese meaning), and my second life in Japan began. As opposed to my time spent playing Second Life in Japanese.
Wasn't that a great story? Yes it sure was. Why would I tell you such a story? Let me tell you why. Now that I've written down my experience, I can someday look back at this blog (though in the future "reading blogs" will probably be something more like "taking your neurostim pill" or "attaching an infosquito to your eye socket"), and proudly think to myself, "no really, why DID I tell you such a story?" Haha, sucker - you read it, you can't unread it!