Road to Rising Sun 2011 in EZO Part 2→ Animal House Husbandry (there are like... 30 jokes embedded in that title)

Dear Blog,

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.


So yeah.



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?

Haha, sucker!

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!