Friday, July 31, 2009


I cant even begin to explain all the weirdness. I may still be jet-lagged, because I sort of feel like Im in a dream. Also, Im at school using a Japanese keyboard that doesnt have an apostrophe key. Please rest assured that my basic punctuation skills have not deteriorated.

Here are a few hilarious mistakes I have made.

-I went to have my photo taken and I was told I shouldnt show my teeth when I smile, so they had to re-take the photos. Apparently teeth in photos is a no-no! Thanks Mom for always chiding me to smile bigger in photos; you have offended the Japanese by proxy.

-There are indoor shoes and outdoor shoes. I change into different shoes when I get to my high school, which are what I therefore wear for most of the working day. So, I figured outdoor shoes dont really matter and I wore some flip flops to walk to school today... very bad. A teacher took me to the bank to set up an account and was basically like, you better not do that again. Seriously.

-There are no discernible street signs and towns are definitely not neatly gridded. And since everything is in Japanese, its nearly impossible for me to remember how to get anywhere... Ive been too scatterbrained and overwhelmed to recognize landmarks much at this point. This is to say, both days so far I have been clueless as to how to get to school from the train station. Today I wandered long enough to get the courage to go back to the station and ask, and I bumped into a student who took me to the school, haha. In broken English and Japanese I learned he liked the Yankees, so as a thank you I gave him this baseball keychain I brought from New York as an omiyage (souvenirs people returning from vacation or arriving for the first time give to their co-workers). It was pretty cute.

-I did not bring enough omiyage for all the teachers. With the help of my desk neighbor, Tanaka-sensei, Ive been sneakily trying to give omiyage to some of the teachers without alerting others to the fact that theyve been snubbed. OMG everyone is going to hate me.


  1. Want me to mail you more keychains? Or Statue of Liberty statues? Or Empire State Building snow globes?

  2. Have you seen the Japanese TV show Great Teacher Onizuka, aka GTO? That is how I picture your life now, but with less violence. You should try to get your hands on it if you have time.

    BTW, I would have made the exact same flip flop mistake. But I'm just a stupid gaijin.


  3. What is the problem with flip flops outside?! Disrespectful to show bare feet?! Crazy.

    Just give the other teachers hugs.

  4. Jen--the keychains went over well, especially the ones that looked like little teddy bears with train numbers on their bellies. That got a lot of "ah, kawaii!!!" (cute)

    Adrienne--that show sounds amazing and is probably not that far from actual Japan, honestly.

    Jeanette--they should just be grateful I don't show up in my woobies.

  5. It’s like you are being HAZED, but with politeness. I bet they are particularly strict with you guys because you're teachers and representing the program, etc. Murakami makes it sound like there's some cherry-picking about which etiquette customs to observe at the individual level. Oh! Have you seen the scary doll/flight attendant ladies at Tokyo department stores who greet you in the same exact pitch!

  6. This all sounds a bit intimidating. I hope you are having as much sense of humor as comes across in your posting! Good times.

  7. "Hazed with Politeness" sounds like a long-lost Built to Spill record.

    Can omiyage be regifted among coworkers with hilarious results? I smell a sitcom.


  8. The apostrophe key is SHIFT-7. It's actually on top of the 7, I think.

    -Andrea Bottorff

  9. Don't worry, I still get lost everywhere. Don't be afraid to ask for help, and watch out for gaijin traps (giant ditches along the sides of the road)