Yokohama Ryuugaku Kikou

Chasing The Sun, Again: An Excerpt From Mattie’s Notes App Two Years Later

Of course I went back.

This was initially going to be a complete post chronicling my back to Japan, two years later — I wrote this while on a flight heading to Tokyo to visit for over the Christmas and new year’s holidays in 2015-2016, and never actually bothered to continue it, because I was so busy. I figured, though, with the influx of people swinging on by to read the not-particularly-updated guide to Yokohama study abroad life, that I’d go ahead and publish what I had edited for consistency in tense, because why not. Here’s the first new content in three years; here’s another plane ride to Japan.

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Ten Things

It’s been about three months since I left Japan behind to begin my life anew back where I came from, in sunny San Jose. Although it took me a while to do so, naturally, I’m beginning to miss things. At the same time, I’m re-experiencing things I’ve missed here and I’m wondering how I could’ve left some of these behind, so I decided to make two lists: one about things I miss about Japan, and one about things I’m glad to have back in America. Here’s the first:

Things I Miss About Japan

  • 10. Arcades/game centers.
    Those of you who know me might be shocked to see this open up the list at number 10, but the arcade culture in Japan somehow doesn’t seem too conducive to making friends, unlike back in the States, where arcadegoers (or former arcadegoers) comprise a good chunk of my group of friends, and so that gets a mark down for me. (Maybe it’s because I’m a foreigner without much Japanese knowledge…?) It gets a mark up because most arcades are on the ball on maintenance, which means I never had to complain about keys sticking on pop’n music, ever. Also, the games are cool and I want to see all of them here, but ah, that dead, dead Western market…
  • 9. Bath-house (sento/onsen) culture.
    No, this isn’t as lewd as you think — not once did I think about doing that thing in anime where some main character gets egged on by his sidekick to go peep on the girls on the other side of the place. Sidekick aside — I always went alone, because it seemed I was the only dude in the dorm who really liked hitting up the sento — it’s too relaxing to do that. Yes, too relaxing — even though, as a patron of the men’s area, I was surrounded by men completely stripped down to their birthday suits. Screw that, these were great baths at a fairly cheap price, and I indulged so much in them I ended up becoming curious enough to write an entire paper on them to fulfill one of the requirements for studying abroad. As someone who likes his baths, they’re simply wonderful — especially in the winter — and act as a nice prelude, sometimes, to a really satisfying good night’s sleep. Mind, we’ve got a Korean bathhouse here, too, but that costs four times as much to get in ($20 here vs. $4.50 there) and their bath selection is limited and it’s all indoors and they don’t have fruit-flavored milk or milk coffee to chug afterward.
  • 8. Karaoke.
    Here’s a bit more social pastime: karaoke “free time”, from 10 PM to 5 AM (not a typo; this is, in fact, all-night), for prices starting at 780 yen (also not a typo; this is, in fact, roughly USD $8), with all-you-can-drink soft drinks. Oh, yes.
    Let’s compare that to the karaoke place over here: hmm, at 9 PM, rates are…$8.25…an hour….Yo that be some expensive stuff. Do we even get dr- no? Not even water? We gotta pay for that, too?


    But yes, this led to a lot of spur-of-the-moment weekend sessions that started out with an innocuous query of “…hey, you free? Feel like karaoke tonight?” At first, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about destroying my circadian rhythm to belt out some tunes, but I’d get acclimated to it fairly quickly. (As an aside, I also found out that I can sing for longer if I do all-night karaoke, as opposed to in the morning, which is when karaoke is cheapest here; when I wake up and immediately go to sing, I’ve not warmed up my vocal cords enough, so I hit my limit faster!)

  • 7. Book-Off.
    If you don’t know what Book-Off is, it’s a chain of used media stores. There are several varieties of Book-Off, including things like the Book-Off Super Bazaar (which also sells a bunch more things like, say, clothes) and the very unfortunately named Hard-Off (for selling used hardware). Because Japan takes really good care of their stuff, these used goods end up still in pretty dang decent condition.
    That said, I hate it and I love it at the same time. I hate it because it sells things for cheap. I love it because it sells things for cheap — therefore forcing the prices of many books (and keep in mind most of these books actually start at fairly cheap prices to begin with — a volume of manga, for example, is 500-600 yen) down into hundred-five-yen impulse buy territory. Same went for video games: PS1 games started at 105, PS2 games started at 500 yen, and a handful of DS games were good bargains, as well. The markdowns on hardware meant a couple of friends ended up exporting systems out.
  • 6. 100-yen stores.
    As a member of the part of the population of the United States with access to a Daiso dollar(-fifty) store, I took their presence in Japan for granted. Only halfway through my trip did I realize just how much more complete Daiso in Japan is: in helping a dormmate sort out problems with the pipe infrastructure apparently rusting out on her, we were able to find a five-stage purifier at Daiso for 105 yen. And it worked. We pricechecked this against a super-legit Panasonic one and that one was like $300!
    I took Daiso (and Seria) for granted to the point where when I came home I asked the guys at my local Daiso if they carried 4 different things, none of which were available in the US. Now I’m sorta sad I didn’t make sure I got everything I needed before I left.
  • 5. Cleanliness.
    Modern Japan may be largely bereft of trash cans in public — and that’s supposedly due to them potentially being used as bomb depositories –but it’s largely litter-free, which is even more surprising when you consider how many packets of advertising napkins get passed out on the streets every day, combined with how many bottles of drinks get purchased from convenience stores and how many wrappers of street food get passed out every day.
    Also, a bit TMI, but for the sake of emphasis, I do have to say: I — and quite a number of others, I reckon — am sort of afraid to sit my butt down on a public toilet…in America. They’re simply not as well-maintained. Even if I go to extreme lengths and take out, I dunno, four seat protectors or something there’s the chance that if I sit down my scrunched-up pants legs will end up touching some sort of liquid that I’m not sure is water or not. That’s just gross. I don’t think I ever experienced that while abroad. (BTW: Washlets are fantastic — yes, I know sensations like already-warm seats and the spraying of water up one’s dirty areas takes some getting used to, but man, I miss those.)
  • 4Food and drink.
    I miss being able to make a convenience store run and grab a liter of something really nice (like, say, melon au lait or apple-flavored water) for 100~150 yen. I also miss fairly cheap meal options that were flavored far better than their American counterparts (Yoshinoya US, please step your game the awww up, because you’ve got a ways ’til I can actually respect you again.) Oh, and there was amazing 700-yen ramen that filled me up, thanks to Yoshimura-ya; the local abu-ramen place Nakaya was also fantastic and a favorite for practically the entire dorm. The same went for Yocchan-tei, the friendly okonomiyaki shop we’d gone to so often a couple of us started calling one of the owners mom. And I miss properly cooked gyoza, whether it be from Ohsho, Toshu, or any of the mom-and-pop places in the Kannon-dori. I miss filling up on rather heavy, thick slices of bread laden with Nutella. Fruits, though expensive, generally tasted better than their American counterparts, which led to some really good desserts, which I also miss quite dearly. I miss the variety of lunch options at the co-op. I miss Origin Bento runs at three in the morning because they were not only closer than the McDonald’s in Kamiooka, they also had tastier options. Oh, and I guess I miss Mos Burger. Just a little.
  • 3. The people.
    The Japanese people are simply really friendly. I honestly don’t get too much small talk around here in general, like, say, when I go to shops and stuff, so it’s always a surprise and a treat when the place makes an effort to show that it had a more of a cozy, personal feel. This happened more often than not in Japan. Perhaps it was because I was a foreigner. Regardless, I liked it.
    On the flip side, I did endure quite a bit of the gaijin stare. Amusingly, since I at least look Asian, I didn’t get any ridiculous stories, like the one about where my friend went into the countryside with another friend and actually had a whole group of school kids talking about them out loud while on the same train car like they weren’t there and they weren’t capable of Japanese. Which they were. Which made for a great anecdote.
    Lastly, despite all the posted warnings about thieves and whatnot, it felt safe to walk around, period. There were times in which, if I couldn’t manage to sleep any given night, I’d end up at the park on the hill at 2 AM simply enjoying a midsummer’s night alone. Here, public parks close at sunset, because enjoying a midsummer’s night alone in the park is hella shady and ill-advised.
  • 2. Public transit.
    Every time I slog onto traffic for my morning commute I think of the days where as long as I got on the train at 8:04 I could make it to my 9:00 class. Arguably, I can get on the freeway at 8:04 to make it to my 9:00 class here too, but only because traffic ebbs and flows in weird ways that make getting onto the freeway at 8 a necessity to ensure I get to class on time if traffic just happens to be truly terrible — sometimes they practically turn into parking lots, here, and what would normally be a 20-minute commute turns into a 50-minute one. It’s sort of nuts. On top of that, I can’t really do anything during my commute; on my way over to uni in Japan, I got quite a bit of reading and studying finished where I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. Also: it’s sorta magical to be able to pay $115 to be able to just travel the entire country for five days straight.
  • 1. The people.
    This is a bit different than number 3 — I speak not just of the Japanese people, but of the many people I met and forged connections with and generally had fun hanging out with. I unfortunately didn’t get to make as many connections as others did, but the connections I did make still remain. I’m honestly jealous about how my friends in Europe are getting together over the New Year’s holiday. We keep in touch with each other over social networks and stuff. We promised to each other that we’d meet up again sometime within the next five years. My host mom chats with me over Line sometimes whenever she’s got a question about American culture or English grammar, and I ask her for advice on things Japanese. My friends and acquaintances are what made this year unique; my friends and acquaintances — at the very least, half of them — are going to be missing the next time I visit. Our time together as fellow students studying abroad are over, and I can only hope that we’ll meet again sooner than later. ◆

A Couple of Remaining Notes for the Incoming Students

To you Fall 2013 guys, this is for you.

I’m gonna take a shot in the dark here and assume you guys are coming in around the same time we did: sometime in the first week of October. In which case, you’ve got less than one week of life in your home country, so go and overdose on the things you’re gonna miss most, because you won’t be seeing them for (up to) nearly a year’s time! For the people you love in your life, things like Skype exist, but being there with your family and friends in person (of course) feels far better than a face on a screen. Definitely binge on the food you like, too — especially if you’re a terrible cook like I am, but even then there are some things that just naturally aren’t available in Japanese grocery stores (for example if you’re a fan of Mexican food you’re definitely not finding tortillas by themselves; though I do remember seeing imported American hardshell taco kits at the market in Kamiooka.)

In any case, here’s a handful of last-minute tips, in no particular order. It’s certainly not comprehensive, either; I might come back to add a couple more things. In any case, bon voyage! If you plan on making a blog on your stay, do link me — I’d love to follow it. 🙂


If you have a Costco membership, bring your card — supposedly, they work internationally, and the one in Kanazawa is accessible via a combination of the Keikyu and the Kanazawa Seaside Lines.

I might’ve mentioned this before, but pack light, especially if you plan on doing some major shopping over here. Alternatively, you can ship stuff back, but be careful if you go with surface (boat) shipping: one of the people in my group had one of his parcels sink to the bottom of the sea. (He got reimbursed by the post office, but apparently there were things in there that were hard to find, so he was pretty bummed out by that.)

If you have a Nintendo 3DS: bring it with you, of course. Yes, it’s region-locked — so you can’t play exclusive 3DS games you may find in Japan — but if you like StreetPassing people, you’re in for a real treat as your StreetPass queue magically fills up to ten practically every time you ride the train. Also: you can still play any old DS games you happen to find at Book-Off — they are (thankfully) compatible as long as they don’t have any special DSi features, if I’m not mistaken. (Things I’ve tested: a Japanese copy of Ace Attorney 1 on a 3DS, and a copy of the second Japan-only Quiz Magic Academy game on a 2DS.)

While I’m on the subject of electronic devices: bring adapters for them! For those of you hailing from North America — if you’ve got a laptop or other device with a three-pin plug, purchase an adapter to reduce it to two; you should be able to find them for relatively cheap. Everywhere else: if you can’t find adapters easily in your local electronics shops, Yodobashi Camera should have what you need (the Yokohama Station store has plug converters on its second floor, if I’m not mistaken.)

There are two opportunities to experience a homestay (in which you live with a Japanese family for a day or two or three): one in the fall, and one in the spring. Normally, homestay applicants are matched up with families within the Yokohama area, but depending on availability, you may also be able to stay with a family in Fuji (as in Mount Fuji), Shizuoka. My homestay was quite nice, and I recommend it.

If you do plan to do a homestay, here’s a tip from a friend who went before I did: it’s nice if you bring a gift from your home country. Being from ’round the San Francisco area, I’d brought a couple of bags of Ghiradelli chocolates to share — which my homestay family quite enjoyed.

And, also, speaking of Fuji: if you’ve not been, climbing the mountain is a good experience (by my friends’ accounts — I was regrettably unable to go.) Fuji’s climbing season is during the late summer; July and August comprise the official climbing season. Despite the heat at the base of the mountain, it quickly gets cold the more you climb up, so do equip yourself well, do your research on how to equip yourself before you go, and leave plenty of time to climb and plenty of time to recover afterward. And bring an umbrella. It might unexpectedly come in handy.

Speaking of leaving plenty of time for things, as with most university coursework, leave plenty of time to do your homework, especially your long-term essaywork! And while we’re talking about essaywork, for your required Japan in the World essay, here’s a recommendation from me: try the freeware text editor Q10 for your drafts, as not only does it have a built in target word count you can set, but it also has a built-in timer so you can work in bursts if you’re the type that’s more effective while doing so. As a bonus: it’s full screen, and it’s minimal, so all you’ve got are you and your words…unless you alt-tab out, of course.

While we’re on the subject of travelling places: go travel places! Temple-hop in the Kansai area! Ski at Nagano! Eat the legendarily delicious cuisine of Hokkaido! Tan yourself on the islands of Okinawa! Tour the Hiroshima Peace Memorial! Visit an island full of bunnies — and so on!

If you’re a fan of scenery and taking things easy and have the time (or are sorta broke), don’t use the shinkansen, but buy a Seishun 18 Kippu and use that instead! Make sure you’ve got a camera to capture all of that scenery, too — it’s good for showing to friends and family afterward.

If you’ve got the funding to do so, you can also travel to the rest of Asia for perhaps cheaper than it would be from back in your home country — I remember seeing a deal in which flights from Tokyo to Singapore were cheaper than flights from Tokyo to Osaka (?!). Make sure you let the immigration guys know you’re coming back, though.

Price-check things! I remember getting a rather nice durable writing utensil block cup things for 600 yen or somesuch at Muji before seeing pretty much the same thing at Daiso for 105 yen. On the flip side, Muji’s stationery is super-cheap: a pack of 5 notebooks that I wasn’t able to fill up during the classes I used them for is, like, 300 yen — and the paper stock didn’t feel terribly cheap and flimsy, either.

Make sure you’ve got a wallet that can handle Japanese banknotes, which may differ in size from the currency of your home country; and make sure you’ve got either a wallet that can handle large amounts of coin or a coin purse, as you’ll be getting a lot of coin.

If you ever need to make change, don’t hesitate to use 10,000-yen bills to pay for things at stores: they’ll accept them. In a pinch, you can find the nearest video game arcade and break your change there (a 10,000 yen bill will split into nine 1,000-yen bills and ten 100-yen coins; some machines will even let you pick how you want your change split!) Note that the vending machine on the dorm’s ground floor (alongside most other food/drink vending machines) only takes 1,000 yen notes and every form of coin that’s not 1-yen or 5-yen.

Speaking of video game arcades, If there’s one arcade game that screams “only in Japan” (never mind the fact that this is also available in a couple of other Asian countries), it’s the arcade game Senjou no Kizuna (Bonds of the Battlefield), in which you enter a pod and literally pilot a Gundam from the pilot’s point of view. There’s a fantastic years-old primer to the game here — just know a card isn’t required to play anymore. And speaking of cards, if you can read Japanese, Lord of Vermilion is badass.

Each game company that produces arcade games has its own card for saving data — but you can use Namco Bandai’s Banapassport on Sega games and vice versa with Sega’s Aime card. Additionally, your PASMO can double as an e-Amusement Pass for Konami games, so you don’t even need to buy a card to save data for those!

One last thing on arcades: don’t play a game of Gunslinger Stratos online unless you really know what you’re doing, ‘cuz you will get wrecked. But do play it. It’s really cool.

Do you have excessively large feet (like, say, US shoe size 12)? Do yourself a favor and buy a pair of shoes and a backup pair now — it’s pretty hard to find shoes in sizes like that.

If you can get over the culture shock, going to a bathhouse is awesome and is far better than the tight space that is your built-in unit bath/shower. Go to Miura-yu in the winter and soak in the outdoor bath — it’s fantastic.

Do say ittekimasu (I’m heading out) when you’re heading out and tadaima (I’m back) when you’re back and the office is open. Heck, even while the office isn’t open, sometimes the staff’ll still be in the room anyway — and they’ll always return your greetings with a smile. It also helps them commit your face to memory.

The RAs are awesome; get to know them, hang around them, get suggestions for local things from them. If you bump into Kazuya, tell him Mattie says hi. 😉

A Couple of Notes for the Incoming Students, Part 3: Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better

This is part three of my guide to JOY-sei ryuugaku life, concerning the navigation of the city of Yokohama (and travel outside). Here’s a copy-and-paste of the table of contents quickjump:

Part 1 (The Dorms, The Neighborhood, Commuter Passes)
Part 2 (Getting to School, Getting Comfy in Your New Place, Resident Registration, Cell Phones, Money)
Part 3 (Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better)

Disclaimers: this is not an official guide; things are current at the time I wrote this post and may change; you can probably use this as a guide for non-YNU study abroad but a good chunk of things won’t apply to you; this is based on my experience and things may be different when you get here. If a website has an English page, I’ve linked to it, but most of the links will be in Japanese-0nly.

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Endgame: On Returning Back


Hey, everyone: it’s been a while. Just like every other blog I’d checked out before coming here, I ended up becoming a bit too busy to update my own journal. Funny how that works, right?

But yeah, just like that, I’m back in California. The reverse homesickness hasn’t hit me fully yet, but reverse cultural shock has reared its head several times:

  • At most pedestrian crosswalks, you have to push the button to let it know you’re there
    (In Japan, they’re automatic; buttons are provided, but presumably to lengthen the amount of time needed for the disabled and the elderly.)
  • Food portions are bigger here
    Japanese sizes, I’m sorry for giving you grief. Please come back. (Though having more than 6oz a time for a drink is most welcome.)
  • Dang, our streets are huge!
    As in, the suburbs have plenty of room to breathe (and parallel park). In Japan — not so much. Heck, some of the roads around YNU are practically one-way.

I’m sure there are a couple more examples, but no more come to mind right now.

Classes have already started up in earnest here, leaving me with not that big of a summer vacation; just a week to recover from jet lag. Part of me still hasn’t: I’m writing this post at 4 in the morning with a class coming up in about six hours, which totally can’t be good for my body. Still, the beginning means less work than later on, so I hope to get that very overdue part 3 of the guide to living in the dorms up as soon as I can for people who might be beginning their next year at YNU.

To those of you who will: you’re gonna have one hell of a good time. Relax, soak in the culture, learn the language, make yourself at home. Japan ain’t a bad place to live, and it’s most certainly a fun place to explore.

Jiro Strikes Back

I'm Back

A bit of a break from the whole serious-business welcome to YNU guide: let me talk a bit about Jiro again. As in, Ramen Jiro.

So a friend from California came to visit last month — in the two weeks before he did, while he was planning out itineraries, I think even before he asked me about specific plans to meet up, there it was: hang out with Mattie in Yokohama, “…destroy a garlic ramen place.” I giggled. I was cool with that, actually; I’d not returned back to Jiro ever since that fateful first time — I was pretty ready to give it another go. He was ready to pay his respects to the garlic king, and a chat over Skype confirmed his hype.

Meeting up with him and a couple of other people — mutual friends — at Kannai station at about 1 PM, we proceeded to walk right down the street to the line already 15 people strong. I describe to them once more how the ramen is, and tell them, based on the one prior experience that I had, to get a small. They didn’t believe me — after all, all of us had been busy enough in the morning to skip a decent breakfast. I looked up and showed them pictures. They were flabbergasted. My dear friend continued to waffle for a while wondering if he should just go for it, destroy a huge amount of food, like any stereotypical American could and would.

“No,” I discouraged empathically. “You are going to die.”

“Dude, don’t worry about it, I can hella finish that off,” came the response. One by one, we entered the store and ordered Jiro’s ramen.

OK, Go

In the end, we all went for the standard small bowls. As I’d planned earlier, I dropped the garlic level down to chotto dake. The ramen became a bit more bearable, but the garlic was still strong; I managed to get all the way down to the broth, at which point I couldn’t continue. Gulping down the customary bottle of twice-steeped oolong tea afterward returned most of the inside of my mouth to normal, but the garlic stuck around in the back of my tongue. I’d prepped mints, too — those didn’t help, either. As the shirts the chefs wore said, in perfect English: Jiro without garlic is like a life without love.

One by one, the others rose from the store. None of them finished it — one admitted he’d left a bit of cha-shu behind, but if he’d gone any further he would’ve thrown up. Another — one of the people who’d thought about getting a large — asked me how people could ever hope to finish a large. I shrugged. (I remember asking the friend who’d first recommended Jiro to me the same thing; his response was “no normal person can.”)

And then my friend appeared, the last to come out of the store. He loved it. He’d finished the bowl, broth and everything. Apparently something had snapped inside him, gave him a second wind. But he needed a bit of a rest. He admitted defeat, at least to the legendary large:

We walked through Isezaki-cho for a bit. All we could think about and talk about for the next fifteen minutes was the ramen and how much it destroyed us.

None of us ate dinner that night. Ramen Jiro was filling enough for an entire day. ◆

A Couple of Notes for the Incoming Students, Part 2 (Updated! – 2013/8/29)

Part two of my guide to Yokohama ryuugaku life. Here’s a copy-and-paste of the table of contents quickjump:

Part 1 (The Dorms, The Neighborhood, Commuter Passes)
Part 2 (Getting to School, Getting Comfy in Your New Place, Resident Registration, Cell Phones, Money)
Part 3 (Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better)

Disclaimers: this is not an official guide; things are current at the time I wrote this post and will change; you can probably use this as a guide for non-YNU study abroad but a good chunk of things won’t apply to you; this is based on my experience and things may be different when you get here. Read more →

A Couple of Notes for the Incoming Students, Part 1 (Updated! – 2013/8/29)

Have a seat, and listen up!

It’s about that time of the year where I remember I have a blog, I go in, and see more hits than usual, due apparently in part to search terms for the JOY program and odd things about the area in English. Maybe I should’ve written this earlier, but now that spring break is here (and I’m done with the usual handful of end-semester assignments I procrastinated on), I can actually sit down and write this up. Ahem.

To those of you who have decided to make Yokohama National University your university away from university for a semester or two, hi! My name’s Mattie, and I look forward to getting to know you, JOY-sei alumni 2012-2013. Lemme give you a preview of life as us ryuugakusei live it here in Japan to the best of my ability, shall I?

Oh, before that, though, couple of disclaimers: this was current at the time I wrote it (2-18-2013) revised it (2013/8/29); things probably will have changed. This isn’t an official guide or anything like that. This is also YNU-specific, so if you’re thinking of studying abroad and YNU isn’t on your list, things will naturally differ…I think that’s about it. Okay, onto the good stuff. Read more →

First Snow

Ah, winter.

If there’s anything that’s gonna cause a relapse of my winter break sickness…

I’m so glad I did all my laundry yesterday. ◆

The Double-Take at the Left-Hand-Side Steering Wheel

Unlike the rest of my peers back home who are currently enjoying their winter breaks, my break lasted just about two weeks. This is because fall semester at YNU starts in October and ends in mid-February. It’s roughly the same period of time spent studying, except set up so that the spring semester doesn’t start at the end of January — it, instead, actually starts in springtime, at the beginning of April.

Unfortunately while I was partying it up in Tokyo like crazy (as people came to visit and I wouldn’t get to see them for another seven months, at least!), I caught the season’s flu two days before my return to school, and it manifested itself in several ways over the first week back, culminating in my first absence from a class on a Friday morning. Thankfully, the weekend allowed me plenty of time to rest and recuperate, and now the symptoms are all but gone…except for one heck of a sore throat and — I’m gonna blame this on the illness — a messed-up circadian rhythm.

So here I am, playing games on my computer when suddenly hunger calls. I’d just finished off the bag of rice that’d lasted me through the past month and a bit, and my only pot was currently full of oil, having been used as a deep-fryer for karaage. I decided I’d just get a bento from the 24-hour bento place in the neighborhood, because it’s cheap, fast, fresh, and filling, and not in the Western fast food kinda way. (An aside: twice-cooked Szechuan pork stir-fry is amazingly delicious and I need to learn how to make it.)

As it turns out, it’s on the other side of the shopping street, across the river. That was fine by me, and the walk to and from the place was actually sort of refreshing.

It was on the way back that I saw a car, engine active, straddling the side of a parking lot like the lot was full and it decided to just block the lot in protest. Inside the car was a single man sitting in the front, left-hand-side of the car, with one of his hands on the steering wheel waiting expectantly.

Wait a minute, I thought.

Wait just a damn minute.

I tried to remember how the insides of cars looked back home. It was sort of surreal, that moment: no matter how many times I conjured up the inside of a car, driver’s side on the left, my mind was asking are you sure that’s how it was? Only while waiting for the crossing light on the main road did I confirm by means of the cars speeding by: yes, cars in America do have steering wheels on the left side of the vehicle, and drive on the right side of the road, and cars in Japan have steering wheels on the right side of the vehicle and drive on the left side of the road. Which means that car I’d passed was perhaps imported from America or some other place with left-side steering wheels.

What blows my mind is how long it took me to confirm that; and the fact that it took just about three months to get to this point. That was a bit weird.

I guess for the time being I’ll blame that, too, on the flu… ◆

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