2:20 PM, Nagata-ku, Kobe
It’s been a weird day and a half. Wednesday morning we each left Tokyo for Kobe in our own ways: Jessy took an airplane to the Kobe airport (just south of our home island) and I took a more convoluted route: bus to Tokyo station, the Shinkansen bullet train to Shin-Osaka station (bitchin’), then a bus to the “Yashiro Prison,” a term (affectionately?) used by nearly all the long-time JETs, and (humorously enough) many of the Japanese teachers as well. It’s the Hyogo prefectural training facility for the Board of Education, and where I met the supervisor (an English teacher) from my high school for the first time yesterday afternoon.
He took me in his car down through the mountains into Kobe, where I met the teachers and administration of my main high school in Nagata ward, as well as my predecessor, who has been infinitely helpful. They had taken to calling me “Burapi” before my arrival, how the Japanese affectionately refer to their beloved American Movie Star Brad Pitt (really). I think it’s because in Japanese my name starts bu-ra(-n-do-n) and they just tack a -pi on the end for convenience and humor’s sake. The vice principal also called me “kakkoi” which likely marks the first time I have been called cool by anyone, ever.
I was reunited with my suitcases for the first time since checking them in Washington D.C. (and briefly moving them from baggage claim to be checked again in Tokyo), then my English teacher drove me home through downtown Kobe to Port Island, where after some struggles I got all my shit up to the seventh floor of our building in Minatojima Nakamachi and met up with Jessy, who had apparently arrived about an hour earlier. The place is big enough to house God (and a sampling of other possibly Japanese deities), which is doubly humorous since we don’t own a damned thing anymore. The apartment is rife with peculiarities that have already begun to grow on me due to their pragmatism and uniquity:
- 3 plugs to every outlet by way of the Japanese plug standard omitting a ground pin, even though a few outlets in our place have them, just because
- Three separate “bathroom” areas, with there being a room that is just a toilet (you go, flush, then wash your hands in the water that flows from a nozzle above the tank and then ends up as the water you use to flush the thing the next time), a room containing a sink, mirror, and recessed area for a clothes washer that serves as an entry way to the bathing area proper, and said bathing area proper, being a nicely sized room covered in tile with a half-the-room-sized tub and a shower hose, there being a room-drain underneath the tub so you can either bathe or shower or do both in the room and get water all over the place with no consequence
- A small, two-burner stove with a broiler tray, the gas flames being ignited by a mechanical flint powered by 2 D-sized batteries which are fitted in an adorable slide-out compartment
- A fridge that’s really small
- An enormous balcony on which we will hang our clothing to dry, since there are no dryers, since nobody uses dryers in Japan
- More built-in sliding door storage cabinets than I have ever had access to in my entire life
Cutely, we have water, gas, and electricity, but no:
- Internet (argh!)
- Air conditioning
- Cell phones
- Bank accounts
- Pigeon-shit free balcony (it’s grotesque)
- Supplies to clean the balcony, not that we can dry our clean clothes on it anyway, since we have no clean clothes, since we have no
- Clothes washer
They are all on the way, of course, but it results in the rather unfortunate situation that I am coming to you from the computer lab here at the Hyogo school for the blind, where I have been all day and where there is little to do on account of it being summer vacation in all Japanese schools until roughly the end of August. Hence, I can provide no pictures of our apartment, or of any kind whatsoever! When we have Internet access at home (maybe in the next week or two?) we will be able to update with more pictures and videos.
The situation is unfortunate because last evening we finally saw the harbor from the promenade on the west side of Port Island, and it looks just like it does in the picture at the top of the website here, and it is beautiful, and I cannot believe I live here yet.
In two hours I will need to find my way home on two trains: one from Takinochaya to Sannomiya, and one from there back to Port Island. I think I can do it! Like so many things in the last few days, it is new, completely bizarre, horrifying, and really exciting. Today I believe Jessy is going/has gone to IKEA with some of her Kobe-shi JETs to secure some basics of living for us, which I will be happy to see upon my return to the apartment. Tomorrow I go back to my main high school, and then thankfully we have the weekend to attempt to settle in a bit more. I think I could get used to it here.