Life in Japan takes many unexpected twists and turns. We've learned that the best way to cope is to treat every obstacle as a challenge to be mastered.
Here's a look at our first day back in the country, following our year in Canada:
After 30+ hours of travel by train and plane, we have arrived back in the country. We are greeted at the airport by some of our closest Okinawan friends, who are there along with their kids (despite the late hour), and a big sign saying "Welcome Home Peter & Valerie!"
They take us to the church for a celebratory ice cream, and then ferry us and our luggage home. We only have two suitcases with us, plus our carry-ons. The other two suitcases are being shipped separately, and we will claim them in the next day or two.
We can't find our pillows, but make up the bed. We use folded-up towels as pillows.
We sleep for 13 hours.
We take our time getting up, and go grocery shopping for essential supplies. We don't bring quite enough money to the grocery store (taxes went up while we were away), so we have to curb our purchases at the checkout counter.
We eat breakfast/lunch at home.
We swing by the post office to pick up some stamps so we can later send in the paperwork to collect our luggage. The post office is closed. It's a Japanese holiday—well, a partial one. Most stores are open.
We have no working cell phones, no internet, and no car. We decide the first order of business is to get some sort of temporary data plan for our devices, so that we can use it to make phone calls over Skype. That way, we can call the internet company, the fellow who will help us find a car, and so on.
We head over to one of the local cell phone companies (Au). We've heard you can buy data SIM cards from them. We take a number, and wait for 1/2 hour to talk with someone. When our turn comes, we find out pricing for a 2-year cell phone plan (we decide it's too expensive), and ask about buying a data SIM card. Apparently we can't get one for Peter's (unlocked Canadian) phone because it doesn't work in the Japanese system. My old phone is locked in with a different Japanese cell phone provider: Docomo.
We go to Docomo and ask to buy a data SIM card. We go through the whole two-hour-long application process (yes, there is an application process even for a temporary SIM card) and at the end are told that we will have to put down a $900 deposit for the $60 temporary SIM card. We think we can do better. We leave.
We use the free WiFi at Docomo to find out that the internet provider is already closed (remember, it's a holiday). Tomorrow we will have to find WiFi somewhere, to call them. WiFi is not omnipresent in Japan, the way it is in North America.
We are hungry, so decide to carry on with our plan to have Thanksgiving dinner at the sushi restaurant. There is a long line (many Japanese families have decided to take advantage of the holiday), but we eventually are seated at the counter. We gobble down our food. It's been a long time since we've had good sushi.
We go to the home store to buy new pillows, and also pick up some pillowcases since we've not been able to find those yet. When we bring our purchases home, we realize that we'd forgotten that in Japan you have to be very careful about matching up pillowcase sizes and pillows based on the measurements on the packaging. The pillowcases are far too small for the pillows. And where we live there are no returns. We write off the $10.
On getting home, we also realize that our computer no longer works. Another thing to add to our to-do list: buy a new computer.
Without our computer, we cannot print off the forms we need to submit in order to claim our two additional pieces of luggage. They will have to wait.
We spend a few hours unpacking our suitcases and the rest of our stored-away belongings. We get about halfway through before deciding to call it a night.
Remaining To Do's
- get data SIM card for phone
- sign up for cell phone plan
- buy stamps
- finish unpacking
- pick up remaining groceries
- sign up for internet
- buy car
- buy new computer
- claim luggage
- pick up pillowcases that fit
Completed To Do's
- ate Thanksgiving sushi
- bought (most of) groceries
All in all, a pretty typical day of life in Japan. The good news is: we were successful in feeding ourselves. If we can cross off another couple of items on our to-do list tomorrow, I'll count it as a success.