Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Full service Japan

Hey! So one of the cool things I've found about being out here thus far is the overall friendliness and willingness of everyone to go out of their way to be helpful out here. Maybe it's because I'm out in the sticks, but I'm noticing it a lot more out here than I did in previous trips. There's also a certain amount of brazen lack of fear on the part of everyone in my town - they just come out and say whatever to whoever it seems. Like this one day I came home and the kids playing outside just came up and asked me a question, in Japanese, not even thinking twice about whether I would understand them or not. They wanted to know what 'melon' was in English (the same as the Japanese), and then were wondering why watermelon was called 'suika' in Japanese. I share in their quandary.

There have also been a number of kids (high school aged mostly) who've come up to me speaking pretty good English with no fear whatsoever - it's very apparent that this town, although pretty small, puts a lot of effort into looking outside of their own little corner of the world. Tons of kids have done either a homestay abroad or a longer term exchange program it seems, and plenty of others would love to go and take any chance they can to find out about other parts of the world.

So yeah anyways, moving back to my original theme, full service. I think I mentioned already that when I first got here, not only did they give me the first week pretty much to settle in, but they gave me my own chauffeur and tour guide. So this guy Hariu finds out what I need/want to get set up, then takes me there or makes calls for me to make things happen. I heard of some people that didn't get their cell phones or bank accounts for weeks, but I had all that the first day. They even gave me a car to use until I pick up my own - the only other thing that isn't sorted is internet, but that's just because Yahoo is taking their sweet time getting out to my place. Maybe they don't want to climb all those stairs, who knows.

So yeah, then there was the guy at the post office. I went over there to set up a bank account, but they were waffling over whether I should make the account with my name in Japanese or English - after I applied and left, the guy calls my office saying I needed to come back to change things, so thinking I'll handle it later I leave it at that. Then a few hours later, the guy shows up at the office with all the paperwork in hand! Then he of course apologizes for the hassle and gives me a little gift. Yeah, like that would ever happen back home. There's also the merciless onslaught of little trinkets that get passed around on a daily basis around the office - cookies and snacks and such. They're all amazed that I don't want to drink coffee and offer me drinks all the time as well.

Then there're the gas stations - it's like what New Jersey should be. In case you don't get the reference, you aren't allowed to pump your own gas in Jersey... or make left turns on main streets. Not only am I allowed to turn right (go NASCAR!), but they pump your gas for you here at most stations. I've had the pleasure of full service gas exactly one in the US (up in PA like 2 weeks before leaving on the way to OH actually), and that guy just pumped the gas. In Japan though, the guy comes out with a little washcloth for you to clean your hands/face with and asks you how much to put in. After that, he'll come up and ask if you want him to check your tire pressure, oil and fluid levels, or clean the windshield or whatever. Every time I've gone I've gotten a little coupon for my next visit as well for like 5Y off per liter.

There's little things like that everywhere too. Yesterday at a book store I asked someone at the front desk where a certain thing was, and she didn't tell me where it was, she didn't even show me, she just went and got it for me. All kinds of people have treated me to meals and drinks and whatnot as well... such is the lifestyle when people are actually interdependent upon each other.

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