October 16, 2014
After feeling very comfortable and almost at home despite the rental furniture and the limited kitchen equipment, a new sensation is sneaking in – I am overwhelmed by everyday life! Everything is falling into place right now and the interconnection of things becomes more visible. Now any new information relates somehow to something we already know or we can locate recommended shops, venues and destinations on the map in our minds. The whole picture gets more complex. It feels like we made it beyond the orientation phase now.
Diving into ordinary life, family management skills are required as we are confirming or cancelling the attendance of swimming, football, Aikido etc. classes, arranging play dates with what feels like 200 kids, planning our weekends and trying to organise our vacations for Christmas and Easter. As information for Japanese destinations is often only available in Japanese, collating, comparing and analysing the best options can be quite time consuming.
On top of the to-do-list is the hunt for a baby-sitter which will finally ensure some nice restaurant visits without kids in this gorgeous city – the best place to eat!
Further down on the list is the organisation of some missing household stuff, getting the winter gear for Lilo’s school uniform (see comment in the fun facts below), and find the right Dojo to start my Aikido training.
Obviously the boys are getting older and more independent, too. They request after school activities like sports or playdates. I can see their disappointment every time I pick them up and it is “just” a playground visit before we go home…. It comes in handy that Lilo is really independent, taking care of herself and all her afternoon activities without any support and coming home by herself when she is done. Lately she is also taking care of her homework deliberately and I do not have to tie her to the desk. She tells us now that homework is in her responsibility!
The good news is that our shipment will come on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – they have to split it up as they cannot navigate the narrow streets with the oversea container. Let’s hope that they will really start with the set-up of our beds as the rental furniture will be removed on Friday morning. The arrival of the shipment is a milestone in our planning – once the house is set up and running, the next phase can start. Keep your fingers crossed that there is not too much damage!
Some fun facts for you:
- Winter has officially started on October 1 – announced by the Japanese government (!). This means that the majority of people switches to the winter dress code. From one day to the other, you do not see men in short sleeve shirts anymore – now it is long sleeve season, despite the fact that the temperatures of course did not change at all. And they are wearing ties again. School uniforms of public schools have been switched to winter gear as well. Our private school is more liberal, so Lilo can still keep her short sleeve blouses, but for Linus and Leonard their smock (dt. Kittel, frz. tablier) is obligatory now. It’s a simple long sleeve, red and white chequered kind of blouse. They don’t mind, they look cute in it and it keeps their clothes cleaner!
- Typhoon season – We have seen Typhoon #18 and #19 come and go.Each time we received major
warnings and there was a lot of excitement going on. School kept us informed about a potential closure and announced that at 5 am the next day they would let us know if school would be closed or not. I personally think that 6 or 7 am would have been sufficient, but indeed, at 5 am sharp we received the respective messages. The whole fuss and excitement about the Typhoons (which in the end turned out to be very heavy rain with strong winds in the Tokyo area) was apparently very contrary to the behaviour at a real disaster. We were told that after the 2011 earthquake, people acted calmly and considerate, followed instructions, used evacuation infrastructure etc.
- Smoking – thank you for (not) smoking! I already talked about the fact that it is uncommon to smoke on the streets. There are many signs everywhere reminding you, especially in the waiting areas of big crossings. Any venue has a smoking area. Any place you might consider suitable for a cigarette break will have a no smoking sign and if the smoker is lucky he/she will find a sign indication the closest smoking area as well. Even at the Oktoberfest (see post week 4) smoking is only allowed in designated smoking areas. But you can smoke in almost every restaurant and bar. It is very common to have smoking and non-smoking tables, but in some restaurants there is no such distinction. Even inside institutional buildings (like the driver’s
license centre we saw today) have indoor smoking areas on every floor. Cigarettes are quite cheap in Japan and even though the number of smokers has been declining over the past decades, there are still about 30 million smokers in this country which makes it an important tobacco market. And there seem to be only little prevention campaigns in place. “Until 1985, the tobacco industry was a government-run monopoly; the government of Japan is still involved in the industry through the Ministry of Finance, which after a sell-off in March 2013, now owns only one third of Japan Tobacco’s outstanding stock, and the
Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare, which is active in public health and other tobacco control policy making. The Diet of Japan has many MPs who have interests in the tobacco industry and thus tobacco control legislation is uncommon.” (Wikipedia)
Aha! Now we understand why there is so little interest in anti-smoking campaigns……