Bricks walking

14Jun12

The rose garden at Yoyogi Park (Gyoen). “Takusan no hana wo mimashita” means “I saw many flowers.”

Today marks our fourth week here in Tokyo. So far I have completed three phases of acclimation and am entering the fourth. There are probably three more, one of which I am hoping is the “sing karaoke every night like you are a member of AKB48” phase.

The first phase was complete shock. I sat in the bathroom for hours on end playing Angry Birds on my iPhone. The second phase was denial. Like, “oh, this is a vacation and we are going to return to Philadelphia any day now.” So I did tourist things like take the shinkansen to Nara and visit Meiji-Jingu Shrine and eat expensive sushi and drink too much birru.

The third phase I just completed is the “oh shit, I really live here” phase. This consisted mostly of sending out resumes to any company that had American ties, like McDonald’s and Morgan Stanley.

Yesterday I entered the “Okay, I’ve met a few friends and I think I could stay here” phase.

Yebisu Garden Place near Ebisu Station.

That was the day I met with Jay, a former coorespondent with the Wall Street Journal. One of Lisa’s co-worker’s husband made the connection for me. Jay is no longer in the Tokyo news business, but his wife is, and he still has friends in the industry.

Yebisu is the site of a former brewery and there is a beer museum. I must return.

We had lunch, his treat, on the top floor of the Yebisu Garden Place Tower. Of course, like a true Narigon, I spilled food all over the front of my shirt. It wasn’t until I had a big splatter on my chest that I decided I better follow some of the etiquette lessons Lisa has been trying to engrain in my skull.

Anywho, at the end of our powwow, Jay volunteered to contact two of his cohorts currently leading journalism endeavors in Tokyo. He did so immediately after lunch, and both have agreed to meet with me. There are no jobs guaranteed, but it is progress, and it is way better than sitting on the toilet playing Angry Birds.

Plus it was just good to talk to an American who had succeeded in the Japanese news business, and who had endured some of the growing pains I am going through. He said the biggest challenges I am facing is the fact I am not proficient in Japanese, and that I don’t have much background in finance.

The “big fountain” (according to the sign) at Yoyogi Gyoen.

Then today I made progress with the job search on two fronts. First, this morning I met with the consultant who helped Lisa write her application to business school. John is editing/re-writing my resume for me. It was another great meeting. He said my work experience is impressive.

He also was able to give me positive insight into the challenges of being an ex-pat in Japan. A Canadian, he has been here for 14 years. He claims to have never learned the language. I can only assume he is much more fluent than I, and that he can still communicate well enough with the locals. But at the same time, it was reassuring to hear. Granted, I am going to work my hardest to learn Japanese, because to be bi-lingual means guaranteed jobs, but it did ease some of the stress.

The Shibuya shopping and entertainment district.

After our meeting, it was a beautiful day outside and I was in high spirits, so I explored the area. I met John at a Starbucks near Shibuya Station, so I started with that area. According to the website japan-guide.com, “Shibuya is a center for youth fashion and culture, and its streets are the birthplace to many of Japan’s fashion and entertainment trends.”

I did a quick walk-through and was on my way north. According to the map on my phone, I wasn’t too far from Meiji-Jingu Shrine, which as noted in previous posts, is a 45-minute walk from home. Since it was such a nice day, and I’ve been trying to get more exercise, I decided to go for it.

The parks of Tokyo are planned out so well. Walking through the parks is easily one of my favorite things to do. The homeless really like them as well.

But Yoyogi Park got in the way.

Yoyogi Park is directly south of Meiji-Jingu Shrine. Since I had already been to the shrine four or five times, I decided to try something new. I was feeling a bit plucky after all.

Also, I realized I was wearing my new Kenneth Cole shoes, and I didn’t bring any water along, so I was not prepared for a long trek home. A quick walk through the park would suffice.

And Yoyogi Park was perfect for just that. There was a rose garden, a gingko tree forest, wide lawns and a trail specifically for bicyclists. There were quite a few people relaxing, babysitting, walking, skateboarding, you name it. I saw some dudes playing football. Not soccer football, real football. I wanted to join them to show them a thing or two, then rationality got the best of me and chose not to embarrass myself.

Stalking the kid playing the conga.

The cool thing I noticed were the large number of people practicing the arts. Not just people painting on an easel, which there were plenty of, but the whole gamut. I noticed two women facing each other and reading off of scripts. I realized they were rehearsing a scene. There was a kid standing in the shade playing the conga.

It reminded me of my days in Boston when I used to take my notebook to the Commons to write. I had an inkling to do something creative in Yoyogi Park, but all I had with me was my crappy Olympus camera and my iPhone.

I wasn’t about to sit down on the park bench and play Angry Birds.

The Harajuku district was nearby, so I thought I would check it out.

They still have phone booths in Tokyo. This one is in Harajuku.

Lisa had taken me to Harajuku once before. There was a line of street vendors running up and down the street. I remember finding some delicious okonomiyaki there. Today there was none of that to be found. Not one vendor. So I took the train home. Satisfied with the events that had transpired.

When I got home I made a phone call to follow up with the Gaba office, an English language school where I had applied to be a teacher. They want me to come to a meeting next Tuesday and then attain certification training in July.

I think that means I am employed.

I wonder what phase five is going to be?

The quiet streets of Harajuku.

As an addendum – When we lived in Boston we met a guy from the Dominican Republic who learned how to speak English by listening Cindy Lauper albums. I think I am going to learn Japanese by watching AKB48 videos on YouTube.

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2 Responses to “Bricks walking”

  1. 1 Sylvia Hensley

    Boy, you’re a long way from Iowa County:)
    Good luck in the job hunt!
    I enjoy reading about your new life. Thanks for letting your old readers from Iowa see Japan through your eyes.

    • It’s my pleasure, Sylvia! Thank you for following along with my travels! Some days I miss the quiet and the familiarity of Iowa County. It is a good place.


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