Tokyo Diary 10/17/12 – Milestones

No pics for you today, just a brief check-in.

Today was momentous in that for the first time, I received formal instruction in Kanji – and I’ll tell you, it feels like the beginning of a long, wonderful and terrible journey.  I knew a few already from self-learning but still, it’s a big day – and even the teachers were trying to prepare us with lots of “Muzakashi!” warnings.

Also in the watershed department – for the first time in my life I’m officially enrolled in a government-run health care system.  Take that, Blue Cross!  Perhaps in a bid to use it as quickly as possible I continue to sample my way through Tokyo’s 1000+ ramen joints, one by one.  I continue to be struck by how hard it is to find bad food here.  I had planned to go to Ippudo in Kichijoji for dinner last night – they’re famous, even with branches in New York and LA – but the line was 50-plus out the door at 530 PM.  So I wandered around the shopping arcades near the station – I really love shoutengai BTW, what a great concept – and eventually stumbled into a small place with only two other diners inside.  I bought a ticket without knowing what I was getting (no pictures on the machine) and ended up with one of the most delicious bowls of champon ramen I’ve ever had. 

I’m also officially a member of the Japanese banking system, having successfully opened an account with Shinsei (very nice people, English 24-hour phone support and website, full ATM services free at any 7-Bank ATM).  Next up: a phone, which is a bit tricksy as I can’t seem to find any sumafo packages here for less than 6K yen per month, which is out of my income bracket at the moment.  I could get a cheapie handset deal (I don’t plan to use it much, but some things here you need a phone for) but I really like the idea of having access to Google Maps in this city.  I’m getting to know it but Tokyo remains one of the most ridiculously difficult cities to navigate anywhere in the world.



  1. e

    May the ramen kami be with you.

    Crossing everything crossable for your phone needs.

  2. A

    I envy you… I wish I could go there too and enjoy life in Japan.

  3. a

    Suddenly wondering if you ever came across the book "Tokyo on Foot". When I was buying textbooks for my Japanese class last week I randomly stumbled across it (the luxury of having a Japanese bookstore in a Japanese department store in the middle of Europe!).

    It's a book of lovely sketches that a French guy did when he tagged along to Japan with his girlfriend, who was doing an internship there for six months. He just spent the time wandering about all Tokyo neighbourhoods and drawing whatever he saw… it's a little gem of a book. (they've got it on too so you mind one day randomly come across in some bookstore in Tokyo, who knows!).

  4. f

    For a Japanese-language/culture challenged folks like me, please do explain briefly what Muzakashi and shoutengai are, Enzo~~.

    Also what level of students (elementary, middle, high, or college) will you be teaching?

  5. H

    muzukashi is 'difficult', and shoutengai is a shopping arcade / street sometimes covered.

  6. A

    I'm sorry if this sounds offensive, but I've been meaning to ask it for some time now — how much Japanese do you know? And beware of the kanji, once you reach the ~1000 milestone they all look the same and are a huge pain to learn. I do hope you're enjoying your stay though!

  7. Alualuna: Thanks, that looks great. I'll check it out.

    Anon: my voacb is OK, my grammar not so much. Getting better every day. And I'm definitely not in need of any reminders how hard Kanji is going to be.

  8. V

    Kanji will becomes extra difficult for those who without Chinese background. I observed my fellow classmates in my intermediate japanese class. They got so freak out during the kanji test. Besides, I never see any of them get full marks for the test as even some of them are doing better than me in vocab and grammar.

  9. A

    Wow…lots of accomplishments…congrats! I wish that I could be like you — exploring life again. I love reading your diary — learning about how you are doing and progressing with settling in another country speaking another language — your passion in life and enthusiasm really is infectious making me feel happy again after a long stressful day. Thank you, Enzo.


  10. Damn… That makes me feel good just reading it, thanks.

  11. A

    Am I reading that wrong or do you mean 6000 yen per month? 6000 to 10000 per month should be the cost if you are dealing with the standard 2 year contract.

  12. Misprint, yeah – 6000 yen.

  13. A

    Ah, OK. Anyways, glad to see that you are enjoying your new life here even with the difficulties that come with living in this country.

  14. G

    I'm proud of ya Enzo~! lol, you are doing pretty well it seems. I can't imagine living in a foreign country all by myself. But maybe one day I'll have your courage and also embark on a journey of my own. After, merely visiting a place is nothing like living there. As for Kanji…..I write Chinese so I empathize with you, it's pretty complicated, especially considering Kanji borrowed the traditional form. If you deconstruct the characters, there is some pattern to it, it's useful to separate the radical from the rest and go from there.

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