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.