So, it's been one month since I left Australia. I spent five days in Malaysia, and then arrived in Japan, where I now live.
Impressions so far...
1. Everybody speaks Japanese, and pretty much only Japanese. This shouldn't really be such a surprise to me, and I certainly don't expect them to speak English, just for my benefit. However, compared with countries like Australia and Malaysia which are far more multicultural, Japan is very much a monocultural society. The thing that confuses me in this respect is that there are many street signs, and shop signs, for that matter, that are also in English, creating something of a bilingual facade to a mere visitor such as myself.
2. It is hot. And humid. Give me a miserably bitter winter any day.
3. Country life is beautiful. It's refreshing, living across the road from rice paddies and down the road from a small lake. The air is fresh, and you see all of nature's beauty around, from ducks and cranes to turtles crossing the footpath. And then there are the spiders. I do not care much for spiders. At least I haven't encountered any giant centipedes or killer bees. Yet.
4. Japan is expensive to travel in. Yes, I'd heard this, but I figured that it couldn't be much worse than living in Melbourne. Unfortunately, it costs around 35 AUD to travel return to Osaka, which is the nearest big city. Until I get a job, this kind of trip is a luxury that I can't really afford. The other nearby city is Wakayama, but it's very spread out - not really a "walking about" kind of city, and I'm better off driving there if I want to go anywhere. And as for driving - well, to get to most places involve tolls, which make the cost of public transport seem like peanuts.
5. The food is fantastic. Some of it is cheap, some of it is expensive.
6. Country life is quiet. There really isn't anything to do here, other than going for walks, which I do quite frequently. Osaka seems to be the place to be, except see point 3 above. Also, if I want to take in the night life, I need to book a hostel for the night, because there's no way I'd catch the last train home if I want to stay past 9pm. I plan to look into internet cafes as a cheap alternative...
7. Finally, there is a lot of cool stuff to go out and see, so long as I have the money to do it. We went to the Kishiwada Danjiri matsuri the weekend before last, which was loud and crazy fun. We also visited Nara, and I definitely want to go back there and explore a little more. I think that, if you like visiting temples and cultural festivities, then Japan certainly has a lot of it
Of course, I've had to deal with my share of culture shock. For me, it's been a combination of an absence of English-language-based stimulation, the expense of simply getting around, and living in a place devoid of things to do. I've started getting involved in the local community, volunteering with English classes, but it's either school-aged students, or middle-aged-to-elderly parents. I haven't really gotten a sense of there being a local scene of 20-to-30-somethings, and that's going to be hard for me.
Then again, isolation can also be a good thing. I have my shelf of books to read, and isolation can bring its own inspiration of creativity and provide the kind of solace that I need to focus on personal projects without the distractions of living in a thriving metropolis like Melbourne. And whilst it can be a lonesome endeavour, if I make the most of this opportunity, it can be a productive one.