Monday, March 19, 2012

Welcome Dinner and Transportation

Delicious Hot Pot
Last night the Saito's had a welcome dinner for us. The food was amazing it was nabe, a sort of hot pot, with tofu, pork, a Korean broth, with assorted vegetables and bean sprouts. It was so tasty. It was fun just hanging out with the people in the house, drinking beer, and watching TV.  I tried natto last night... YUCK! It was really gross, it was slimy, and sticky and just generally terrible, it looks like pinto beans, but they are fermented soy beans. Yuck, Yuck, Yuck. Apparently most foreigners hate it, they really wanted to see how I would react. They all laughed at the memory of Ben trying it for the first time. Ben apparently had a much more dramatic reaction then I did.

Senna played piano for us.
Family time!

Ben and I are getting the hang of transportation here. Trains are a very central part of culture and city here. When people tell you where they live they generally tell you that they live a certain distance by walking from a station.  Right now Ben and I are a 10 minute walk from Musahi-Urawa Station. Signs tell you how far it is to walk to what ever you might be interested in. Train stations here are a central hub for commerce, generally some sort of shopping area is connected to a station. There is always cheap food and bakeries around the stations too, so the stations constantly smell fantastic.

Pricing map for the trains
Trains here are very easy to use. I am able to get any where I am interested despite my general illiteracy in Japanese. There are people stationed at every stop with the soul purpose of assisting you in your journey. Even getting out to really small towns is very easy by train. Ben and I had and interview in a town of 2,000 people, and we had no trouble getting there. The train stations advertise that nowhere in the city will you ever be more the a 20 minute walk from a train station, and so far that has been the case for us. The train system is extremely convenient, but it is not cheap. It seems on average that for every 5 minutes you are on the train it costs about 100 yen. For Ben and I to get to Shinjuku it cost us each about 300 yen, for us to get to Tokigawa, and hour and a half long commute, it cost about 2000 yen per person. I think in the long run it will be much cheaper then owning a car.
Bike Parking area.
Biking is also really big here. Mothers here must be powerfully strong because Ben and I have seen more then a few times a mother with one child in a basket at the front of her bike, and another child behind the seat. People here don't really seem to lock their bikes. A few bikes have internal locks, but often people just bring their bikes to a bike parking area, and leave them. I take it as a very good sign that people don't see the need to lock their bikes.
Sidewalks here in Saitama, The yellow in the middle is impossible to walk on in high heals

Cars are often hoisted up off the ground for parking.
I read a statistic once that the number one cause of death for tourists was due to traffic accidents. This place makes me believe it. It isn't so much that drivers are bad here; I just completely and utterly do not understand how traffic flow works! Not only do they drive on the other side of the streets here, but all the signs look completely different, the lines on the road make no sense to me, and traffic lights often seem to be more of a suggestion then a requirement. I am completely baffled by the entire system so far, and the difficulty of the writing system here does not help at all. The system seems to work for them though, I have not seen any traffic congestion, nor any accidents. Luckily for me, cars in the city seem to be extremely unnecessary.

Cute pigs near the doctors office

Ben and I are going to get our foreigner health examinations today. We will be completely lost, as neither of us has any vocabulary to describe doctory stuff (in either language really ;)). So it should be an interesting experience.

Ben and I have also been invited to a party tonight to celebrate some of the host family's kids going to kindergarten. I know it's going to be cute.

Random Sidewalk Tile
Japanese Oranges

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