My first stimulus check

A few weeks ago at work, I received a note saying that I would be allowed to keep my economic stimulus money and I didn’t have to return it to my company. Say what? I learned for the first time, that perhaps there was some US style rebate to all residents of Japan. I didn’t really think I was a resident but then I again I (or, more correctly, my large, international employer) did pay a ton of income taxes to Japan last year.

Last week I got the official notification that I was to receive a stimulus check from the Japanese government. Yes, believe it or not, it is my first stimulus check from any government. I never qualified in the US – not that it’s such a bad thing.

My own personal economic stimulus

I will receive 12000 yen, or about $120.00. Hey, that’s a shinkansen ticket to Tokyo and a beer, provided of course I don’t ride in first class. I’m not sure how $120 is going to stimulate the economy but I will spend it. If I had children I’d get $200 for the first and $360 for each subsequent child, depending on their age. Don’t quote me, I’m going off of memory. Well, my rebate is much less than .5% of the total taxes I (my company) paid last year. So it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. To me it just seems like a lot of money spent preparing, printing, and processing the stimulus. Isn’t there a better way to spend the money?

It is a very rainy weekend here in Nagoya. I’ve managed to get a haircut, clean my apartment, read a book, catch up on AppleTV, watch a movie or two and it is only Sunday afternoon. Perfect time and weather to update the blog. I guess I need to study Japanese as well. Tomo is coming to Nagoya, I’m taking a day off Monday, and we are going to a concert on Tuesday.

色々な事 (iroiro na koto)

I haven’t been doing a very good job keeping up with my blog. I feel like I should always have some sort of picture accompanying my entries now. I’m not sure why, but it does seem to make it more interesting. But, alas, I really don’t have any pictures yet. Maybe I’ll post this later and have some pictures.

 

Current Health Update

My phone calls from the Naka-ku health center have finished. I remained asymptomatic for 10 days after my re-entry to Japan so they’ve given up on me. Everyday between 9:59 am and 10:01 am I got a call from the health office. I usually replied before they could really ask me any questions 気分がいいです (I feel well) or まだ元気です (still healthy!). I admire their perseverance. I can imagine now that the Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク) holiday has just finished they must be extremely busy. Anyway, I’m glad the calls are ending and I’m glad to not be sick.

 

Reintroduced to Two Old Friends

Last Sunday I met two friends I hadn’t seen in a while – my ママチャリ (old school bicycle) and a trumpet. The weather was nice and I felt it was time to dust off the bike get some exercise, and explore the city. I ended up riding for about 2 hours. It isn’t the same exercise as a super-slick titanium road bike but I still had a good time. My beloved bikeI was going to ride to Kanayama and try to go a little past it to the Aeon Mall (I was killing time). I got a little confused by using train tracks as landmarks and ended up getting completely lost. Luckily, there is a very tall building in Kanayama, so I just kept heading for that building once I was turned around. I stumbled across the mall and used that as a landmark to head to Nagoya, but then I started thinking that the direction I was heading put the mall on the wrong side of the train tracks. Say what? So I asked a passerby which direction to Nagoya Station, and sure enough it was the other direction. I thought I was pretty good with sense of direction but I was totally messed up. I checked my detailed maps when I got home and realized that the tracks bifurcate (I love that word) at Kanayama and I was following the wrong tracks for a while that actually ended up going back towards my home. So I think I was almost home before I turned around to head back towards the Kanayama building landmark only to head back home again. What can I say, I actually enjoyed getting lost.

Bach StradivariusHow did I come across a trumpet? On May 1, I went to dinner with a colleague to Nanpu again. While we were going there, my colleague said, “Takeshi is trying to learn to play the trumpet, he has one at the restaurant but he doesn’t know how to play.” I got completely excited by that. Hey, I could teach him! When we got to the restaurant he showed me the trumpet – it wasn’t a Bach Stradivarius but it would do. Out of curiosity I just looked up the list price of a Strad – only $3250. YIKES! I hope my old one at home in LA still plays. I went out Sunday, bought my own mouthpiece and went to the restaurant on Sunday to start the lessons. How do you teach someone to buzz their lips so that they can get the proper resonance out of the mouthpiece when it is second nature? Anyway, I told him to practice with the mouthpiece. I played his trumpet a little bit. My tone, control, and range all sucked but I got a real kick out of it. I wish there was a way to play without blasting everyone away. Trumpets are loud. Sure, there is the cheesy Yamaha practice mute, but I tried that about 15 years ago and didn’t like it because there was too much back pressure and the balance of the horn was off. However, I may consider it again, it was so nice to play the trumpet again. I will have to relearn though because my embouchure is completely changed after braces. I may go again Sunday to try another lesson.

 

Current Fashion Trends

 Guys are more pretty than handsome in JapanJapan is a land of crazy fashions. This is the land of tight T-shirts with fancy, sparkly cursive writing words, dyed hair, hair clips, and extremely manicured eyebrows. And those are just the boys! The girls dress about the same.

Now that it is late Spring, early Summer, I’ve noticed a new fashion trend with some of the younger guys. Apparently leggings underneath shorts are in style. Last weekend I saw at least three instances of that style. The leggings are black and typically go below the knees to mid-calf in a kind of haphazard, scrunched look. I guess it is versatile – just slide them down when it gets too cold. I used to have arm warmers and leg warmers for cycling, but those were a little different. I can’t say it is a bad but I’m not sure I could pull it off. I did quick websearch on “japanese boys leggings shorts photo” took me to this blog. Gosh, I guess Nagoya is a year behind. Not surprising at all.

Who wears short shorts? Apparently Japanese girls wear them – now is also the time for the shorts to come out. And I mean short shorts. There are all sorts of variations on the style but the most common style this time of year is short shorts with stockings pulled up over the knees to mid-thigh and usually heels. Mleh. I think it looks silly. I suspect as the days get progressively warmer the length of the stockings will decrease. The shorts can’t get any shorter though.

I tried today to get some pictures of these styles to augment the description. However, I feel kind of 助平 (sukebe – lecherous, lewd) trying to get the right picture for the example. I don’t want to perpetuate the ugly foreigner stereotype so I gave up pretty quickly. As I go out riding later today or tomorrow I’ll try for some pictures but don’t count on it!

I did run across a nail shop with an example of their wares outside. When I first saw the picture of the bling on the nails I thought it was a fungus. Oh my.

Fungal nails - oh wait, that's the design

 

Music

I’m currently listening to the J-Pop band RADWIMPS pretty regularly. They actually write their own stuff, play instruments, and everything. A real band! I saw them at Sumer Sonic last year and really enjoyed their live performance. They released a new album recently and I can recommend it.

 

Weather

Japan is a land of seasons beyond just the regular four. Right now the weather is fantastic, but I can feel it heading towards rainy season and then the dog days of summer. Instead of sitting inside writing this blog I should be out on my bike, and I will be soon. It is probably going to reach 28 degC (82 degF) today and 29 degC (84 degF) tomorrow. After three days of rain the sun is nice, but the humidity is starting to pop its head up say, “Beware, I’m just around the corner to completely smother you!” Ah, well, that’s OK too.

A famous guy in Naka-ku

Too cute for diseaseI arrived back to Japan on Tuesday, just as the hub-bub over the swine flu was begin to intensify. As a matter of fact, Sunday night in the US I emailed my boss warning that the frenzy over the flu could impact my travel plans. I think he thought I was crazy. However, I kept checking the interwebs and the JAL home page to see if my travel would be impacted. At that time, the JAL web page just said that they were in contact with the appropriate authorities. I talked to Tomo and he said that planes were going to be delayed at Narita while health officials came onboard and screened the passengers. Now the website more clearly defines what will happen.

I arrived to Narita and, as predicted, we were delayed at the gate for medical officials to board and screen the passengers. It was very movie-like as people in yellow gowns, fancy masks, laboratory goggles, and rubber gloves came on board. We were given paperwork to fill out, and they walked through the plane pointing their thermal imager at people in search of fever. I guess it is fair, the flu has everyone concerned. It did seem over the top though, but totally expected in Japan. Things are not done halfway here.

As I was walking through Narita just after disembarking, I passed a photographer and a news crew. Fortunately no one decided to interview me. I made it the rest of the way home without trouble.

I live in Marunouchi, Naka-ku, Nagoya-shi. Aichi-ken, Japan. That’s neighborhood, ward, city, prefecture, country. A very systematic way of classifying locations. If there are any crazy blogger stalkers out there, I guess I’ve increased my chance for detection through my “open kimono” description of my address. (As a side, is “open kimono” used commonly? It seems to be a popular phrase these days for full disclosure.)

Yesterday, at work, I got a phone call from a local number. It was the Naka-ku health office. Yes, I was getting a telephone call from the local health officials. I gave the phone to one of the translators (thus, infecting her too) to get a better idea of the purpose of the call. Initially, the officer starting asking about my health. The translator told me that I was going to get a call every day between 9:30 am and 10:00 am to check on my health. Do I have a fever? Runny nose? Headache? EVERY DAY UNTIL May 8. She was very adamant that I memorize the Japanese for these symptoms (which, in general, I already knew but just needed a reminder).

Run for your life!Interestingly, at work on Thursday, just before the Golden Week holiday, we got the news that anyone coming from the States has to wait two days after arriving in Japan before coming in to work at our site AND is expected to take their temperature on a daily basis for 10 days and refrain from coming to work if their temperature is greater than 38 deg C. I bought a thermometer on Thursday night but didn’t try to use it until this morning. I am happy to report that I am a very respectable 36.8 deg C.

Today during my morning phone call, I asked the official if they were only calling foreigners. I couldn’t quite tell but that seemed to be the case. I guess Japanese are responsible enough not to be called? Or maybe I misunderstood.

How about that?