japan

It’s not as weird as I thought it would be. I remember once saying that Japan was as alien a culture as one will find while still remaining on Earth. I’m not sure about that anymore. (Perhaps an Islamic theocracy?) I had no “Lost In Translation” moments. I didn’t feel alienated or freaked out threatened, even when travelling alone. Nor did I ever feel unsafe, even on the Osaka subway at 5:00 am. (I did get very homesick while I was sick, but that’s to be expected.)

Everybody is very committed to their job, even at McDonalds. They rush and shout and perform their duties to the best of their ability. They are exceedingly polite. Contrast this with the slack-jawed pimple-faced service you receive in Karrinyup or Innaloo. (Note, however, that I prefer our method, because I too have a job. It suits me just fine to receive that kind of zealous service, unless I have to give it in return.)

It’s very clean – but there are virtually no rubbish bins. If you buy some food or a drink on the go, be prepared to carry the wrapper or can around with you for a very long time.

Smoking is a lot more accepted – there are cigarette vending machines, and established smoking rooms in airports and train stations.

A lot of things surprised me. In Tokyo, most of the shops shut around 10 pm and the trains don’t run past midnight. This is in the largest city in the world, with a population higher than my entire country.

Everything is efficient and fast. The train system is amazing – a new one along every five minutes – and the airports are excellent. Returning to Perth, and standing in line for our baggage for about half an hour, was like having our faces plunged into a trough of freezing water by a burly debt collector.

And I loved it all. I loved travelling, checking into hostels, living on the cheap. It’s a hassle when you’re dragging your bags through train stations, but there are few feelings in the world sweeter than dropping all your crap off in a hostel room and finally being free to explore the city. In short, I cannot wait to go around the world for a year.

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Unfortunately, Japan was exceedingly expensive – about eight grand all up. As Chris put it while we were sliding down the slopes of Niseko, “We’re doing something rich people do… but we’re not rich.” It exhausted our funds – he is now two grand in the hole, while I spent nearly every dollar I earned throughout my university years. We could have travelled for approximately four or five months in the third world on that much money.

I don’t regret it at all – it was an amazing trip and one of the best things I’ve done in my life – but it does present a problem. If we want to set off at any point in the near future (tentative date, early 2010) we need about $20, 000. Last year that wouldn’t have been a problem. Now, thanks to the cigar-smoking Wall Street fatcats… well. There was an article in the West Australian today about a supermarket deli in Belmont that advertised a position for sales assistant and received 150 applications.

I work as a sales assistant in a supermarket deli.

My plan was to ditch that and try to find a bookstore job this year, but now the concept of “job security” has politely cleared its throat. I need full-time work. I do not want to do that in the deli. I’m sick of cleaning ovens and racks and trays every day, of slicing meat and serving old women. Unfortunately, I now appear to be locked in. I applied to Angus & Robertson and Boffins today. I doubt I will be successful.

I would be open to the idea of combining travel and work, provided it could get me twenty grand by next February. My friend Mike is returning to Camp America this year – but that ends up costing you more than you earn. You can teach English in East Asia with a university degree in any field – but that’s a one-year contract minimum, and applications don’t open until later in the year. You can crew on a yacht with zero experience, but you don’t get paid either.

I’m trapped in this wretched city for a year. Oh well. Maybe I can finish End Times.

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