Friday, 25 July 2014

Japanese Musings VI – A Bad Day

world-map osawano
We’re still in Japan and this week I talk about a very bad day and a few of the contradictions of the Japan I lived in. To me the one about technology is the biggest. As well as the washing machine one, the one that always got me was that concerning household heating. In a country with hi-tech cars and phones yet houses had no heating beyond simple petrol-based heaters that emitted harmful and headache-inducing fumes and cut off after several hours, causing you to wake up in the middle of the night freezing to death! Remember, this is a country where the winters are harsh and there’s no double-glazing and lots of paper-thin walls. Interesting. I wonder what an outsider might think to be such a weird contradiction about our society. Perhaps the steadfast refusal of FIFA to use video evidence despite the fact that referees are both fallible and, at times, corrupt. In the 19th century they represented the best way of ensuring justice in a football game. Now they surely do not… if that is, justice is what the aim is, for cold hard evidence also leaves little room for corruption. Something which does not apply to the Japanese washing machines and heaters which were (are?) instead, merely crap.
Keep travelling!
Uncle Travelling Matt

Links to all the Japanese Musings:

Series 1

Japanese Musings I: Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Japanese Musings II: O-ha!!!

Japanese Musings III: The Thin Blue Line

Japanese Musings IV: Nihon no Shokyu

Japanese Musings V: The Sporting Life

Japanese Musings VI: A Bad Day

Japanese Musings VII: Time, time, time…

Japanese Musings VIII: The Joys of Internationalisation

Japanese Musings IX: Meri Kurisumasu!

Japanese Musings X: It’s Cold Outside!

Japanese Musings XI: Moomins and Mydo Cardo

Japanese Musings XII: Engrish

Japanese Musings XIII: Valentine’s Day

Series 2

Japanese Musings 2.1: Arrival: Tokyo

Japanese Musings 2.2: Arrival: Inaka

Japanese Musings 2.3: Riding the Kamioka-sen

Japanese Musings 2.4: Onsen

Japanese Musings VI – A Bad Day
Yesterday was a bad day. To be honest it was a bad end to a bad week. Or at least I hope it was the end. But then again, it may not be.
Normally I am not one to moan; in fact barring garden centres, Manchester United, vegetarianism, Margaret Thatcher and Robbie Williams, there are very few things on this earth that can put me in a bad mood, but yesterday I was not happy, and I hadn't even seen a garden centre.
It started pretty awfully when I awoke at ten to nine. Now of course, compared with the previous few years, this is still an exceptionally early time to wake. But here it is not early enough, for my first lesson started at quarter to nine, and I had no excuse whatsoever for being late. Therefore, I had to pretend that I was ill, and indeed that perhaps the school was lucky that I had managed to drag myself in at all, since most ALTs would hardly be able to move in my sickened state.
To be fair, I wasn't on top of the world anyway, (and before you ask, no, I had not been drinking the previous night), but I wasn't THAT ill. So without a shower I rushed to put my clothes on, that I had washed the previous day in preparation. Except that I then noticed they weren't clean.
Japan is the most technologically advanced nation on earth, I can state that without a doubt, just look at the especially cool mobile phones, disc players and other assorted electrical appliances. This being the case, why the hell have they not managed to invent a washing machine that can actually clean clothes? The reason why they don't clean them is simple, they don't use hot water. Now in my mind, even an idiot can work out that maybe heating the water up helps in the cleaning process, but no, Messers Fuji, Suzuki, Toyota, Yamamoto, Tanaka et al who can invent a mobile phone the size of a rice crispie, cannot work out that maybe hot water is a good idea for washing machine. Thus, the clothes had to go back in the washer and I had to wear the minging clothes from last week.
washing-machine-2 A Japanese top-loading washing machine (cold water only)

Upon arrival at school I then found that it was my only busy day of the year at Osawano Junior High, so I had no time to sort myself out properly. I hadn't managed to have a cup of tea at home, so feeling decidedly in need of caffeine, I rushed back from lesson number one for a nice mug of tea.
Except that they ran out of tea. And milk. So, instead I had to lower myself to drinking coffee which may be perfectly fine for people from the south of England and mainland Europe, but does not suffice for those from higher civilisations. But there was no alternative, so I drank coffee, with powdered milk.
The day progressed slowly, until dinnertime, (lunch to those of you from down south), an event which I, (like most fat people), always look forward to with considerable relish. I sat down with my delightful third year students in the dining hall and surveyed the fayre on offer; rice, and vegetables, some sort of soup, and a chunk of meat. Well, at least it wasn't vegetarian. By the rice was a small packet of what I call "sprinkly stuff". Every so often they give us packets of bits of dried fish, meat or veg to sprinkle on our rice, thus making this staple food moderately interesting. 'Good' thought I, and I proceeded to open the packet and sprinkle it upon my rice.
dscf1506 A Japanese school dinner
"Aah!" I heard a shriek and looked up. There were several of my third years shrieking and pointing. The rest were giggling. "Matto-sensei, this no rice, no!" I was puzzled. What were they on about, and come on, couldn't they speak any English that made sense.
Just about to chastise them I then remembered who was responsible for their bad English and decided to keep quiet. The student opposite was still pointing at my dinner. "Matto-sensei, this no rice, milk!" he exclaimed. I looked down at the packet which I was sprinkling on my rice and noticed a huge grinning cow on the front. It was not not sprinkly stuff for rice at all, but chocolate powder for the milk.
Thus, I had to endure chocolatey rice and the fact that all my third years reckon I am pretty stupid. And there was still no tea to wash it down with.
And some student nicked my bike.
Copyright © 2000, Matthew E. Pointon
Written Oswano-machi, Japan, 14th November, 2000


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