Weeks 12 and 13 – Summer has arrived

A flooded rice field in Nagoya.

A flooded rice field in Nagoya.

The last two weeks have been hot, humid and very busy.  I am spending quite a lot of time on the phone to the various utility companies trying to get my services disconnected.  Getting connected is easy, but Japanese companies don’t expect their customers to actually stop their service and then leave the country.  Ten years ago, I had to buy the right to use an NTT line (this was when everyone who wanted a phone line had to do this) so now although my phone is being cut off next week, I will retain the ‘right to a line’ indefinitely.  I must remember to put that in my will …

Utility companies also want your contact details for after you have moved, but this causes great confusion when I tell them that they can contact me in England.  OUTSIDE Japan … there is no such place.  It’s a frustrating aspect of Japanese culture.  Japan is designed for the Japanese who don’t travel. All business relationships must be long-term, preferably for life.  My own uni will not pay me my final ‘leaving payment’ until the end of August and my pension refund will not come for around six months so I will have to leave my bank account open.  And everyone I have called, including NTT, want a contact number.  I gave them a colleague’s (with her permission) but since I have no contact number, even she can’t contact me.  And no, I can’t keep my number until I leave as NTT has to cut me off 7 working days before I leave … so they can send me the last bill in time.  But they still want a contact number for that last 7 days.

Anyway, the past two weeks have been very busy.

Summer arrived on Saturday 7th.  By train. I got up very early to catch the 9am shinkansen to Nagoya.  It was cool then.  When I got off the shinkansen 1 hour and 40 minutes later it was so hot and humid I nearly passed out on the platform. But I spent an enjoyable weekend with Christopher Robin (who has just bought himself a great new batchelor flat) and D H Lawrence who accompanied me to the local park to get ideas for the Great Expat Novel and about 20 mosquito bites.  Actually the spring mosquitoes are small and black and don’t leave much of a mark.  The large, brown autumn mozzies seem to affect me more. Those bites swell up and go hard, and sometimes septic. I’m told it’s something to do with mozzie saliva.   I stayed with Christopher Robin and he still has an egg for breakfast (see evacuation diary of March 11).  He’s sent his netsuke away but his vitrine now has a Tibetan prayer bowl which makes a metallic ringing sound.

Now I am back in Tokyo, dizzy, frizzy, with prickly heat rash and I am taking on water faster than the Titanic.  When I get home from work at around 8pm it is pushing 40 degrees in my apartment.  I sleep with the aircon on all night and I get up early and go straight in to work in the morning to use their aircon instead.  I have nearly lost my voice which students think is hilarious.  The ones that turn up, that is.  Hikakubunka has gone from 75 students to 30 in one week.  And I know it is because of the heat.  Students are just putting their heads on the desks and sleeping in class.  I go over and tap them on the shoulder and say, “I know, I KNOW but I have to stay awake and so do you”.

What else has happened in the last two weeks?  In Britcult we did Subcultures, Diversity and the Global Community.  In the writing classes we finished what we had to cover this  semester in the textbook and then I did a review class. This week is the final exam.

In the 3rd year seminar, we looked at Arthur Conan Doyle, the Victorian Era, Jack the Ripper, and the various actors who have played Sherlock Holmes.  We then watched ‘Sherlock’ which the students seemed to love judging by some pro-Sherlock graffiti I found  on the whiteboard outside my office this morning.

In other news, my job has apparently been advertised on the websites but only in Japanese, even though the ad says they want a ‘native speaker’.  Stupidity or a deliberate tactic?  A couple of weeks ago, I saw some Japanese lecturers from the faculty having a fevered discussion in the subway.  Later I asked one what they had been talking about. “We are trying to do the same as you” said the lecturer.  Eh?  “We want to leave the university and get jobs somewhere better.  And we want to go soon because kyomu hates us”. Why?  “They say we are lazy”.

I doubted this but today I was making arrangements to talk with personnel tomorrow.  (One of the things they want me to do is to sign receipts to show that I have received money that I will not actually receive until August.  I’m not happy about it and I don’t think I’ll do it.)  Anyway, one woman from kyomu – a very nice and helpful woman who often translates for me when I can’t understand – has agreed to go with me.

“I will be in my office from 10am through to 3pm when I start teaching” I said.

“Why are you coming in when you are not teaching?” she asked, surprised.

“Research, grading, prepping, writing exams etc” I said, “I work here”.

“Oh” she said, “Other teachers just come in to teach their classes and then go home.  They don’t work hard like you”.

Whilst one or two may well do this, I know for a fact that most are working other jobs to supplement their meagre salaries.  So I see what the lecturers are getting at when they say kyomu thinks they are lazy.

Speaking of the subway, it has now introduced free wifi in the stations. You can access it 5 times for 15 minutes a day. Apart from the first day when I registered with my i-pod touch, I haven’t been able to access it at all.  And you can only use it in the stations.  Once on the train there is no signal.  But even when I have sat in a station waiting for five minutes for a train that is still not enough time to upload even a single page.  Too bad.  Because everyone uses their ‘smaho’ or smartphones  on the train and even walking around. Underground at Iidabashi there is a sharp turn and then a sudden steep flight of stairs, and I have seen so many people looking at their phones, walking off the edge and falling right down the steps, it’s like watching barrels going over Niagara Falls.

Smartphones run down so quickly.  In every class, the students commandeer every available wall socket to recharge them. One princess even unplugged my computer to do it.  Walking up the side aisles is like crunching over autumn leaves, until you get caught up in the cables.

The other evening I realised, just before 11pm, that I had no butter for breakfast, so I went down to the Co-op. That’s presumably something I won’t be able to do once I am back in the UK, especially in pyjamas.  Coming back, I unlocked the security door at the mansion entrance and a large, light-brown cockroach raced past me and skittered off up the ground floor corridor.   They’re fast and hungry at this time of year.  Later on, they get lazy and you can see them sitting outside the dodgy restaurants near the station, waiting for closing time.  Anyway, I wasn’t too concerned as I live on the 3rd floor.  But it proves that summer is here. I’m off to buy a square watermelon …

Spot the Kirk. Love the new life-size Star Trek ads.  But no Cumberbatch?  My students will be disappointed.

Spot the Kirk. Love the new life-size Star Trek ads. But no Cumberbatch? My students will be disappointed.


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