Today I got lost in my own town – I have never met anyone with as bad a sense of direction as myself. I get lost all the time, everywhere, anytime, any place. It’s really quite pathetic. Today, I was riding from a friend’s house to Nisshin Church and wound up aimlessly riding around for over an hour. The whole time I was listening to a podcast French course so that kept me calm and my mind occupied. It was beautiful to see the leaves changing color but it was a bit hard to enjoy the sights when I had no idea where I was. Much to my surprise as I was riding away from the direction of the church, Mr. Bakelaar, a missionary here, happened to see me and pulled over in his carto tell me I was going the wrong way. I was so thankful!!

Well, since I don’t have much to say, here is a fun list to make you smile.

Things that are different here than in the U.S.

1) People don’t eat in public here. My roommate Mary once asked her English class, “What is the RUDEST thing you have ever seen?” A student replied, “I once saw someone walking along the road and eating at the same time!” Mary found that hilarious since the rudest thing she ever saw was a man smashing the windows of the bus she was riding on with a crow bar during a trip to Malaysia last year. It’s true – I rarely see anyone eating or drinking in public here.

2) People use parasols here. If it’s a sunny day all the ladies break out their parasols to protect their skin. Japanese seem really into keeping themselves out of the sun. The whiter their skin the better!

3) People don’t wear shoes in the house or in church. In the entryway of a house, apartment, or church there is a space to leave your shoes. I don’t know why people do this, but it’s part of Asian culture. In a house or church you can put on special slippers although I’ve noticed most foreigners choose just to walk around in socks.

4) The rules for child seat belts are very relaxed here! Japanese let their young kids ride in the front on a parent’s lap, or in the back, unharnessed. We foreigners are always wondering, “Don’t the parents care that they might kill their kids?” Parents and grandparents let their kids stand up and jump around on the back seat while driving through town. It’s really scary, seriously! It makes me shudder seeing two or three year olds jumping freely all over the back seat of a car as their moms drive.

5) No tipping! No tipping for taxis, restaurants, hair salons, etc. It’s great! It makes eating out so much more fun and it saves you lots of money. The bummer is going from Japan to the U.S. and grumbling as you have to get used to paying tips again. Yuck.

6) Slurping when you eat noodles is totally normal here! It’s fun to eat noodles because you can slurp away. I love to eat ramen in particular and slurp up my noodles, although I tend to splash a lot and make a mess!

7) THE MASKS! Sterilized masks, like the ones you’d see in the emergency room or that Michael Jackson wears, are commonly used by salarymen, office ladies, and municipal workers to protect other people from their germs. When you think about it, it really makes sense! It also is a way to show other you are sick and they won’t get too close to you.

A few more random things…

-Canned hot/cold coffee in vending machines

-Computerized toilets: A button to heat the seat, a button which starts gurgling, swooshing, nature noises while you use the toilet, and a whole assortment of other “interesting” functions

-Octopus, squid, and corn on pizza

-Japanese Capsule Hotels – they are a little bigger than a coffin and cost around $30 a night to stay. There are many buttons and knobs in the capsule. One turns on the light and a knob dims the light. One turns on the TV, another button flips through the channels.

There are so many more but I have to run.

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