I found these berries outside of my apartment building.
September 30, 2010
Foreigners who live in Japan are allowed to drive with their driver’s license from home and an international driving permit for up to one year. After that, you either get a Japanese driver’s license or you stop driving. The driving test here is especially difficult. Many people fail on their first try. In fact, many people fail on their 4th try. They are the lucky ones who don’t need to take the driving test. Those lucky few are from countries that have reciprocal agreements with Japan. Citizens of those countries don’t need to take a driving test to get a Japanese license and likewise Japanese citizens wouldn’t need to take a driving test to get a license in those countries. They only need to have an interview, where they are asked about the driving test they originally took to get their license. The lucky ones included most of Europe and Australia and New Zealand. The rest of us need to take the test.
The Prefectural Driver’s License center for my prefecture is located a bit off the beaten path. It’s not close to any public transportation, so I heard from a friend who took the test several times, that it was quite a pain to get there when he couldn’t get a ride. Train, train, walk, bus, walk. A 2 hour drive took nearly triple that by public transit.
I was not taking my Driving Test the day I went to the Center. I actually still don’t have a car. (Hopefully I get it soon though….I found a car three weeks ago and they said they’d get back to me with insurance info…..Still waiting for that…..) Another friend of mine was taking his driving test. Not realizing how long the process would take, he hadn’t started the procedure for getting a Japanese License until just before his International Permit expired. He had gone more than 1 month with no license. It took about 2 weeks to get an appointment for an interview, another week to wait for the results and another 2 weeks to get an appointment for a road test. But finally, the day of the road test arrived.
First, he was given an easy as pie written test, in English. Then, he waited for his turn for the road test. The road test is all done on a closed course. They schedule the test for people switching to a Japanese license from a foreign license on the same day, so everyone else taking the test was also foreign, like us. After passing the written exam, they handed my friend a paper with a drawing of the course and lines and arrows telling him where to go. They told him to memorize the route. I was able to watch from the building while my friend took his test.
The driving test ended and everyone who had taken the test went back inside to await their fate. The first person was called to the desk…FAIL. The next person was called to the desk…FAIL. The third person was called up….PASS. And finally my friend….PASS! Yay!
September 28, 2010
A wily dragonfly infiltrated our defenses and entered our office the other day. (Maybe this wouldn’t happen if we closed the window?) Several of my office mates jumped up to try and entice the little fellow to leave, but he was stubborn and stuck around our office for most of the morning, teasing everyone by landing on their computer monitors, only to flit away whenever someone reached out to grab him.
At the top of any visitors list when they go to Okayama city is Korakuen, famous for being one the the top three gardens in Japan. (Japan likes to count its best places in threes. Japan’s three scenic views, Japan’s three hot springs, Japan’s three famous castles. You can read more here. )
September 20, 2010
September 18, 2010
Nara is an ancient capital of Japan. Located near Kyoto, it was the location of the capital of Japan from 710 – 784. And during that time, the palace was Heijo palace. That was 1300 years ago and now Nara thinks they might be able to make a buck by getting tourists to come pay to see it! So, to entice visitors o come to the palace and celebrate a bit of Japanese history, they’ve made a mascot.
September 17, 2010
I found this cafe in Okayama and it has some strange hours….probably.
September 16, 2010
While in Okayama, I came across a bank called Tomato Bank. I looked it up and apparently this interesting bank can only be found in Okayama prefecture. There is also another bank called Tomato Bank, which is based in China and has several branches in the Los Angeles area, but it seems that these two banks are unrelated.
While poking around on the Tomato Bank website, I came across their theme song, which is titled “I love humans.” You can listen to it here.
The first verse goes something like this:
♪The cute tomato flower blossomed again this year
With the bright smiles of my friends, my heart grows♪
♪I like the blue sea, and I like the white clouds
But above all else, I love humans.♪
(If you see boxes next to all the verses above, then your computer must not be able to read Japanese text! What you can’t see is musical notes.)
Don’t all these tomatoes make you hungry? It makes me want to eat shaskshuka.
September 14, 2010
Momotaro (lit. Peach Boy) is a Japanese folk tale about an old lady who found a child floating down a river inside a giant peach (similar to how Pharoh’s daughter found Moses). The old lady and her husband named him Momotaro and raised him as their son. Later he goes off with a bunch of animal friends and fights demons.
This story is usually associated with Okayama and references to Momotaro can be found all over the city. There is a statue of him in front of the main train station and many of the souvenirs from Oakayama also reference the legend. But by far the strangest representation I have ever seen of Momotaro is the glass figurine I found in the bathroom of a ramen shop. The entire wall was covered with copies of the same strange figurine.
This is my final post about Naoshima, the island famous for modern art that is found between Japan’s largest island of Honshu and its other major island, Shikoku. My first post can be read here and my second post can be found here.
I end my short tour of Naoshima with the pumpkins, the most well known symbol of this island.