We passed over China on our approach to Japan. I stared out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of the Great Wall but all I could make out were mountains and lots of factories spewing liberal amounts of smoke into the air.
We landed in Japan a full 70 minutes before my itinerary had claimed we would be there. After passing through passport control, customs, and exchanging $ for yen (this time not getting such a raw deal), Nori was there to pick me up from the airport. He had asked me if I remembered what he looked like and I told him I did, but to be honest- I would have been hard pressed to pick him out from the crowd. He must have had the same problem but finally came up to me as I was just sitting back down from standing in a line for currency exchange and asked if I was the right person. Nori drove me to Osaka but was not completely sure on the route to the University. He took a few wrong turns so that we ended up seeing much more of the city than anticipated. Getting turned around didn’t really bother me, however, since I was in no particular hurry and liked seeing more of Osaka. We finally found the International House at Osaka University 1 hour and 45 minutes after being picked up at the airport. Unfortunately, it was now 12:15, and the office that had the key to my house was closed for lunch. Since Nori had to be at work by 2 pm (he teaches at a juku, an afternoon “cram school”, where Japanese students go after school to prepare for the difficult entrance exams that they must take to enter both high school and college), he left me and my luggage at the International House to wait for the office to open.
At 1 pm, the office reopened and gave me the key but could not give me good directions to the house. Eventually, the staff called Kiyoe at work, who said she would come meet me there, since she had already been to see the house and knew where it was located. Since it would take Kiyoe 30 minutes to get to campus from the Medical School, I decided to walk to the Family Mart convenience store and get a bento for lunch. Since it was a beautiful day, I ate my lunch on a bench outside of the International House; Kiyoe showed up shortly after I had finished. We soon found my new home, which actually seemed really big for a Japanese house. The house had been unused for a period of time, however, and was in need of a good vacuuming. Kiyoe called the various utility companies on her cell phone in order to get the water, electricity and gas turned on, however the latter company told her that they could not send anyone by until the next morning at the earliest. Soon, Kiyoe had to leave to get her son to a doctor’s appointment and I told her to go ahead, assuring her that I would be fine by myself.
My first instinct when she left was to take a nice hot bath. That wasn’t in the cards, though, due to my lack of gas to heat the water. Because I really needed one, I settled for a frigidly cold shower and soon set out to find the grocery store. The store, called Nissho, was a good walk from our house and ended up being a very interesting place. It was basically like the one I had gone to in Kyoto- with lots of activity and various people hawking their food products. Think of it as a cross between the people that give out samples at the grocery store and the carny folk that try to get you to play their respective games. I managed to find all of the basic staples: eggs, sushi, seaweed, steamed fish for breakfast, ramen, rice crackers, a big dumpling, green tea, yogurt of some unknown flavor, carrots, bananas, and rice, all for 4000 yen. At 1100 yen a bag, the rice was by far the most expensive item on my list. I managed to vacuum the house when I returned home, while I waited for the rice maker and tea brewer to do their thing. I then ate sushi, rice topped with seaweed, along with green tea for my first meal in my new home.