Fulbright Reception in Tokyo

Time for a Fulbright style welcome. Mimi and I took a highway bus to Tokyo to attend a reception for the current Fulbright grantees at the house of the deputy minister to the US embassy. Buses are a cheap way to travel around big cities in Japan instead of the Shinkansen. The bus system is not quite as developed as in Mexico but it works very well. Some buses even travel at night with large reclining seats for the passengers to sleep in. Because the reception stared at 6 pm I didn’t want to take a night bus and arrive in the morning exhausted, so I took a day bus and arrived at Tokyo station at 3:30 pm.Fulbright Fellows ariving by taxi

Tokyo Station is under construction, so it was difficult to find the subway. We eventually did and made our way for the Roppongi Hills where a lot of international embassies are located. To keep our dress clothes clean we didn’t fully dress until arriving in Tokyo and changed in a department store restroom. Then we walked about 10 minutes to the reception. At the same time we arrived many of the Fulbright Fellows arrived together by taxi. The house holding the reception may not look magnificent in pictures but one has to remember that it is in the middle of Tokyo and is sizable for the neighborhood.Fine Fulbright Buffet

The reception itself overwhelmed me a bit. I am confident in my field, but at the reception I seemed to be surrounded by ivy league graduates and established professionals. I felt a little intimidated at first but then fell into the rhythm just like the many art gallery receptions I attended in the past.Mimi and Jimmy at the entrance to the 2007 Fulbright reception

As in all great receptions much attention must be paid to the buffet table. This time I kept myself occupied so I did not have a chance to sample all the wares, but those I did were quite delicious. Among the people I met were an architect from Tokyo, a representative from Toyota, a fellow studying the effects of Denny’s in Japan, a gentleman studying Japanese Cinema, a woman studying moder Japanese manga and a nice man from Yale.

Pre-fab Furniture and Ramen

Today concluded the third day of three major shopping days. It takes a lot of effort and money to move to another country. This time I have it made since Fulbright is picking up the tab, but to do this on a whim would be quite difficult. In 2007 figures it costs almost 10000 dollars to relocate to Japan, acquire a decent apartment, furnish it with furniture and appliances as well as stocking the fridge with vital food, finding daily transportation, and surviving in hotels until an apartment is found. Thank you Fulbright for making this easier, and know that I truly appreciate the opportunity.

Mimi carrying supplies from the hardware store
To wrap up the third day of crazy shopping I took Mimi out to a local home furnishing store to check the prices of things. We then rode to two different second hand stores to check the prices of used goods. The second store that we went to had a nice dinning table and a smaller table that I plan to use a a desk. Since this furniture came fully assembled we opted to have it delivered on Tuesday. On the way back to the apartment we stopped at Karhma, a hardware store, to pick up a cabinet for the kitchen and some shelves to go over the washing machine.

Installing shelves over the washing machine
By the time we arrived home both of us were exhausted. In order to attempt to finish all my big shopping I decided to go one more time to pick up two bookshelves, a set of drawers for clothes, and a rolling microwave stand. All of this I carried on my bike. Check out the picture of me arriving back home.

Bicycle with too many boxes
Mimi and I spent the next couple of hours assembling prefab furniture. Stupidly I decided to spread all the parts from various projects in order to take a picture. That might be the reason that I am missing four screws. We did get the furniture assembled and moved around the apartment.

Pre-fab furniture in Japan

After that we were so tired that only sleep was on our minds. We rode down the street to a ramen shop. This place was spectacular because for under 1000 yen you could get a whole ramen set complete with dessert and a rice dish. We then struggled home and collapsed on our new futons.

Baked Cats and Bicycles

After waking up I took a quick trip to the convenience store to pick up some provisions for breakfast since I am waiting for my new fridge and microwave. Then Mimi and I finished cleaning the apartment and installed laundry hanging poles outside. We also washed all the dishes that Mimi’s mom gave us. Mimi went to the store and brought back some sushi that we ate for lunch on a makeshift cardboard table.

Joy cycle shop
I decided that today would be better than later to buy a second bicycle. I have commuted by bicycle for almost 10 years and have become a little picky when selecting a new bike. I set out on a scouting mission around 12:30 and made it back to the apartment around 5:30 having traveled well over 30km hear and there checking out 5 different bicycle shops. It just so happened that the last bike shop that I went to sold out of the exact bike that I wanted in their spring line up. Instead of waiting till the coming spring I bought the next best bike and therefore saved about 25000 yen. I wanted an eight speed internal hub and the one I bought has the normal 3 speed. I could always buy a different wheel and have the perfect bike (in my opinion) in I had the handle bars changes out to a more ergonomic design and bought a rear rack. It was going to take about an hour and a half to get the bike ready so since it was getting late I rode back to the apartment to see Mimi. We don’t have a phone yet so there was no way to contact her.

Baked cat at an Italian restaurant
After taking a shower we set out on her bike with me pedaling and her sitting on the rear rack. We picked up my bike and went to Apita to do a little shopping and ate dinner at a very reasonably priced quick Italian place complete with chopsticks. For about 1000 yen I received a big pizza, drink bar, salad, and desert. On the way out of the restaurant I noticed a baked cat. There on the counter of the pastry display sat a cat made of dough and decorated with various flavors. It did not have a price tag.

Yatto! Finally in Nagoya

Rest stop in Japan on the way to Nagoya CityYatto, Nagoya ni tsuita! Actually it is Seto City, but I moved into my apartment today with the generous help of Mimi’s parents. We got up early in the morning and went by car from Nara to Nagoya, which allowed us bring a lot more stuff than we could on the train. Although I sent 5 of 6 suitcases by takyubin delivery service just because of the weight and since it is very cheap.

The first order of business was to go to the real estate agency office to pick up the keys and to use my freshly minted hanko. The keys arrived just in time for us in the morning. The agent drove me to the apartment and Mimi’s family followed. Mimi looking at fancy washers in KojimaWe quickly finished up business and left for a shopping spree at Kojima, an electronics store. Since I stopped by an electronics store the day before in Nara, I basically knew what I wanted.

Checking out a new fridge
I started with the fridge because last time I lived in Japan my fridge was way to small 112L approx. This time I bought a 227L model. Then it was a washing machine, followed by a vacuum, a light fixture, toaster oven, iron, microwave, phone, coffee pot, computer speakers, and a de-ionizing hair drier. That is about what you can buy for 100000 yen. In Japan the written price is never final and we haggled to get the price down including tax.Shopping spree for electronics in Kojima

Then we took a lunch break at the store’s cafeteria. I had a Korean bibimba. This comes in a sizzling bowl filled with rice, meat, kim-chee, sprouts, and green vegetables. On the side were two eggs that I got to crack open over my piping hot meal. Bibimba at the mall in NagoyaUpon mixing everything together one ends up with a very hot fried rice meal. After lunch it was back to the apartment to drop off the new purchases and to get down to cleaning. All apartments charge for cleaning upon moving out but they never seem too clean when moving in.

The next stop was a large store called Apita. This is a combination of all stores into one and seems more massive than Walmart. There we bought two futons, curtains, and a bunch of miscellaneous household items. On top of everything I bought one of two bikes I plan on using. This one is for Mimi and is great. It is the way a bike should be. It came with a full chaincase, fenders, rear rack, front basket, 3 speed hub, front hub dynamo, front light, and a rear roller break.Mimi’s new Bike Perfect for someone who wants to use a bike for actually going somewhere and not dress up like a Tour de France participant. The futons were so bulky with the top blankets that there was only space for 3 people in the car so I rode the bike back to the apartment. This was a great chance to find out how far everything was away. It turned out to be quite close and the bike ride was pure joy.

The evening was passing and everyone became quite tired. I wanted to get the most use out of the car as possible so requested one more trip to a hardware store. Again we all piled into the car after countless trips and a few toll road mistakes and made way for the home center. There we picked up a lot more essentials. It is crazy to think about all the junk that people think that they need for their lives. I am no exception and it astounded me. We planned to grab a bite to eat after delivering the goods but decided that it was best for Mimi’s parents to get back on the rode before too late.

First dinner in Jimmy Kuehnle’s apartment in Nagoya

Mimi’s dad went over to the grocery store and bought some sushi bento boxes. One can find these all over Japan. And just like new apartment residents the world over who spend all day getting stuff for their residence and still lack a table, we ate dinner on the new futons. Of course we spilled some soy sauce, but no fear because they were wrapped in space age plastic.

Found an Apartment and Got a Hanko

After looking at 8 different apartments at 3 different real estate companies, I finally made a decision. This took a long time because within my budget getting a place with enough space while being clean and new was difficult. Some of the apartments were quite big, but on closer inspection left one a little wanting in the quality section. Entrance to building of Japanese ApartmentThe one I finally decided on is 5km from the University so I can still ride my bicycle. It is on the north eastern part of town and is not officially in Nagoya. It is in Seto City. I will post the full address when I move in.

The apartment is very thoughtfully designed and I haven not seen an apartment like it during my time in Japan. Since it is on the first floor and a bit out of town, there is a yard that I can use outside. Many a Bar-B-Q are already planned, or since I am in Japan yaki-niku. (grilled meat) Apartment BackyardThe kitchen is nice enough and the windows are large so that there is plenty of daylight. Some older apartments are quite dark. It will be a great place to conduct research with an internet connection on days that I don’t go to the University and it will be a good place to relax on my days off.Japanese Apartment Interior

This morning I called the water company, electric company and gas company to tell them that I will be moving in on Friday. I also paid my insurance bill at a convenience store on the way to pick up my custom made hanko. (name stamp) In Japan most bills can be paid at anytime at any convenience store in the country. It is convenient but direct debit is even simpler. I bought a hanko when I previously lived in Japan but I left it in America. Therefore I had to have another one made. A shop a couple of stations from Mimi’s house made my hanko a reality for 1050 yen. This will allow me to open up a bank account, get a mobile phone and finish my apartment lease.Jimmy Kuehnle’s Hanko

It is two days until the final move so I am packing up my stuff. I still have six suitcases that I brought with me from America. Mimi’s parents have been very kind by donating old plates and other household goods. We plan to drive to Nagoya on Friday to make moving in easier and shopping for furniture easier.<div style=”clear:both;”></div>

Searching for an Apartment

Yesterday I came to Nagoya by train to begin searching for an apartment. I had already visited some apartment finding websites before coming to Nagoya to get an idea of the types of apartments available. After about a two hour train ride from Nara to Nagoya I transfered to the Higashi-Yama subway line. To get near the Univeristy it is necessary to take this line to its end. There at Fujigaoka Station I visited the first apartment finding company. After discussing my needs and price limits with them they drove Mimi and I to visit some of the apartments. Most of them were quite old and a bit in disrepair. We kindly thanked them for their efforts and left to visit another company.

Hotel Chisun in Nagoya

The next company seemed more like a beauty salon rather than a real estate company. We left as fast as humanly possible, but when entering a real estate company in Japan works carrying tea quickly sweep down to comfort you and entice you to stay.

The third company seemed more promising. The apartments that they offered had just been remodeled. In fact one that we visited was still under construction. That meant that although the buildings were old the interiors were nice. Now after a nights rest at a hotel in central Nagoya I will review pictures of the apartments that I took with a fresh eye and decide today. I will post a picture of the final apartment choice after the contract is signed.Lawson Breakfast Bread

For a power apartment hunting breakfast I headed down to the Lawson convenience store conveniently located on the first floor of the hotel. Japanese convenience stores are great places to grab a quick bite to eat. I will post more pictures as the adventure continues but for now you can see a choice of breakfast breads and morning drinks.Lawson Coffee and Drinks

Since it will take about a week to process the paperwork for the apartment, I plan to begin my research this week. I will prepare for a presentation of my project to the faculty of Aichi Prefectural University of Fine Arts and Music when the term begins in October.

Checking Out Hungry Ghosts in Nara

Now I finally feel as if I am over my jet lag, although I woke up at 5:30 this morning. After Monday, when I go to Nagoya to look for an apartment it will be non-stop, fast paced action so I am taking it easy this weekend. Mimi and I went to Nara Park today to visit a museum that had a collection of Japanese art assembled from around Japan and the world. It just happened that the show opened today.Stainless steel baricade in Nara Park

We took the train to Nara station and then walked to the park. On the way I noticed a stainless steel traffic impediment. I also saw an stainless steel railing welded to an existing mild steel barrier. Why install mild steel which constantly needs to be painted before it rusts when stainless will last? Stainless steel welded to rusting steel fenceI imagine cost is a big factor but I intend to discover the whole story. Both of these I photographed. During my research I plan to pay attention to the differences between durable aesthetic design and construction and cheap imitations. Expect numerous riveting fence pictures. Many of the trees in the park are sculpted into natural shapes with the utmost precision. The entire landscape of the park deserves study but there are plenty of people other than myself to carry that out.

The museum is situated in the beginning of Nara Park. This is the new addition to an older structure allowing more exhibition space. Nara Prefectural MusuemSurrounding the building is a sculpted garden that is only accessible to paying patrons of the museum. Mimi and I explored the park and found a lily pad covered pond filled with coy. There is also an old tea house from the Edo period with a thatched roof.

One of the interesting parts of the exhibit, aside from the gigantic paintings of gods, was the Scroll of 8 Hells. The exhibit featured many scrolls but this one caught my because of its seemingly modern styling even though it is from the 12th Century. Park behind Nara Prefectural MuseumSince I couldn’t take pictures in the museum I will give some short descriptions. To see the real thing hurry up and hop on a plane to Japan. One bad way to go is being eaten by maggots in a desert. Another way is to eternally burn your hands holding down a fire dragon. On a more morbid side your could be boiled alive with countless others and don’t forget about being attacked by what looked like a fire bird. If you can’t run fast then don’t skin animals or pull feathers out of birds because after death burning feathers will chase you for eternity and burn your mouth. Each of these Hells gathered a certain kind of sinner. For example all the monks that ate and drank too much were shoved into a river of flaming piss and dung by two large monsters. Did I mention it was flaming?

A different scroll featured ghosts with everlasting hunger. They were depicted eating babies, human fecal matter, garbage and various other terrible things I don’t consider food. On top of that they couldn’t swallow. Note to self don’t sin if you are Buddhist.

Preparations in Nara

Mimi’s house in Nara, JapanI spent the last two days resting from traveling. In addition I tweaked the blog so it will be the easiest to manage in the future. I also added some search engine optimization. This weekend I will continue to prepare to move to Nagoya on Monday. I need to find an apartment in an area close to the University as well as grocery stores and other shops.

Arriving in Narita

I tried to stay asleep until the morning but it was difficult. I went to bed around 10:00 and my eyes kept opening throughout the night. Finally Mimi took a shower around 6:00 in the morning and that had us both get up. We prepared our luggage and got ready to go the the Fulbright orientation at 10:00. The orientation was held in the Sannyo Grand Building about 3 subway stops from the hotel. I met with Jinko Brinkman first and she went over the structure of the Fulbright program and general guidelines. She even gave me a pretty pin.

Then came the man that everyone was waiting for, the money man. He proceeded to explain the different parts of the allotment and the schedule of payment. The first installment was quite large. I received some money in cash and the rest came in the form of a check. Checks are rare in Japan and this one could only be cashed at the local branch in Tokyo. Then I met with other program directors who explained communication protical to me as well as listening to my plans with great interest. Everyone was extremely nice and willing to help me along the way with my project. After talking to them I really felt that I had received a Fulbright. Another grant recipient came for orientation as well and happened to be from St. Louis of all places. After orientation I went to the bank and cashed the largest check that I have ever held in my life. The stack of money was over an inch thick and now sits on the floor in from of me between my feet. Don’t get robbed now.

Inside of Shinkansen during trip from Tokyo to KyotoCurrently I am taking the Shinkansen to Kyoto where I will transfer to the local train to complete my journey to Mimi’s parent’s house in Nara. The Shinkansen or “bullet train” is fast as well as comfortable. Vendors walk by with a smile selling coffee and bentos, Japanese box lunches. Since Japan has no open container laws, myself and quite a few other passengers are enjoying their favorite adult beverage. In my case it is a normal Kirin Lager. After a few days rest in Nara I will go find an apartment in Nagoya and hit the ground running on my project. I want to complete as much as possible in this limited time frame and don’t want to waste any time. Now I will sit back and enjoy my lightning fast train ride to Nara, passing right by Nagoya ironicly.

Start in St. Louis

Began in St. Louis on American Airlines. The travel agency canceled Mimi’s ticket and we had to buy a ticket from St. Louis to Chicago.

Jimmy in Chicago Ohare

I thought that since this would be the first time that I wasn’t flying standby since Continental that it would go without a hitch but I was wrong. Mimi called the agency and left a nasty message and eventually got the money back. The flight was uneventful. At the airport after sending our luggage with a takyubin, a luggage delivery service that is very affordable in Japan, we sat down for some long awaited wasyoku, or Japanese food.

I took a picture of me with my reasonably priced donburi and a quite expensive nama beer. I enjoyed the food but jet lag was starting to get to Mimi and I so we started to make our way to the Hotel. It was still over an hour by train from Narita.Gyudon and Nama Beer

We eventually checked into the Daichi Hotel Annex later that night after a long train ride from Narita. The room we stayed in was just renovated and quite nice. The drapes opened with an electric motor by remote control. One could order in room massages as well as on demand movies. Before I fell asleep I watched the Shinkansen and JR trains racing by below my window. Yatto! Finally in Japan.

Daichi Hotel Annex in Tokyo, Japan.