Friday, March 6, 2009

Osaka to Tokyo

Well, I moved - and none too soon, because after spending about six months excavating the lot across from my balcony and apparently finding nothing, they decided to put up a new wing of the national hospital. Now, instead of the Naniwa-no-miya park, this is all you can see out of my old window.

I wont miss the sound of the construction, but I will miss the sound of the kids playing after school. Look at how tiny those kids are. I don't really understand how they can make as much noise as a construction site, but they do.

I don't know if there is anyone reading this blog who doesn't already know, but I accepted a tenure track professorship at Waseda University (早稲田大学). So, I'm posting this from a faculty apartment near the Waseda campus in Tokyo's Shinjuku-ku. Actually, this apartment is just a temporary place for a few weeks, before they move me to another faculty apartment that is right in the middle of campus. (If you click on the "view larger map" link below, you can go to street view and see my apartment building. It's the off-white building besides the parking lot and across the street from the construction sight.)

View Larger Map

Needless to say, it has been a busy couple of weeks. I was going to my Japanese classes right up until my last day in Osaka. My teachers wanted me to make a speech in Japanese. I tried to get out of this in various ways, including telling them that I had no time outside of class to prepare the speech - which was true. They were undeterred by this, however, and simply cleared up class time for me to work on it. I wanted to do something kind of original, as opposed to a self-introduction or a trivial cross-cultural comparison, which is the standard fare for such speeches. I ended up doing a simplified version of the story of Fred Marshall's pumpkin harvest. After a few rounds of revisions, my teachers decided the speech was ready, and then told me they were going to make a video of it and play it at the graduation party, which I would, happily, miss.

After a fairly humiliating morning of repeatedly recording the fifteen minute story until my teachers were satisfied that I had made no major pronunciation slips and had expressed what they regarded as fitting sentiment at the appropriate moments, I rushed home to finish packing in time for the moving company, who came that afternoon. The movers themselves were as organized as one can imagine. I had a bunch of extra boxes from a different moving company, and when I was asking my movers if they wanted them, they told me they would take the extra boxes for free, but that they could also take my full garbage bags for ¥300 a bag. Since my trash wasn't properly separated, this seemed like a better idea than facing the wrath of the old lady who was in charge of berating me about constantly failing to follow the many rules of the apartment building - most of which were unwritten, but were somehow understood by her as obvious.

The movers put all my stuff in a my own gated cage inside the moving tuck and then closed the gate and sealed it with a paper seal. They asked me to come down to the truck and witness the sealing of the cage. After I affirmed that I had, indeed, seen the cage so sealed, they told me that could witness the opening of the seal in Tokyo. I told them that I was much obliged, and there was some minor bowing and a number of thanks were said.

I spent the night at Chie's and then returned to the apartment in the morning to clean. The guy who had checked the place for damage a week before had told me just to clean it lightly, since they would clean it anyway after I left, so that's what I did. Then Chie and I had lunch together, she walked me to the station, and I took the bullet train to Tokyo. It rained all day.

The rain was heavy when I arrived in Tokyo. I didn't really know what to do, so I just walked to the address of my new place. It was just an apartment building and there was no one around. I called one of the numbers posted for the management and told them I had a reservation for that day. Then I told them I had just arrived so I had no key. Then they understood that I was a new tenant who had no idea what he was doing and they directed me to a main building where I signed a contract an was given a key.

After I dropped off my bags, I went to the new offices of my department, the School for International Liberal Studies (国際教養学部). Our department has just been moved into a huge, brand new building. Actually, the move is still in progress, so there are protective covers all over the floors and the walls to protect the building from furniture damage. (This is a standard practice in any move in Japan.)

Moreover, for reasons that I do not entirely understand the moving company had provided boxes of slippers, one for public use and one reserved for moving company employees, at the front entrance of the building. Near the boxes many people had left their own shoes. I could read the signs and see all the shoes, but somehow I couldn't really believe it. As I was standing there wondering what to do, however, a woman came out of the building wearing bright blue loaner slippers and carrying her own shoes.

So I took off my shoes, put on a pair of general-use loaner slippers and shuffled in, to see if I could get the key to my new office. Our main office, however, was already closed. I thought they would be, but since Japanese work late anyways, I had decided I would go in and see. Actually, I could see people still working through the curtains but they had posted a sign stating that they were closed and to please come back tomorrow. Anyway, it had been a long day, and now I was wearing bright green loaner slippers, so I decided to just call it a night.

No comments: