Morioka, Japan

Moving to Japan Adventure Part 2

Traveling to Morioka part 2

December 29th, 2017

Disclaimer: This post is pretty long.  You have been warned.

Woke up around 4 am.  It’s a new day and I hope things go better this time around.  I didn’t get much sleep again.  I think I was just anxious to get this over with.  I kept waking up every hour throughout the night.  I don’t know how much longer I can keep up with this whole not sleeping much.  Just have to power through.

Check Out Time

I got cleaned up and around to go downstairs to check out.  At the front counter was the same guy that checked me in.  I started to wonder if he has been working all night.  He was here around 9 pm last night and he is still here at 5 am.  He was able to check me out no problem and gave me a receipt.  I asked him if he could call me a taxi because it was still dark outside and I didn’t want to take any chances of getting lost to Shin-Osaka Station.  He called a few people and it took about 5 minutes or so before he found someone that could pick me up and would go to the station.  Then it was about 5:20 am. before the taxi showed up.  I’m glad I checked out early.  I would be rushing to the train if I tried to check out at 5:30 am.  I got into the taxi and I was on my way.

Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

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I got to the Shinkansen gate around 5:28 am.  The gate was still closed and there was already a line forming.  I guess I wasn’t the only one that wanted to come early.  The gate opened a little after 5:30 am. And everyone started to go through the gate.  Then the shops inside the Shinkansen area started to open up for people.  The 7-11 and all the other shops in the train station didn’t open up till 6 am. So if you haven’t had breakfast yet and you have a ticket for the Shinkansen train then you can get some food before you leave.  I wasn’t the only person that was thinking about getting food for the train.  There was already a line forming at the checkout counter.  I just grabbed a sandwich and a water bottle.  Once I checked out I went to look for my platform.  It was platform 25 and I went up the escalator.  Once I got to the top I had to find my car.  It was car 14 non-smoking area.  It was pretty much at the end of the train and the escalator took me to car 8.  So I walked all the way too car 14.  Since this is the first train that is leaving for the day, the train was already there, ready to go.  But we couldn’t get on the train yet.  We had to wait till 5:50 am.  It was only 5:40 am so I just sat on a bench and just chilled out there drinking my water bottle while I waited like everyone else.  Then finally, it was 5:50 am.  And the doors opened up.  Now I can get out of this cold.  The one thing I forgot to mention in my last blog is that the trains here have heaters blowing inside the train.  I’m not used to having heaters inside trains.  It’s always just AC blowing all the time in the trains in Taiwan.  Even the High-Speed Rail trains only have AC.  So to feel the heat coming from inside the train was wonderful!  I didn’t have to freeze on the train.  It was such an amazing feeling.  Including if you just got done waiting on a bench for 10 minutes in the cold and now you can sit on a nice warm train.  I’m a happy person.  I found my seat and sat down and just relaxed.  The train took off and it was still dark outside so I couldn’t see much.  I started dozing off.  Good thing too because I needed the extra sleep.  By the time I knew it, I was already about to stop in Tokyo.  It’s been already a little over two hours and now I have to rush to find my other train.  I hope everything goes ok.

Finding The Next Shinkansen Train

Once I got off the train I rushed to look for the nearest exit and once I found the exit  I was able to find a staff member and showed him my ticket.  He just pointed in one direction.  Left.  So I headed left and just followed some signs that said Shinkansen South Entrance.  I didn’t know how far so I just followed the sign a then the sign said turn left.  I didn’t want turn left yet because I want to make sure that I was supposed to go left for my train.  I’m trying to avoid getting lost or taking a wrong turn then I might miss my train.  I found another staff member and he said yes, that is where I need to be.  So I kept following the signs and found the gate that leads to the other platforms.  The next platform was 14 if I remember correctly.  I went up the escalator again.  This platform was a bit different.  There are different Shinkansen trains all on the same track and it looks like they are connected.  The Shinkansen trains where all in different colors.  One seat of trains was green, another orange, and so on.  I think these trains break off in different directions later along the way.  Just my guess.  I’m not sure.  I’ve tried looking it up but didn’t find anything.  Just information about the normal trains breaking off on to different tracks but nothing about Shinkansen breaking off.   My train was number 7 and I was in car 6 but I don’t have a seat in this car so I wasn’t sure where I was allowed to stand.  In the Taiwan trains, some people would stand on one side of the car or the other side.  Or if there are a lot of people that have to stand, most people would stand in the aisle way.  Or people would stand by the doors that let you on or off the train.  I didn’t know which one of these would be true for Japan trains.  I decided to just watch where other people went that didn’t have seats.  Most of the people were standing by the bathrooms, trash cans or by the door entrance way.  I stood by the bathrooms with some other people.  This train had different interior design and looked older.  I think the ones that are in the central part of Japan are newer than this train I was on now.  It just had an old look to it and the bathrooms were a lot smaller.  I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to sit on the floor or on our bags or allowed to seat at all.  I waited for some people to sit down first.  The guy next to me sat on his bag and I did the same.  I just had to get up from time to time for the staff that was pushing the food cart through the train and for people that needed a bathroom.  Other than that, I got to sit down for most of the way.  Good thing too because it was 2.5 hours train ride.

Interesting Train Ride

There were a few other people sitting near the bathroom like I was.  Everyone is very quiet, just minding their own business.  This woman that look like in her thirties went into the bathroom.  She had white skin and didn’t look too good.  She was in the bathroom for about 20 minutes.  A few people even knocked on the door to see if she was ok.  No response.  Then a little later, she finally came out.  She looked even worse then she did before.  She was a lot whiter and could barely keep her balance.  She looked like she was about to pass out.  She was swaying a lot from left to right and barely had her eyes open and was moving very slowly back to her seat.  Her husband (just assuming it was her husband, I don’t know) but after about 10 minutes, the man got up and got the conductor on the train.  He told him what was happening to his wife and the conductor went to her.  He moves her slowly to the next car going passed us.  She still looked terrible and could barely walk still.  The conductor had the husband come with her and he sat them in a different seat.  Then the conductor runs to the food cart to grab some bags for the women to through up in and some towels.  The conductor even went back and grabbed their belongings for them.  After he was done taking care of the women the conductor was about to walk by us again then an older man, maybe in his fifties that had to stand up along with us, stopped the conductor and started asking questions about what was going on.  Then the older man started acting strangely.  He started pulling at the conductor’s name tag and said his name slowly, then re-adjusted the conductor’s name tag.  I don’t think this was normal because the conductor looked very confused about what this older man just did.  I even asked about this later if this was a normal thing and I was told it is not normal and it’s actually rude to do that to someone.  So my guess was right about that one.  Then the conductor was slowly trying to inch away from the guy because he is busy and he has things to do.  The conductor also looked very uncomfortable talking to the guy.  When the conductor was finally passed me, the old man realized the conductor had things to do and pats him on the shoulder pretty much saying, ‘it’s ok, you can go now’.  The whole thing was just awkward to see and I felt bad for the conductor.  And here I am, stuck seating next to this older guy for the time being.  Luckily, I don’t know the language and just kept my headphones on and just chill into my little world.

Arrive at Morioka Station

After 2.5 hours on the train, the train finally arrives at Morioka station.  I’m so happy to be here!!!  Finally!!  After all the craziness from yesterday, I can finally see where I’m going to be living at for the next year or two.  As I got off the train the cold air of 30F (-1C) hits me real fast.  I think I’m going to freeze to death here.  I haven’t had to deal with this kind of cold weather since I left home in May 2012.  But this cold air isn’t so bad.  It’s not windy and the sun was out.  The sun helps makes the cold more tolerable.  I started walking and tried to find the exit sign that said, ‘South Exit’.  I found the sign and started following that.  My boss Maggie told me her daughter would be waiting for me at the exit.  I have no clue what her daughter looks like but Maggie said her daughter will wave me down. Since they don’t get many foreigners in Morioka, it shouldn’t be hard to spot me.  Well, I arrived at the exit and I didn’t see anyone waving me down and I thought maybe she is at the south exit doors.  I decide to head downstairs and see if I can find Maggie’s daughter.   I was about to head outside tell I felt another hit of cold wind.  I changed my mind real quick and went back inside and stood by the big windows next to the door.  I kept looking outside, hoping to find Maggie or her daughter.  No luck.  I started wounding if they forgot about me.  It wouldn’t be the first time that someone has forgotten about me at the airport.  When I arrived in Thailand for the first time, the assistance where suppose to pick me up at 8 am.  Well, they didn’t show up till 11 am.  They said they didn’t see me, but I was standing outside in the pick-up area and there weren’t any other foreigners around or many people at this small airport.  But it turns out that one of the assistance just had a hangover and was busy in the bathroom.  Even after they picked me up, they needed to make another bathroom stop and we sat in the car for about 30 minutes before the other assistance got out of the bathroom.

Anyway, back to the story.  As I was still standing by the big window next to the exit, a tall Japanese girl, in a thick long coat and scarf approach me and asked if my name was Arita.  I said yes, and she told me she is Maggie’s daughter.  She said she saw me upstairs at the train exit but didn’t know if it was me or not and didn’t say anything.  And when she saw there weren’t any more foreigners coming off the train, she thought the girl she saw before was probably me.  So she found me by the door.  We went outside in the cold weather to find her mom’s car.  All the cars here in Morioka are either white, gray, or blue.  But most of them are white and gray and are in really good condition.  You would never see anyone driving a junk car.  I was wounding how we are going to spot her mom’s car with all the cars looking alike.  Then I saw a green color car.  It stood out like a sore thumb.  Maggie’s car was about to pull away and her daughter stopped her by hitting the trunk of the car with her hand a few times.  The car stopped and we got into the nice warm car.  Maggie said hello to me and we talked for a little bit as she was driving to my apartment.  She started telling me all about the area I will be living in and where to go food shopping, where to find Starbucks for WiFi, and so on.  She asked me what kind of food I would like to eat.  I told her I eat anything.  I’m not allergic to any food.  I’m very grateful for that.  I’m only allergic to nature, pollen, dust, anything living but not food.  (I’m not joking about anything living part.  If it has skin cells I’m allergic to it, if it has dander, I’m allergic to it.  That means all animals and humans.  Luckily, not so much on the human side but I’m sad about not being able to own a cat or dog.  I love cats).

Ok, I need to stop getting distracted.  I told Maggie about eating anything and she began to tell me about two restaurants that are next to my place.  One is a Japanese/Western-style restaurant and one is Japanese Curry restaurant.  The Japanese Curry restaurant is similar to CoCo Curry.  But it’s a Mo and Pa kind of restaurant.  I’m always for supporting the local shops so I decided to go to the Japanese Curry restaurant.  After a little bit of driving, we finally arrive at my new apartment.

New Apartment

CIMG9606Maggie’s daughter and I get out of the car while Maggie goes to park the car.  The apartment building looked really nice on the outside.  Just your normal single, tall building, with a few rooms on each floor.  If I remember correctly, I think Maggie said this building can hold up to 20 attendants.  I did some research about the rent I was going to paying at my apartment just to see what kind of apartment I might be moving into.  The rent is about 37.000yen ($328US Dollars) a month and from the research, it was going to be a pretty small apartment.  Not much room.  Only room for a bed, desk, closet, and a separate doorway that goes to the bathroom and the front door.  I was ok with that.  From what I read online, it can be difficult to find an apartment on your own if you don’t know Japanese or you don’t have a Japanese friend that can help you.  Also, some places won’t take in foreigners because the landlord had problems with foreigners in the past.  That was the only ideal I had for my apartment.

At my new apartment, there are 6 floors in my place and an elevator.  I was surprised that there was even an elevator in the building.  Usually, single buildings only have stairs.  I was very grateful for that one.  I’ve sent quite a few boxes to Japan that I have to wait another week or so for and having an elevator to carry them up will be a big help.   We get to the 5th floor and we exit the elevator.  We turn right and we pass one door and then we get to my room.  There was a note in the crack of the door.  Maggie’s daughter took it out and read the note.  It was from the gas man letting us know that he was here 15 minutes ago.  She calls the gas man right away and the guy said he will come back in an hour.  We figured we could just go downstairs and eat and wait for the guy there after we are done with my room.   Maggie’s daughter gives me the keys to the apartment.   I tried to unlock the door but I was struggling.  I found out you just turn the key left half way and that should unlock the door.  We get inside and there is a small step but you have to take off your shoes first.  Then to my left, you see the bathroom.  I opened up the bathroom door and that bathroom was pretty small.  Everything is crammed inside next to each other.  I even get a tube.  I haven’t had a tub since I left home too.  It’s nice seeing this stuff again.  When I looked to the right of me, there is a closet where they put two gas cans on the bottom shelf and on the second shelf there are some cleaning supplies and some other random stuff that I need to go through and figure out.  Next to the closet is a washing machine and another shelf above the washing machine.  This shelf had some stuff for cleaning cloths, shampoo, conditioner, face wash, and so on.

We hear the doorbell ring and it’s Maggie.  She just got done parking the car and came right up.  Maggie’s daughter told her about the gas man and what we could do.  Maggie was ok with eating first before the gas man comes.  Then we proceeded to go to the next room.  There is another door that you have to open that takes you to the room.  Once you open the door you will see on the left side is a small kitchen.  It comes with a gas stove top with two burners, a sink, and lots of cabinets that are filled with plats, bowls, containers, cleaning supplies for the sink and supplies to wash dishes.  Then you look to the left and there is a mini-fridge, and another small shelf above the mini fridge.  Next to the mini fridge is a big closet that is filled with hangers and some drowse.  In the next area by the window is a bed, another closet that is smaller, a desk with a chair, a gas heater, and two cabinet drawers.  The place was a lot bigger than I originally thought.

I was very pleased to see my apartment and could not wait to sleep.  In the smaller closet, there were about three big blankets inside and three towels.  I was happy to know I wouldn’t have to go out and buy towels or blankets.  Maggie bought some sheets and pillows for my bed to put on later.  She also bought me water and some tissues.  That was very kind of Maggie to do for me.  Maggie was telling me how we can stop by Aeon Mall later to pick up what I need since Maggie has the car it will be easier to transport everything that way.  Also, we will stop by Big House to do some food shopping and Big House is right across from the school.  Then we hear the doorbell ring.  The gas guy wasn’t supposed to show up till later.  We were surprised and were wounding who would be at the door.  Maggie’s daughter went to check it out and looked through the peephole.  It was the gas guy.  He wasn’t far from my place and he came by early.  We were very grateful and happy to see him.  He checked out the gas level and had a fee ready for the landlord to pay off the final fee for the gas before transferring it to a new attendant.  The last girl gave the gas fee to Maggie already and Maggie paid the man with that money.  After that, I had to sign some paperwork and then the gas man had to show me how to use the gas valve and some safety presages.  He also gave me a brochure that shows pictures and English on what to do if there’s an earthquake, an unusual smell from the gas, and so on.  The gas man showed me these things and it was pretty straightforward and if I ever forget, which I well, I can always look at the brochure for help.  It even comes with a number to call.  Once that was all done and the gas man left, we could finally go eat.  I was starving at this point.

Food Time!!

We got downstairs and turn left and only walked a few steps and there was the Japanese Curry shop.  We go inside and the heat hits me real quick.  It was great. I love walking into a nice warm place after being out in the cold.  There weren’t many people there and we grabbed a table in the corner.  The menu is all in Japanese so Maggie’s daughter started translating it for me.  I got fried chicken that is in smaller pieces with rice curry.  There is a chart on the wall in Japanese telling the level of spiciness they have.  Its all even numbers tell you rich level 15.  From 15 to 20 is a very hot level and in Japanese, it says you could die from this level of spiciness.  I wasn’t sure how spicy it was going to be so I went with level 2.  Then we had to give our order to the women and we waited.  We just talked about the culture of Japan and what hobbies I like to do.  I told her I like hiking and I was hoping I could find a hiking group that I could join.  Even if it’s only all Japanese people, that would be fine.  They can help me learn Japanese.  There are so many hiking areas in the area and there must be hiking group somewhere.  I’ve tried to look up hiking groups online but I couldn’t find anything in the area of Morioka.  I found some hiking groups in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo but nothing here.  Maggie said she can help me find a hiking group that I could join.  I just need to let her know when I’m going hiking and where.  For safety reason and if anything happens she can call the necessary people.  Finally, our food arrives.  The smell of curry from my plate smells amazing to me and I can’t wait to eat it.  I love curry!!  I got our spoons from the small black box next to us and started eating.  It was so delicious!!  The chicken was nice and warm with a bit of crunch to it.  The curry wasn’t too spicy for me and I might go with level 4 next time.

Aeon Shopping Mall

After we were done eating we had to go get some shopping done.  I need a few things from Aeon Shopping Mall and some food from Big Red Store.  Maggie drove us to Aeon first.  She said there are two Aeon shopping Malls in Morioka.  This one is closer to my house and only a 10-minute bus ride from my place.  The other one is in the opposite direction and maybe about 20 minutes.  But that one is bigger and has an H&M inside.  I will defiantly have to check this one out when I have time.  We drove to the Aeon Mall and it looked pretty big.  It only has four or five floors but everything was spread out.  It was your normal mall that you would find anywhere else in a shopping mall.  It had cloths store, electron stores, supplies for the home area, a foreign food store, small food stalls, and so on.  We walked around for a little bit.  Picked up some of my things I needed for my place.  We had a small snack from Mister Donut shop.  I love strawberry everything so any donut and snacks that have pink on it, I know will be good.  It hasn’t let me down yet.

SIM Card (Attempt #2)

We went to the phone areas because I still wanted to try to get a SIM card.  Maggie’s daughter asked the first guy but he didn’t seem to really know and didn’t look happy to be there.  So Maggie’s daughter went to find a different guy to talk to and this guy seemed happy at his job and was able to answer her questions better.  He also said the same thing that the women told me at the airport.  I need a Visa that says 2 years for me to get a SIM card.  The guy even went to ask the boss about it to make sure or if there are any other ways to go around it.  I couldn’t even get a co-signer.  They are pretty strict about the two years Visa.  So now I have to get internet a different way.  Maggie told me about getting AsahiNet.  Most foreigners that work at her school go with AsahiNet.  You order a small personal router that you can carry with you that is only connected to your phone.  You can have unlimited internet all day for just a little over 3,000yen a month.  But you need a credit card or debit card to order it and it takes three days to deliver.  I will have to wait till I can get my Debit card from the bank to do that.  Like I said before, my American credit cards got canceled because I decided to live overseas.  I was told I could apply for a credit card online but I haven’t gotten around to doing that and I just used my debit card from the local bank that I was using in Taiwan.  But I had to cancel that bank account because I moved here.  All I have is cash.  Wish is good because Japan is still mainly a cash country but bad when you need to order things online.

Open A Bank Account At The Post Office

After we were done shopping around.  We got back to Maggie’s car and drove to the Post Office.  I needed to open a bank account there and apply for a Debit card.  We arrived at the post office and went inside to fill out the paperwork.  It was very quiet inside and no one was really loud.  A man helped us to fill out the paperwork and he said I should be able to apply for a credit card.  He said they don’t have Debit cards.  They only carry ATM card or credit cards.  So I filled out for both paper works for both cards and hope things will work out.  We got all the paperwork done and had to get a ticket with a number on it and wait for our number to be called.  This is a pretty common thing in Asia.   You grab a ticket number and just wait your turn.  You can just sit down and relax the whole time.  Our number was called and we gave the clerk my paperwork.  They needed to see my visa card and passport.  They told us that I can’t open a bank card right now because I haven’t registered at City Hall yet.  My ID card would have that information on it in Japanese if I have been to City Hall yet.  But City Hall was closed because of the holiday and won’t open until January 4th.  Even after I apply for a credit card it will take up to a month before I can even receive it.  I think I’m going to be living in Starbucks for about month now.  It’s not so bad.  I didn’t have internet on my phone for about a year when I was living in Thailand.  I lived off the WiFi from school and my place.  But I won’t have WiFi at my place because you will also need to be registered at City Hall just to do that.  So I pretty much can’t do anything till I get registered.  Fun fun.

Big House

We left the Post Office disappointed and I was a little sad that I have to travel for WiFi once a day but when I start work, that might be less.  We got back into the car and started to drive to Big House.  It’s a local grocery store where I can pick up my food after work since its right across the street.  Maggie drove by the school and pointed it out to me but it was dark outside now and I couldn’t see the school very well.  We drove in through the back of Big House because there are more parking spaces there.  We got out of the car and headed into Big House.  It was pretty busy because of the holiday and everyone trying to buy food for the family. It was a pretty big store and it had all the things that I normally eat so I’m ok with this store.  I eat a lot heather now then what I use to and like to cook things from scratch now.  Manly, vegan food because those ingredients are easier to find anywhere in the world.  I just bought some bread, cucumbers, fish, lattice, ginger, tofu, eggs, milk and some rice cakes.  I can make some nice worm ginger soup tonight.  Yum!!!

Back To My Apartment

Maggie took me back to my place and her daughter helped me with my stuff and we took it to my place.  I was able to unlock the door this time without much of a problem.  We dropped off my stuff inside and waited for Maggie to come back.  Maggie’s daughter showed me how to pour the gas in the gas heater and how to do it safely.  It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.  Then she told me some of the numbers that might come up on the gas heater.   For example, it will beep every three hours just to ask me if I’m still using the heater.  If yes, then push the blue button.  If no, then push the turn on/off button.  Sometimes the gas heater will turn off if there isn’t enough oxygen in the air or if there is an earthquake.  If it turns off because there isn’t enough oxygen in the air, I just need to crack the window open.  If it shuts off because of an earthquake, just turn it back on.  Then the doorbell rang and it was Maggie.  Maggie’s daughter was telling her what we have done.   Then not long after, the doorbell rang again.  Who could it be?  Maggie’s daughter looked through the peephole and it was the Postman.  He was dropping off my luggage.  I was so happy!!  The Post Office in Osaka told me it would take two days.   But there was one little problem.  One of the wheels on my blue luggage broke off and cracked the side of my luggage.  I needed to empty out this luggage so they can take my luggage and fix it for free since they are the ones that broke it.  It would be fixed within one or two weeks.  I told Maggie that would be fine.  Not like I’m moving again anytime soon.  I got my clothes out of my blue luggage first just so they could take it faster.  I put everything on my small pink couch and handed off my luggage to the Postman.  He said he was very sorry and left.  After a little bit of chitchat, we said our goodbyes and Maggie reminded me that I need to check my e-mails from her when I can because she won’t be able to call me since I can’t get a SIM card.  Then they left.  I turned on my heater and got around for bed.  I was so tired.  I didn’t feel like putting anything away.  I just needed a nape.  I crawled into bed and took a two-hour nap.  Once I woke up it was about 7 pm.  I started organizing my stuff and putting things away.  I realized I still needed a few more things from the store but figured that can wait and I can just go to 7/11 for that.  After I got all settled in, I put in a movie on my laptop and fell back to sleep.

That’s all for now.  I hope you enjoyed the read.  If you enjoy reading these long blogs for the past few days just follow me so you know when I post a new blog.  Also, if you want to see more pictures of my adventures, just follow me on Instagram or Facebook page or both.  I post more pictures on my Facebook page then I do on Instagram.  Just an FYI.  Have a great day.