Thursday, May 21, 2009


It's been a month now since I left Japan, settling in Boise, Idaho, after more than 32 years in Tokyo. To call it reverse culture shock is unfair, but there have sure been a lot of surprises. Today, for example, I wrote my first paper check in God-knows-how-long, to pay my phone bill.
It reminded me of what I thought I would miss about life in Japan and what I thought I might or might not find back in the U.S. So, yes, doing paper payments is a surprise. I had expected to handle it by Internet or card, and, to be fair, most daily purchases, such as supermarket and other retail shopping, is by card, which is cool. But I pay my rent by check. I pay my phone bill by check. Some smaller shops only take checks or cash too.
I was correct in thinking I would miss the washlet. For those of you who don't know, a washlet is a combination of Western-style sit-down toilet and bidet. Push a button and a little nozzle slides out and squirts warm water on the part you want to clean (there are two positions, so ladies are covered for both functions.) The washlet is a Japanese invention (Check the informative Website at that has been around since the early 1980s, and one I thought would have surely caught on in the States by now. Indeed, it is widely available, but, alas, not easy to find in use, such as in public toilets or in either of the two bathrooms in my apartment. (As an aside, I also miss the separation of commode and bathing equipment that is common in all but the tiniest Japanese apartments. To be fair, I do have a nice tub for a soak, but still... )
Having lived in Tokyo for so long, with the convenience of predictably reliable commuter train and subway and bus services, I am not impressed with a 20-minute wait for a bus (an hour or more on weekends and holidays), but I get around that by having a commuter bike with saddlebags, so I can do most shopping for daily needs by bicycle. And some government offices are virtually inaccessible by bike, which must be hell for the elderly and disabled.
On the other hand, I am still gobsmacked by the choices available at supermarkets, including the kinds of produce like organic veggies or shiitake or ginger, which I half expected would be hard to find. Here in the high desert of the Northwest, I am not sure how much to expect in the way of fresh seafood, but there is at least one market that has fish flown in daily, and I had pretty good sashimi at one of the Japanese restaurants in central Boise so far, which is a positive thing.
I have also been able to keep up my Japanese language at least in casual conversation with people I've met around town (Japanese people).
So far, so good.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Life is different at 2,200 feet than it was at 138 feet. I say this from my new perch in Boise (a river runs through it), after having spent/squandered 32 years of the past 65 in Tokyo. If you had asked me a year ago, or even six months ago, where I would be now, Boise would not have come to mind. Nevertheless, here I am, and it is pretty good. I am gradually settling in at a nice place along the Green Belt, which is the biking/hiking trail that follows the river, and I am just a short walk from a good sports bar with a microbrewery.
I am biking now, since there are no trains and bus service runs every 20 minutes or less. Even so, the Co-op wine store is within biking distance, and they give a special discount to people who go there by bike. Add to that the fact that my bike is equipped with saddlebags that can hold six bottles on each side and I am in good shape.
The balcony is already in bloom with miniature roses and lavender, and the basil and tomatoes are peeking up while other herbs are still waiting to be sure spring has truly arrived.
So life is good, despite adversity and a crap economy that includes unemployment in the 7 percent range for the second straight month. Being thrifty is easier here than in Tokyo. Instead of paying people to take my furniture and appliances, the appliances here, including washer, dryer, fridge, garbage disposal and dish washer, are all part of the rent, and I could furnish the place with very nice second-hand items, including a huge oak, roll-top desk, for very little money (thankfully).
I don't have all the goodies for daily life yet, as my pots and pans are still somewhere between here and Tokyo. But we're getting oriented--or is it occidented?