Our moderately absurd gap year has finally come to an end – all too quickly I might add. In just a couple of days we will be heading back to Adelaide, Australia.
This year we’ve had a blast in Japan! We’ve eaten lots of great food, improved our Japanese (even Nicewife), spent precious time with friends and family, done some interesting work, travelled a little, and made some mistakes.
Together we’ve laughed and we’ve cried. Well… we’ve cried at least. Thank you, dear reader, for sharing our adventure, and may you continue to discover things in your own life that are neither mundane and ordinary, nor completely crazy, but perhaps just Moderately Absurd!
Despite poor economic times the number of convenience stores in Japan continues to grow. The sale of snacks, cigaretts and alcohol truly is a recession-proof industry.
There are 10 convenience stores within a 10 minute bicycle radius of my house. The most prominent chain around here is 7-Eleven, which has over 40,000 stores around the country. But what really takes the biscuit is this quiet nearby street featuring not one, but two 7-Elevens within 60 metres of each other.
If you stand somewhere in the middle you’ll have 7-Elevens at 7 o’clock and 11 o’clock respectively. Ladies and gentlemen, we have crossed from the realm of convenience to that of absurdity.
P.S. If you want to find out why Japanese convenience stores are just so damn great check out this post over at This Japanese Life.
Today is an historic day for Nagoya train nerds. The Atsuta Jingu Mae level crossing is permanently closing, and little wonder too. It crosses 8 tracks (4 JR tracks and 4 Meitetsu tracks) carrying a total of 1,300 freight and passenger trains per day. This means the crossing is open for an average of only 1 minute 14 seconds in every hour.
Other peculiarities that have train nerds foaming at the mouth are the pulley-operated rope barriers that are manually lowered and raised by station staff, and the island in the middle where one can end up marooned when both halves close at the same time.
Yesterday my father-in-law made a stealth purchase. He didn’t tell Nicewife or I about his plan. He didn’t tell his wife either. He just casually rocked up at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon with a Porsche, parked it, and went inside without any comment.
Thanks to the fact that older cars rapidly depreciate in Japan he bought this 1992 Carrera, with only 66,000km on the clock, for a fraction of what it would have cost in Australia. At least now the question of whether or not he’s in the midst of a mid-life-crisis is well and truly settled.
It’s taken a long time for self service petrol stations to take hold in Japan.
When I was last living here some 7 years ago they were still the exception. Filling up at a full service petrol stations became something that I quite enjoyed at that time, which is surprising considering the sentiment most people hold when paying for a cartel-controlled overpriced daily necessity. At Japanese full-service petrol stations not only do you not have to get out of your seat, but the service extends to cleaning your windows and side mirrors, filling up the tank, emptying your ashtray and taking any other rubbish off your hands, taking payment and giving change without leaving your seat, and even safely directing you back onto the road when there is a gap in the traffic.
Fast forward 7 years – the economy is down and cheap self service is king. But in typical Japanese style they haven’t done it half-heartedly. Today I stopped at a self-service station. There is a touchscreen terminal at the pump at which you place your “order”, pay in advance and fill up. After the machine determined that my tank was full it forced me play a slot machine game. Three wheels started spinning on the screen and the only option was a large “stop” button. I touched it and the wheels slowly span down (wasting valuable time while the person behind was waiting to fill up) and stopped on 777. They ALWAYS stop on 777. My prize was then announced: a discount, not for today when I actually need it, but for when I come back next time. Hmph.
After the mandatory slot machine you are then presented with a receipt with a barcode. You take that to another machine located literally 2 metres away from the pump where you paid, and you scan the receipt for your change to be dispersed into the tray underneath. The whole process takes far too long – but the mandatory slot machine is what I think really makes this Japanese self-service petrol stations absurd.
Given that you usually only get married once, you want that special day to be memorable. One way to ensure this is to get married at this beautiful and expensive little wedding chapel in the south of Nagoya.