And So It Begins…

I was going to save my first blog entry for when I arrived in Japan, but I thought that this was worth making my first blog post since it’s Japan-related.

Yesterday, I visited the office of Nippon Express in Portland to get a more accurate estimate of how much it would cost for me to ship some of my winter clothes and gear to my new place in Japan. A man by the name of Tomo Saito contacted me via phone a couple of weeks earlier and suggested that I utilize their sea package「シーパック」which would only cost me about 100 US dollars to ship any-size box (under 30 kilograms) to my new home. Despite this option being slow to deliver (40-60 days to transport) it seemed like the most logical option for me, until I realized the website states they won’t ship valuables such as personal computers, monitors, etc… by boat.

When I arrived at Nippon Express, I was greeted by a middle-aged man by the name of Daisuke Fukushima. His English was quite impeccable, and I almost instinctively thought that maybe he was Japanese, but didn’t speak Japanese. Suffice it to say, I was wrong. After telling Fukushima-san that I was looking for Saito-san, he went to the phone at his desk and proceeded to call him. Being half Black, I think it’s almost natural for people to assume that I don’t speak an ounce of Japanese, but I could understand everything he was saying (despite my limited keigo). I almost felt guilty for eavesdropping.

His desk was probably 20 feet away from where I was standing, and periodically Saito-san would tell him to ask me something, then Fukushima-san would put him on hold, walk over to me, ask me a question in English, then return to the phone to relay it back to Saito-san in Japanese. At one point, he relayed a message to him, telling him that I didn’t have an appointment, but I had spoken to him a couple of weeks ago by phone. Then, there was a slightly awkward pause. I could see Fukushima-san glance at me slightly through my peripheral vision, then I heard him try to whisper「外国人です」. “Gaikokujin” or “Gaijin” is a term used to describe foreigners and/or ‘outsiders’ in the Japanese language.

I wasn’t offended by the term, but slightly taken back at the idea that I’d be referred to as a ‘foreigner’ in the States. Nonetheless, Saito-san was out of the office at the minute, so Fukushima-san was able to answer many of the questions I had in his place. I think I surprised him, somewhat, when I took out my Nook tablet and proceeded to show him the Japanese website I used where it stated that I couldn’t utilize the sea package for my computer. All-in-all he was able to give me a lot of the answers I was looking for and some of the equations and price quotes I needed.

I wasn’t expecting to really write about my Japanese experience until I got to Japan, but the simple fact that I’m already being called a “gaijin” is reason-enough for me to write about this experience. I might as well get used to it, right?

10 more days and a wake-up! :)