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Posts Tagged ‘Living in Japan’

Yosh

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 14, 2011

July 11, 2011

All Pictures

nice day to learn how to drive

Starting Early

I started this process in April when I showed up at a JAF center to get my license translated. I knew that around July all the new JET’s from last year with cars would need to get Japanese driver’s licenses when their international driving permits expire. I wanted to avoid the rush. But things in Japan are never straight forward. It took months to get all my senseless paper work in order.

speed up here?

3 or more years

I first needed to drive through the practice course. To be allowed to do this I needed to find someone who has had a Japanese license for at least 3 years. That eliminated all my JET friends. The ones who have been here long enough, don’t drive.

I needed to find a co-worker to help me. I hate asking my co-workers for stuff like this. They work so hard and are always busy. They usually work 2 or more Saturdays a month, whereas I never work on weekends, so I felt really bad asking this favor. But I needed to get my license. I would have to ask someone to give up a precious Saturday to drive around with me.

So I asked my supervisor. We found one Saturday where we were both free. It was all the way at the end of May. He was a really busy man. I waited until the next time I was able to leave work early then drove over to Oita’s DMV to sign up for time in the practice car.

The DMV is no fun.

Proof of 3 Months

At the DMV I ran into, David. another JET trying to get his license. There was a snag in his paper work. His passport was not proof enough that he had been in the states for at least 3 months after getting his license. You see, the US passport control does not stamp the passport of exiting US citizens. He had to come back later when he had some better proof.

I tried to sign up for practice time, but I was told that I would probably fail if I practiced on my own. I was given the number of Mr. Yano. (I have since lost his number.) I was told to call him and he would teach me everything I needed to know and that he would take care of making the appointment.

Mr. Yano’s help was a bit expensive, but this would mean that I would not have to steal a Saturday from my supervisor. So, I called Mr. Yano and met him one Saturday morning. He didn’t speak English fluently, but he spoke well enough.

Mr. Yano and me

I’m really glad to meet you!

After spending 2 hours with Mr. Yano, I could see why most people fail this driving test. It’s really not a test about how well you drive; you never leave this course, so who knows what kind of bat-out-of-hell driver you are? They test how well you can remember and follow a bunch of silly instructions.

On the first 2 curves of the course, you are not allowed to use your brakes. Mr. Yano said, “It’s dangerous to use the brakes on a curve.” But it was quite safe to use your brakes on all other turns on the course. I also had to break 3 times before really slowing down the car. This is supposed to be a warning for the person behind me that I am stopping. I guess my car slowing down and the brake lights aren’t big enough clues.

I was told that hitting the curb on the S-turn part of the coarse  was an automatic fail. It is better to back up many times. I just had to make sure to do a 5-point yosh before going in reverse.

What’s a 5-point yosh? Well, let me first explain what a yosh is. It is hard for the proctor to see what you have noticed while you are taking your test. So they make you say this word, which shows that you have noticed something. The 5-point yosh is:

  • Point 1 – Look at the left side mirror and say, “Yosh”.
  • Point 2 – Look at the left side blind spot and say, “Yosh.”
  • Point 3 – Look at the rear view mirror and say, “Yosh.”
  • Point 4 – Look at the right side mirror and say, “Yosh.”
  • Point 5 – Look at the right side blind spot and say, “Yosh.”
Mr. Yano also pointed out that I might fail the test if I get my yoshes in the wrong order. When pulling into a lane I yoshed left then right. He said that I must yosh right then left. I also didn’t drive close enough to the curb in certain sections and not close enough to the middle of the road in others. I was taught, in the US to stay the hell away from either the curb or on coming traffic; not so on a Japanese driving test.
If I had not met Mr. Yano I would have failed the driving test and not even know why.

I’m going to yosh the hell out of this test!

Test Day

I showed up early and handed in all my documents. I used old credit card statements as proof that I was in the states for at least 3 months after getting my current Florida driver’s license. Luckily for me, Discover card keeps statement records for up to 7 years and will mail them to you for free once you request them.

First I had to have an interview. The interviewer was a very friendly man, who spoke  English well. He asked me questions about my driving test in the states. It was over before I realized that I was being evaluated. Everything went well and I moved onto the next step.

The written test was made up of 10 questions. They were easy, but I missed some questions because I over analysed them, thinking that they were put on the test to throw me off. I managed to pass with no points to spare.

The next step was my vision test. It was just lights and colors like the vision tests at most DMVs. I passed with no problems.

Then it was time for the driving test. The proctor spoke no English at all. I yoshed my way into the car and yoshed all the way through the course. Half way into the test I realized that I was not paying attention to my hand positions while turning.

Normally I turn hand-over-hand and sometimes I hold the wheel with my palm up for a better grip. These are a big no-no’s. I also notice many other mistakes that I had made, like not driving close enough to the curb.

When I was done, I yoshed myself out of the car. I stood there awkwardly as the proctor sat in the car for about 3 minutes feverishly writing on my evaluation sheet. He got out and, without saying a word, motioned me to follow him.

We got into an elevator and he began to ask me questions in Japanese. All I could say was, “Wa-ca-de-mas sen.” (I don’t understand.) We got out of the elevator and walked to waiting the area. He pointed to a chair and I took a seat.

waiting for my test results.

He disappeared into one of the offices and emerged behind the counter. He started talking to the ladies at the desk while still writing on my evaluation sheet. “Wa-ca-de-mas sen, Wa-ca-de-mas sen, Wa-ca-de-mas sen,” he said to the ladies while shaking his head. “No matter what I ask her, she says, ‘I don’t understand'”.

I felt tired. I was at the DMV since 12:30pm and it was now almost 5:00pm. It had been a long day and I would have to do this again. Near the counter was a bus schedule and I looked at it. My international driver’s license would expire soon, and I might have to take the bus here to re-take this test.

The guy who had interviewed me called me over. He was looking down at my evaluation sheet behind the counter as I walked over to him. “You know, sometimes miracles happen and one happened today. You passed!”

like I’m some sort of baby.

Young Driver

Since my license is new, even though I have been driving since I was 16, I have to put these stupid “new driver” magnets on my car; one in the front and one in the back. Usually, only 18-year-olds have these. This is to let everyone know how inexperienced I am. The only good thing about the magnets is that no one is allowed to drive close to me or cut me off on the road.

People still do, though. In fact the “new driver” magnets seem to bring out the jackass in most drivers. I get tailgated and cut off more now than ever.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and callyourbanktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Department of Motor Vehicle Licensing
(大分県運転免許センター)
(Ōita ken unten menkyo sentā)

How to get there:

  • 33°11’16.8″N 131°38’59.2″E
  • Head towards Park Place, which is near exit #14 on the Oita Express way.
  • Go south of Park place on the numberless road on the map below.
  • You will see a lot of parked cars.

Address:

6687 Matsuoka, Oita City

Phone:

  • 097-536-2131 (ext: 702-245)

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • It depends on how many times you fail.
    • Most people fail several times.
  • 3,000YEN to translate your US license at any JAF.
  • 1,000YEN for the “Rules of the Road” book.
  • 8,000YEN to have Mr. Yano teach you how to past the test.
  • 4,000YEN to practice on the course.
  • 2,400YEN for the application fee. (Paid right before the written test.)
  • 1,650YEN to rent the car. (Paid right before you take the driving test.)
  • 2,100YEN for the registration fee. (Paid after you pass the driving test, if you pass.)

Hours:

  • Mon – Fri 12:30 – 14:00 excluding holidays

Notes:

  • This is for US citizens.
  • Australians and New Zealanders don’t have to take this test; those lucky bastards.
  • You are given one year to drive on an international driver’s license, after that you must get a Japanese license.

Steps to getting a Japanese Driver’s License:

Step 1.

Get your valid driver’s license Translated at JAF. You will need to bring:

  1. This PDF form filled out and signed.
  2. Your current American driver’s license.
  3. 3,000YEN.

You can buy a copy of the “Rules of the Road” book here, if you cannot find someone to lend it to you. You just need a quick read through this book. There is no need to really study it.

Step 2.

Practice: I was given Mr. Yano’s number by the guy at the DMV.

  1. Call Mr. Yano, or some equivalent. (8,000YEN)
  2. Book practice time on the driving course. (4,000YEN)
    • If you hire Mr. Yano or an equivalent, they will make the appointment for you.
  3. Pay close attention. Every little thing you do, no matter how mindless or insignificant you think it is, matters a great deal on the test.
  • Reading the instructions is no substitute for physically practicing the course.

Step 3.

Taking the test.

  1. Make a reservation at your local Department of Motor Vehicle.
    • You will need to make reservations for your first test.
    • If you fail, you will not need to make reservations for your second, third, or subsequent tests. Just show up.

On the day of the test bring the following:

  1. Your current American driver’s license.
  2. Translation of your current American driver’s license.
  3. Your Passport.
  4. Proof that you were in the US for at least 3 months after you got your current license.
    • You can use utility bills, college transcripts (if you just graduated), credit card statements, or whatever you think might be proof.
  5. Your Alien Registration Card also known as your “gaijin card”.
    (外 国 人 登 録 証 明 書)
    (Gaikokujin Toroku Shomeisho)
  6. Certificate of Registered Matters
    (登録原票記載事項証明書)
    (TorokuGenpyoKisaiJikoShomei Sho)

    • You get this at city hall
  7. Photo
    • There is a photo booth at the Oita City DMV
    • 700YEN
  8. At least 6,150YEN total
    • Application Fee – 2,400 YEN
    • Car Rental Fee – 1,650 YEN
    • Registration Fee – 2,100 YEN
  9. An Interpreter
    • Not needed at Oita City

Map:

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Posted in Japan, Kyūshū, Oita 県, Oita 市 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Not According to Google Maps

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 3, 2011

May 1, 2011

All Pictures

A wet morning

Campsite to Campsite

When we finally got to the Kobayashi camp site it was raining and the sun had already set. We managed to find the campsite and a spot to set up our tent without finding the camp office to check in.

We met a Japanese couple who spoke almost no English. They were the only other people at the camp. They showed us where everything was told us that the camp office was closed for the night. They recommended that we stop by the next morning to register and what not.

Those car mats would be complete soaked by morning.

Konsento doko desu-ka?

There was a kitchen area. It had sinks and lights. It was great for cooking, but not for eating since there were no chairs. There was a pavilion where we could sit to eat, but it had no lights.

We had electronics, like my phone, that needed to be charged. The last campsite had an outlet in the bathroom, but this one didn’t. We asked the couple, “Konsento doko desu-ka?” But they told us that there were no outlets.

the one and only outlet

But the place did have lights; they were just not turned on. Mark and I followed the string of lights to where they would be plugged in. At the end of the string of bulbs was a light switch and 2 electrical outlets. We flipped the switch, lighting up the whole camp. Then we plugged in our phone charger. The next day we got up early and plugged in our rice cooker to make rice for lunch later that day in another town.

We sat in the pavilion, eating our dinner in the light we had just turned on. The couple walk past us in the rain, looking a little confused. “How did they get light?”

 

This is what most tourists come to Kobayashi to see.

It’s not just a test! 

The next day we left the campsite. It was still raining. We saw some of the sites of Kobayashi through the down pour.

I have to be honest here. Yes, the town of Kobayashi was located very conveniently along the route we were taking. But the real reason I stopped in this town was for it’s name.

I am a Star Trek fan and I just wanted to say that I have been to a place called Kobayashi. Now if I could only find a place called Maru

tired already!

At least it’s not our own backyard.

After a day of sightseeing and step climbing we were ready to set up the tent and relax at a new campsite. I found one on the island of Oyano. I looked at a map on google and found the campsite.

From google maps, I got the website, address, phone number, and driving directions. I made reservations. I had a reservation number; all I had to do was show up.

We got to the campsite, a lady working there told us that we were in the wrong place. The campsite named on my paper with the reservation number was not here.

“Are you sure? Because google maps, says that this is here…”

The lady didn’t care what google maps was. She shock her head. “Not here”.

We wondered around the island, looking for our campsite. We stopped people walking on the road. Half of them pointed us to head further south, the other half had never heard of this campsite that someone had clearly mis-labled on google maps.

 

This is awkward…

We gave up hope of finding our campsite and just started to look for any campsite as we moved south. We saw a sign in Japanese that promised a campsite on the next island over. So we crossed the bridge.

We drove along the shore until we ran out of road. Then we saw another campsite sign. We got out the car and knocked on the door.

“Konichiwa. Campsite doko des ka?”

The lady beckoned me to follow her. She led me passed a bar in-the-making next to her house as she explained how much this campsite would be per night. She told me where the bathroom was and where to park my car.

She took me to a clearing behind her house. Mark and I stood there in disbelief. We had no chose but to stay.

We set up the tent and made tea for our dinner. As I sipped my tea, taking in the view I turned to Mark and said, “I can’t believe that we drove clear across Kyushu, to end up camping in someone’s backyard.”

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your banktoaskwhatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan. I’ve never been a tourist.)

Suki Suspension Bridge
& Mamako Falls

(ままこ滝)
(Ma mako taki)

How to get there:

  • 32°04’14.4″N 131°05’04.7″E

From Udo Shrine –

  • Get back on route 220 heading north
  • Take a left (west) onto route 10.
  • Keep straight on route 268 which will turn into 221 soon before you have to turn.
  • When you get to the town of Kobayashi turn right (north) onto route 265.
  • Go past road 26.
  • When you get to Suki Post office on your left take a right (east) at that intersection then another right at the T-intersections.
  • Stay on that road and turn right right before the baseball field.

Phone:

  • City Hall 81-(0)984-23-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • 200YEN when open
  • 200Yen on the honor system when closed

Hours:


Inyoseki
(陰陽石)

How to get there:

  • 32°00’58.3″N 131°00’23.6″E
From the Campsite –
  • Get back on route 265 heading south.
  • Follow the signs that leads to the rock penis.

Address:

陰陽石茶屋
日本
〒886-0001 宮崎県小林市東方 3332-5

Phone:

  • 0984-27-3611

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available
Notes:
  • Legend says Inyoseki is where a dragon ascended and fell in love with a beautiful woman.
  • This is a natural rock shape.

777 Steps
in Higashikata Nature Park
(東片自然公園)
(Higashikatashizenkōen)

How to get there:

  • 32°30’18.1″N 130°39’06.6″E
  • Go on route 219 heading west
  • Turn right (east) onto route 3.
  • After you pass route 336 take the next left  (west) turn.
  • Then make a U-turn as soon as you can and go under the road for route 3.
  • Turn right at the end of the road on the left side there will be a bridge and a parking lot.

Address:

This is in the city of Yatsushiro, Komamoto. At  the intersection of Route 3 and Rinkosen

Phone: 

  • (0965) 33-4123

Website:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always availible

Notes:

  • Bring lots of water!

Map:

Posted in Japan, Kobayashi 市, Kumamoto 県, Kyūshū, Miyazaki 県, Yatsushiro 市, Ōyano 町 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Where is my robot butler!?

Posted by Heliocentrism on September 30, 2010

October 1, 2010

The JET Programme Welcome team meeting me at Narita Airport

Miss me?

As you may have noticed, I haven’t updated my blog in quite a while. It’s not because exciting stuff have stopped popping up in my life. NOoooOoo. In the past month, I’ve moved to Japan, bought a car, got 2 new sets of co-workers, moved into a new apartment,…. well the list goes on.

Basically, this is the whole town.

The main thing is that I moved… to a small city in Japan in the middle of rice fields. And I’m still waiting for my internet at home to be connected. There’s a lot of red tape envolved in doing just about anything in Japan and the internet is no exception.

It’s stressful. I’ve gotten phone calls from the internet company where they tell me that they just called to tell me that they will call me sometime later.

JET orientation in Tokyo

Me:                “So you called me to tell me that you will call me some other time?”

Int Agent : “Yes.”

Me:               “So why didn’t you just call me when you were going to call me and not call me to tell me that you are going to call me?”

Int Agent: “What?”

Me:              “Nevermind…”

Int Agent: “Okay. We just want to make sure you understand. We are going to call you sometime later, Ok?”

Me:             “Sure, I guess”

Int Agent: “Okay. Bye.”

It tastes like sweet and minty tomato soup.

So I sit at home eating my Tomato-Mints waiting for the next phone call…

Japanese technology is not at all what you think it is. Most stores do not accept credit cards. My bank card does not work all over Japan, in fact it only works in Oita-県 (県= Prefecture). There are vending machines everywhere, but they don’t sell much that I want to buy.

And there are no robots anywhere! Not one!

*sigh*

And my car is really small…

That’s all the car I could handle.

When the internet people finally call me, not just to tell me that they will call me later, but to tell me that they will connect my internet, I will start blogging again. Hopefully that will not be too far in the future.

“I’ll help you get the internet!”

Posted in Japan, Kyūshū, Oita 県, Oita 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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