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    Lonely Gaijin

    By Hasselhoff
    Jul 5, '06 10:42 AM EST


    I finished my façade design last Wednesday and gave it to Hiraoka san. So for most of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I just screwed around in 3D Studio Max modeling Ando's Azuma house and practicing rendering. At least I learned some skillz.

    Thursday was my big day last week. My daily quote in Japanese to Yamamori was “I don't know my job.” She cracked up for about 5 minutes. Then I showed her GoogleEarth which commanded about 2 hours of her time. For lunch I went to the restaurant which I will call “J-Tex” with Omar (the Japanese woman from Texas). I was greeted by the staff of older women and her mother said “She is not here (refering to her daughter, Chinatsu). As I was eating, Okaasan walks over and hands me a cell phone with Chinatsu on the other end. She began to apologize for not being there as the older women smiled at me and Omar. After I hung up the phone, Okaasan brought us iced coffee for free. I now get free iced coffee when I go there.

    After work was my welcoming party at a shabu-shabu restaurant. The whole gang was there. Even though I didn't understand about 80% of what was said, it was a lot of fun with everyone laughing. Hiraoka kept making fun of this other guy. He said something like “You two have a similar haircut, but you are handsome and not.” It seems like my social calendar is packed for the next two months, although I don't really know when or where I am actually going haha. I was again told that I am good with hashi (chopsticks) and that I am very Japanese. Quiet. Right... But they said they like it because the Japanese typically find Americans too aggressive. Additionally I was told that I am fashionable and muscular.

    On Friday I went with my coworkers to a Jean Nouvel lecture. He spoke in French and it was translated into Japanese, so I didn't understand anything. Unlike Ito, it wasn't very interesting because his images were just pictures of cities, so you really needed to know what he was talking about. As I looked around, about half the audience was asleep, so I felt ok. The highlight actually was the introduction by Tadao Ando. Of course again that was in Japanese, but it was kind of cool to see “the Master.” He walked out on stage with his 1970s Prince Valiant bowlcut and in a surprisingly high voice layered with the sound of seven packs a day, said Konbanwa, and went into what is gibberish to me. Afterwards Omar and I went with 3 guys to a pub-like place where even oolong tea was Â¥500. Our final bill was Â¥18600!

    On Saturday I was absolutely exhausted and woke up at 10:30 and began cutting Astroturf for the festival. After getting back from lunch, I fell asleep for 3 hours and woke up completely disoriented. On the suggestion of Shoko, Omar and I went to this Italian restaurant a few blocks from the dorm. It was awesome. So much garlic and olive oil. MMMMM! I returned to the dorm and worked with Kaori, Tomoko, and some other girl on making more festival things. I taught one girl the proper usage of “sweet.” This festival is serious. This one guy is making a really cool computer controlled LED table. I finally got to bed at 4:30 am.

    The humidity is finally starting to settle in on Osaka. It's getting nasty.

    I was awake for 38 hours for a “oneday” (charrette). Honesty, I could write about it, but it wasn't overly interesting. Tiring, typical charrette fare, meetings in Japanese, long sleep after. Architecture people, you know the drill. We even had the girl that almost cried because her plots didn't come out. Typical stuff.

    I did ride the train at 6 am instead of 8 and it was much more pleasant, other than the overwhelming reek of digested alcohol on the breath of businessmen. Those guys like to knock them back.

    At lunch I went to J-Tex (I do eat other places, but this one is the only one with interesting stories). I took some Heinz Ketchup and Tabasco Sauce for Chinatsu as a July 4th present. But she wasn't there again, so I left it and a note with her confused mom. Later that night I got a call from Chinatsu, but missed it. Then she emailed me, thanking me very much for the ketchup. THEN she called again to thank me because she didn't think I got the email. I was glad though, because I wanted to be sure the humor translated.

    Finally Hiraoka san gave me a new task at work. I'm designing the interiors of two of the units in the Nakanoshima apartment that I worked on last week. He said to design them in the American style. High rise apartments in the US and Japan aren't actually the much different. From what I've seen, they are nicer in Japan.

    Masako is busy planning a trip to Kyoto for the group. We are going to eat on a yuka overlooking the Shijo River (I think that's the name). I think we will also go to karaoke. They also want to use my gaijin status to get some lucky Nihonjin into Katsura Imperial Villa. It's a several hundred year old compound that requires a reservation. Foreigners can get them in a few days, but the Japanese may wait years. But a foreigner can bring one “interpreter.” I told them that I accept cash.

    I continue to practice my Japanese with Yamamori. I find work an easy place to practice because I have questions, so I just get my dictionary and ask and she tells me if it's right. I usually write it in hiragana, then say it, and show it to her to see if it's right. She said my hiragana is good. Masa said he would help, but I'm afraid he will teach me bad things to say.



    • sporadic supernova

      congrats ... you are a celebrity !! :)

      Jul 6, 06 1:12 am  · 

      how much do you get paid out there doing this???

      Jul 6, 06 1:47 am  · 

      foreigners in japan are often treated as celebrities, especially if from the western world. Is sometimes cool, but sometimes really not.

      work is familiar. i used to be asked to design mansions (japanese apt. buildings) in a british style all the time. but the buildings also had to be finished with tile, were usually 12+ stories high, and units were accessed from long exterior hallways; typical japanese housing typology, but not exactly ready made for inigo-jones-ing. not that i am trained to go that route anyway...being a foreigner in japan sometimes means you are expected to be able to channel every odd bit of your multi-culture...

      question is, what exactly IS the AMERICAN style?

      Jul 6, 06 7:55 am  · 

      As previously mentioned, this is a special program through Yale, MIT and Penn. As far as I know, they do not hire any other foreigners. The three of us are the only non-Japanese in the company. But the answer is Y140,000/month <$1400/month. But this was never about money. It's basically a free trip to Japan for three months.

      Jul 6, 06 7:57 am  · 

      for those who are interested, when i started working in japan about 10+ years ago I was paid approx $2000-$3000/month (dependent on overtime) plus two big bonuses (usually 3-5 months salary) per year; as a starting intern in a regular, slightly design-y, 15 man office.

      i don't know what is normal anymore, but my (licenced!) friend who works for a starchitect in tokyo earns $1400/month plus bonuses. I suspect he doesn't get paid overtime, and know he works about 12-16 hours per day.

      to give some perspective my 80m2 flat 20 minutes from the centre of tokyo costs $1000/month (which is very cheap), and expenses are several times that. I am not sure how my young architect friends are surviving, but suspect that they have help from parents or are living in somebody's closet to save cash on rent...;-)

      Jul 6, 06 8:19 pm  · 

      Pocari Sweat Ion Water tastes like Pocari Crap. Those extra calories are TOTALLY worth it in the name of delicious flavor.

      Jul 7, 06 2:00 am  · 

      They definately take that festival very seriously. The night of the big after party when it is finished is a bit lord of the flies like. Just sit back and watch, it is pretty amusing.

      Jul 7, 06 6:42 pm  · 

      I can only imagine. These dudes sometimes seem really repressed. I'm interested to see what will happen. The Macho Dance should be a sight. I want to see the bands play. I saw them setting up last night and they are really talented. Although I don't know when I will be back because I'm going out with Chinatsu. The festival is going on right now, and I just had to get out of there for a minute. The constant group-identity really drives me insane sometimes. There are like 9823498324 little kids running around, all terrified of me. And there is this one perpetually drunk Takenaka guy that keeps harrassing me to help with his food stand. #1 It's on the roof and it's about 98234 degrees up there. #2 There are already 4 people working the stand. #3 There is no one up there eating.

      Jul 7, 06 10:20 pm  · 

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