Having settled in a bit into life in Kyoto, I feel like I can finally wrap my brain around some of the experience…and, well, now actually post, because I have worked out a better means of getting online.
Telecommunication has been probably the most difficult thing to figure out for me so far. Not the food (it’s mostly delicious), not the customs (bowing is really good for the back), nor the language barrier (which is vast but, at least, I have a good enough grasp to do a little more than just get around). The most difficult thing I’m having to adapt to is figuring out the best way to stay in touch with home.
Though in China I had a cellphone, in Japan mobile numbers a heavily restricted to one number per person- at least, this is what I have come to understand- so I can’t get a phone. I don’t have regular Internet at my house, which was expected, but there’s no landline phone from which to call so to make calls home I have to head to the train station and call from a phone booth. At least the one booths aren’t extinct here yet.
This morning as I was calling home, an older man pulled up on a bike next to the booth, pointing at the phone, and I gestured for him to wait. When I got off the phone, I told him I was calling home and he asked where, telling me he was calling Hawaii. I guess that explained the Hawaiian shirt.
My host mother has no TV but this is good because we just sit in the dining room kitchen and talk in the evening. Her radio is constantly running the English lesson station. The shows repeat over and over again, and I am curious how many people are practicing this week’s dialogue, “Don’t drink my blood!” Fortunately I got to recycle it in a dialogue of my own in this week’s Japanese class when we had to write about the Japanese system for gauging personality types by blood type.
Eventually we were given access to wifi at the school, so everyday, like myopic pups, the other students and I get to school bright and early to have a drink at the invisible teets of delicious wifi internets. I’ve found 711 lets me, at least, email with their wifi. Their main local combini competitor Lawson’s requires an app and a registration by mobile phone. You can also access the net via wifi at many Kyoto bus stops, yet in a catch 22 to access the free city wifi you have to email the city, which requires Internet to do…Yet it turns out that the mountain that I live near has free wifi, so I can now get online at Arashiyama, a green paradise just outside the city.
While exposing how my own addiction to the Internet has developed since my last stints abroad, my frustration with the lack e-communication reveals a bit more about my assumptions about Japan. So often in the West, we see Japan as some sort of technophilic paradise, yet actually being here the struggles between technology and tradition, class, and economics are just as evident as in the States, if not perhaps, even more pronounced.
I think this is especially true in Kyoto where the struggle with tradition and progress are in constant tension. The myths of a futuristic metropolis fight with the nostalgic edens nestled away in temple gardens. Not every bus can transform into a monster fighting robot. Not every temple is haven for transcendental meditation.