A lot has happened since the last update. Did a couple drift schools and an event at Evergreen speedway. I'm getting better, but won't be able to practice for a while. Another big update is that I passed my General Exam which brings me 1 step closer to becoming the "Doctor" portion of the title "Drift Doctor." It was pretty difficult but I managed to survive, so I can "relax" for a little bit right now at least--which is good because right after I passed my exam I went home to pack up all my things to catch the next flight to Tokyo to start working on a research project there.
The flight departed at around 1:30pm on the 30th, took around 10 hours of travel time through 16 time zones to arrive at around 3:00pm the following day. The flight was crazy long, but the fact that there were a few movies to watch helped to pass the time at least. The flight contained the usual being surrounded by 10000000 screaming babies and a new experience in that the stewardess asked if anyone was a doctor/physician/nurse on board to help somebody dying or something I guess. We were around 4 hours into the flight and the person must not have been that bad because we didn't turn around and there wasn't any panic going on.
Japan from the plane is very green and looked very rural with lots of rice fields and farm plots all the way to Narita airport. I arrived at the airport and had to get through swarms of people (immigration/customs/etc.). First thoughts after getting off the plane is CRAZY HUMID, I was wearing a jacket and started sweating right away. Lots of kinda high-tech stuff around, as you're walking there's an infrared camera that's measuring your body temp to catch people with swine flu or something, and digital fingerprints and a mugshot are taken before you can enter the baggage area. I was pulled aside during this process and taken into a room surrounded by frosted glass because I didn't haven enough information related to my visit. I had a phone number they could call though to find out all my details so I eventually was able to get through this process. I picked up my bags and then the culture shock started to kick in.
I had to make a phone call to say that I missed the first bus departing time and that I'd catch the next one. That means I needed to get money, so I went looking for an atm and eventually found one but it only dispensed 10000 yen bills. Then I had to get it broken down into smaller bills and coins to make the phone call. Then I had to make the phone call using a phone with 10000000000 buttons and nothing in English. Eventually managed to buy my bus ticket wait a bit outside in the gray and took the bus for an hour and a half to the city I'm working in. There was someone to meet me and gave me a packet of info and keys to my new place--we went to my new place and it's pretty nice. It's very clean and simple yet pretty high tech. It was super hot and humid when I went in but there's AC so I turned that on which can only be done with some fancy remote thing. There's panels all over the walls to control floor heating, building door functions with intercom and video, and a few panels for the bathroom which were the most interesting. There's a digital control for hot water temperature outside the bathroom and buttons for turning on fans, ventilation, heat, and drying. There's also one of those seemingly robotic toilets too. Overall it's a pretty nice setup.
A few things I noticed on the bus ride over here is that all the roads here are completely pristine. Everything is perfectly smooth, lines and stuff are all there and look pretty fresh for the most part, which is in direct contrast to the absolutely HORRIBLE roads that exist in the usa. You would think with all the seismic activities here that the roads would be cracked all over with lots of potholes but that isn't the case. Another thing is that ALL the cars and vehicles here are PRISTINE, I was amazed at how basically every car in the road is super clean and shiny and in amazing condition--even the junky little econoboxes. Then I think I noticed why this is the case at one of the gas stations there are attendants that were wiping down everything on the cars that were getting gas, pretty amazing. Other things I noticed were that the landscape is super green, it's almost like a jungle / forest here with tons of bamboo forests everywhere--and not the cheesy little bamboo plants people have in America but giant bamboo trees with stalks that are 4" wide or more. Lots of rice farms everywhere, and also a lot of traditional looking houses I've noticed with little courtyards and the ornate asian pointyish roof architectures.
A lot of the stores I passed by or whatever they are were massive also, bigger than some of the biggest Costco / Target / Ikea shops in America. Tons of little noodle shops everywhere and lots of bicycles and scooters--lots of heavily modified scooters too. It was getting fairly dark by the time I arrived but these are some of the things that caught my eye on the way. I'll be sure to take some pictures of my observations later.