I said I’d write an update before my flight home. This did not happen. It is already well into the next academic year and I got back from Japan several weeks ago. I can only apologise. Again.
In the previous part of this blog, I spoke about the first 4 weeks of my 8 week internship in Japan. Generally, the second half of my internship was not hugely different. I had gotten used to the food, speaking using my hands more than my voice, and the incessant odd looks, but there were some new experiences. One thing I refused to get used to was how long people wait at traffic lights. Japanese people simply do not cross the road unless their equivalent of the green man says so, even if there were no cars to be seen for the best part of a mile, which would be ok if it didn’t take an age for the lights to change. I was well behaved for the first several weeks, but it wasn’t long before I started gritting my teeth, looking at the floor (so I wouldn’t see all the angry faces), and walking, apparently sending a huge middle finger society’s way by disobeying the lack of green man. In my defence, it was waiting at the lights when I suddenly thought to myself, for the first time ever, wow, life really is short. Coincidence? No. Time to cross the road. Rant over.
I spoke briefly in my last post about the generosity that the Japanese people, including my colleagues, showed towards me. This was demonstrated when Fujitsu forked out a flipping fortune to send me on a domestic flight just to see their flagship PC factory, Shimane. This was arguably the most interesting part of my internship; I was taken on a tour, and it was huge. There were multiple, identical production lines, consisting of interdependent people and machines, and each had strict targets. This all meant, unfortunately, that if anyone made a mistake…well, it was frowned upon.
As September crept upon Japan, with it came the early stages of storm season. Suddenly the bright sun and sweaty humidity became torrential rain, thunder, lightning, and sweaty humidity. Unpleasant, in a word. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, earthquakes started to occur regularly. Yes, they were barely enough to give my chair a bit of a wobble, but still. The ground is not supposed to shake. Several evenings, I’d be reading the news about how angry the Chinese were at Japan, then I’d hear a booming sound, see a bright flash, and the ground would shake. Call me a pessimist, a wimp even, but my subconscious was not happy. It was a scary final 3 weeks.
As everyone should know, the only solution to such a situation is Disneyland. So, I went to Disneyland with 2 other interns. Well, technically, it was Disney Sea, one of two Disney parks in Tokyo, and allegedly the most expensive Disney park in the world in terms of building costs. With the price of land in Japan however, this does not say an awful lot. On the other hand, it has become my favourite place on the planet. It was a crazy melting pot of themed scenery, from beneath a volcano to an Arabian city, but it worked. The whole place felt like a film set and I finally felt I could lay off pretending I’m a grown up, i.e. sing along to the background music and contort uncontrollably in childish excitement. To be fair, I was not out of place; EVERYONE had those Mickey Mouse ears (everyone includes 20-30 year olds), every girl wore red and white polka dots in some form, and every guy had a daft T-shirt.
I think that’s pretty much my stay in Japan covered. Unfortunately, instead of seeing all there is to be seen of Japan, I learnt that travel and work (if office based) do not fit together well. However, apart from awkward showers, getting lost for 3 hours and spending the last 3 weeks worrying China were going to blow me up, it was an incredible experience. Thanks for reading.
Note: the use of “Alien” in the titles of these posts is a reference to the word Gaijin, literal translation of alien and a word used by the Japanese to describe foreigners, frequently directed at me by nervous looking children.