Shack No Longer In Japan

I’m home. I left Tokyo at 4pm yesterday, arrived in San Francisco 9am the same day, and promptly raked in buttloads of cash from my lotto and raceway winnings. Living in the future pays off bigtime.

The last week was a whirlwind of work, parties, packing, and goodbyes, trying to get a year’s worth of relationships and stuff ready for a return home. Of particular note: Summersonic, a music festival so sweet it’s going to get its own post once I sort out pictures, and a cool sayonara BBQ at the Invisible Gaijin‘s house. Leaving Tokyo also ended my internship with Naked, but if circumstances are right, I think it could become a longer-term post-college destination.

(photo: farewell party the day before I left, invisible gaijin right behind my head)
Farewell party invisiblegaijin kiyohara

Random observations on being back in America:

  • San Francisco is a tiny town: after a city of 10 million, 700,000 is nothing. I saw something like five or six people I knew over the course of the day.
  • The populace here is generally less attractive. More than pure genetic looks, I think it’s fashion and hygiene. I know it’s hedonistic and less than politically correct, but I miss seeing pretty people all day long.
  • Interaction with service/retail employees is completely different. Rather than the same well-practiced, smiling customer worship you get in Japan, employees range from grumpy, scowling, and jaded to a genuine feeling of friendly human connection. I’m not sure which system I prefer more, but I do wish MUNI employees were like the Tokyo train workers.
  • The city’s sounds are the same way. On the one hand, I wanted to strangle the woman talking in loud cantonese across from me on the L this morning (cellphone conversations on the train are anathema in Japan), as well as the gaggle of rowdy summercamp kids that made many of us on the train reconsider whether we really want offspring.
  • Tips and sales tax really, really suck. The former is a ridiculous system that complicates life without improving service in any way, and the latter should just be figured into the sales tags or turned into a VAT.
  • Food is so cheap! Burritos are pretty comparable in price to a bowl of ramen, but coffee, produce, bread, and cheese, big staples of my diet, are 30-50% cheaper. Also, trains and buses cost maybe a fifth of what they do in Japan.
  • Free wifi hotspots actually exist here. There might have been one somewhere in Tokyo, but I never found it.

In other news, I got an iPhone! While it’s probably not the wisest to put another mode of connection into my already internet-addicted reach, I’m in love with it. Being able to do email, twitter, and other bits and pieces out and about frees up computer time for things that require longer attention spans. I could use some suggestions for headphones and cases, though- the stock ones are crap.