My previous blogs have never been about travelling but this time, I just can't resist myself... I want to write about my travelling to Japan.
I am writing in the kitchen of my sister's house in Chiba over a cup of coffee with baked sweet potato breakfast. This is my second time here, the first trip earlier this year disrupted by tsunami thus less enjoyable.
I am here to be with my sister who just gave birth to a baby girl, Maya Murakami, three weeks ago. I am supposed to take turns with my mother in assisting her with housekeeping, cooking, baby sitting and keeping her sane during the first one month after delivery. Malaysians would call me the confinement lady, Indonesians would call me Inem and the Japanese would call me the lovely sister...
Since I am here on a mission, not for sight seeing, I practically spend my days at home or at grocery shops. We live in the outskirt of Tokyo so I rarely see any foreigners or anyone who can speak English. Although I had Japanese language for 2 years during my high school, I lost them all. I am dumb and mute in Japanese now and I accidently left my Japanese phrase book in KL. So, my first trip to grocery shop made me nervous.
I love grocery shopping in foreign countries. I enjoy looking at the fruits, vegetables, meats, dried goods, and other things that I can't find at home. Everything here is pre-packaged and labeled. I can't find any weighting machine there. Onions, spinach, gingers, fish, fruits are all cleaned and wrapped, so I can just grab and go. All beef is boneless, sliced thinly and has light pink colour due to the high grade of fat marbling. Chicken is cut into parts and mostly boneless. I can't find whole chicken. The only chicken part with bones is chicken wing thus it's quite impossible for me to make tasty chicken broth. I had to settle with ready-made chicken or beef stock.
When I approached the cashier, I got panic... She mutterred something in Japanese and I couldn't understand. I told her, "Nihon go wakarimasen." meaning I don't understand Japanese. But she keeps on talking until I paid, took my change and the goods that I bought. When I told my sister about this, she asked me to ignore it. She said all cashiers mutter some welcoming sentences and have standard questions that need answer yes or no. If I ignore it, it means no. she also needs to tell the price of each item when it's scanned thus making her talking non-stop. That's a new experience for me compared to the Malaysian cashiers who do not even look at me, keep her lips tight throughout the scanning, paying and putting the goods into bags.
As a muslim, eating out is very difficult. Tokyo has few halal restaurants serving mostly Indian food. I can't find any halal restaurant in our area except for sushi shops. Sushi here is more expensive than it is back home and I can't eat sushi all the time. I don't want to go back to KL with scales and gills. Most of Japanese foods have pork elements in them, from ramen to bento to curry to instant noodles. Yes, we can get shrimp and vegetable tempura but to eat that everytime we eat out is like putting more oil into my already oily scalp... yuuucckk.!!
I use buses and trains everywhere. They arrive on time up to the minutes. There was time when I waited for a bus that should arrive at 8.24pm and the bus didn't arrive at 8.25. I began to panic thinking I must have stood at the wrong station. Then when the bus arrived at 8.26, the driver apologized again and again and again...
I notice that nobody travels in group. Everyone gets on and off the buses and trains alone. Nobody talks, eats, chats, laughs, giggles or even whispers in buses and trains. Everyone is either reading, sleeping, texting or playing with psp, oblivious of the surrounding. I am amazed on how those who are sleeping on a train can wake up just in time at the designated stations. I think even the biological clock of Japanese bodies are fully tuned to be on time.
Everything is done following procedures and rules, accurately...
I don't know how long I can last in Japan until someone reports me to the immigration and deports me. I love whole chicken, with bones, head and feet. My brother-in-law will faint if he finds some chicken feet stew on the diner table. I am a self-confessed foodie in KL but here, i stare at restaurant menus, don't know what to order.. I am not always on time... I have missed few buses by few seconds. I am a rule breaker, jay walking near traffic lights. I chat, laugh and giggle in trains and buses with my mom and sister.
I am really an alien here... A happy and legal one.