First Home Leave

It’s Obon Week in Japan, so I went back to San Diego for a week. I flew from ITM to NRT and then took a direct flight from NRT to SAN on JAL. JAL is using a 787 plane between NRT and SAN but the configuration of the business class is an older one. The seat doesn’t lie flat. It was okay but wasn’t comfortable to sleep in. I lay down for a few hours. The flight was under 10 hours. I got in to San Diego around noon and took Lyft home.

On Wednesday, we went up to Napa for a night. We flew up to Oakland and drove to Napa. We stayed at the Silverado Resort and Spa. The room at the hotel is like an apartment but old. We went to two vineyards (Raymond Vineyards and V. Sattui Winery) for tasting. We went to Raymond because the hotel gave us a coupon for 50% off. The interior of this place is very interesting with a circus theme. The wine was good as well. V. Sattui is one of my favorite vineyards, and I especially like their Riesling. We ended up buying a case of wine from them. For dinner, we went to Bistro Don Giovanni (Italian). I found it on Yelp. The food was good.

I came back to San Diego on Thursday night and flew back to Osaka on Friday. On the flight back to Osaka from San Francisco, it was pretty empty. Back to hot and muggy weather in Osaka.

My Stuff Has Arrived (August 4, 2016)

Almost seven weeks later, my stuff arrived from New York. I got an email a few days earlier notifying me my stuff were ready to be delivered. Here are a few things I learned:

  • One of my colleagues had to be here with me to communicate with the movers as they didn’t speak English.
  • I didn’t have to reserve an elevator or notify my building about the delivery (unlike my building in New York where I had to do both). Once the movers got here, they communicated with the building management directly and prepared the move. The movers had to put protection on the floor, some walls, hallways, and some corners.
  • Originally, two movers came but they realized they needed more help with the delivery and unpacking (as they spent too much time preparing for the delivery). I had about 30 boxes delivered (including furniture). Two more movers came to assist with the unpacking.
  • They had a good system. At the beginning, they gave me a copy of the inventory I made during packing in New York. They asked me to identify the location for each box in advance. After they completed putting up protection, they started bringing up boxes. They told me the number on the box and I had to tell them which room I wanted the box moved to. For furniture (packed in boxes), they unboxed them outside my apartment and assembled them in the apartment. They said they studied instructions for my furniture and TV prior to delivery, so they knew how to put them back together. Everything was fine except they couldn’t put together my bed frame. They said it’s missing a piece of a screw. They had to ask someone else to come in and fix it later.
  • They took out all the empty boxes from my apartment.
  • At the beginning I was worried that my apartment wouldn’t fit everything I brought from New York. But everything fit nicely and it wasn’t too crowded. Since they unpacked and took care of all the empty boxes, I didn’t feel overwhelmed with the unpacking. It took them about 4 hours to finish everything.
  • I felt like one box was missing but I couldn’t confirm. I couldn’t find two things I thought I packed but the mover delivered everything (I think).
  • I finished unpacking most of the boxes that night.

First Hair Cut in Japan (July 23, 2016)

I usually get my haircut about every six weeks and it was time for another haircut since I got the last one a week before I left New York. A consultant found me a place in Namba with an English speaking stylist. I checked out their website and it looked like it targeted foreigners. I shared it with my colleagues and one of my colleagues found me another salon close to my apartment to consider as another option. She said I might feel more comfortable with a smaller salon. She sent me the info of the salon with a phone number so I called the salon on Thursday evening to make an appointment. The person who picked up the phone spoke a little bit of English so I made an appointment for 2 PM on Saturday. He did ask me if it was okay that he only speaks a little bit of English and I said it was okay.

The salon is called Atelier Staens and it is located in an historical building. The building is pretty old and charming. I had walked by it many times but didn’t know that there were many shops inside as I thought it was just a coffee shop. The salon is on the second floor of the building. It is a very small shop – with only two chairs with a really cool old school design. The owner (the same guy who picked up my call on Thursday) looks just like a regular Japanese guy. He seems nice and speaks a little bit of English. He has an assistant who mostly washes hair. There was another customer getting her hair cut when I got there who spoke some English as well and seemed curious about me so she helped with the conversation sometimes. I was a bit nervous about the hair cut because it was my first time with a new stylist and in Japan.

The stylist turned up the music a little louder when his assistant was washing my hair. I thought he did that so we don’t have to talk as much but I tried to have a conversation with him anyway. He said he cuts hair and does make up for mostly European female models.

The assistant was very gentle with my hair during washing. She washed it three times with shampoo and conditioner.

The stylist asked what I wanted to do with my hair. I showed him a few pictures I found on the Internet – short hair with small bangs. He looked at my hair and said “balance” and started cutting. At the end, it was pretty short with some bangs. It thought it looked fine. He said it would last about 4 weeks. It was a bit expensive – around JPY 7,000 with taxes.

Gion Matsuri in Kyoto


It was my first time attending the Gion Matsuri on July 17, 2016 in Kyoto.

I left home at 7:30 am and took a train to Gion-Shijo Station in Kyoto. It took about an hour from Yodoyabashi Station.

When I got there, I stopped at the Visitors Information Center at the station to grab a map of the matsuri.  The person at the center recommended that I watch the floats at the street corner to see all the turning. I tried to go to the corner of Shijo and Kawaramachi but couldn’t get in, so I kept walking north.  I settled at the corner of Kawaramachi and Oike across from the City Hall. I got there around 9:30 am. The first float didn’t arrive until around 10:30 am. By that time, it was packed. I watched the floatsfor about an hour. My feet were so tired, so I started walking back.

After the parade, I explored the area, had lunch at Ootoya, and went back to Osaka around 4 pm.