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Cockroaches, Spiders And Mould, Oh My! August 18, 2007

Posted by Mitch in General, Life in Japan.

Well, it seems like an age since I last wrote an entry – things have been manic. After leaving Tokyo on Wednesday 8th August, I was flown to Yamaguchi Ube airport where I was picked up by a man called Wakabayashi-san and his friend (whose name eludes me), who drove me to Kuga, my home for the next year.

Kuga is situated in Eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture, which lies at the very western tip of Honshu, the main island of Japan. Kuga itself is much bigger than I thought, just going to prove that Japan in general is ridiculously overpopulated. It lies on a plateau and so is surrounded by imposing, tree-covered mountains that get misty with the humidity. The town, although well inhabited, is still very rural with lots of houses doubling up as workshops for local craftspeople. It has an abundance of women’s clothes shops and barbers and its own little station that has a two trains (almost) every hour; one going to Tokuyama (haven’t been there yet) and the other to Iwakuni City. Iwakuni is about 35 minutes east of Kuga and is home to a US Marine Base. Therefore, there are a lot of Americans milling around there and a lot of the people that work in shops have a very basic grasp of English. It’s also just more lively than Kuga is and so I’ve been there twice already on shopping jaunts and just to kill time. Work doesn’t start until 1st September and so I’ve not really got that much to do. Luckily my predecessors have left an array of literature here that I’ll no doubt wade my way through over the course of the year.

On that note, let’s talk about how things started badly. When I first arrived at my new home, all I could focus on was the smell of mould that pervaded the entire apartment. That and I’d not had that much sleep, had travelled well over 13,200km in the preceeding couple of days and was bogged down by the heat and humidity. After Wakabayashi-san and his friend left, I burst into tears because all I wanted to do was leave my mouldy apartment, bid Japan a not very fond farewell and return to my life in England.

The next day, I was transported to Yamaguchi City for yet another couple of days of orientation. I met some more people that live around the Iwakuni area and then all of the older JETs that have been in this prefecture for at least a year. We all went out that night and had a great meal, got drunk and sang karaoke. Just for the record, it seems my new karaoke song is Feeling Good by Michael Bublé. It was actually a lot of fun. However, when I finally got back to my smelly apartment, I rang my mum and burst into another bout of hysterical tears telling her that I was giving it a month and then deciding whether or not to stay for the entire year. What didn’t help was finding two cockroaches on two different nights in my house. Mitch’s Tip: don’t try and drown cockroaches because the little bastards can swim. The first one, I beat to death with a brush and it spilled a lot of eggs out the back of itself. Luckily, that was the one I tried to drown, so the eggs ended up in water and were then washed down the plughole in a very uncerimonial manner. The other one moved too fast when I tried to throw a bowl over it and was caught under the edge and bisected. As it turns out, not even this will kill them as the head end continued to move until that got bashed in. Seems this year will be nothing if not an education in how to dispose of huge bugs!

Just as an aside, to explain the second word in my title – spiders. I don’t kill spiders as a rule in England, because they’re small and do good, i.e. kill flies and other annoying flying things. That said, Japanese spiders are a little different. Well, I’ve only encountered one, and it was small. Some might even say tiny. The reason I couldn’t stand to let it live was the fact that it jumped. Don’t confuse that with moving quickly like a cockroach – the spider that was in my house jumped. Not fast or far enough it would seem, as it soon received a headache from which it was sadly never to recover.

One of the first things I had to do when exploring Kuga was find the station just so I knew that I could escape from this rural ‘paradise’. Since then, I’ve been to Hikari which is an hour west of here and is on the beach. Last weekend, I went to visit my friend Lucy who is living there. There was a beach festival which culminated in an hour and a half’s worth of fireworks over the sea. Then we sat on the beach, drinking, before going back to hers and drinking some more. The next day, she came to Kuga and we threw away a lot of mouldy stuff and generally started making the apartment mine.

This week has had its ups and downs, but I’ve also visited Iwakuni twice. The first time I went, I discovered a huge store that sells electrical things, DVDs, CDs etc. Therefore, I’ve started a DVD collection here in Japan, especially as Japan has the same region code that Britain does, so, in theory, I can take them all back with me when I return next year. There was also another festival going on when I first went to Iwakuni and I took a video of a young guy dancing and throwing a sword around. I also went in search of an internet cafe which I duly found only to be turned away as I didn’t speak Japanese. Yes, Japan is quite xenophobic, but xenophobic in the literal sense – they’re scared of foreigners.

Today I also went to Iwakuni, returning to the electrical store to go in search of a plug adaptor. Basically, I sent over a box full of my stuff that was due to arrive a couple of days after me. That didn’t happen as the box has been continually delayed. It’s now in the country and should be arriving sometime this coming week. Anyhow, I found a plug adaptor and am therefore able to sit here, writing this, whilst stealing internet from an unprotected wireless network in my building – my laptop battery had run out and I had no way to recharge it. However, the irony of this story is that my mum also sent over a package last Friday with some stuff in it for me which seemed to have gone AWOL until I returned from Iwakuni, chuffed with finding an appropriate plug adaptor, to find that my mum’s package had arrived, complete with British-Japanese plug adaptor! Still, if I hadn’t bought it today, I know that mum’s package probably wouldn’t’ve arrived at all.

Anyway, I think that should be enough for the time being to keep you up to date – now that I have an internet connection of sorts, you should expect more frequent posts! I hope everyone is doing well – the weather here is scorching, but not in a good way. Thursday was one of the hottest days they’ve had in a while, apparently. It got up to about 40° and about 70% humidity – not very pretty, I can tell you!

Well, I’m settling in a bit, after a few initial set-backs. I may have wanted to come home, but that isn’t an option, so Japan has me for a year and better take advantage of that situation!

Till next time!



1. Gareth Coffey - August 18, 2007

Jumping spiders, Jesus Christ.

2. Poyns - August 18, 2007


You’re living 35 minutes away from an American marine base… I’d take the jumping spiders to have all-American sailors strolling around!
Hope you’re ok and having a ball… it’s gotta be pretty scary but amazing at the same time right? I’m very jealous!

Oh and Lucy tells me that you have Legally Blonde the musical… “You’ve got the best frickin’ shoes!!!” It’s ace! Nothing better than letting broadway musicals ease you in to your Japanese transition!

Very sad I haven’t seen you before you left! Do please come back next year so we can sing “Omigod Omigod you guys! ”


3. Les Burtenshaw - August 21, 2007

Never mind the spiders and the cockroaches, what’s this about Mick Bubble?

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