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すみませんお爺さん!I’m sorry, old sir!

February 8, 2010

Well, yes the title is strange, but so was the experience that spawned it.

I’ve been avidly researching every aspect of my new town, down to minutia such as local restaurants and shops. But there was one piece of information I couldn’t locate anywhere: the price of a train ticket into Sapporo.
I thought perhaps I simply was unable to locate the information on the Japanese site because my kanji is still lacking. So to make up for my slack, I asked my friend Mai-chan (日本人) to read the site with me. She was unable to find much information on the trains in town either, so we checked the time, and decided it was a suitable hour to call the Town Center in Atsuma-cho itself!

Mai-chan dialed the number to begin the inquiries.
An obviously aged voice comes on the line and I have to suppress my laughter because of the image I have conjured up in my mind. A perfectly content gentleman of about 65 sits halfway reclined in a desk chair. His office is small, with two windows allowing small portions of darkened snow sky to let in the muted daylight. Blankets of white lay heaping outside the little cabin, making him sleepy and lazy as he lounges, undisturbed, listening to his radio in the corner. Rarely a call interrupts his retiring career as the dutiful Atsuma Information Kiosk Operator, save from his wife, respectfully asking if now is an appropriate time to bring him his lunch. He dozes off, digesting the onigiri and nattou, wholly removed from any aspect of life outside of Atsuma-cho. Then confusion and alarm sweep through his entire being as he hears the words…
“Yes, excuse me sir, but how much is a train ticket into Sapporo from Atsuma-cho?”
“…eh? Why?”
“Well, sir, my friend is coming to Atsuma in March and is hoping to get a solid estimate on how much travel into the city will cost.”
“…eeeh? In March? Your friend is coming to Atsuma?
“Yes sir.”
“..eeeeeh? Where is your friend coming from?”

–We suspect that all of his eeeehing and stuttering was primarily surprise, yes. However, after the initial shock, we speculate he was stalling as he rapidly tore through drawers to find dusty, unused pieces of paper containing tourist information.–

“Yes, sir. She’s an American. She’ll be arriving from America.”
“…….. …….. …….. *GASP* ……. …….. ……. eeeeeh? Amerikajin?
“Yes, sir.”
–Silence. We were afraid he passed out until we heard more papers rustling and his uneven gasping breath.
“Aaaaah, you can get the train in Hamaatsuma… the prices are listed there, at the station. But it isn’t in our town center.”
“Oh really? I see. Thank you sir. Please excuse me. Goodbye.”

Mai-chan and I broke out in uproarious laughter, trying to catch our breath after obviously throwing off this poor ojii-san’s groove. I can imagine the gossip that rapidly swept through the town, heralding my arrival with all the energy and fanfare reserved only for Godzilla.

Now I really hope my placement doesn’t randomly get switched on me at Tokyo training (I’ve heard rumors that this can happen frequently). I would hate to be responsible for throwing that poor old man into such a dither for a false alarm.
I’m sorry, old sir!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Terrence permalink
    February 8, 2010 3:14 pm

    Great post 🙂

  2. February 8, 2010 5:39 pm

    Haha I can just picture it now!

    heeeeeeeeee~? AMERIKAJIN?!!

    You guys are lucky. When I was in Japan everyone used to shout at me “amerika! amerika!”

    I gave them the finger wiggle. nu, uh, children. IGIRISU! Wheyyy. At least I’m not Scottish or Welsh, though. Japanese people seem to think England consists of Scotland and Wales, too!

    I really hope my placement doesn’t get switched, too. AGAIN! I can’t take any more surprises…. >.<

    • February 8, 2010 6:36 pm

      Haha I thought it was a funny experience worth noting. 😉

      (I’m not going to lie, if I suddenly got told at training that I was being relocated to like Aichi or Shizuoka or something, I would be elated! But I’m definitely not expecting it or even hoping for it.) haha
      And after all, it would be a waste of that poor old man’s near heart attack! hahaha

      • February 8, 2010 7:07 pm

        I think here is what should happen:

        You should get a phonecall *Scottish accent* “och, hello, it’s David here from Interac. Were moving you to Agano, Niigata. Och aye the noo!”

        That would be great. Everyone I’ve met going to Niigata so far is male. FEMALE PLEASE!! haha. I can’t go shopping alone~

  3. February 8, 2010 7:40 pm

    Haha hey! I wouldn’t turn that down! (Though I am not at all sure what Och aye the no means!!) haha I can barely understand him at all! haha 😛

    No females at all eh? *siiigh*
    I hope that you have nice colleagues who are younger girls!
    Have you tried to make any penpals yet??

    I have NO idea how many ALTs are in Hokkaido at all. I know the JETs have a pretty intense ALT organization up there; they seem really tight knit. But I haven’t seen any recent news from the HAJET site at all lately.
    I even tried to join a facebook group for Southwest Hokkaido. I posted on it, but no responses. Then I noticed that besides me, no one has posted anything since October 09!!! Gah!
    I know that Jared is going to be in Ikeda-cho… but that’s like 4 hours away by train, and he’s a guy. I’m going to be sooooo lonesome!

    How about this… if you decide to stay on another year, let’s request to be placed in a new city together!!! 😀 Yes?!?

  4. February 9, 2010 12:07 am

    Here’s a site that might be useful for you:

  5. February 9, 2010 12:17 am

    Thanks Philip! 🙂
    I’ve bookmarked it. It’s much appreciated.

  6. Liz permalink
    February 9, 2010 7:28 am

    Hello! I’m an ALT in Hokkaido but I’m leaving Japan at the end of March.

    I checked for you, and it should cost about between 1700-3600yen for you to get to Sapporo from your town., and take about 2 hours. (Sorry if this sounds weird but you said you couldn’t read Japanese and I just wanted to help!)

    Oh, and the sakura in Hokkaido is in mid-May so you will be able to catch it for sure! Do you have any questions you wanna ask me? I’ve been living in Hokkaido since 2007. (I’m not a JET though)

  7. February 9, 2010 8:04 am

    Hi Liz!! Wow you are SO helpful! 🙂
    Arigatou~~! I have a load of questions to ask!
    I’m heading off to bed now, but if it’s alright, I’m going to e-mail you
    tomorrow! I’m sooooo excited to talk to you!
    I really appreciate your comment and your help!
    You’re my sempai!!! Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

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