ONE HEART, ONE SPIRIT, TO INSPIRE
Well said it’s a lot of things to learn and adapt when you live in another country. You must learn and make yourself comfortable with whatever the conditions of the new place you are in, no excuses! Somehow, at first it frustrated me a lot. Such big differences I found between this country and my country, though actually most differences are into the positive ones for myself. Japan and Indonesia, a developed country and a developing country. That’s the first difference. Seems a simple difference in terms but such a huge difference in many ways, especially in the system, environment, and of course, habits. Next, Japan and Indonesia, a four-season country and a two-season country. Another hit for me as a new resident here. What about those two differences? A lot of things for me! 😀
It’s undoubtedly something very familiar for people to know Indonesia, specifically the capital city of the country, Jakarta – where I am from, for its traffic jams, pollution, over-crowded yet attracting city to visit. Yes, Jakarta is the city where I have been living in, since I was born to earth until now, and I feel like there’s nothing more than it that I love being in…. Jakarta, a city which never sleeps, they say. The hustle and bustle of the city makes it never sleeps, 24 hours. The traffics and buildings seem like keep operating 24-hour non-stop. There are always people coming to Jakarta looking for fortune, as there are lots of office buildings, schools and other places where vacancies are available for those who are qualified enough for the positions.
In spite of those, what’s more about this city is the traffic jams that are unavoidable all over the roads in Jakarta, especially during weekdays and in the areas of where offices are located. It’s something common to spend an hour or two only to get to short-distance places if you transport from places to places by public transportation or with your own car. For me, it’s always the first choice to mobile by riding my motorcycle for it saves time, money, and energy. Moreover, do not to forget the air and sound pollutions that are always in everyday activities in the city. Riding my motorcycle saves me from those pollutions for a longer period of time on the traffics of the city.
Jakarta, the whatever-is-available city. I can find the cheapest foods sold in small shops until the most expensive ones in the five-star restaurants or hotels. Or the cheapest items sold at the sidewalks until the costly items in the malls or branded shops. Schools, ranging from the state until the prestigious ones, public favorite spots to spend the weekends with friends and family, and lots more are there in the city. All I knew much was only about this city. Never had the intention to know how living in other places until it’s my destiny to have an experience here in another city called Higashi Hiroshima in Japan, 7,5 hours by plane from Soeta, Jakarta airport to Kansai, Osaka airport and continued by 6 hour-trip by bus.
Higashi Hiroshima is now a part of my current life. It’s a small, quite city where the air is so fresh and refreshing, the traffics are so empty, the environment is so relaxing, the population is few and the friendly atmosphere in it. Don’t expect to find any traffic jam here. It won’t happen. How come? Cause there’re few cars here. Most people mobile by motorcycles, bicycles, or buses. To transport to other cities, people here usually take the trains, the most widely-used transportation to get to other places around Japan. The trains in this country are very comfortable, such a big distinction with the trains in Indonesia, especially for the regular trains which stop at every station. The comfort isn’t only found on the trains but also on the buses. The seats are classified into the regular ones which all people can sit on, and the ones for people who are elderly, pregnant, and with disability. To my surprise, people here really sit referring to the seat classifications which consequently, is also applied for foreigners who live here, including me, of course.
In this city, many people, especially students and people near the campus area, including the elderly, also travel by bicycles. It’s something common to go to a 3-kilometer-distant place by bicycles, even sometimes more than that (and I am into it! J). The motorists also know who are into the priority. Pedestrians are the most respected ones, followed by the bicycle riders. All motorists should prioritize them when it comes to the rules at the traffic. Usually cars, even big trucks will stop when there’re pedestrians or bicycle riders want to cross the streets at the zebra cross. Even if the motorists’ distance is still very far with them. If you’re tired riding, you can just take the bus within the city. However, there’s a schedule for the bus arrival at each bus stop and we should be ready at the bus stop at least 10 minutes ahead so we will not miss the bus. All public transportation modes in this country are nation-widely scheduled for the comfort of the people itself. Even we can check the schedule of the trains using the application in our phone or search it on hyperdia.com. Way to go!!
That’s just a difference in terms of transportation modes between Jakarta and Higashi Hiroshima. What about the environment or situation of the city? Well, sadly said (or should I say, happily?), it’s the contradiction of Jakarta. Public places like malls are limited here, and it’s more likely to be called places to buy our needs only. Only one or even nothing for entertainment, such as cinemas or places for children or adults to have fun with machines as in Timezone, in Jakarta. To make it more dramatic 😀 , many public places like restaurants, malls, markets operate only until at 8 pm. Hayai ne! (So early, isn’t it?). What are the reasons behind it? I think it’s because people here are very busy doing their routines that they don’t have much time to just window-shopping during their busy time and they prefer releasing their exhaustion by going to karaoke or drinking with their friends. For children, they are educated in schools and homes to like reading books and love the nature, thus, parents usually take them to the bookstores or parks nearby during weekends or days off. Isn’t it a high-quality way to spend the spare time for children? 😉
Pollutions? No way! You’ll only feel fresh air everyday here. The birds are freely fly near the people here. They chirp in the morning until noon. The ducks and Koi fish swim and have quality time in the cleared-water rivers or lakes. People really preserve the environment here. A very scarce experience to find any trash along the road, or I can say, if there’s a trash on the road, I may suspect a foreigner does it, not the Japanese. Because even for throwing trashes here, we have to put them into the correct trash bins or plastic bags. You cannot just put the whole, any kinds of trashes into one bin or plastic bag. If you do so, it will result your garbage will not be collected by the garbage men. It will stay at the garbage post for long. It’s all related with the systems of the city.
Everything is well-systemized here. If you are a new resident, you have to report yourself to the city hall and your country’s public counselor. If you change address, you also have to do the same thing, report to the city hall and inform the change of address to the banks where you have accounts, plus your phone carrier. All of them seem complicated at first but well worth it after that, because all the mails sent to you, information, and the bills should be paid refer to the our data base in the city hall and those places. Payment methods are well-thought here. All bills are paid through direct deduction of the balance in our bank account or at the combini (as 7-11, family mart, Lawson, etc) or using credit-card when it’s online shopping. So simple and effective, isn’t it?
Living in Japan means also dealing with many cards, the cards for transportation modes, university life, and public places. There are cards for passengers of trains (example, ICOCA which is useable all over parts of Japan) and cards for buses (such as PASPY which you can only use in Hiroshima area because each area has different type of bus card). It’s recommended to have these cards to save time as we don’t need to go to the ticket machine before taking the trains, or busy preparing certain amount of money to pay the bus fare, as long as you have enough balance in the cards.
When you buy something at shops, they give you points and later you can get presents after collecting some points. To get the points, you have to own the membership card (for free) of each place. So now you can imagine how many cards you’ll have if you shop at different places and have all membership cards. :p
Of all the good points that Japan provides, there’s always something that a foreigner (read: ME) feels bad about. It’s about the foods! It’s important to consume halal foods for me as a Muslim (and all Muslims living abroad, supposedly), but I found it difficult to get halal foods here. Only at certain markets (2 markets, E—Y and S—I) sell frozen halal chicken with halal logo on the package. While for frozen halal meat, luckily, I can buy it at an Indonesian store (owned by Indonesians) in Chizuru area. Snacks, cakes, desserts at markets, and meals at restaurants? Don’t ask! You will rarely see the halal-logo on the packages or menu. That’s why when I want to have snacks or foods at the restaurants and so forth, I will refer to the ingredients written, ask the waiters whether the foods are cooked with pork fat (if it’s not written in the menu), refer to facebook pages of Halal Saijo and Halal Japan or ask Muslims friends who know much about which foods are okay to consume based on the ingredients. For daily meals, I cook! So I shop for groceries weekly or fortnightly and stock the veggies and so on to cook for a week or two. There’s another way to get halal foods or ingredients, you can shop online at baticrom.com, later they will deliver your order to your place and pay cash when it comes. After all six-month staying here, I’m used to this situation now, cause it’s what I have to do, shikata ga nai (What else can I do?) :p
One last point that I’m still adapting in this place, the weather! It’s my first time having autumn, winter and spring in this country. For summer, because it seems like just similar as in Jakarta so I hope there won’t be much difference here, though they who have been living here say that summer here is a bit different cause it’s more humid than in Jakarta, but then, we’ll see about it later. First time arrived here was on 2nd of October 2014, it was the beginning of autumn. I could feel cool breeze wind at that time. It felt like the weather in the peak of a mountain. Then somehow, weeks passed and it’s getting colder and colder every day. I put on a jacket and a thin pair of gloves when I traveled by bike. Autumn is usually in October-November.
Getting closer to November the end it was even much colder cause surprisingly, last year’s winter started earlier than in 2013. It started on December 3rd with quite lots of snow here and there. And again, they said the snow was pretty much comparing to winter 2013. During winter, I always put on a thick jacket, a shirt or t-shirt, and an inner heatech t-shirt. I had at least three layers a day. Even in the room, I wore a heatech t-shirt because during winter, December – February, the temperature was only around -4 – 10 ‘C. so freezing!! The lowest temperature is always in February.
Now we’re having spring here. Spring starts in March and ends in May. At first when I heard the word spring, the weather would be warm (as in Jakarta or at least in Bandung) and no rains, but in fact, in March, because it’s the shifting of the season, somehow rains pour down for a week or more in March. Furthermore, the temperature and wind are still cool, as in the end of autumn, around 10 – 17’C only. One thing I love most about spring is the views of the blooming flowers. The view of colorful-stunning flowers will be seen in the beginning of April. They are everywhere!! Colorful flowers of Sakura, Tulips, Chrysanthemum, and many more kinds of flowers. How I love and am lucky to have a chance to witness them myself. Probably I can only witness the beauty of flowers in spring of this country this year only cause next year, this program I’m doing here will have been finished in March.
After spring there’s also rainy season in June, to begin the summer in July – September. Well, I haven’t reached that part yet so that’ll be all I could share now. Hopefully there’ll be more stories I write to share what I experience here, as documentation for me myself too. 😉
These culture shocks have made me learnt a lot about life and the experience I have had so far is precious. Alhamdulillah, thank You Rabb for giving me this opportunity. May I always be a more grateful creature to You. Aamiin….
From Higashi Hiroshima City
with the spirit of spring and the beauty of flowers,
Ina Lestari, TT 2014