I'm in San Francisco now and there's been quite a lot of reverse culture shock. I guess not just culture shock from Japan to the USA but also I've never lived in downtown San Francisco and it's very different from my experience anywhere else.

For one, it's extremely hard to rent a place because so many people want to live in the city. Many places have open houses for renting. I show up and 6−7 other parties are there to look. Fortunately it appears I have good credit so I think I might be at the top of the list when the landlords decide who to pick to let rent their places.

Another which I knew but I guess I really didn't think about. I was hoping to find a place with 2 master bedrooms. There are tons of these in LA and Orange County. They are designed for roommates. There's a living room and kitchen that are shared and then 2 bedrooms each with their own bathroom. Well, San Francisco has almost nothing like that. There are basically 2 types of places in San Francisco. 100+ year old Victorian houses. They generally were built for families or couples. Many of them are advertised as 2 bedrooms but I show up and find they are really a living room + dining room + bedroom but someone has decided to call the living room a 2nd bedroom. Because it's actually a living room though it doesn't have complete privacy.

It's funny that so much of the city is 100+ year old places. That stuff just doesn't exist in Tokyo. Of course there are old temples but any housing older than about 30years is considered trash, ready to be destroyed. I would guess some of it has to do with the weather that destroys buildings in Japan quicker than SF and of course Japanese houses are generally pretty dang ugly as buildings where as 100+ old Victorian buildings in SF are kind of quaint.

The second kind are lofts, built within the last 15 years most likely. They are beautiful in their way but generally the 2nd bedroom is the loft area. It doesn't have any walls separating it from the living room / kitchen area.

Anyway, that just means I have to decide to keep looking for a place that can handle two roommates in some form or decide not to have a roommate. The last two times in lived in the U.S. I had Japanese roommates. I'd like to do that again because I know if I don't I'll lose my Japanese ability.

Otherwise, when I first got back I was feeling really disoriented. Almost like shock from moving from Japan to the USA. My friend said I was "F.O.B.". It means Fresh Off the Boat and is generally used to describe immigrants with thick accents. There was something just different about being in the USA without as many crowds, driving around in a car most of the time, seeing so many large people everywhere or for that matter, seeing people not dressed up more. Not that it matters it's just different. In Tokyo the majority of people dress much better than jeans, a t−shirt and a sweat jacket.

After a day or two though I mostly felt back to normal. That's common for me. I can generally go anywhere and in 2 or 3 days feel comfortable.

What else has stood out? Well, my new cellphone is not nearly as good as my old one. It's not bad but lots of minor things make it less easy to use. It holds pictures of people in my address book but it doesn't show them in the list, only when you ask for details. It's going to take a while to get used to the T9 input system. I'm not sure I like it but maybe I just have to use it more. Another minor issue, I actually started keeping my schedule in my Japanese phone for the last few months but my new cell phone's calendar is just not nearly as usable. Maybe I just picked the wrong phone, a Sony Ericsson 810i. It's certainly functional.

On the plus side, USA phones or at least Cingular have great 411 service. You call and it's semi automated, if you want they can text you the address and phone number and they can call the # for you. For some unknown reason Japan doesn't have that service. If you call information on a Japanese phone you have to write the number down. How can they be so advanced in phones and so backward in service?

Of course there are obvious things about being back like the change in food. Portions are so large. I went to some sub sandwich place in Noe Valley and the regular size was about the size of 2 large hamburgers. Fortunately I had someone to share it with. A bowl of fruit and yogurt for breakfast was easily large enough for 2.5 people in Japan. I'm lucky though, so far SF food is turning out to be much better than LA food. Of course I have my favorite places in LA but SF supposedly has more restaurants per person than any other USA city. Of course it's no where near Tokyo but I'm not feeling too let down.

One strange thing, I've been searching for Apricot Wine or Anzushu 杏子酒. It's Chinese and among the top 3 liqueurs in Japan which are plum wine (umeshu), Anzushu and Cassis. Well, you can get Cassis at most places in SF and you can get plum wine in many places but even though there are tons of Chinese people in SF with Chinese markets all over SF we've been to pretty much every single one and none of them carry Anzushu. We've also been to the Japanese shops and they don't carry it either. It's both puzzling and frustrating. It's seriously in the top 3 in Japan. You can get it at pretty much every Izakaya in Japan. You can even get it at pretty much every convienence store in Japan. It's made in China and yet as far as I can tell it doesn't exist in SF or for that matter the USA in general. I can't even find an internet shop that carries it. I guess when I'm down in LA I'll have to look. LA has more Chinese and Japanese markets than SF so maybe they'll have it.

I've been pleasantly surprised by a few things. I hope I'm not jinxing myself by mentioning this but so far drivers have seemed not too impatient in SF. There's lots of stop signs and traffic but I've heard very little honking. I got a car the 2nd day back. My thinking was that without a car I wouldn't be able to get around and look for apartments very easily. I'm afraid to say what kind because I don't want people to think I'm a snob or stuck up but I wanted a manual transmission still and I went and test drove a few cars. I was a little scared because there are so many steep hills in SF that it can be really hard to go from stopped to shifting into first on an incline. Anyway, the car I got, the computer will automatically hold the brake for you for 2 seconds giving you time to let off the break and shift into first and get going before the car starts rolling. I don't think I could handle a manual in SF without that feature for long.

I've been really lucky. My friend Danny is letting me stay at his place until I find my own. I hope that's soon. Also my friend Youko just happened to be vacationing for a month in SF. She knows the city better than me and has been almost my constant companion for the last two weeks.

Anyway, I hope to get back on my feet and settled soon. After which I still have 4 or 5 articles to write about Japan.

The Secret Life of Machines
Western Culture Sucks