But my 3-hour, one-on-one orientation this morning beat all. Now, thanks to Dendo-san, my Japanese mentor-guide, I know scented from unscented, 2-ply from single-ply, whole milk from low fat, butter from margarine, sugarless gum from rot-your-teeth gum, and straight soy sauce from soy-based soup concentrate that's so much better for making noodle broths. I now know about a wholesale meat market that I can get to by bus, and I have a cheat sheet in my wallet with the kanji characters for buta-niku (literally, pig meat, i.e. pork), gyu-niku (cow meat/beef) and tori-niku (chicken). I can now tell the difference between rice that has to be washed before it is cooked from that which does not. And I now have a debit card for my local supermarket, the Daimaru Peacock, with which I can earn points and get special discounts and earn cash back. Without Dendo-san there I would never have been able to complete the application or figure out the automated machines that let you add value or redeem points.
But here's the kicker: I am happy to report that I now know how to direct taxicab drivers to the British School and to my apartment, turn by turn, in complete Japanese sentences and in a polite manner. It's all written down in a notebook I keep in my bag, with correct spelling, phonetic spelling and English translation. The bus is great, but we all have our days. (I suppose I could give the driver a map with these destinations marked--even locals do this as many streets are not named and cab drivers here are notorious for not knowing how to get anywhere-- but that would be too easy, and plus this way I get to decide the route!)
To celebrate all this learnin' I bought a jar of my favorite Bonne Maman.