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Cleaned

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I’ve been using the same dry cleaners since I moved to Chiba city back in late 2007.  It’s right around the corner from my apartment, and is cheap and fast which is nice.  The weird thing about dry cleaners in Japan is that they’re everywhere.  There might be almost as many cleaners as there are convenience stores, and those are pretty much on every block.  I’m exaggerating, of course, but just barely.  On my way to the grocery store, for example, which is only a few blocks away, I pass by 3 conbinis.

But oh yeah, my dry cleaners story.  So my dry cleaners has a stamp card – every time you spend 500 yen, you get a stamp.  After 30 stamps, the card is full.  Nothing is written on it about what happens when you fill up a card, but I assumed you get some kind of prize, or maybe special membership status, etc.  I wasn’t really sure, but since I had to get my suits and stuff cleaned anyway, it didn’t really matter.  I was kind of looking forward to fulling up the card, though, in the back of my mind.

Dry cleaning cardThen finally, today, after two and a half years of watching the stamp count slowly increase, I finished it.  I had 30 little “Masaki” stamps and I was ready to claim my prize.  Victory was mine.  Would I get like a special gold card to show my status as a power user of the dry cleaning shop?  Maybe a gift certificate to help offset my years of dry cleaning costs?  Sure if you do the math I’d only really spent about 15000 yen (USD$150) over 2.5 years, but the buildup was killing me.  The grumpy old dude at the cleaners took my dirty clothes today and stamped my card to the last blank space (what you see on the left here is the new card).

And what did I get for my waiting?  My grand prize for cleaning my suits and shirts enough to warrant a second stamp card?

Drumroll please…..

千葉市可燃物用 ゴミ袋Umm yeaaaaah.  After loyally going to Masaki Dry Cleaners for 2.5 years, my prize for filling up the stamp card was a pack of &#@%ing trash bags.  A whole buck fifty’s worth of plastic bags.  Thanks a lot grumpy old dude.

My, how convenient!

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I just returned not too long ago from 7-Eleven, my third trip there today. But it’s probably nothing like what you’re thinking. 7-Eleven here, as are all convenience stores (or conbini/convini for short), is a lot different from the shady, dimly-lit, hippie or foreigner-staffed shacks that we all know and love in the US. Conbinis here really earn the “convenient” part of their name, since they provide a lot of the services that Target, ATMs, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants handle when living in the states. They are also literally everywhere. The 7-Eleven, which is closest to my apartment, take approximately 120 steps to get to from my apartment building. And yes, I actually half-counted those steps because I knew I was going to write it here. For how small these places are, you can get and do a lot there. The first two times I went to 7-Eleven today, for example, was for meals. Lunch and dinner were both at 7-Eleven today, believe it or not. And while this might sound horribly pathetic, and my Mom might be reading this cringing at the thought that I am surviving on slurpees and rotisserie-bred hot dogs, it is not the case at all. Yes, it might be a bit pathetic still, but what I am getting at is that the food available at convenience stores is more comparable to what you can get at a grocery store’s pre-packaged deli section, or perhaps a fast food joint. In addition to a few small aisles of snacks and drinks, the outer walls of most conbinis are full of pre-packaged meals and side dishes, ranging from hamburgers to salads to rice balls to sushi to even stuff like bacon macaroni gratin (which is delicious). Sure it’s still microwave food (they do that for you too if you want), but it’s a heck of a lot better than heading to an American gas station convenience store and picking up some Slim Jims and a pack of corn nuts.

The third trip to 7-Eleven today was to pay my electric bills from October. You can pay most of your bills here by taking them to a conbini and paying cash. They get stamped and you get a receipt. No having to write checks, no having to mail anything in. Of course you have to pay with cash, but since Japan is pretty much a cash society, that’s not a big deal. And that also leads in very well to some of the other services that conbinis here provide. Almost all of them have ATMs that support almost every (Japanese) bank, so you can get money pretty much anytime. You can also buy stuff like magazines, DVDs, concert tickets, stationary/paper, light bulbs, get digital photos printed, and even reserve video games and movies. It’s a lot more than what you could expect from the VP back in Bloomington.

Anyways, I’ve noticed that I am enjoying and looking forward to my free time much more nowadays, since it isn’t quite as abundant as it was last year when I was in college and spending maybe 10 hours a day sitting in my apartment with nothing I really had to do. I miss being able to sit around, surf the net, watch TV whenever I want, play video games, and in general being a complete bump on a log except for IUSTV work or the whole concept of “finding a job.” This summer was even worse at fueling my laziness, because I really had no job for most of it, and thus there was nothing wrong with waking up in the late afternoon, then sitting on the web or lounging on my sofa for hours on end until I deemed it was time to shower and leave my apartment, usually for the first time around 7PM. Nowadays, I wake up everyday, shower, get dressed, and go to work. I sit at my job and do stuff like teach classes, then come home at 9:30ish exhausted and just wanting to watch TV or play some DS before falling asleep to do it all over again. The job is not bad, my coworkers are all cool, and I don’t usually have to be at work until around 1PM, but still, these constraints on my relaxation time are not cool. I enjoy my days off more than any college student will ever know.

I am far too lazy to write much more tonight, although I seriously should try and update everyone more on stuff I’ve been doing. I’ll do it sometime, maybe this weekend when I spend most of the day sitting in my apartment doing nothing but relaxing. I also should upload some pictures of Japan and Goi specifically. I can’t explain how much nicer things are having internet at home. I don’t have to worry about finding (and paying for) and internet cafe, and I don’t need to feel like the world is going on without me. I installed Skype, and figured out a way to make free calls to any number in the US, so if you want me to give you a ring sometime, let me know. I am about to go to sleep, so that I can wake up tomorrow around 11 and get ready for another fun day of being a foreign English teacher who wishes all day that it was the weekend.

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