September 25, 2005
20 Years in Japan
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I just realized that I have an anniversary coming up: my 20th anniversary of my coming to live in Japan. I thought I had let it slip past in August, but after checking my old passport, I found that it is instead coming soon: October 8th. I haven't lived here for 20 years straight--I went back twice for a total of about five years to get my higher degrees. So I've lived here for 15 years, but it will have been 20 years since my first working visa became active, in a few weeks, give or take. Probably when that day comes, I'll blog on the experience of getting here. Until then, I want to touch on some changes since the good old days--how things have changed.
I was on the phone with my father last night, and we spent more than an hour and twenty minutes chatting. We realized that such a long call was going to cost maybe six or seven dollars on his present calling plan, and a lot less on a plan he is considering joining. I myself pay maybe 8 cents per minute calling the U.S. This is all in contrast to what we used to pay 20 years ago. Or more accurately, what I had to avoid paying in Japan. Back then, KDD was it--the only long-distance carrier, period, and calling the U.S. cost a few bucks every minute. Calling from the U.S. wasn't cheap, either, but it sure was by comparison. So we had a system: I would call via the operator, making a collect call, saying that Quincho was calling for Malachi. Those names belonged to our dog and cat, respectively. So when my dad got a call from an international operator saying that the dog was calling the cat collect from Japan, he knew I wanted to talk. So he would tell the operator that the cat was out, but would call the dog back in 15 minutes. The code was necessary because the operator would not let us hear each other, and would relay only limited messages. But it was enough so that I knew my family was home and I would be getting the call back soon.
That was back in the days when people actually used public phones. When the phones in Japan were red, yellow, green, pink, and I think pale blue, and you needed a scorecard to figure out what the colors meant. Back when you had to pay a 70,000 yen non-refundable deposit to get a phone line, instead of signing up for a cell phone. There was no email, no voice-over-IP, no instant messaging.
So one of the things I want to do this week is to be an old fart and tell you about how I had to walk for miles in the snow to get an English-language magazine, and how there was only one bilingually-broadcast English-language movie on TV each week, and it was usually Death Wish III with Charles Bronson and we were grateful for it. And believe it or not, the last sentence was actual truth. So sit right back down, you young whippersnappers, and get ready for some nostalgia.
Posted by: Sean P. Aune at September 25, 2005 05:25 AM