Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Heads or Tails: Japan, Chantix, Ramble Edition

Today is smoke-free day 233, and after again seeing something else cool that Secret Agent Mama did that I have to copy, I can't resist doing this Heads or Tails thing (below), almost as much as I can't even imagine what it would have been like not being a smoker when I lived in Japan (that's not as random as it sounds, promise, keep reading). All those smoky bars, teachers rooms (yes, really) and train platforms. It was probably better to have been one of them than to have been walking by smelling it as a non-smoker. I understand their laws have gotten a little tougher, too, and it's probably good because school kids really don't need to be watching teachers smoke, let alone walking into smoky teacher rooms. According to sources I haven't investigated much, it does sound like even though I couldn't get "the pill" while I lived in Japan (funny enough, my dad had to mail it to me from the States, strange, just strange), as of January 28, 2008, Chantix (going by the name Champix there, as other countries) has been approved for manufacture and marketing by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. There really were *a lot* of smokers when I was in Japan, so this could be a very, very good thing as long as most people have the kind of success I had with Chantix instead of some of the scary stuff.

OK, after that whole tangent before I even got going...

Heads or Tails

HEADS - First *OR* TAILS - Last

I was going to do do both First and Last because I'm awesome like that, but since First rambled on longer than I thought, today you just get First. Maybe I'll do Last another day because traveling 28 hours internationally with a cat makes for a hell of a story, and I assure you that the first time was also most definitely the last time. Meow.

Anyway, today is all about Japan because I simply do not blog about it enough considering how much I loved my three years there and how often people in my real life have to listen to my Japan Stories while my readers get off scott free as if I've never been there or don't like to talk story.

The first time I ever left my home country of the United States of America, it wasn't to dip my finger into Canada just to the north or dip my toe into Mexico just a bit more to the south, but it was to just jump all the way in (no, I didn't swim, smart asses) with a venture clear to Japan after college graduation once I was accepted for my first "real" job (at the time it seemed like a real job, but what did I know?) through the awesome JET Programme. I got my first passport (complete with scary mile high bangs because nobody told me that 1995 wasn't still the 1980's - oops), met for the first time during pre-departure orientation in Chicago my dear friend J (who becomes a better friend every day, years later), and flew for the first time a bazillion hours (translates into about 13+ hours) to Tokyo, sitting in whatever form of nice class they called it because those were the only smoking area seats available (yes, smoking had it's privileges once upon a long time ago when people smoked on airplanes).

Upon arrival at Tokyo's Narita Airport (that really isn't all that close to Tokyo, in case you wonder, and most definitely did not have a website in English back then before God invented the new-fangled Internets and Onlines as we know it today), two more firsts happened before I even got more than just outside the airport.

First, I walked out of the airport bone-weary-butt-dragging tired with a smoking hangover (really, what would you have done but smoke and sleep had you been me?), out the door and into... a wall. A wall of such thick humidity that particular July evening that I'd never experienced before in my life, even in Chicago's humid summers (and that summer had been one hot bitch while packing up my life in the oppressive and wet heat, I assure you) or even visits to Happy Humidity, Florida. This was the first of many hot, sticky, mushi-atsui (one of the first new Japanese words I learned after arrival) days and nights that I would endure in Japanese summers in places with zero concept of air conditioning.

The other first happened actually just before the Wall of Humid thing, and it was my first really dumb thing I did in Japan (there were more, lots more, to follow, some almost as stupid). After such a long flight and not wanting to go into the tiny little airplane bathroom any more than necessary because I am always afraid of dying either naked or with my pants down or in either one of those conditions while flying (anyone else?), one of my first visits in Japan was to the bathroom at the airport. The airport had "Western-style" toilets (what we would just call, um, "toilets"), so it would be another few days before I'd first be confronted with the squat toilet concept in my own ancient apartment (oh, the stories about that crazy thing). You would think that since it was a regular toilet in a still fairly regular situation much like home that I would be able to go to the bathroom and leave without much trouble like a big girl and that I certainly wouldn't be so distracted as to leave my passport in the bathroom, sitting atop the toilet paper holder. My passport. You know, that relatively important thing with the bad 1980's bangs picture taken in 1995? The one with my visa in to work in the country to which I had just moved about 5 minutes ago? Yep, that passport.

And so I did my first back pedal in Japan. Bathroom. Wall of Humid. Bathroom, Revisited. Then my first "Oh, Thank God" and sigh of relief breathed on Japanese soil.


  1. Wow - you are right - it made for one heck of a story!

  2. Welcome to Heads Or Tails! I'll get you added to the blogroll in just a sec. Feel free to grab the "I'm A Hottie" badge on my right sidebar.

    I bet you're someone with a LOT more interesting tales to tell. I may have to Google squat toilets...

  3. LOL I can't wait to read more of your Japanese adventure. I lived there from Aug '92 to Sep '95; LOVED it!

  4. Great story maggie! and everyone should be informed about medications. I was like you the worse of 2 evils I think I picked the right one.

  5. LOL. Hope this is not the last Japan story.

    Happy Humidity Florida? Sounds like compared to Japan it is, but my word for Florida's humidity starts with an H, but only has a few letters.

  6. I so love that you are doing Heads or Tails. Sometimes I need motivation to write and HorT is money for that!!

    Love this Japan, Chantix, Ramble! You rock.. :D

  7. Congrats on the smoking! I remember when teachers could smoke inside school. It seems bizarre now!

  8. What exactly is a squat toilet? You stories are pretty funny. What made you go teach in Japan and do you still teach for a living?


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