08 March, 2017

The "mozzie park" and other nicknames

My little grocery store: Big A. I love this.
I can be in and out in under 15/20 minutes
with half-a-week's perishables in my bags.
I remember when our boys were little we would use names for places that made sense to them. We ended up with some creative names like: The Tyre Park (a park in Sapporo with lots of tyres) and Aunty Georgia's Big House (the OMF guest home in Tokyo, run, at the time, by "Aunty" Georgia). I'm pretty sure that's a common thing across most young families. For example, "We're going to Grandma's house"

I have noted, though, that this tendency gets extended much longer in expat families. When you transplant to another country you have to learn a whole lot of new proper nouns. 

So when we first came to Japan, living in Sapporo we did most of our shopping at:

  • Ralse Mart—groceries
  • Ito's (Itoyokado)—a smallish department store
  • Homac—hardware/homeware/cleaning products and even pet
  • Shimamura—clothes
  • Tokai (craft heart)—a craft store on my walking route to language school, actually didn't shop there a lot because I didn't have time to be crafty, but I used to stop by for a couple of minutes peace on a bad "school" day.
There was the "Import store" called "Kyaroto" as far as I can recall. That's as far as I got with remembering it's name.

I never did learn the proper name of the "Tyre Park", but it was within walking distance of our apartment too and a frequent destination for our very energetic toddler (eldest son). 

When we moved down to Tokyo we had new shops and parks to learn the names of. Now we shopped at:
This is Hanamasa, a wonderful local find
as it has meat in portions larger than 150g.
It took a long time to find out where it was,
though, a word-of-mouth affair. Six years
after moving to Tokyo, and 18 months after
moving to our current location.
See this blogpost written at the time of discovery.
  • Big A—small grocery store that has the basic perishables at a good price (milk, fruit, veggies, OJ, yoghurt)
  • D2—department store (but actually pronounced "Deitsu" I think)
  • Marufuji—bigger grocery store that we went to for more specialist 
  • Shimamura—yes, actually a store that transferred over from Hokkaido
  • Costco
  • Ito—yes, another store that carried over
  • Shop 99 (now called Lawson 100)—almost everything is 100 yen, and we used to buy milk and OJ there
The parks we frequented were:
  • "Aeroplane park" aka Kuukoo-koen
  • "Tunnel park" aka Koganei-koen
  • "Bouncy hill park" aka Shinrin-koen (a long way, so only once or twice a year)
  • "Mozzie park". I never learned the name of this one. It was on the way to our eldest son's school and in summer infested with mosquitoes.
Now that I have more freedom during the day (everyone is at school, when we first moved down I had a 3 month old, 2 year old, and 6 year old) and now live closer to more shops, I've extended my repertoire of shops to include most of the above plus:
  • Hanamasa—bulk meat store, plus other bits and pieces
  • Gyoumu Supa—cheap meat, plus other cheap imported grocery items not easily available elsewhere
  • Daiso—100 yen shop that you now find in Australia too
  • Uniqlo—clothes shop also found in Australia
Then there's been two new shopping centres/malls built:
  • Qurune (medium sized and many very useful shops)
  • Aeon (quite large)
And restaurants too, for example:
  • Bashamichi
  • Saizaria
  • Stamina Taro
But returning to my opening paragraphs, you can see how it would take some learning of some of these names. Yes, I still sometimes mess them up.

We still have our own nicknames to help, like, "the all-you-can-eat bread restaurant at Aeon" and "the restaurant where they had that big fish, all-you-can-eat. Remember? We took Nanna and Grandad there." And "the import shop at Aeon" or "the 100 yen shop at the station."

Learning new proper nouns of places takes time and reduces you to elementary-level at times. "Oh, we're going to the restaurant across the road from the post office." "Have you tried the grocery store across the river from the bakery, at the bottom of THE hill?"

Of course it doesn't help that most Japanese roads don't have names, so addresses don't help. But I guess if there were road names, that would be one more thing to learn!

Living life like this is humbling. I think that is another characteristic of the ladies I talked about yesterday. We've all been significantly humbled as we've come to live in a land where the language spoken isn't the one we speak best. When you've been humbled like that, it changes you forever, but it also binds you quickly to others who have had the same experience.

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