Opening a Postal Savings Account
It's pretty much the done thing that if you're going to be living in Japan for some time to open a Postal Savings account. The reason is that it's one of the few banks that has a nation wide network of branches and ATMs. One of the surprising things for me is that most banks in Japan are pretty much localised to a particular prefecture, go outside that prefecture and it's hard to find a branch except maybe in big cities like Tokyo or Osaka where most banks have a branch.
Bank accounts in Japan are a good example of how Japanese mix old and new. Firstly before opening the account I had to get a seal (called “inkan”) made up. You will also notice that the bank account actually has a bank book (I think those disappeared in the early 80s in Australia). However, it's a hightech bank book that you can use in ATMs to deposit and withdraw money. Also a few a week later I received my account connected smart card in the post which I can use to shop convenience stores, certain vending machines, and some other places. Also the ATM themselves are more complicated in Japan than Australia, to be able to handle bank books, plastic cards, and even count the money when you make a deposit (unlike the Australia ones which place the money in an envelope and hope it gets counted correctly manually later, and doesn't actually get credited to your account for a week!).
Another good point is you can keep only a few yen in your account and not have it disappear with bank fees. There are no bank fees! Can you imagine that! At last a county, where people have a hope of getting ahead even if they can only manage to deposit a little bit in their bank account each month. Try that in Australia and it will disappear with bank fees before the next month comes around, unless you have at least $500-2000 (depending on type of account). Then there's unlimited transactions without fees, plus they don't charge any counting fees if you go to the bank with the contents of your money box. The negative side about Japanese banks is that they don't pay any interest, unless you make a term deposit.
The other thing was is because of the competition for customers between banks, I got some small presents from the bank to say thank you for choosing them!
My New Office (from May)
Over the last week of January and the first week of February. I spent some time training as an kindergarten English teacher. I will be working 4 days a month as an English teacher, from this May. The English programme runs from May to January. During this present time I have to get my lessons prepared and also submit a curriculum. I will be teaching both 4 year olds and 5 year olds. Each class gets two 40 minute English classes a month. There are ten classes altogether 5 of each age group.
I don't have to commute very far to get to the kindergarten, it's literally across the road! So now my portfolio of jobs is Pastor (currently unpaid), English Class Operator/Teacher (ages 5 to 55, levels beginner to advanced, making enough money to survive but nowhere near as much as my old job), Kindergarten English Teacher (from May) and Photographer (I'm occasionally making some money at it now, but not much). Although I'm not earning much money this year I don't have to do the 9-5 (actually it was more like the 07:30 – 18:30 for me most of the time, plus the 30min-1hr commute each way!). I don't want for anything because God always provides when you do work for Him. He even sometimes gives us things we though were only selfish wishes, just to encourage us to keep on going in the work for Him.
This is a shot of the English room (which is on the second floor) from the street.
As promised two PBLOG entries ago, here is one of the photos I took from the stairways of "Fune Mansion". This photo is part of a series of photographs I took towards the Industrial area of Nagaokakyo on a couple of days around sunrise. I was trying to capture a similar atmosphere to that I saw painted in a number of J.W.M. Turner's paintings.
I wanted to capture some images that showed dawn and industry, in a kind of uplifting way. As a way of expressing a sense of optimism that we'll get through these tough times. Well in the end I decided to use one of the Industrial pictures (not this one) as my competition entry. Look forward to a gallery containing some of this series in future.
The old part of town
Another attempt at catching a "slice of life" photo. I took this one while out shopping for supplies for dinner with Ritsuko. I took this shot from the front of a place that sells Japanese style Chinese food, where we got some Gyoza and Subuta to go with dinner. This was also our first break for a little while because we had been busy (the both of us) learning the ropes of an English Teaching business and (me) training at the kindergarten (the English programme runs from May to January so I was getting in a bit of training with the departing teacher).
This area is what I call the old part of town, it is near the Hankyu Nagaoka Tenjin Station, where the streets are narrower and the buildings older compared to the area around the JR Nagaokakyo Station.
Well, for those who have been following my site for a good while now you might know that in Australia I worked for the Fremantle Port Authority. You may have even seen some photos taken from my office window which over looked the Harbour. So, in Australia I saw ships come right past my office window on almost every working day. Actually, I would say the office view was part of the reason I got more keen about photography after a hiatus of some 5 years. So anyway, after coming to Kyoto which is surrounded by mountains I don't get the chance to see ships on a regular basis anymore (except on the couple of occasions we went to visit our friends who live in Kobe).
After I'd been here almost three months I began to notice that an apartment block (or mansions as they are called in Japanese) nearby looked like a ship. So I gave this apartment block the name "Fune Mansion" (Fune is Japanese for ship). This apartment block which is the tallest one around the area also became my platform for photographing the sunrises and the mountains and I've captured some good shots from there (one is planned for a coming BLOG entry). Also around the same time I found this apartment block, another missionary in Kyoto told us she had decided to return to Australia and handed over her 12 private students to Ritsuko and I and her part time job at the local Christian Kindergarten to me. So I felt my ship had come truly come in.