When I finally looked in the mirror after a month of eikaiwa teaching, my first thought was—who the hell’s that? My signature dark and flowing locks, which had once glowed with the radiance of a dozen hair-care products, had gone white almost overnight. While it’s true that I might have had one or two gray hairs before, my class load was clearly making me look like Keith Richards before my time. So, thinking of ways to reverse this trend, I made the rational-while-drunk decision to color things a slightly darker brown. I walked to the 100-yen store in front of the train station and carefully selected the perfect Japanese hair-care product, which when used as directed immediately rendered my hair a vivid Orphan Annie red. So that was bad. But then my buddy Carlos said—that’s no problem, just do it again, only leave the dye in longer. And since he’s gay, I figured he knew about such things, so that’s what I did, only to find that my hair turned a disturbing shade of Concord grape. The following day the Head Teacher at my school pulled me aside to tell me the Manager was peed off regarding my hair color. I was like, Well I’m not too thrilled about it either, and have taken the matter under consideration.
Every time I tried to recolor my hair it really didn’t help that I couldn’t rinse it out because my shower was producing nothing but hot water again. Japanese utilities are a source of constant bewilderment to me. Take the shower, for example: when I first turn it on, all I get is cold water, which is normal, right? But after a bit, all I get is water hot enough to cook lobsters, which is exceedingly difficult to bathe in. How it’s possible for the shower to consistently produce nothing but boiling hot water despite the fact that I have turned off the hot water tap is a mystery one can only hope to solve quickly while watching one’s hair turn purple. Similarly, my microwave has become a useless box, since I managed to eff it up so badly by randomly pushing buttons written in kanji that it now refuses to heat anything. The fridge makes everything room temperature no matter which way I turn the little knob. Why my Japanese class in college thought it would be a good idea for me to learn the kanjis for cat, bird, dog, and horse, but not for my freaking microwave, stove, and refrigerator, I have no idea. The only mixed blessing is the air conditioner, which takes the temperature steadily down to about minus forty. I have to sleep with clothes on just to survive the night, but on the plus side I can open my refrigerator door and keep my food cold.
Yet despite an Arctic room, useless microwave and fridge, and purple hair, I remain strangely optimistic about living in Japan. The fall weather is gradually starting to arrive, and no doubt the change of seasons will bring good things. I can’t wait to find out how the heater works.