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Asian Spirit: Another Kim Hye-gyong    By Keiko Iwata
Chapter 3: The Starting Point
Asian Spirit Archive

About Asian Spirit

A compilation of nonfiction essays, the book comprises the experiences, both good and bad, that author Keiko Iwata shared with South Korean students living and studying in Japan.

About Keiko Iwata

Keiko Iwata is the representative of the NPO Heart Connections, which provides non-Japanese students with consultation services to help them solve problems related to living and studying in Japan. Iwata authored the book "Asian Spirit" (published in February 2004).

About Larry Greenberg

Larry Greenberg is the founder of Urban Connections Co. Ltd., an enterprising group of professionals that strives to provide innovative solutions to the latest challenges.

"When you come, you don't have to bring anything with you. We'll provide everything," Sister generously said to Hye-gyong on the phone. She had called exactly one week before Hye-gyong left for Japan.

Hye-gyong happily packed only what was necessary for a two or three day trip: some clothes, a Japanese dictionary and a few textbooks. Then, she left her home and flew to Tokyo to meet her new friends.

Brother's parents graciously provided a room for Hye-gyong on the second floor of their house, conveniently located near Hirai Station on the JR Soubu-honsen Line. Brother and Sister guided Hye-gyong to her room and she saw that they had made the room spick and span just for her. Much to Hye-gyong's surprise, the incredibly organized room was equipped with a refrigerator, microwave, table, sideboard, vacuum cleaner, radio and a TV! Tea cups, bowls, dishes, mugs, spoons, chopsticks, dish towels and glasses stocked the sideboard and were at the tips of her fingers. In the closet, the bedding was neatly folded and smelled of lilac. The two even provided enough food that would last throughout her entire stay.

They had say "don't bring anything with you," Hye-gyong remembered.

As she looked at her room, she was speechless. They had thought of everything in order to make her stay the most pleasant. Hye-gyong was so grateful her wonderful hosts.

"I'm sorry," Sister said, "but there isn't enough room for a washing machine. Is it OK if you use a nearby coin laundry?"

Finally getting her words back, Hye-gyong answered, "This is really more than enough. Thank you so much." She couldn't believe how much hospitality she was receiving. Sister also mentioned that she had to use a bathhouse, but Hye-gyong didn't mind one bit.

On the other hand, Brother's father did mind. Afraid that it was unsafe for a woman to walk alone late at night, he gave her his bicycle so she could safely get to the bathhouse. This unexpected gift was not only useful for travelling to the bathhouse, but also for getting around town for shopping. Hye-gyong really appreciated his bicycle, and became quite attached to it during her stay.

Although Hye-gyong greatly appreciated the many items that were provided for her in her room, the items were all used and took days to wash. The microwave was especially old with oil stains, and Sister was worried that it might not work for much longer. However, Hye-gyong found that it was fully functional and meet all her needs.

When the refrigerator broke down, Sister quickly got a used one and cleaned it until it looked brand new. She felt so guilty about the faulty refrigerator that she even paid for the special disposal costs for large-size refuse.

This was how she began her life in Japan, her new utopia. It was too good to be true.

***

Three years after her stay with Brother and Sister, Hye-gyong officially started her life in Tokyo. Tokyo turned out to be an expensive place to live, with her monthly expenditures adding up to over 100,000 yen - all of which she paid with the money she earned from her part-time job.

Her tuition for school was 170,000 yen per semester, or about 30,000 yen per month. Breakfast and lunch cost her about 30,000 yen every month, and luckily, her dinners were provided by the restaurant she worked at. Other expenses she had to pay were her monthly cell-phone bill, bathhouse fees, and other miscellaneous costs that added up to over 45,000 yen.

And of course, she had to pay rent, which was thankfully at a comparatively low price of 20,000 yen a month. When she first started living in Japan, her landlord said to her, "I don't mind lending you the place for free, but on principle that I'm 'renting,' I'll charge you 20,000 yen a month."

Later, she found out that he decided on this low price out of the kindness of his heart. He didn't even ask for gratuity or a security deposit - things that are usually required when renting a room in Japan. Hye-gyong knew she was getting a deal of a lifetime and she was so grateful.

Her life in Japan began so perfectly that her initial worries disappeared into thin air.

Finally, it was her first day at the Japanese language school in Ebisu came. Brother and Sister took a day off of work, took her to school and jokingly said, "Look! We're like your parents!"

As they arrived at the Japanese school, Hye-gyong saw that Brother and Sister had everything prepared for her. They had mapped out her commuting routes to and from school, calculated how much a commuter pass would be, and even made a list of other potential expenses she would need to pay along the way. They lovingly handed everything over to her, and her first day of school officially began.


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