The Journey of Seven Thousand Miles
At long last, I`m back in Japan and it is as amazing as I remember! Though I was excited since August, my excitement for new experiences grows with every day, I`m here. It was quite a trip to say the least. I had the good fortune that no one was in the middle seat in my row during the flight, so I had plenty of leg room in my aisle seat. There was plenty to watch on the flight over, it really gets you in the mood for Japan, when you`re flying on a Japanese airline (ANA) and they have a ton of Japanese movies and shows. I especially enjoyed the ones by the tourism companies that show you all the amazing places to see, things to do people to meet and foods to eat. The food on the flight definitely also built up the Japanese hype with noodles, rice and fish being served with chopsticks, luckily I have a good grasp on chopsticks, so it was easy for me. Still a 14 hour flight is pretty exhausting, they did give us pillows and blankets as well as dim the lights to rest, but I spent most of the flight watching TV and walking around the plane to keep my legs from falling asleep.
Once we landed it wasn`t too difficult to navigate Narita airport, get all my necessary paperwork and find my train to where my dorm was. I had researched how to get from the airport to there and even googlemapped the directions, so once I got on the train, I knew where to go. I`m staying in the Shinkoiwa district of Katsushika ward of Tokyo, which is probably the closest part of the city to Narita. When I finally got off at my station and saw the surrounding area, I was in awe, it`s a really awesome place, there were bright signs, colorful buildings and lots of people all over the place, it really felt like Tokyo at that point! After a ten minute trek, I arrived at my dorm and I was warmly greet by the manager as well as the assistant manager, who gave me a tour of the dorm as well as explained everything to me. At first my room seemed very small, a quintessence of Japanese living arrangements, but I had thought the same of my hotel room from last time and that was plenty spacious for my needs. Once I had unloaded everything and got settled in, I saw that I had plenty of space for me. I took a short personal tour and met a few of my fellow dorm mates, there`s a lot of Europeans here, but fortunately they all speak English, so we were able to communicate easily. After washing up, I called it a night, excited for my first full day in Tokyo.
After a fulfilling night`s sleep, I woke up at like 7 in the morning and decided to explore a bit before I headed out for breakfast. Since I`ve been to Japan before, I did have a basic grasp on things here, but living here, I definitely have been adjusting with minimal difficulty to the cultural differences. I was very glad to meet another American at the dorm, which definitely gave me a feeling of no being culturally isolated from my dorm mates. I was pretty astonished to find out, this other American was from Buffalo, New York, so I really have someone, who understands my “culture”. As my dorm doesn`t have a meal plan, which is a very American concept, I decided to head to the nearby 7-11 for breakfast. Though in America, we would think of a 7-11 breakfast menu consisting of things like burritos or hash browns, the convenience stores here have an amazing meal selection, that`s both delicious and healthy. I have actually visited the 7-11 so frequently as their lunch and dinner selections is incredible, that today the cashier recognized me and asked me how much I enjoyed my favorite breakfast choice of rice stuffed bean curds, that look like little bean bags called Inari. Though I do enjoy the more Japanese foods available at the 7-11, there`s plenty of American staples like hot dogs, fried chicken and donuts, which the cashiers will happily heat up for you. The food here is all awesome and I enjoy going to 7-11 every time and seeing what catches my eye.
After eating my breakfast, student assistants from the university came by to take us to the Katsushika city office to register as residents, there was a lot important paperwork to take care of, but I got to know the other Meiji foreign exchange students better. The student assistants also, told us about a group they run for foreign students that does a lot events like Cherry Blossom viewing. The Cherry Blossoms blooming is one of the most important events of the year in Japan as it is the first sign that spring has come. After getting back to the dorm, I made more friends from countries like Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Russia. Before, I left for Japan, I was worried about how I would live in a country by myself thousand of miles away from everyone I knew, so I asked a friend of mine, who was in the military and he gave me amazing advice, that everyone else in my dorm is in the same boat and that would allow us to bond very quickly and form our own group.The TV here is one of the best ways for us to bond, as sports are a universal language, right know the big high school baseball tournament, the Koushien, is on TV everyday, so there`s plenty to watch.
Though we did have early orientation at the university, we`ve been spending most of our time exploring Tokyo. Though Shinkoiwa seems like it is far from the more popular areas of Tokyo, the rail line here is part of two main lines that link to major stations like Tokyo and Shibuya as well as that the Pop culture and video game Mecca of Japan, Akihabara, is only 15 minutes away from Shinkoiwa, with no transfers. Still, Shinkoiwa itself has plenty to do, the local arcade has a ton of awesome and new games like Gundam simulation pods, Dragonball Z fighting games and anything else you can imagine. I went with some friends a few nights ago and had a blast for only like 10 dollars, we even took photos together in one of the Japanese photo booths and I carry my copy around in my wallet.
From hanging out with all these foreign students and going on all these amazing adventures, I have learned “my feet are tired” in eight different languages! I am certainly still excited about Japan, but know that I am here, I can start doing the different things that I planned instead of just thinking about it. Life here is pretty different and it will take a while for me to adjust, but I know that I will be able to do it. Tokyo is amazing and I look forward to everyday!