Cloudy with a chance of Nihon

My first international plane ride was alright considering I had the middle seat in the middle section of the plane. But it was spacious, I had plenty of leg room, the seats were comfortable, I was given a blanket and a neck pillow, and the TV in the seat was stocked will all the Oscar nominee movies. I was given two meals and two snacks and all the drinks that I wanted.

Beer and a brownie

And some fancy toilets were stocked on the plane. Bidets for days.

My flight though was delayed on the runway for about 2 hours. We were 18th in queue for take off. And then it was 14 hours in the air for a total of 16 hours of sitting on a plane. And once we touched down in Narita international airport, there was a bit of turbulence because of the cloud cover and the rain. Over all, a successful flight and little to no sleep on the plane.

7AM at JFK, waiting to check in

It didn’t really feel all the different setting foot off the plane, but once I starting to see the sign that said “Welcome to Japan” and pretty much ever sign was in Japanese, then it hit me. My dad and brother actually too the trip with me, and they stayed in Shinjuku for the whole week. Luckily enough, my friend Kazuki, who had studied abroad at New Paltz a year ago, works at Narita Airport. When he finished his shift at work he met us at the Starbucks in Narita, we all caught up and chatted and tried to figure out what was the best (and cheapest) way to get to their hotel. And we figured that the JR (Japan Railway) line would be the cheapest albeit a little longer along the lines of travel duration.

We needed to get to Okubo station, which is one stop after Shinjuku on the Soubu local line. It took about 2 hours and one transfer. Thankfully the trains not only announced the stops in Japanese but also in English, and the signs were posted in English as well so we didn’t get lost trying to find our station.

And a fun side-note: The stations play music, like an ice-cream truck on a merry-go-round kinda music, right before the doors close. And also, the seats on the train were heated. I’d take the JR line over the LIRR any day!

Shinjuku at night, from the 17th floor of the Hundred Stay hotel

So having been awake for over 24 hours, navigated the Japanese transportation system, and had a nice man on the street who spoke English very well helped us find our hotel midst the nighttime city life, my first day in Japan ended with me flopping onto the hotel bed, too tired and too late to check into my dorm. Which was around 8PM Japan time, which would have been 7AM EST. It was exhausting. I could have checked into my dorm that night since I contacted the International office letting them know about the delay and all, but it was dark, I was tired, and I didn’t want to lug around my bags trying to find a building somewhere I didn’t know.

The next day thought, I met up with my friend Rachel, who is also here from New Paltz, and we moved into the Tokyo Girls dorm together. I will be talking about my dorm and some of the beautiful sights my family, friends and I went to the week before orientation started.

First Week in Tokyo

I am so glad that my friend picked me up from the airport. By staying overnight at his house in Kawagoe, I got to know what life was like in a Japanese family as well as the countryside area of Japan.

Souvenir from Kawagoe

Souvenir from Kawagoe that my friend’s mom gave me. Sweets from Bakery

The following day I checked into Izumi International House. Living here is comfortable and has been a good experience. Not only do I get my own room, bathroom, and balcony, there is an well equipped kitchen and small laundry room in the common room of every suite here. However, I also have to prepay for my electricity, and water. This system will surely change me for the better.

In my suite, there are 4 people total. Two of them come from Korea and the other one is from Canada. After our orientations, we have all finally gotten along well together.

Being an international student at Meiji has allowed me to understand what life is like for international students at New Paltz. For example. although international students cannot understand everything we native English speakers say sometimes, they really listen and try to make the most of what they understood. Because my Japanese is terrible I would say, I am trying my best to improve every single day here like they did in America. Also, since there are only a few American students here, I get to interact with many other international students from countries more so than as a native student at New Paltz.

So more about Japan:

There are many more variety shows here as well as more colorful commercials. I really enjoy Japanese television.

Sakura flowers had just recently bloomed, but will disappear soon. That is why around this time, people attend “flower viewing” sessions to appreciate its beauty while they are still can.

At Shinjuku Gyoen, or National Park
At Shinjuku Gyoen, or National Park

Inkan or seals are needed for legal documents because they act like signatures. I just made mine yesterday!

Tokyo is well connected by subway lines. You pay for your ticket by the distance. You also have to adjust your ticket fare if you need to transfer trains at a station. However, you can reduce the trouble by using either Pasmon or Suica cards which are similar to Metro Cards in NYC. Pasmon’s usefulness is limited to within Tokyo while Suica can be used to access the greater Tokyo area. With a Suica card, you can even use it as a debit card to buy merchandises if you have enough points!

Similar to a monthly Metro Card in NYC, there are commuter passes in Tokyo. To obtain one, you would need a student ID, as well as document from the school stating where you live and the school’s nearby station. However, unlike a month Metro Card where you can go wherever you want in NYC, you are limited to only using the commuter pass to stations in between your route to school.

I still have 2 weeks before school starts!