First days in JapanLast Edit: 16 Jun 2017 | Japan
Arriving in Narita
After an 11 hour flight my legs were ready for a stretch. I was lucky to get a 2 seat row to myself so I could spread out but it only helps so much. On the plane I had brought plenty to do but I did watch one Japanese comedy movie (sadly I don’t remember the name but it was about a news caster that ends up being requested by the assailant of a hostage takeover at a cafe), it was enjoyable and maybe helped a little to get my head in the right place.
Getting out of the airport airport was easy. I just followed the signs with a bag symbol and immegration was easy (just make sure to use pen on the form. I screwed that up).
Once in the airport lobby there was a crew with cameras interviewing any gaijin (foreigner) they could and they asked where you were from, why you were in Japan and the some followups. So maybe I was that hairy white guy on Japanese TV…
I then got lucky and found another fellow from the JSPS program (Sam from Cali, supper rad person) and she knew where we needed to be to catch the bus to our hotel. Once we got to the spot we started meeting lots of other fellows from all over the US (including Tyler who I was supposed to meet up with a month ago as he is also from OSU but I was a jerk and spaced on our meeting). Eventually we got on the bus to the hotel.
The first night
I and many other fellows were surprised when all we were given at check in was times for dinner, breakfast, and leaving. I guess they figured we would all just want to relax and go to bed. This hotel was not our orientation destination but rather just a hold over as Sokendai was over 2 hrs away. During check in I met some folks from the UK, Germany, Canada, France, and Sweden.
So what to do with free time? Well, find a bar of course. I looked it up and downtown Narita was only a 20 min walk so as everyone was finishing dinner I went around and invited everyone to go. Surprisingly we ended up with a large group, about 15, and we shocked the bar tender at the first place we went. Lucky another guy from OSU, Sean, was with us and his family is Hawaiian Japanese and even though he has lost a lot he still has great language skills. With Sean’s guidance we got a round of beer clearing the bar out of glasses and bottles. Sean and I got some Yamazaki whiskey, it’s good stuff. After paying (Note: tipping is a bad idea in Japan, the tippee will think that you are looking down on them), a lot of the group decided to go back to bed but 6 of us charged on.
We found another place but they didn’t have room for us. Luckily another place right below had room (all 3 places really only had room for 20 people max). There another group met up with us and we were back up to 10+ and soon 2 young Japanese women joined us. Their English was very good (one had spent 6 months in Portland) and they had a good time making jokes and teaching us some Japanese. Kawaii (cute) was the word of the night. I again had whiskey, Nikka, which was also quite good.
Sumimasen (sorry, excuse me - most important word to know) that there aren’t any pics my brain was not working yet.
On to Sokendai
After breakfast (I’ll talk food at some point) we filled 3 busses (there are about 115 fellows, 54 from the US) and got on the road. After and hour and a half going through some beautiful country south of Tokyo we stopped at a small port island outside of Yokohama for a break. Here I was blown away by the civil engineering and flowers at a truck stop. After 20 min we continued on and soon made it to Sokendai.
Shonan village center - Sokendai
The conference center is really beautiful with a view of Fuji-san (sadly it’s been behind the clouds) and we had a really good introduction to the program and during check-in finally got more info about our week. Intensive language classes, cultural orientation, Trip to the Great Buddha and Hachiman Shinto shrine in Kamakura, and home stay.
The language classes have been really useful and I am happy I mostly learned hiragana and katakana ( the phonetic alphabets in Japanese) before I came. I wish I would have studied a bit more before because a lot of the words/sentences are not sticking but at least I am getting some good resources. The last day before the home stay we also got to do some cultural things such as oragami, toys, kanji calligraphy, and a tea ceremony. It was fun and informative.
The time is going really fast but 3 days has also felt like a week and I have met so many great people, made a bunch of friends, and learned a ton.
In the next post I’ll talk about the trip to Kamakura.