I say good evening because it’s 7:00 p.m. here. It’s been a long three days in Tokyo! So busy, in fact, that I’ve only managed to leave the hotel once on Sunday evening, the evening we arrived. Myself, my roommates, and a few fellow Houston JETs we accidentally ran into decided to go on a little field trip to see Shibuya Crossing, the really big, busy intersection in a shopping district in Tokyo (for lack of a better way to describe it). We got lost trying to find it. Then we found it. Then we were tired so we literally just took a few pictures, then got lost again, and went back to the hotel. Hopefully I’ll get out again tonight, seeing as it’s the last night here! But even if I don’t, I got my impulse purchases out of the way; bought an Oddish stuffed animal and a Mickey Mouse alarm clock in the hotel konbini (convenience store). I’m oddly not that concerned about seeing Tokyo? I mean it’s cool and all, but (A) I’m here for work and not play, (B) I’m so freaking tired from orientation and jet-lag I really don’t feel like it, (C) I’d rather experience it on a separate trip with no work obligations since I barely have any time now and since it’s only a two and a half hour bullet train ride/1 hour flight away, and (D) I don’t have a fully functioning cell phone to help me navigate.
The JET alumni I talked to really weren’t kidding about culture shock! Everything is so different! Tokyo is HUGE! It just goes on and on and on forever with the highway going through the city. And everything is so clean! And people are so polite! We went to Japanese 7/11 on Sunday night to buy onigiri (rice balls, usually with some kind of filling) for dinner. My roommate accidentally bought one that was old, and the shop clerk was kind enough to actually point it out and get another for her himself! And everything is so cheap! A rice ball is just about 150￥ (about $1.50), and you can get tea for around 130￥ (about $1.30). I bought a bottle of mugicha (barley tea) and it came with a sock. Yes, a sock. A single sock. Very random. Point being, after only 3 days and hardly leaving the hotel, so many differences are obvious to me.
I’ve also noticed that my Japanese is abysmal. Absolutely abysmal. I though it was decent enough before I left, but after meeting so many people with such high Japanese language abilities, I’m realizing how much I’ve slipped. I need to study. A lot. I couldn’t even read the kanji on the rice balls I bought, and katakana is a slow process (takes me a while to piece together what the word is trying to say, even though I can read the characters). And I keep getting the characters for “n” and “so” mixed up when I read katakana. But mostly kanji though. I can piece some stuff together, but my reading level is just not there. And when I thought about asking for directions the other day, it took me a really long time to figure out what I wanted to ask. Actually being immersed is making me realize how far off I am. At least if I don’t have the language skills, though, the bright side is that I had an hour and a half seminar yesterday essentially teaching me the right ways to bow and greet people. So that’s good, I guess? I can do manners.
Tokyo Orientation has been such a whirlwind, but so informative and fun at the same time. I’ve met so many people from so many countries, like Ireland, England, South Africa, Jamaica, Australia, and Canada, to name a few. Everyone here is so friendly and so welcoming–I could sit with one person for breakfast and another for lunch and still feel like I had been talking to them forever! We had around 500-600 people at my orientation, and another 500-600 follow suit next week. Fifty-two of those 1200 or so people came from my consulate in Houston. A pretty good chunk if I say so myself. With each passing day I feel very humbled to be among those fifty-two people. There are thousands and thousands of JET applications each year just in the U.S. alone. Only around 1,200 total every year from all over the world, excluding those who are already here. But still. I earned my spot, and I feel so blessed to be able to have all of these amazing opportunities and meet so many amazing people. I know that this is an experience that will change me forever.
I join about 40 or so new JETs to ship off to Hyogo Prefecture tomorrow. We’re taking the shinkansen to Hyogo! I GET TO TAKE THE BULLET TRAIN!!! Plus, NO MORE PLANES!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!! It’ll take about three hours or so with a stop in Osaka first, but then we’ll be on our merry way. I am so excited to meet my predecessor, my teachers and staff that I’ll be working with, and even my host family for my week-long home-stay (I can’t move into my apartment until next week when my predecessor moves out) and their dog! I’m so excited to be in my new home and start my new life as a JET!
Sorry this post was a little long, folks, but I’m not sure what my internet situation will be after tonight; might not have it for a little while (a fews days or a few weeks) so wanted to write about Tokyo while I could. Anyway, good night (or good morning?) everyone, and next time I see ya will be from Kobe!