Initial Thoughts of Japan

By | 30 September, 2008

The plane ride – I arrived at the airport around 11:45 for a 2:10 flight. I wanted to get there early so that in case I encountered any setbacks they would not delay my trip. Everything went surprisingly smooth. I checked my luggage in 15 minutes and found my gate in another 5. This left me with roughly two hours to wait until I left. I passed time by reading and listening to music.
I boarded the plane and sat down, I was ready for a lot of sitting, but 13 hours in one place is just ridiculous. They served dinner; I had a nice beef dish, a mid flight snack, a ham sandwich, and breakfast, my last American meal, eggs, potatoes, and sausage. The only thing that saved me from the boredom was the three in-flight movies. First was Leatherheads, then What Happens in Vegas, and finally and more stereotypically, Speedracer. Why not just sleep you may ask? Well when going to a foreign country for the first time, I don’t care how emotionless one may be, the excitement and anxiousness takes over.

Upon Arrival – Once I arrived I was a mixture of relieved as well as nervous. I was relieved that I had finally made it and would be able to move away from the small quarters in which I was confined the last 14 hours and also nervous about immigration and customs. This all went by very uneventfully. The first step is a quarantine which you are supposed to go to if you are sick, I wasn’t. Then you get to immigration. There are two forms which were handed out on the plane that you had to fill out. The first was a customs form for declaring items (none of which I had) and the second was an embarkment/disembarkment form. After immigrations was customs where I talked to the lady for about 2 minutes trying to explain that I did not have the address of where I was staying, but only a home phone number.

My first breakfast – I had arrived uneventfully at my host family’s house and gone to bed around 9pm. I awoke around 8am and went to eat breakfast. I guess it was a traditional Japanese breakfast of yogurt with fruit, homemade juice (I don’t know what kind but it was very good). I also had two pieces of toast (which were much better than regular toast in the US). This was somehow very satisfying for being much less than I am used to.

My first walk – I then went on a walk with Kevin to his work. On the way we would pass Shibuya station where I would do much of my traveling from. The walk was a very good glimpse into the Japanese lifestyle. We walked for about 20 minutes to get there and I saw many things along the way. The first thing out of the ordinary and not something most visitors are likely to experience is the sight of the current prime ministers house. This house was less than one minute from my host family’s house which helped explain why there were policemen everywhere.
The streets are all very narrow and many people walk or ride bikes. There are vending machines for drinks everywhere. When we got toward Shibuya station the noteworthy image of a huge intersection with big screens everywhere and multitudes of people crossing the street came alive. This is an area in which I could spend hours just looking around and never get bored. Kevin eventually arrived at his place of work and I went back to Shibuya station and called my friend, Koji.

My first experience with the public transportation system – Koji wanted me to come over to where he lived in Meguro. To do this I would have to take the train at Shibuya station. It took me 20 minutes and 2 phone calls to figure out where to buy the tickets. I finally got my ticket and boarded the train. I got off in Meguro and Koji was able to find me no problem. After this initial run in with the public transportation system I was never confused by them again (as of now at least).

My first meal – Koji and I decided to go eat somewhere. He decided on a restaurant by looking at food on a poster from outside. We went inside and there was a vending machine. He found the meals we wanted on it from pictures. Then we inserted the money and received tickets. We sat at a counter and gave the waitress our tickets. In several minutes the food appeared in front of us. I had gotten salmon, some sort of beef in a bowl, sticky rice, and miso soup. Everything was delicious. I am not a fan of salmon, but even the salmon was great! The miso soup was better than any miso I had back in the US. And the beef was probably my favorite. The price was very reasonable at around 450 yen.

Maids – This was something that I am still trying to understand. When we went to the electronic district (akihabura?) I saw young Japanese ladies dresses in maid outfits. When I asked Koji about this I was told that this is a big thing here. The nerds are obsessed with the maid outfits and there are maid casinos, maid cafés, and more. A majority of the maid were quite good looking so there was a lot of eye candy for me.

Television – Japanese television is the same, if not wackier, than America portrays it to be. They had comedians doing the evening news, odd game shows, odder programs that I couldn’t understand, and more. I would have to say the most unusual thing was the way they cut to commercials. Unlike in the US where you can pretty much tell when a commercial is coming, they would randomly cut to commercials in the middle of anything. When the programming started again they would sometime rewind a bit so you know you didn’t miss anything, other times it would seem as though you missed a small portion of the programming. Everything was very interesting to watch though, even if I couldn’t understand it.

Smoking – So I know I shouldn’t be smoking, but I’ll be the first to admit that I am addicted. I bought a pack of cigarettes once off the plane and smoked one outside not thinking. The next day on my walk with Kevin I noticed designated smoking sections. Apparently in some parts of the city they have these. They are not hard to locate and are usually populated by a good amount of people.

Computers – I first experienced a computer in Japan when I used Koji’s. It didn’t help that it was 8 years old and ran Windows ME. Everything was in Japanese on it, which didn’t seem to be much of a problem since I could navigate windows even if it was in some alien language. The biggest surprise was the keyboard. At first glance, it’s a regular QWERTY keyboard just with Japanese characters listed as alternates for some of the keys. Then I tried to log into my email. Kylemcauliffe” huh? I tried again, but shift+2 was “. I spent about a minute searching the keyboard and found the @ was right next to ‘p’ and you didn’t have to press shift. There were many differences other than this, though the only ones I can think of at the moment are that the backspace key was extremely small, and that the enter key was narrow and tall.

Drinks – With all the vending machines I am obsessed with the drinks here. I have had nearly 12 different ones so far, and am looking forward to many more. The oddest of these so far is one by Fanta. It is in a small 6-8oz can which you shake hard once you obtain it. The beverage comes in apple, grape, and orange (at least this is all the flavors I have seen so far). It is like a soda, but there is a jello like substance in it. So while you are drinking what seems like a carbonated beverage, you are also chewing it. It was quite an interesting experience! Koji has told me that there are a lot of jello like beverages here.

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