Well, I finally reached one of my lifelong dreams: arriving in Japan. I wasn’t necessarily trying to work here at first, a visit would’ve been fine. But hell, I’m actually going to be living and working here! By the time you read this, I’ll be in Osaka, getting my place furnished and looking decent as well as doing all the formalities but let’s rewind a bit, shall we?
I was flying out of Chicago so I decided that our family should have a mini road trip beforehand. I ended up going with my older brother and my father; my mother decided to stay behind. It was nice to hang out as a family for the next few days as it’s a bit more harder to do as we are all busy. The pre-departure orientation wasn’t too stressful; it was just everyone sitting in suits and listening to how to get to our flight. I met a few nice people who were going to be working in Osaka as well, such as Kris as well as one of my coworkers that I used to take Japanese class with (Dawn). The following day was our departure. The flight itself was a pretty long one but I actually overestimated my boredom on the flight. I forgot there were a lot of movies to watch provided by the airline so wasting time wasn’t too hard. The hardest thing was definitely trying to fall asleep; luckily I had some medical assistance. I timed it with Tokyo time so I wouldn’t have to worry about jet lag too much. There were some JET people that were way too excited to come to Japan. Being excited is nice and everything but screaming off the top of your lungs “OH MY GOD, THIS IS IT! WE ARE FINALLY GOING TO JAPAN! WE MADE IT! WOOOOO!” as you entered the plane was ridiculous.
Eventually, we landed in Narita airport. Getting through customs was surprisingly easy, which was a nice change of pace. It was surreal to get on the bus to Shinjuku and just watching the view of the city. I think that’s when I realized I was going to be living in this country:
After a 2 hour bus ride, we were in Keio Hotel in Shinjuku. I went out to get some ramen with my roommate, which was delicious. The learning curve was starting to hit me as I really couldn’t recognize a lot of the writing in the menu. It was nice to see how polite the Japanese are though as I saw the owner of one store see a customer off with a deep bow of gratitude. After we ate, I just went to bed as I was just too exhausted for anything. Apparently there was a somewhat strong earthquake that took place around 4 AM, which is when I woke up. However, I didn’t really feel it. I guess that’s Japan’s way of welcoming us.
The first day of orientation felt like forever. We attended the opening ceremony which was led by representatives from various branches of JET. Seeing hundreds of people in suits in a huge, fancy hall made you feel special:
After orientation, I ran into Kris again. We stuck together as we attended various workshops. While most weren’t super helpful and just long, there were others that were very interesting. One example was the elementary school one because the Japanese lady that was running it was super into it which was cute to watch. From what I hear, I’m just teaching elementary schools but I’m sure that’s a tentative decision. And if it isn’t, great!
During lunch we connected with another JET and we all decided to go do some karaoke and wandering. Karaoke was oddly addicting; we spent two hours singing there. The videos are the best because they usually have NOTHING to do with the song itself. For example, I was singing a Paul McCartney song and the video just contained a bunch of guys with shades in a fancy car in the middle of a grassfield. Kris’ voice was also amazing and hearing him belt out the most ridiculous songs was a treat:
After karaoke, we decided to just walk around Shinjuku. It’s a very bright place with a lot of things to do like eat, play games, gamble, watch local bands, etc. Along the way we ran into a guy who wanted to go to his nomihodai (all you can drink place). Since it was already late, we declined but we ended up talking to him briefly about random things. His English wasn’t the greatest but he wasn’t afraid to try to communicate with us. We parted ways, wandered around some more and ran into him once again, except with a coworker/friend. This time, we ended up chatting for 30 minutes or so. He kept mentioning “samurai head’ and gesturing eating a onigiri. It was pretty hilarious. We ended up taking pictures of them:
The pair acting like comedy duo: one made the jokes while the other played the straight man and playfully smacked the other. They were really friendly and funny, I wished we were able to take up on their offer on going out for drinks but it was very late at this point. We got one of their e-mails so maybe we’ll hang out when we go back.
The second day of orientation wasn’t very eventful. It was a bit stressful for me as I confused myself and missed a mandatory meeting with my area advisor. After I was told this, I had to run around and look for her. Luckily the AJET community was very helpful in helping me find her. The endless workshops, being in a suit all day and the jet lag was beginning to catch up to me at this point. I decided to just take it easy the final night and just got something at a conbini (convenience store) for dinner. We were departing Tokyo the following day so it was a good idea.
Overall, the Tokyo orientation wasn’t too bad, it was just too informative. To be able to memorize so much information in such little time is very difficult but at least we were given handouts for most presentations and we could take notes. It was great to see all of my coworkers in advance and make friends with other JETs around the area.
Next time I’ll write about the trip to Osaka and to Sakai, my new hometown as well as the past few days here.