Archive for August, 2008

Tokyo

As soon as we arrived, even in the tunnel that connects the plane to the terminal, we felt the Tokyo heat. It was like walking into a sauna. Once we entered the terminal, we were greeted by a bright-yellow-shirted person holding a sign that said “Welcome to Japan, JETs!” Another 50 ft. and there was another yellow-shirted JET pointing us in the direction of the baggage terminal. This pattern continued throughout the airport, so to get from the plane to ground transportation, we just had to Follow the Yellow Shirt Road. A two-hour bus ride later and we had arrived at our hotel in downtown Tokyo.

The next 3 days were Tokyo Orientation. It consisted of a lot of…orientating. Traveling in Japan, Traveling Outside Japan, The Do’s and Don’ts of Chopstick Etiquette, How to Operate a Rice Cooker…the list goes on. I think around 1,000 of us were orientated, the vast majority of which were Americans. I also met some Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, and one South African. We were Group B; there was an equal-sized Group A who was orientated a couple weeks before, and a smaller Group C who is being orientated right around now. I think that puts the total number of new JETs at around 3,000. We’re taking over Japan.

By day, orientation; by night, karaoke. Karaoke is HUGE in Japan. In many karaoke bars, your group is assigned its own sound booth, complete with a flat-screen TV, sweet sound system, several mics, an equal number of tambourines, and an all-you-can-drink special – a disastrous combination. A friend and I did All My Life – I was KC, he was JoJo. Other favorites included Nelly’s Country Grammar, Michael’s Thriller, and Jovi’s Livin’ On a Prayer (Edward, Andrew, Jacob – you would love this). Of course, there are also the superstars who sing Japanese songs with lyrics written in kanji. It doesn’t really matter what song you choose, though; there are only 3 Japanese music videos that loop – 1) a Japanese punk band rocking out, 2) a Japanese man dramatically singing in a downpour, and 3) a Japanese couple making out on the beach. And it doesn’t matter if you’re terrible at singing; if you pick a popular one, we all sing, and the more inebriated we get, the louder (and less coherent) we become.

The last night we were in Tokyo, I came back to the hotel after a good time at karaoke. My roommate Brian, who was also my roommate in San Francisco and is living in the same prefecture as me, was already asleep when I got back, but semi-awoke when I came in. He had been out that night too, and after discussing our outings, our conversation went something like this:

Brandon: Brian, this is our last night as roommates.
Brian: Oh man, what are we going to do?
Bra: I don’t know. Maybe we could drive to each other’s houses and have sleepovers on weekends.
Bri: …Okay, but only if I’m little spoon.

Unfortunately, he had no recollection of this conversation in the morning, but I plan on holding him to his promise.

Japanese Word of the Day: “Kara” (Japanese, meaning “empty”) – “oke” (short for “oke-su-tu-ra”, in English, “orchestra”) kara + oke = empty orchestra.

Leaving the US, Arriving in Japan

I arrived at the San Francisco airport, navigated through BART, the metro system, and lugged my baggage 2 miles up the 45-degree-angled SF streets to arrive at the hotel in Japantown just in time to miss the entire JET Pre-Departure Orientation (which had been the whole point in coming to San Francisco). Ah well, from what I gathered from other JETs, I didn’t miss much. The highlight for me was going to the Japanese Consulate-General’s house. As soon as you walk in the front doors, a butler is waiting there, holding a platter of wine glasses. Your choice – red, white, or water, and as soon as you take one sip, he magically appears to top you off again. Good wine, good company, and a buffet of delicious sushi…perhaps coming to San Francisco wasn’t so bad after all.

The next morning:
6am: On a bus to the SF airport.
10am: Flight from SF back to LAX. Yep.
11am: In an attempt to find a late breakfast, I came across a couple JETs boozing at an airport bar in preparation for the long flight ahead. I considered joining, realized I had a middle seat on the plane, decided against it.
12pm: Goodbye U.S.
???: Kung Fu Panda – Awesome!
???: Made of Honor – Meh.
???: Some movie with Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz – Just staving off boredom at this point.
???: Dreams of cheeseburgers, peanut butter, and English-speaking friends.
12pm two days later: Hello Japan!

A Bumpy Start

My adventure begins by my flight from LA to San Francisco being cancelled. While I waited in the airport for the next flight, I went to Burger King to grab some lunch. I placed my order, received my cup, and went over to the drink machine. When I had selected my beverage, I put my luggage down to fill my cup. Right then, an Asian woman received her food at the counter and was about to walk away when she stumbled over my bag. Well, not just a stumble – she full out face-planted over my luggage, taking her food and drink with her to the floor. I helped her up, apologizing profusely and trying to offer my drink as some sort of consolation. She kept saying sorry (for what, I have no idea) and quickly walked away.
Hmm…
1) I wonder if I attract awkward moments, especially in fast food joints (for those who remember the smoothie shop “Are you just good looking?” incident)…
2) After my run-in with the Asian woman, is this karma’s way of foreshadowing my Japan experience?

Konnichiwa!

Hello everyone! This is my attempt at journaling what I hope to be some very fun and exciting times in Japan. Just to catch everyone up, I left the U.S. in August to go teach English to students in Japan. I am living way, way up north in Aomori prefecture – the northernmost prefecture on the main island of Japan. Living in a town called Shichinohe (pop. 18,000). From what I’ve gathered, snow usually arrives in October and leaves in April…just a bit different from Southern California climate.  Anyway, here goes my very first blog. Enjoy!