It’s official. I’ve survived a whole week in Japan. To be honest, I feel like a middle-school couple celebrating their one-week anniversary: it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment, but I’m quite pleased about it all the same. Here are some of the new experiences I encountered along the way:
SUNDAY: Arrived at Narita Airport, shuttled to Keio Plaza Hotel. Ate Tonkatsu. Sleep. End of day.
MONDAY was a bit more interesting: from 9 to 5 we cycled through lectures and workshops about being a JET. Later that night, my roommates and I headed to the free observatory close to the hotel, and were rewarded with this Tokyo view (although the photo couldn’t do the bright lights justice if I’m honest):
The best orientation seminar on TUESDAY was a Q&A Panel where a 4th or 5th year JET from Jamaica described one of his first few days in town, getting “not one-hour lost, not even three-hour lost, but FIVE-hour lost.” Tuesday night was spent with 19 of my fellow new Ibaraki JETs at a traditional all-you-can-drink izakaya (Japanese pub) dinner.
To sum WEDNESDAY up neatly : I met a lot of people, did a lot of bowing, messed up a lot of Japanese pronunciation, and ate both raw tuna and raw shellfish for the first time in my life–at a conveyor belt sushi bar, no less.
Wednesday was the day we left Tokyo and headed North to Ibaraki, stopping off briefly at Mito for a formal ceremony of signing contracts and meeting supervisors, then being whisked away to each of our respective cities. My supervisor, O-sensei, and another English teacher just a few years older than me, M-sensei, spent the rest of the day with me, jumping between a tour of my base school, registration at city hall, shopping for apartment necessities, and that first raw fish experience. I ended the day exhausted, with blisters on my feet and a smile on my face.
THURSDAY: after my first full day at work, I spent the evening flipping between bizarre game-shows and even stranger commercials on the television. After dinner, I decided to peruse the bookcase stuffed with old books that a string of pack-rat predecessors had left behind.
That’s when it happened; another novelty, another “first” of this first week. Lying on the couch, leafing through some abandoned novel, I noticed the lamp above me starting to swing. The mirror in my bedroom began trembling. The very walls around me were suddenly shaking. It was as if my entire apartment was experiencing heavy turbulence.
Strangely, I didn’t panic. Only two thoughts were running through my mind: the first was quite sarcastic, along the lines of “I’m screwed if this building falls down.” The second was more practical: I sat there thinking “All the earthquake pamphlets tell me to take shelter under a table… but the only table in my apartment stands roughly two feet tall, and I really can’t easily crawl under that. A total design flaw of Japanese apartments.” Then, with no further drama, the shaking ceased.
On FRIDAY: I asked a few teachers at my base school about the earthquake. Many had forgotten it had even happened, it’s such a normal occurrence here. Also, I started tallying up how many people tell me that I have a small face (a complement, apparently). We’re up to 4.
SATURDAY: I met my supervisor O-sensei at 2 o’clock and we made a trip to PC Depot to buy pocket Wi-Fi and perhaps a Japanese cell phone. A solid 5 hours later, our mission was complete. O-sensei then graciously invited me to dinner with her family, where we enjoyed home-cooked noodles, shrimp and vegetable tempura, watermelon from her mother’s garden, and the most delicious strawberry and sweetened-milk shaved ice that I have ever encountered. After three rounds of sparklers with the kids, I left for the night, smiling thanks to all the wonderful people that I have met this week.
And, of course, today, SUNDAY: I tried out the apartment’s bicycle for the first time, and apparently my predecessor was 6 to 8 inches taller than me, because my toes barely touch the ground whenever I screech to a stop. Unfortunately the seat’s too rusty to adjust. I spent the afternoon cylcing round my new little city, buying groceries and stationary like any other boring human living on their own.
One week down, and the adventure has only just begun.