The End of the Beginning

September 3, 2017

Thanks for Blessing my Melon Soda

September 14, 2017

A Swan Has Landed

September 8, 2017

These past few days have felt like an absolute fever dream. For example, I woke up at 7am on Wednesday (6th September) morning, and I only went to bed 10:30pm on Thursday (7th September). I haven’t slept at all and yet I’m still functioning somehow (even though I kept referring to being in Heathrow as “this morning” on Thursday, when it was actually the morning of the day before). Taking the time difference into account, that’s still nearly 32 hours of no sleep?

A glass of wine while watching Rogue One on the flight, of course

Anyway. The big point is I made it to Tokyo in one piece. That’s honestly the weirdest thing to write and it’s even weirder that it’s genuinely the truth; I’m sitting here in my room in Shinjuku, Tokyo, other side of the world to my home, with the sliding door to the balcony wide open in September because it’s stupidly humid outside. Cicadas constantly humming. Japan’s extremely scary police cars that sound like air raid sirens with the driver shouting PLEASE GET OUT OF THE WAY in Japanese. That’s my life now.

The flight itself was something else entirely. Nearly 12 hours of my life that seem to have just vanished. I tried listening to the same hour-long mindfulness soundtrack twice on the plane, because I thought it might’ve doubled my chances of actually falling asleep and waking up feeling refreshed for Japan. It didn’t work. (I also, at the time of packing, chose to ignore how dry and flaky my skin gets when I travel for a long time, so I arrived into Japan looking like someone had taken a cheese grater and fed my skin through it a few times and that definitely wasn’t the style I was aiming to achieve.)

I just thought the sky was super purple because we were flying in some weird way or something

I managed to watch three films including The Truman Show on the flight too, which then made me freak out a little over how purple the sky was in the middle of the night. Maybe I wasn’t actually travelling to the literal other side of the planet? Maybe, actually, the plane was all some big trick and I wasn’t moving anywhere and I was just going to end up in some other part of the UK that was designed to look like some imitation of what I might expect Tokyo to look like.

Turns out, at night, they just dim the windows to allow people to sleep as the plane chases the sun. It gives them a purple hue. I honestly didn’t even realise until I saw someone else adjusting the settings on their window.

The journey from Narita Airport to Waseda was a little bit weird too. I’m guessing it was the cloudy skies combined with the tall apartment blocks and overhead power lines, but seriously, the scenery I saw in that hour and a half journey was very, very similar to Moscow. There was even a building that looked like some kind of imitation of St. Basil’s Cathedral along the way.

My first purchase in Japan was made on Thursday, to buy myself dinner at a 7/11 – it cost ¥280 (£2) and consisted of a Nattou maki roll (nattou is delicious, don’t trust people who don’t like nattou) and a seaweed filled onigiri. Both delicious, both filling, and both unfortunately finished off with a bottle of green tea flavoured drink that smelt like farts.

Friday – 新宿

Friday was the SIM card party – we walked into central Shinjuku (30 minutes) to get to a massive BIC camera (Japan’s biggest electronics shop that sells everything from hair dryers, umbrellas, to reasonably cheap SIM cards.) After thinking that I’d be probed for my ID card, my passport, my form of purchase, etc., all I was asked was:

  1. If I actually had a residency card (they didn’t even want to see it)
  2. not to be upset when told the SIM isn’t refundable
  3. not to be upset if my foreign card doesn’t work (and multiple repetitions of the fact that it is non-refundable)
  4. not to be upset that the contract was written in Japanese, despite me actually making an effort to talk to them in Japanese with them clearly understanding what I was saying (with a few “umm”s and “yes”s and maybe a bit of broken Japanese inbetween)

I got 6GB of data per month, which is all I really need as everyone (from what I’ve been told) just uses Wi-fi for texts and calls here.

SO Delicious!!!

Following that, I had my first restaurant meal in Japan at a lovely place called そば増田屋, soba zoutaya. I somehow found myself appointed as the Japanese speaker of the group, so I strutted in with “Is a group of 15 okay?” and we found ourselves taken to a little secret compartment in the back – a tatami room with pillows on the floor, just enough space for all of us (shoes left at the entrance, of course). I’m also glad I have the ability to ask if things have meat in them and if they can remove the meat (though I’ve got a whole year to see if people actually respect my queries or not).

That’s another extremely weird thing I’ve noticed about Japan so far – they have the tendency to put fish and meat into almost everything, even if it doesn’t add anything at all to the dish. Like, the nattou maki roll and the seaweed onigiri I got from the 7/11 on Wednesday? I only skim read the ingredients and assumed they’d be alright, but turns out they both had some kind of fish by-product in them (???????). The vegetable tempura Soba bowl I ordered didn’t have meat to begin with, but looking back, it was probably soaked in a fish-based sauce. It’s like England’s obsession with putting milk powder unnecessarily in things like chips or curry. There’s sadly not too much I can do about it though.

After a trip to one of the Tokyo metropolitan building towers all the way to the 45th floor, we realised that we were about to miss one of our orientations, so I quickly bought a sticker pack at Hakuhinkan Toy Park and rushed back just in time.

Japan has treated me amazingly so far. SO much so that I’ve actually only finishing writing this post on Sunday evening (10th September, 10:40pm) and I’m yet to even talk about everything that happened this weekend. I’ll make sure next week is even more wild but for now…

Yes, vending machines are genuinely on every corner. Turn at just the right angle and you’ll see maybe 10 at once.

6 comments

  1. I studied at Waseda in 2008 and this post brought back so many memories for me. You’re going to have an amazing year 🙂 Unfortunately for vegetarians, fish stock/dashi finds its way into the majority of Japanese food.

    1. You studied at Waseda?!!! That’s absolutely amazing, if you have any advice for me I’d love to hear it… dashi is a shame, it’s a shame that there’s not too much I can do about it😔

      1. The best piece of advice I could give is to join a circle! I was a member of the Niji-no-kai international circle. I still have many friends from that circle now all these years later, and even go to the alumni events most years. It’s the easiest way to make Japanese friends and learn real Japanese conversation 🙂

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