Sunday, August 5, 2007

Tokyo Orientation - Day 1

We arrived in Narita pretty close to on time. I was also impressed by the efficiency of the airport staff. From landing to clearing customs, it only took about one hour! Most impressively, they took all the luggage with the JET tags and put them on the floor, so I didn't have to try grabbing my nearly 32kg bag(s) off the conveyor belt!

Once we cleared customs, we were led by members of the Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching (AJET) through the airport to the buses that would take us to the Keio Plaza Hotel.

Oh, and I had my first experience with the high-tech toilets in Japan in Narita:

I didn't try the flushing sound or any of the functions there, but I did test them out later on, in the hotel. My roommate loves the bidet &etc. but my opinion of them is more 50/50 (good/weird). I didn't take a picture of it, but I also found a toilet in the lobby of the hotel that had a drying function!! Maybe if they all had drying functions I would like the bidet/spray more...

Anyway, our first three-four days were spent in Tokyo with new JETs from many different countries: Canada, America, England, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, etc. We were placed in rooms according to gender and prefecture, so I ended up with C, my friend from the Toronto pre-orientation.

After getting our bags and settling into our hotel rooms, we decided to go out for a quick dinner. We stopped by the hospitality centre (staffed 24hr by volunteer JETs) to check email and ask for a restaurant recommendation. It just so happened that one of the guys there, RT, was just finishing his shift, so he kindly offered to take us around.

We had conveyor belt sushi and it was pretty darn good. It wasn't so much in the taste but the price! At the Toronto pre-departure orientation we had conveyor belt sushi for lunch one day, but the only things on the cheap plates were things like edamame or tamago sushi. Anything with fish was more expensive. In Shinjuku, though, pretty much anything I wanted--unagi!!-- came on the cheap plates!

After that we walked around Kabuki-cho, the club/red light district in Shinjuku. We also randomly picked up some other new Canadian JETs (from Vancouver) on the way. RT pointed out the host/hostess clubs and other odd/interesting things. He also took us into a small shop for sex toys, and that was weird/awkward in the extreme for me, but rather interesting nonetheless. ^^;;

Once we got tired of walking, we went to a newish izakaya (Japanese pub) and had some drinks (sake for everyone else, Cola and water for me). This was when we learned that you need to ask about table charges/sitting fees before going in an izakaya or bar. The fee there wasn't too bad: ¥300. We also learned that you should ask if it's necessary to buy food or not. After our first round of drinks, the waiter came by and mentioned that we needed to order food because the till system was set up so that you had to enter a food order for each drink order. @_@

C and I were pretty pooped, so after the food and a second round of drinks--during which I was coaxed into trying some sake, which actually wasn't too bad--we went back to the hotel. On our way back there were something like 10 fire trucks in and around one intersection. It was kind of cool, but we didn't see smoke billowing out of a building or anything. (Too bad?)

Random picture: Tokyo Tower as seen from the bus (hence the funny colours):

Off to Japan!

I thought the excitement about coming to Japan would start in the airplane--after all the preparation were done and over with--but I was wrong. All I could think about was everything I was leaving behind. And that resulted in my writing things like:

Sitting on the plane
Surrounded by fellow JETs
Trying not to cry

I actually did cry a bit when I let myself dwell on things, so I tried not to give myself anytime to think. I watched Spiderman 3 (finally!), ate when food was offered (even if I wasn't particularly hungry), and slept a lot.

It was a long and melancholy flight to Tokyo.

On the bright side, I did get some decent food shots (I can't believe they served us so much food on the plane! It was insane!):