Hello everyone! This is my first post regarding my experiences in Asia as a Shansi Fellow to Obirin University in Japan. I don’t actually start teaching until September, but I’m spending the rest of the summer visiting old friends I made while I studied at Kansai Gaidai in 2011 (the year of the earthquake and tsunami).
Although the night before departure I hardly slept at all (because I saved all my packing for the last day possible), I had a nice flight on Japan Airlines from JFK to Narita Airport in Tokyo. Normally I’d fly on probably Northwest or something (even though I don’t like it), but this time Shansi paid for my ticket, and their travel agent Howard from ChinaSmith booked a JAL flight. It was great! The service as expected was excellent and the food was amazing. They even gave all the passengers a little container of vanilla Haagen Dazs after our dinner, for which I ordered a yummy pork dish. It took a few minutes of confused, futile digging with my plastic spoon to realize there was a tiny, harder spoon attached to the underneath of the ice cream lid. If I wanted I could’ve even had a beer, but I opted not to since I was stuck between the window and a middle-aged Japanese couple who had steel bladders and spent most of the flight sleeping. (I needed to pee more often than I didn’t.)
Except for the being unable to pee part, another nice part about the flight was that I watched a lot of Japanese movies and TV, which kind of got me into Japanese-mode after a year of not having an intensive class. If you haven’t seen it, the movie “Water Boys” (which I first saw in middle or high school) is one of the funniest, silliest movies I’ve ever seen. It was hard not to laugh too loudly on the quiet flight.
An exciting moment was when 7/10 of my way into the flight I tried to recline my seat for the first time and it shot backwards suddenly and wouldn’t go back up. It was okay for a while, but once it was time for landing a stewardess told me in Japanese that I needed to relocate for safety purposes. While apologizing profusely, she told me my two options: an empty seat toward the back of the plane, or an empty seat in Premium Class. I wondered if it was a trick question.
The last 10 minutes of the flight were the most comfortable I’ve ever spent on a plane, though I felt so out of place that I did nothing but sit there and stare at all the legroom I had.
Anyway, arrived in Narita, picked up my new set of purple suitcases and was met at the airport by my kareshi Ken-chan, whom I haven’t seen in 11 months. 🙂
It’s 梅雨 (“tsuyu”, “rainy season”) in Japan now, so it’s very hot and humid. This means I’ll likely be staying inside as much as possible.
We spent the first few nights in Shibuya, though for one day we reunited with our Japanese friend Nao from Kansai Gaidai and visited Yokohama. While there we went to the top of “Landmark Tower” (creative name, right?) on apparently one of the world’s fastest elevators, which at one point climbed up to a speed of 750m/minute. We reached the 69th floor in 40 seconds. The view was spectacular. Despite spending a total of a year and 4 months in Japan (1 year in 2011, 4 months in HS), I’d never spent much time in the Kanto area, so I’d never had the chance to visit Yokohama. Its place by the water reminded me of Kobe in the Kansai area, with which I’m more familiar. I’ll definitely be going back because Ken and I plan to stay with a friend there. It’s also much more peaceful and laid back than the general Tokyo area, which I prefer.
Currently we are staying with current Japan Fellow Lissette in her apartment by Obirin Daigaku (J.F. Oberlin University) where I will teach for the next two years. It’s a pretty nice apartment, spacious for one person, though it is quite old and the outside is the color of Pepto Bismol. Last night we went out to Kappa Zushi with her and Matt. Often in 2011 we ate at Kappa Zushi with Gaidai friends, so it was pretty nostalgic. At Kappa Zushi the sushi goes around on a conveyor belt and you pick up any plate you want. You can even order your own sushi using a touchscreen menu next to your table. Your dishes arrive straight to you on a little “shinkansen” (“bullet train”). It’s very cute 😀
Anyway for these next two days hope to get a little more acquainted with Fuchinobe and Machida, and maybe we’ll go to Enoshima. Then we fly to KIX (Kansai International Airport) where we’ll visit friends for two weeks!
Jetlag keeps waking me up earlier than I’d wish to so I’m gonna rest for a bit now, but I’ll try to write more later. 🙂
Jaa ne~ (See you later!)