Kelsey: Arrival in Tokyo

April 5, 2010

My plan was to sleep on the plane in order to get used to the time change, but you probably know how that went. I ended up watching some movies and TV shows on the screen at my seat. I also played Tetris, because the touch screen came with a little remote/game controller. Haha! After 13 hours, we were on the ground in Tokyo!!

After going through immigration, getting our luggage, and customs inspections, Seth, the other student studying at Sophia University, and I finally made it through the overly dramatic door to the arrival gate to meet the students Sophia brought to pick us up. Yuki was my guide, a 2nd year student majoring in English. Consequently, her English was much better than my Japanese, so we defaulted to that for the trip to my apartment. So begins the really bad day of arrival…

First, we dropped off my suitcases at the “baggage drop-off service” Sophia had suggested in the pre-departure notes. Since it wasn’t specified, I thought it meant Sophia would have someone drive our bags to our living arrangements for us. Instead, it meant that I would pay about $40 to have my suitcases arrive… the next day. Now this wouldn’t have been that bad if we didn’t have to bring our own bedding, but my pillow, blanket, towels, etc. were in those suitcases. I spent the 2 hour train ride to my apartment angry that I hadn’t insisted on bringing at least one of my bags with. The train stations were really busy, though, so I suppose it wouldn’t have worked very well.

After 4 trains and a 20 minute walk in Heiwadai trying to find my apartment, we arrived at the Azalea House. my home for the next four months. I checked in at the office and found out, surprise! that I had underpaid my rent when I sent the bank transfer from TCF (TCF was horrible when I tried to do this, they couldn’t tell me an exchange rate and I had to just estimate what it would be when the money was transferred. Ugh.). Also, as I was warned, it would take about 2 weeks to get internet set up in our rooms, and it is super expensive. Bummer.

Yuki left after taking me to my room, and since I had nothing to unpack I immediately grabbed my laptop and went to the lounge where everyone else was taking advantage of the wifi. I sent out an email telling everyone I had arrived and then went to “sleep.” Even though I put the heater on full blast and I was wearing a sweatshirt with my pajamas, I was FREEZING!!! I tried to use my coat as a blanket, but laying on a mattress with no pillow while shivering like a mad woman made it impossible to sleep. I dozed for a couple of hours, than sat awake for 20 minutes before watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s at 2 in the morning. I dozed for a little longer, but at 5 a.m. I decided it was time to get up.

Day 1, and holy smokes, what a day it was!
I took a shower and got dressed, then went to the lounge again where another girl was already on her laptop. It turns out nobody else could sleep because they were freezing too and their luggage hadn’t arrived either. It made me feel a little better knowing I wasn’t the only one in that predicament.

At 8:30 a group of us left for Sophia, as we had orientation and our placement test. At orientation we received a bag with a huge stack of papers and information books, and a laundry list of paperwork we as exchange students had to complete, as well as information about registering for classes. A guy came in late and sat down next to me, and it turns out he is from St. Thomas University in St. Paul! How coincidental! After orientation, we were split into groups and take to go eat lunch. Yuki was the guide for my group, so that was nice to see her again. She took us to the cafeteria for lunch, and I bought a yummmmy bowl of the special donburi, a dish that is a meat and sauce over rice.

We were getting ready to leave from lunch, and the thing that I had been dreading the most since March 5 happened: I felt my ring and the middle diamond had fallen out. I looked around on the floor and was absolutely heartbroken, as the cafeteria was super crowded and we were leaving and I just couldn’t see it anywhere. It was absolutely horrible!!

After we left, I had to immediately go take my Japanese placement test. Of course it was difficult to concentrate, but somehow I made it through. It was bad, though, one would think after studying Japanese for 3 1/2 years I would be at least to a lower-advanced level. However, I didn’t recognize any of the kanji (Japanese characters) after the beginner level, and I didn’t make it to the advanced level of the grammar, but I think I wrote a pretty kickass sakubun on the essay part. I’m hoping to place into the Advanced Japanese 1 class because they use the same textbook I used last semester, but I’ll take what I can get, I guess.

Yuki had said she would meet me at 4 to take me to get my cell phone (p.s. she’s awesome), so she and her boyfriend Takuma walked with me to Softbank down the street. She talked to the salesman and got me a prepaid phone for about $80. It is extremely expensive to make phone calls- 9 yen (which is about 10 cents) per 6 seconds!! But I have free incoming calls and also free messaging, which is awesome because the messaging is set up so I have an email address associated with my phone, so I can send and receive emails for free.

At 5 p.m. some students at Sophia hosted a welcome party for all of us, which was pretty fun and held in the cafeteria. When Yuki was bringing me to my apartment, she had told me that she did a year of high school in Finland and was fluent in Finnish, which is really cool. So at the welcome party I introduced her to Anna, an exchange student from Finland who also lives at Azalea. They hit it off and we agreed to meet on Saturday to hang out. Yuki told me she would message me at 1 to tell us where to meet her.

After the welcome party, I left with Leah, my neighbor at Azalea. We walked to the train station and bought our tickets. It was then Leah realized she had left her bag of info at the cafeteria, so we walked all the way back. I told her that while she got that I would go look for my diamond really quickly. I walked over to where I was sitting, looked on the floor, and saw a sparkly little thing on the floor. No kidding. Nearly 8 hours after losing it and being in a room where about 500 people were walking around all day, it was still there. It is now safely in my room and ready to be put back in my ring when I get home.

Day 2- !!!!!!!!!
I woke up fairly early and went to the lounge to use the internet and set up the messaging on my phone. I cannot WAIT for internet in my room because I tried skyping with Aaron, but another girl in the lounge called someone and was talking so loudly Aaron couldn’t hear me. I ended up calling him back and we had a decent conversation, but I can’t wait for some privacy. Jeez.

I decided to go out and explore Heiwadai a little bit before Yuki called, so Leah and I headed out. We walked through a library and looked at children’s books (the only things I could read there, haha) and then we went to a market and got groceries. Unfortunately I forgot a shopping bag and had to stuff it all in my purse, and even more unfortunately, we got lost. After two hours of walking around Hikawadai, the neighboring area, we finally made it back to Heiwadai and Azalea House.

After I got back I left with Anna and we walked to the station and met Yuki and Takuma. We took the train to Shibuya and walked around the Omotesando Hills area, a really famous shopping area. Before getting Anna’s phone, we went to kaiten-zushi, or conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. It was very yummy!!

Next we went to Softbank, then to the Meiji shrine near Harajuku Station. It was in a very beautiful wooded area right in the middle of the city. We stopped at Uniqlo (I told you I’d go there, Cale!) a famous clothing store, and looked around. I found some pretty funny shirts.

Next we went to Starbucks, or as Yuki told me, Stahbah in “cool speak” haha. It’s so funny how tiny the drinks are compared to America, even though they are just as expensive!

We spent the rest of the night walking around Shibuya and seeing the nightlife. The streets were packed with people everywhere we went. It was so cool!

We stopped in at a department store and looked around. I bought some stuff at the bookstore. Then we went to this hip department store called Loft, which had a lot of different things on each floor. Lastly we went to Loco Moco, a really cool restaurant with Hawaiian food, where we stayed until closing time, eating delicious food and talking.

We walked back to Shibuya station and took pictures with Hachiko, the famous dog who came to the station to wait for his owner to come back from work every day until he died. You can read his story here. It’s a very famous meeting place for Japanese people.

Anna and I said goodbye to Yuki and Takuma and got on the train for Heiwadai. We walked back to Azalea and, surprise, went to the lounge. There were a lot more people there that I hadn’t met before, including people from the UK, Scotland, France, and Germany. It is pretty weird but also very refreshing that there are not a whole lot of Americans here. It makes for a better experience, in my opinion. I socialized with everyone while posting these pictures on Facebook and talking to my family on IM, then finally made it to bed around 3.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You have four brothers and one sister? Is your family very religious or something?” ~Yuki

One comment

  1. Konnichiwa,

    Wow. That was the beginning of a great experience. I am following you here. I can’t wait till more comes my way.


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