Sunday, March 24, 2013

Made it to Japan!

Whew! After a 14 hour direct flight from New York City, I found myself in Tokyo. I flew with American Airlines (because it is the cheapest) however I have come to realize that everyone says I should have paid to fly with an Asian company because the experience is "so much better." I'm not sure what that means, but I think next time I'll keep that in mind.

Anyway, so flying into Tokyo at 10pm I had the sudden realization that I had NO idea where my friend Elise lives or where the hotel was that we were staying in for the night. I was SO paranoid about getting to the airport directly after school on Friday, that these details of "what actually happens in Japan" totally escaped my thoughts. Elise had told me not to worry about anything in Japan because she had planned everything and would meet me outside of customs. Apparently I took this a little too much to heart. As I pondered this on the plane while filling out my customs card, I found that the Japanese needed to know where I was staying..... Oops. I decided I had a few options. 1. Lie and make up an address and phone number 2. Tell them I didn't know and my friend was picking me up (this would also make me look stupid) 3. Fill it out the best I could by putting my friends name down for the address and my own phone number (even though I wouldn't have my cell phone on anyway). The last one is what I decided to do.. Since it wasn't lying and was as close to the truth without making me look stupid. I did have my friends cell phone number saved in my phone, but conveniently that happened to be dead so that was not helpful either. In any case, the customs lady looked at my card suspiciously and asked me about the address and phone, I told her it was correct and I was meeting my friend. She decided that was ok, and I was on my way into Japan!

After spending one day in Tokyo these are my initial thoughts - the Japanese people would absolutely HATE New York City! Why do I say this? Well... NYC is a loud, spontaneous, dirty, and direct city. Tokyo is none of the above. Tokyo is quiet, organized, clean, and passive. People do NOT talk on the train, nor do people play music or dance on the train. They even wait for the train in lines! I can't picture New Yorkers doing that. We are always fighting to be on the train first with elbows ready. Elise turned to me and said "waiting in lines is very Japanese, they don't like surprises." I thought this was hilarious, but waited quietly in line. "oh and another thing, the Japanese people do not talk on the train, only foreigners do" she told me. She was right, and I found myself whispering to her on the train.

This is my first trip to East Asia, and the differences here compared to the western world are subtle but very present. What I mean by that is just by walking around nothing is obviously different- its not like there are mosques everywhere or people wearing completely different clothing (like they do in Egypt), but the culture and mindset is very different. To give you an example, there is a Japanese girl pop band here that is really popular (especially with older middle aged men). Now upon hearing about this I was like "oh whose the lead singer?" Well.. What a stupid question to ask in Japan! Silly Amanda, there are no lead singers! In fact the band has 80 members. They usually have about 40 of them on stage at a time and they rotate them in and out. Everything is about the group in Japan. In fact even when students graduate high school they don't get acknowledged individually, they get acknowledged as a home room. I find this really interesting. It's very different.

Aside from this, I have found Tokyo to be EXTREMELY safe. I might even go as far to say it feels like one of the safest places I have ever experienced, but that might just be because I live in NYC. It has also been wonderful that Elise knows enough Japanese to get by as she has used it multiple occasions to get help navigating the trains in Tokyo. Elise lives about 4ish hours by bus south of Tokyo in the tea region of Japan. We are going there today actually, as we finish up one last day in Tokyo. I'm exited to see her place in rural Japan and meet some of the locals.

Until next time,


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