Arriving in Japan… strung out on culture.
Waa, OK. So this is an experience I had about 2 months ago. I first arrived in Japan at Narita Airport. I slipped though customs smoothly even though I came in with a one-way ticket (supposidly NOT ok) and I could not even provide a name or address of where I would be staying on my customs form. The Japanese customs guy shrugged – *stamp*, and in a monotone voice, “Relcome to Japan.” Yes! I made it inside! For the first day in Japan the only thought on my mind was, “I’m in Japan, omg I’m in Japan.” over and over like a record skipping. This is the first time I’ve been in another country you see. This triggered a nice shift in my perceptions. My first day in Japan was very much a psychedelic experience. Everything was foreign, colorful, and extremely fascinating. Everyone looked different and some strange unintelligible language was flowing from their mouths. Strange sounds filled the air; different birds, train crossings, city-wide intercom announcements… everything. From phone ring tones to 7-11 employees greeting me in a way which was more confusing than welcoming. I became a child once again. I had no neat definitions and explanations to make me comfortable and blind. I was aware of everything in every moment.
After getting lost on trains for the better part of a day I made it to my host’s city. I forgot to write down their address, but I had it saved in my e-mail inbox. I thought “easy. I’m in Japan! The technological center of the world. The internet flows like water here.” When I got to Ohara eki [eki=station] and asked “Intaneto kafe wa doko desu ka? [Where is an Internet Cafe?]” The station worker laughed at me. Ohara is a small town. It’s nothing like Tokyo or Osaka. It’s more like Nebraska, or… North Dakota. Country people… farmers… Shiiiit. I’m lost in a foreign country with no contact and it’s 8pm, where am I sleeping? I knew Narita airport had an internet connection and I thought I could find a quiet corner to sleep in and be unnoticed among the other travelers experiencing delays. So back I went, just in time for the last train. When I got to Narita things didn’t go quite as smoothly as I expected. Upon entering the airport I was asked for my ticket (which of course showed that I wasn’t leaving, but had already arrived.) At this point the only Japanese I spoke was “girl, boy, dog, where is the toilet?” The airport guy asked me (I think) “What are you doing here man?” I tried to lie and say, “Oh, I left something here earlier, I just need to go inside and look for it.” Which of course he didn’t understand and asked (I think) “Do you need help finding a hotel? [hotel = hoteru] I made up some other lie at this point to try to get inside. Of course he did not understand a word I said, but he saw in my face the look of disgust and fear (of expense) when he said the word “hoteru,” and so he said in bad english, “You want sleep in airport?” Ah! My face lit up with joy! “YES!” Strangely Narita airport closes at night… lights off and everything. I was guided to an area with about 12 other travelers with no place to go. Internet and a free place to sleep! success! The next morning as we woke up we all started chatting and that is when I made my first friend in Japan. A Brazilian named Lucas. He was in Japan working for some kind of computer company, tech support I think. Anyway, he gave me my first “Japanese for travelers” lesson. At the time I thought it was funny that another gaijin [gaijin = forigner] was teaching me Japanese. Little did I know that my best Japanese teachers in Japan would be other foreigners. We seem to have a better grasp of what bare essential Japanese is needed to communicate.
^^^ This is Lucas-san!
After telling Lucas sayonara [goodbye] I was off on another densha [train] adventure. I only got lost once this time. Getting lost on the trains was not a stressful expereince. On the contrary. I had an amazing time being lost. I very quickly learned some basic phrases like “Where is -blank- station?” and “Where the fuck am I and where are we going?” and I was having such an intensely facinating experience it didn’t really matter where I was or what I was doing. Trains’r’fun! I made it back to Ohara, Chiba-ken and Katsura-san, my first host, picked me up from the station and brought me to her home and farm “Himorogi-an”[himorogi = finding god through nature, an = farm.]