Tokyo: A blur of city lights and savory sights

11 hours on a plane. Whew. I spent probably half of it talking with my seatmate – a cool guy named Jonathan who wants to be a Japanese history professor and whose parents are pressuring him to get married. It’s astounding how many topics and years of life you can cover when you’re sitting two inches from someone for 11 hours.

Tokyo. I can describe my three days in Tokyo with one word: exhaustion. After that flight and an incredibly hectic last day in Los Angeles I was fighting jet lag nearly the entire time. Luckily, so was everyone else.

What I can tell you about Tokyo, and Japan from the air, is that my first thought of the country was “green.” Like a child saying her first word, I was a broken record the last 30 minutes of the flight. “Is Japan a jungle?” I innocently asked someone.

My bird's eye view of all the green.

My bird's eye view of all the green!

Tokyo itself is as picturesque in person as the pictures are of it. Its as filled with bright lights and wonderful sights as the movies and postcards make it out to be. We stayed in the Shinjuku district, which is famous for its skyscrapers, wonderful nightlife and shopping.

Bright Lights - Shinjoku street

Bright Lights - Shinjuku street

Driving from the airport to the hotel, I fought to stay awake so I could take in everything. I kept dozing off, but before I was completely out of it, I saw this spectacular sitght, right as the sun was starting to set…

Savory Sights - Driving through Tokyo at sunset

Savory Sights - Driving through Tokyo at sunset

The hotel where we stayed – Keio Plaza – had something like 50 floors, and on the 47th floor was a viewing area of the city. Here is one of my many, many attempts to capture the view:

Hi, self!

Hi, self!

And then, there was the actual orientation –

Orientation provided helpful information but it primarily served as a wonderful buffer zone between all of our home countries, jet lag and being thrown into the complete unknown of our new towns and cities.

My first night, I fell asleep before I was supposed to meet a group to go out for dinner. I wandered around trying to find food, and for the first time in my life, I felt completely, utterly alone. Being without people is one kind of lonely – being illiterate without people is far more frightening kind. I didn’t realize the power of language to provide security until that night. Everything in my world felt out of reach, confusing and hard to navigate. I ate at a McDonalds and walked back to my room. The rest of my time in Tokyo allowed me to explore and learn with the help of others who knew more than I did.

Some of those others were in my prefecture group. There are about 50 JETs spread out in Yamaguchi. The second night of orientation, we went out as a prefecture group and experienced our first karaoke.

Stage 2ers at a Stage 1 party!

Sebastian, Christina, Brent, Callie, me - my peeps in the 'Guch

Karaoke here is a big deal. There are two bars in Japan – karaoke bars and non-karaoke bars. I’ve only heard rumors about the latter. That night, when I looked around the room at all 25 of us Westerners belting out “A Whole New World” from Aladdin – I understood the unique power and comfort that comes from a shared cultural identity. Giving that up for this year I am here is going to be the singularly most challenging thing I have ever done. I have no doubts, though, that in terms of self-reflection and growth, it will be one of the most rewarding experiences I ever have.

While in Tokyo, I also saw my first Japanese style toilet. I could do an entire post on toilets in this country – they are either complete bidets with all the whistles and bells (they automatically make a sound like running water to disguise the sound of you peeing!) or are squatty potties:

Potty Tip: Get Low

Potty Tip: Get Low

My roommate, Kyoko, was incredible. We lay on our beds with plans to take naps every night before dinner but talked the time away instead. She is placed near Kyoto – about 6 hours from me.. We have plans to get together and keep in touch while we are here…

Kyoko and me, before leaving for our prefectures

Kyoko and me, before leaving for our prefectures

The morning we left for Yamaguchi, we saw a couple of lolita girls in the lobby of the hotel (a fashion trend where girls dress like Victorian-style dolls). Of course, we had to be tourists and take a picture with them-

Lolita girls!

Me, lolita girl, lolita girl, Tiffany, Callie

And one last picture – not Tokyo-related – just for fun 🙂

My favorite memory from my Georgia visit is either the singing and dancing and smoke-making around the backyard campfire or The Mad Dairy Queen Hunt. --- Mom: "The Dairy Queen isnt here anymore?! Thats absurd!" Woody: "What's absurd is you're in the wrong lane to make this turn!"

My favorite memory from my Georgia visit is either the singing and dancing and smore-making around the backyard campfire or The Mad Dairy Queen Hunt. --- Mom: "The Dairy Queen isnt here anymore?! Thats absurd!" Woody: "What's absurd is you're in the wrong lane to make this turn!"

What a beautiful few days with the family that was 🙂

Next post: Exploring Hikari/Yamato (turns out I’m in the country…!)

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~ by C on July 30, 2009.

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