Saturday, April 10, 2010

I'm here

Well, as I've been twittering intermittantly, I'm in Japan! It's everything I expected it to be and more. There's so much to tell all of you that I'm not quite sure where to start.

It's currently 2:24 pm on Saturday, April 10th, Tokyo time. I'm going to be running around and washing the clothes I wore on the flight--wish me luck with a washing machine in Japanese--so I think I'll add to this post throughout the day and the night.

The flight was good, but very long. I left my house at 6:30 am EST on Tuesday morning. I got to the airport at 7:30 am EST, took a Newark to DC flight at 10:20 am EST, and then got to DC at 11:30 am. I high-tailed it through Dulles, stopping to buy fruit (it was the last day of Passover and that's all the airport food that's kosher for it), and got to my gate for my flight to Tokyo. I left DC at 12:43 pm EST on Tuesday morning and got to Japan at 3:30 pm JST (Japan time) on Wednesday afternoon. By the time I navigated Narita Airport, the baggage delivery service, customs and immigration, the lovely people at the Softbank cell phone kiosk, and managed to find the Keisei liner to Tokyo itself... I was very, very, very tired. My roommate, Deanna, met me at the Nippori station and helped me get back to our actual house in Akabane Nishi.

Yes, we have an actual house and it's really large. About 1100 square feet or so, which is insane for residential Tokyo. Deanna is friends with the landlord, so we're also paying really, really, really cheap rent. We could easily fit a family of five in here, the way it's set up.

By the time I got to the house though, I had been up for 36 hours straight and was officially brain-dead. I unpacked some and then Deanna dragged me out to eat. Then, I collapsed and slept on my futon, after she helped me figure out how to use it, etc.

On Thursday, I bummed around a bunch, tried to get over jet lag, went shopping for stuff (I bought a lot of stuff to cook with), and went to see where my language school is. I got terribly lost, which seems to be a recurring theme with me in this city. I discovered that yes, my Japanese really isn't that great, but I can sort of muddle my way through things pleasantly. Muddling is very good.

On Friday, I went to my school for a placement test, went shopping for more kitchen stuff/food/school supplies (Deanna doesn't cook AT ALL, so she has 2 forks, 2 butter knives, 2 spoons, a bunch of disposable chopsticks, 1 pot, 2 plates, and 3 glasses. I bought a lot of stuff, but its all really basic stuff, like a frying pan and a rice cooker and bowls and a spatula... and so on.) I was carrying so much stuff by the time I got done shopping that walking home was literally impossible. So I grabbed a taxi, tried to direct the taxi driver, and failed utterly. Happily, he stopped and asked directions when we were in the general vicinity of our house, and we found two guys who were my neighbors. They showed me that my house was only four houses away--again, I got lost really easily and it was also dark--walked me home and showed me where they live.

Which, according to Deanna, is really, really odd for Japan, that they were:

  1. Nice to a stranger.
  2. Knew where we live.
  3. Carried my bags without being asked.
  4. Told me where they live.
I have no idea why, but they did all of those things, and I don't mind anyway. I know there's a massive ton of prejudice against white people here, but if they want to talk about me behind my back, I don't mind. It's not like they're going to harass me for getting lost.

But the prejudice is strange because I get lots and lots of funny looks on the street. I am white AND I am massively fat for Japanese standards, although I'm actually on the small side of the fat scale in America. I look back and the people look away. But sometimes they look back at me again and again, on the train, and I particularly enjoy torturing those people because they know that I know that they're staring at me. Thus, they get visibly embarrassed, look away, and then stare again. I stare back.

Today, I made miso soup and rice for breakfast, will be shortly putting my laundry in, and tonight I'm going to meet one of Deanna's friends named Ai (she's Malaysian) for karaoke and shabu shabu. Mmm, beef. =)


Kalika said...

It's a bit rare to find Japanese people that act that friendly with a stranger, but it happens. We were crushed with good will by the owners of a small ryokan. They wouldn't even let us walk to the store, they wanted to drive us. It was five minutes away on foot!

And then their old grandfather almost walked in on me naked. Pro tip: if staying in a Japanese house with a mixed bath, use the woman tag and leave your slippers outside so the men of the house know someone is inside! :)

Anonymous said...

It was great meeting you and hanging out! We need to do this more often. ^_^ I'm looking forward to introducing you to Doug, too!

Deb Salisbury said...

LOL! It sounds like you're having fun.

Love the report! I've always wanted to go to Japan. This may be as close as I get, so tell us more!

Lanny said...

I found your blog via a friend on LJ, and have to comment that actually, it's not weird for Japanese people to be nice. They're *incredibly* nice, above and beyond most strangers here in the US. And also, getting stared at isn't particularly about your size, but because you're white and foreign. It's common, so you'll have to get used to it (along with signing autographs if you ever encounter school kids :D).

Jenny Rae Rappaport said...

Nice to meet you, Lanny!

Definitely--we'll hang out again soon, Ai. =) Let me know when you're free.

I'm all for friendly Japanese people! I firmly believe that if I act like myself--friendly, bubbly, extroverted--while being respectful of the Japanese culture, that I won't have any problems. It's a different matter being true friends with Japanese people when you're a foreigner, but that's largely a cultural thing, too. It can be overcome, but it probably takes more time here than I'll have... =)

Jodi Meadows said...

Sounds like an exciting trip so far! Keep up the reports!

Sarah N Fisk said...

That's funny. Every time we went to Japan, people were very nice to us. We had one young lady approach us when she saw us puzzling over a map. She ended up calling a cab for us and telling the driver where we wanted to go.

The older generation is a little off-stand-ish though, but the younger ones were great. We did get funny looks in public. But that's probably because, at 5'8", I'm the shortest person in my family and all but one of us has blond hair and bright (as in, people always ask us if we wear colored contacts) blue eyes.