Mar. 25th, 2014 03:52 pm
My body is super super sore from carting around 100-pound bags for six hours plus a 30-pound backpack. Trying to do that on the train in Tokyo at 8 am was a real treat, too. lol But thank god it’s done! And I actually made it to my dorm! XD But holy Nihongo batman, pure immersion from the second I left Tokyo. There is much less English, even at main stations, down here than there is up there. (And there’s a lot less than most people who have never been here think there is to begin with.) I thought that someone from the school might be here to greet me when I arrived at the dorm? Nope. The landlady—a sweet, old Japanese woman who knew absolutely zero English—showed me the dorm, my room (which happens to be on the third floor), bathrooms, etc… Explained all the rules. I think I understood well enough. She asked me how long I was going to be a student, then asked further if it was going to be four years, to which I replied yes, four years. (はい、四年間です.) At that point she offered me one of the rice cookers for personal use. lol At this moment I am finding that I can passably understand a fair amount, but speaking anything is still a real challenge.

Which actually reminds me, I want to document here some of the kindness of the Japanese people that I found while I was in the midst of difficult travels yesterday. Leaving Leela’s place, once you get to the entrance to the station there is a long set of stairs down to the Tokyo Metro that goes from Hounanchou to Nakanosakaue, which is where I transferred onto the main Marunouchi line to Tokyo station proper. Well, I stood off to the side by the stairs for a moment preparing myself to lug these heavy bags down the steps. A Japanese businessman stopped abruptly as he must have anticipated my predicament and said in English with a heavy accent; “May I help you?” (I was impressed by his very proper sentence.) When I accepted and thanked him, I don’t think he was expecting how heavy it was, but he motored down the stairs with it (I think he really was in a hurry to catch the train) and stopped for a brief second at the bottom. I thanked him and bowed, and he rushed off to the train that was leaving in just a few moments. That was nice. When I got on the train, it was 8:30 am, and of course Tokyo, on a Monday, bound towards ‘downtown’… It was pretty trying with as much luggage as I had, but I was surprised to find most people seemed sympathetic to my endeavor. I tried my best to be the least bothersome as I could and keep my bags in as small and least inconvenient a space as possible. XD; Well, I finally got to Tokyo and got on the Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Shin-Osaka. In order to get a good spot in line for the non-reserved cars, I (yet again, I did not eat at all until 4:30 pm yesterday) missed out on buying a bento at the station. But I did get a good seat, one of those ones by the door that had space in front of me for my luggage. But, being one person with two huge bags and a backpack, I didn't know where to put the other bag. A nice older lady came to sit beside me, and asked if it was okay to do so. I was like, oh god yes of course, but… I asked her “where would be okay to put this baggage?” and she kindly told me “right here is alright, see, I have space for my legs. It’s alright!” Once again, she had my sincere gratitude. lol There was literally nowhere else to put such large bags. Luckily for me, she stayed on until the end of the line just like me, and when we were getting off, she turned to smile and tell me good luck. :3

Once in Shin-Osaka, I had to figure out where to go next. The guy at the Shinkansen ticket gate in Tokyo had told me I would have to go to Osaka and transfer again. I really didn’t want to do that, actually. And since travel in Japan is based on distance, I knew if I could find a simpler way to get to Takarazuka, I could do so. (Plus there are fare adjustment gates also, just in case.) So I was following the signs and found the Takarazuka line, and was like; well! That probably goes where I want to go (Takarazuka station)! After some careful listening and analyzing, I boarded the local train bound for Shin-Sanda. The Japanese people on this train looked at me really strangely, because I’m a foreigner with travel bags and this is a local train through the ‘burbs. XD Well, I finally got to Takarazuka station, figured out how to get to the taxis since I was already a few minutes later than I said I would be arriving at the dorm. ¥650 taxi trip and the very jovial taxi driver (who I had a fun and up-beat though short conversation with) had me at the dormitory. Then, I met the landlady and she showed me around, gave me my key, the pass-code for the main door, etc. My dorm, by the way, is REALLY OLD. Like, damn. lol And… And. All the toilets are Japanese-style. If you do not know what a Japanese-style toilet is? Please go look this up. This is probably the single largest adjustment for me for a daily-living thing. The first order of business was I took out most of my clothing, and stored it. There’s actually a lot of storage in my room and for Japan, I would even call it relatively large. At 4:00, I decided to finally try and make my way through this very windy, hilly, residential area back toward the station/main thoroughfare to find food. I ended up at a Lawson (which is a popular convenience store) at the foot of the station (I saw on the receipt it’s actually called 宝塚駅前LAWSON; “Lawson in front of Takarazuka Station” lol). I bought a 2L bottle of water, a 2L bottle of green tea, 2 sandwiches, a tonkatsu bento, and a chicken-mayo onigiri. When I had left the dorm, I made sure I could enter the door code properly, then as I was travelling down towards the station I made sure to take strong visual markers of where my turns were. For example; the house that looks such-and-such with the three cherry trees in front, the turn with the fire hydrants and that local map, etc. Happily, I made it home without an issue thanks to that, though the up-hill all the way back with the bags made me really glad I took a cab with my luggage lol. I was sweating and a bit winded when I got back home. (When I say steep, I mean think of San Francisco for some of this. And this is my walk home every day. Calf muscles for the win?) I downed a bunch of the water and the bento, saved the rest for breakfast this morning, and settled in. My dorm is not outfitted with any kind of bedding, but it does in fact have a western-style twin-sized bed with a (thin) mattress. I tried really hard to sleep, too, because I was exhausted, but that didn’t work out so well either. I have a brutal chill that I just can’t shake, and I would shower to get rid of it, but I lack a towel. In hindsight that actually would have been a great thing to bring. :P I am wearing two thick sweaters, my regular sleeping t shirt, and a cardigan, but somehow I am still freezing. I threw my jacket over me for a blanket and rolled up some dresses for a pillow, but today (in addition to finding out how to get to my school, which I have to do tomorrow for actual school purposes) I am definitely going to go shop for some home-things. Towel, house-slippers (which I am on loan right now from downstairs but the landlady asked me to please buy some myself XD), and bedding are the top of the list. Though, the cold thing… For someone who slept with the window open and not even under a blanket in Calgary in the winter, that’s really weird.

By the time anyone reads this, it will have been long past when I typed it, because I’m not sure when I’ll have internet before next week (and it’s only Tuesday). I know my parents are probably worried because they haven’t heard in a few days and I can’t update anything, but I have literally no way to contact them except letter mail right now. :C lol So… sorry guys! I’m okay though.

The area I live in is a pain in the ass for aforementioned reasons, but it is also beautiful. There are a lot of gorgeous proper Japanese residences here, both western-style in the façade and traditional. There are also a lot of plants, gardens, and birds, immaculately manicured lawns and shrubbery. But fuck it I am not wearing heels to walk to school, not directly from here. LOL On top of being hilly it’s also rocky and gravelly. The streets in this area reminded me a bit of Europe in that the taxis—of which there are many sifting around—and other vehicles have to stop and/or swerve to make room for each other and the pedestrians. There are no designated walkways; everyone just shares the road, until you get to the station/the other side of the station, which is less strictly residential and not on the hill. As I sit here looking out my window and tiny balcony (essentially for clothes-drying purposes), there is also this one rather large, lush, greenery-adorned mountain directly to my right. There are little houses all through the dips in these mountains; they’re smaller mountains, yes, nothing like the Canadian rockies but mountains nonetheless!

Oh god I can’t even move/lift my arms without there being incredible pain. XD The trek here was a muscly one. I am glad that I do not have to move those bags again for a couple of years lol. It’s hard for me to believe that if I actually end up staying here (as in this dorm) for two years (which is of course the plan) that will be the longest I’ve stayed living in one place for eight years. I’ve moved once or more every year for eight goddamn years. In 2013, I lived in three different places: two apartments and a stopover at my parents’ place. Effectively I have moved my entire life in two suitcases, a backpack, and sent myself one box of shoes and a small box of random articles.

Well, I’m still exhausted, but I really didn’t sleep much and I was freezing. XD So let’s hope that tonight I have a proper shower and procure some bedding and get some rest, because tomorrow we meet our buddy system partners. :) And I’d like to be a little better rested and looking a little more decent for that. lol

Well, time to get organized and go! Wish me luck!


Mar. 20th, 2014 11:09 am
First full day in Japan!
And now the countdown/etc will be finished. lol

I guess... I want to write about some of my feelings about this thing, getting here, the physical journey itself, etcetera.

Section One: The Trip

Once everything was packed and my mom, dad, and I were at the airport and they took me all the way to the security checkpoint and it was time to say goodbye, I was actually absolutely stunned because... My dad cried.
I didn't really know what else to do so then I also started crying. lol My mom ended up telling me later (this morning, when I called) that he even watched until he couldn't see me anymore. That was... I felt a lot of things, mostly sad. I think part of the reason my dad crying was so shocking (and also difficult) is because my dad is not an emotional person, really, and I've never related to him in a very emotional way (even though I have often wanted to), so it was hard too because I felt like that was the first time that I could really tell that he really cared for me. I know he has his own ways of showing it, as every parent does, by supporting me in other, more comfortable ways (for him). But that hit me really hard, I'll admit.

Well, then I got through security and everything and met my aunt on the other side, who got me into the special Air Canada lounge, which was nice 'cause I got free breakfast. Nothing else too interesting happened, I got on my flight, landed in Vancouver, and then spent two and a half hours in Milestones in the Vancouver airport eating too much food, drinking three bellinis and chatting away on the computer on facebook and everything else.

Then came the flight to Japan. I was already getting what I call 'fat girl hate' from a whole bunch of stink-eyes even waiting at the gate. lol Vancouver is already pretty size-ist, and then add Asian size-ism onto that? Yeah. I can say I wasn't surprised, but I did sigh and roll my eyes about the whole thing. Got onto the plane, sat beside a mid-30s looking guy who obviously considered me bothersome before I even sat down, and we did not exchange a single word the entire ten and a half hour flight lol. I learned from his papers that his name was Masahiro, but that was it. LOL They served us two meals neither of which I even ate more than half of, part-way because I was still full from gorging myself in Vancouver and part-way because I become very conscious of my intake around Japanese people. I am not entirely sure what that means but it's true.

Side-note; my legs have never hurt so bad as they did yesterday. I was able to get up ONCE during the flight to Tokyo, but that was all, and it was so cramped and I was stuck against the window. That was pretty intense. But nonetheless, I was going to Japan, so still worth it. I watched three movies, including: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Frozen, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. They were all okay, they were probably even good, but I was in a pretty foul mood from the pain in my legs and the dude beside me. XD;

Arrived in Tokyo, went through immigration. For those of you that don't know, Japanese immigration is set up like so: several lines for individuals in possession of a Japanese passport, and then a few lines for individuals in possession of any foreign passports. And everyone, regardless, gets fingerprinted and photographed. If you refuse this step, you'll be deported lol. Anyway! I got through without a problem, because unlike several other people in line from various places, I read and filled out everything. :P Some people got sent to the back of the line if enough of their cards weren't filled out properly. The immigration people took my certificate of eligibility, filed it, and gave me a residence card! It's good for two and some years. Yay.

Then, I went and grabbed my baggage, got on the computer to get Leela's address again, wrote it out in romaji, then asked some people at a desk if they thought a taxi driver would be able to read/understand the address in romaji (which means "roman characters"; English characters for Japanese words, for example "Tokyo" instead of 東京). They said yes, so I prepared to go pay a hefty price for a cab from Narita to Shinjuku-area. I could have taken a train to Tokyo and then gotten a cab, which would have been cheaper, but with two 100-pound bags and a hefty backpack and 24 hours of travelling, I was feeling kind of done. LOL So, I paid ¥26,000 for the trip (which is roughly $280). Needless to say, my cab driver was really nice. ROFL I got to get my feet wet practicing a little Japanese with him, so that was good. :)

Here's a tangent for you: seeing how much I remember after not using or hearing Japanese in about 3 years (except in vkei songs, which... I don't pay a lot of attention to the words anyway I'll be honest), made me realize that I am probably going to be okay with picking it up fast again. Being surrounded by it and reading kana (which is the word for the Japanese writing system which is in three parts--kanji which are derived from Chinese characters, then katakana and hiragana which are syllabic and much simpler to write) on everything around me is helping to jog things a bit also. People always ask me "why do they need three alphabets? (which is generally how I describe the kana writing systems)", and the short answer is I don't know, the evolution of written language in Japan comes from historical cultural absorption and appropriation. The more pressing question, though, of why do we still need/use it over here? Well, keep in mind that the word for eraser (keshigomu; lit. "deleting rubber") has all three writing systems in it alone. 消しゴム. 消 = ke し=shi, ゴム=gomu. The first character, 'ke', is an entire 'word' meaning to delete, erase, cancel, etc. The 'shi' part is just... part of the pronunciation of that word, 'keshi', but has no actual meaning by itself. The last part, 'gomu', is written in katakana (which, opposite to romaji, is how Japanese people write foreign-origin words. It is phonetic for "gum", actually). All that just to say eraser, much less ask to borrow one. (Which, by the way, is: 消しゴムを借りてもよいですか? (Keshigomu o karite mo ii desu ka?)) Yes, Japanese is complicated! Is it worth it? Yeah. Especially because I happen to really love how it sounds. XD

Anyways, after the 1.5 hour taxi ride from the airport, I arrived at Leela's and we hung out and talked for about three hours before we crashed. I called my mom to let her know I was alright, and that concludes the travel section. :P

I think that's good for now, I'll write about other stuff later!



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