I eventually made it to Tokyo yesterday!! I got off the airplane after a 4 hour flight from Shanghai, and thanks to my Japanese passport I smoothly flew through Immigration and Customs, grabbed my luggage and sailed out the door to the bus that would take me to Terminal 1 where our designated meeting spot was. But when I got to Terminal 1 it took me a while to find it. I had to walk across the entire length of the terminal to find our program coordinators. In my mind I kept on imagining the worst possible scenario that could happen to me if I didn’t find them so I have to admit that I was pretty relieved when I saw them in the corner of the airport with a bunch of students.
After our heavy bags were collected by the CIEE staff and sent off to our host families/dorms, we boarded a bus to a hotel called the Narita Tobu Hotel Airport. There we were each given a thick packet of important survival information that contained host family, cell phone and orientation info. We even received 4500 yen to spend on food for the next 5 meals!! I have to admit I was pretty excited. Extra money for food?? Oh yeaa, that was probably the golden ticket to the gateway of my complete happiness.
A small group of us then decided we wanted to go to the mall to spend some of the stipend money that we received for food. However that didn’t end up happening because the bus left at 7:35pm and we were already dead tired. So we wound up having a picnic in the hotel lobby and chatted until the manager came and told us off for eating and drinking. Apparently it’s against the rules to eat or drink in a hotel lobby. Is this a universal rule or just in Japan? Anyway I guess I learned something new yesterday!
Today we had a two and a half hour orientation meeting that took place in the hotel conference room. It was informative but lengthy and tiring and I had a splitting headache by the time we were finished. Then we were broken up into ten groups consisting of six people. At the orientation session we were given information on the CIEE mission and goals, how to set up a cell phone and what to do if you missed the last train after going to a club at night (Solution: Find a place that is open for 24 hours like Mc Donalds or a Karaoke bar and wait until the trains start running at 5am again).
Later on we went to Odaiba (A man made island) where we had a “Welcome to Japan” buffet lunch. And wow, how the food was delicious. My mouth started watering at the sight of the crisp shrimp tempura, freshly steamed xiao long bao and the colorful array of traditional Japanese desserts. I’m afraid I am going to gain 30 pounds by the time my study abroad finishes. Then after our buffet experience, we rode the bus to Sophia University to set up our cell phones at a cost of 6500 yen. This is where I found out unlimited texting only costs about $3 per month!! Ahh I felt warmly welcomed to the land of cheap text messages.
For dinner I went on a search for ramen with my two friends. It turned out to be a successful endeavor and soon enough we were completely stuffed. Then we went for a walk along the outer moat of the Chiyoda region and saw the cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Many Japanese businessmen and women were sitting under the cherry trees, drinking beer, eating onigiri while laughing and playing drinking games. It was a lively happy atmosphere that fit perfectly under the clear dark sky. A soothing breeze rustled the cherry blossoms and at that moment I realized how wonderfully at peace I was.