Why do 14-hour plane rides exist? To those who travel yearly and are forced to take these unbearable long flights...HOW? How do you stand it? Maybe it was because it has been two years since I've flown and this is the first time I've done so alone, I experienced a little flying phobia as we took off. Every time the plane lurched, my stomach would scrunch up in fearful pain. I somehow managed to fall asleep and when I woke, I was more irritated with being on a plane than my previous moment of fear. I still carried this perpetual look of anxiety the entire time, I believe. I'll be honest, I'm not looking forward to spending another 14 hours on a plane again.
But at least now I'm in Japan.
Well, I'm currently in Tokyo. So far, the language barrier has proven somewhat burdensome but probably far better off than say if I was in Gunma (specifically Onishi, where my project takes place). But despite this, many have been helpful or been wiling to try helping me, whether they could communicate in English or not. Lucky for me, the most helpful people to turn to are those working at the JR (Japan Rail) stations.
When I was at Narita airport, many spoke excellent English. But once I got on the NEX (Narita Express) line to take me to Tokyo station, I knew I would have fewer luck finding someone who could speak English fluently. But many of the employees that stand guard over the turnstiles know how to give directions with a basic vocabulary set of "up", "down" (referring to floors levels and escalators), "right", "left", and "straight". I got lost plenty of times and many of the JR workers were incredibly nice and helpful.
But I did get lost to the point of fear upon my first arrival. I left the JR station in search of my hotel and ended up walking the opposite direction from it. I wound up in a crowded market street, lugging my overpacked suitcase and sweating through my jacket. It is not as cold as it is in the NYC area. In fact, I had anticipated it to be even colder than that.
I ended up taking a taxi which I had desperately wanted to avoid. But no use, I knew I would get lost and after a 14-hour plane ride, it was dark and I was exhausted and scared so I buckled (after trying to communicate with three individuals on the street) into finding a cab and finally making it to my hotel.
That was my first night.
My second day consisted of partaking the free breakfast in the hotel lobby, finding a walkable route to the JR station and visiting Ueno park. I ordered ramen (after much confusion with the ordering machine-cook system) and found a seven-eleven (fondly called sevs's back at my arch. studio) and took a long hot bath after walking for hours.
I check out of my hotel today to meet my friends and I'm hoping to meet my Onishi-foreigner correspondence later this week. I also need to find some candy for my clone and figure out what souvenirs I'm getting for my family and friends. What I really need to do is draw more. I drew little sketches on the plane and took pictures when I left my hotel but I need to DRAW-DRAW while I'm here. I'm expecting a lot of this for my Onishi trip at least.
As much fun and awe I've experienced so far, these first two days have been a learning experience the most. I wonder what the next six days will be like.
I still can't believe I'm actually here.