Tags: People Way
I arrived in Japan yesterday. The university doesn't know that I came 4 days early... that's nice. Flight was a little longer than was comfortable for most people, though a few breaks to stand up, stretch, so on were very welcome.
When I arrived at Handea I swapped my glasses for contacts and started on my merry way out... I knew the immigration bureau would need a few pictures of myself and I've never liked the way I look with a vision aid. Anyway, the first checkpoint was a passport / visa check. I got the line for one of the several windows labeled 外国パスポート. While in line, I noticed that the line conductor would sometimes answer in English and sometimes in Japanese. When I kindly inquired where I could find the window for obtaining a residency card, he answered in Japanese and showed me the way.
This was the first time I noticed the "English-speaking switch" that Japanese in the public sector have. There are really three ways to avoid this switch: 1.) Look vaguely Japanese, 2.) Speak well enough to come off as fluent, or 3.) Speak clearly and avoid an accent. I almost always fall into the third category. However if I stumble (thinking of a word, or any misprounciation) for even a second, that fucking switch comes on and there's no way to flip it back.
Anyway I got my card, went through customs, then hopped on the monorail to 浜松町駅. There's a real art to seeing a station name and, as someone who's never thought of the Tokyo Metro until now, guessing the pronunciation using little existing knowledge. It's a fun little game to play while waiting for the metro doors to close at whatever small little station your train stops through.
Finding the hotel and checking in was straight-forward since I had a reservation already. After, I made cup ramen and fell asleep pretty fast, owing to all the sleep I had on the plane.
Today, I woke at ~6 and showered, dressed, oriented myself and wrote a few directions in the native language on an index card which I stuffed in my pocket in case I got lost... I wasn't really concerned that I would get lost, but I figured I may as well start now with learning the names of stations and roads. Then I wandered around Chiyoda and rested for a while at a flower viewing near the river.
It was not such a bad place to drink my limited edition PRIDE OF BOSS coffee so I hung around for a while.
Then I wandered up to Taitou and took care of business at the municipal office before stopping in to Yoshinoya.
It's a little difficult to start off for me, being wholly self-taught, a conersation which even children consider so simple. My experience lays with the kanji and the writings of words... conversation is something I hardly was able to practice back home, so the niceties (as in how and when to thank someone) often evade me, so I'll often get funny looks when ordering or buying things. It's not so difficult to catch on, though... I learn the best by watching other people.
Speaking of watching other people, a lot of other people watch me. There are few foreigners on the quiet side-streets of Tokyo, so an American attracts lots of eyes.They make it really fun when they mention that I'm a foreigner, that I look out-of-place or whatever in Japanese expecting me not to hear or understand but I just look sideways at them at the cross-walk or on the walkway and keep on going, likely in the opposite direction as the speaker who, a little embarassed, does that little bow you do when you accidentally walk in front of someone on the walkway.
After ordering the classic omori negidaku I exchanged my remaining USD at Akihabara-eki and wandered in and out of various stores in Akihabara.
There's a tangible pleasure in thumbing through video cases on the second floor of an 18+ store with other people... an added bonus if there are TVs playing the same loop of censored pornography as well. I bought a few books (San Gatsu no Rion, A-Channel, both from a different store) for super cheap, and even though I passed up a figure or doujinshi, there's no doubt that I'll be back.
In addition to the stores, I visited a lot of the arcades as well. It's exactly like the American arcades except newer, bigger, and far less lighting. And every floor with fighting cabinets smells like cheap cigarettes.
At the end of it all, I bought a bottle of tea and walked through the flower viewing again, how pretty!