My first glimpse of Japan was a view of the damp, drizzly countryside, seen from the window of a slightly incorrect train car. It was a sight to behold, though, coming at the tail end of two days of traveling (the time zone shifts make me unsure how long it actually was, but it did involve at least twenty hours of flying and at least eighteen hours of layovers). I had stumbled off the plane, purchased a train ticket using what little Japanese skills I had accrued before my departure, and found myself sitting on an express train headed for the Hiyoshi men’s dorm.
It wasn’t until an attendant asked for my ticket I realized I was in the wrong car, and one that would detach and head in the opposite direction, but disregarding that small hitch, I made it to my new home without much of an issue. Here I met the other Temple Japan study abroad students that I would be living with, and I met the “RA” of sorts, Aki, who immediately greeted me with “Jason-san,” and got me set up in my room.
Aki is an extremely kind man who seems to have a mysterious reputation. According to rumor, he was a body-builder-turned-Buddhist, but all I know for sure is that he immediately gave me a taste of the Japanese hospitality and politeness that was talked about a lot beforehand. After getting my room set up, I immediately got a shower and went to bed, exhausted from my traveling.
The next day started sooner than I had expected, with transportation to school starting at 8:30 the following morning. My fellow students and I, after being herded through the Tokyo subway system, spent the day in orientation presentations, meeting other students, advisers, and faculty. The presentation that was met with the most excitement was the discussion of the programs and excursions provided throughout the summer semester.
After eating a lunch of Domino’s Pizza (what an interesting welcome to Japan, right?), we wrapped up the orientation for the day with a few more presentations. We learned about some of the more serious topics, from staying safe in Tokyo to navigating the efficient but complex public transportation system. We also heard probably a dozen stories about Roppongi, the notorious tourist district nearby the campus, which (depending on who you ask), you should either avoid at all costs or visit to have a good time. After wrapping up, we headed back to the Hiyoshi dorm, where the guys in the program all went out for a nice, authentic Japanese dinner at a local restaurant:
Wait, what? A whole day into in Tokyo and the only food I’d eaten is pizza and fish and chips? Okay, enough of this transition period. I needed to get some real Japanese food. Fortunately, the next day, we went out for a walk in the neighborhoods and shopping areas around Hiyoshi station and got some actual authentic Japanese food. For a hefty sum of ¥2000, we each got a seat at a Yakiniku restaurant, where for two hours we got to eat as much food as we could stomach, all cooked to our own taste on small grills at each table. Two hours later and full to bursting, we went for a walk around the area to work off some of the delicious food. Now this felt like a welcome to Japan.