I think that my first week in Tokyo has gone by faster than any week of my life that came before it. The days have flown by at the speed of one of the bullet trains that crisscross across this country in a blur of jet lag and neon lights. Every day has been packed with more adventure and new experience than the past twenty years put together, and despite the fact that I feel as though I haven’t slept in a month, I’m having more fun here than I could’ve ever imagined.
I had orientation the morning after I arrived in Japan, which was nice because it forced me out of bed that morning to face my jet lag head on. Pat and I stumbled forth from our apartment, armed with only the faintest idea where the nearest subway station was and a backpack full of vending machine coffees (which, on a somewhat unrelated note, are absolutely delicious). We found our station, Musashi-Koyama on the Meguro line in Tokyo, without a problem; its basically a straight shot and a ten minute walk down the street from my house, but figuring out where we needed to go and how to buy the tickets was another issue. Thankfully, within minutes of noticing us staring blankly at the subway map, a very kind man came over and helped us through.
At orientation, Pat and I met Alexis, with whom we then spent the rest of the week wandering around Tokyo, getting more abysmally lost than I could have ever imagined was possible in a major city. Before I came to Japan, I had no idea how heavily I relied on Philadelphia’s grid system, or streets with names for that matter. I will never not be amazed at how the people in this city can get around when only the largest streets have names.
On Wednesday night, our third in Tokyo, Pat, Alexis, and I went out to Shibuya, which was every bit as wild as I’d heard. Everything was lit up in neon, people and the most delicious smells in the world spilled out onto the streets from every doorway. After walking around the area for a while, we found the famed Shibuya crossing, the largest pedestrian crosswalk in the world. I’d never seen anything like it.
On Saturday, Pat and I took the train north to Yoyogi to buy bicycles. We figured that since we’d both be in Tokyo for the academic year, we might as well save some money on the train, and learn to get around like a local while we’re at it. Unfortunately, we severely overestimated our ability to navigate our way home from Yoyogi in northern Shibuya back down to Shinagawa. We started riding south, somewhat stupidly assuming that we’d soon find something we recognized, and before long were hopelessly lost. We ended up lost for over six hours, biking around labyrinthine side streets and major expressways alike, but it wasn’t all bad. We saw much more of the city than we would have otherwise, including the famous Harajuku neighborhood, which was every bit as visually stimulating as I’d heard, and the Meji Shrine.
My first week in Japan was a nonstop barrage of sensory overload and culture shock, and was one of the best weeks of my life. I’m looking forward to settling into my routine as the “real world” comes around, with classes and my internship at the Kanagawa Sohgoh High School in Yokohama.