I’m here. In Tokyo. Finally.
During my idle time on the flight over I kept on thinking, “what am I going to write to everyone once I finally get to Japan?” Most of you already know how much I’ve been looking forward to this trip…or I guess I should say this move…so there’s really no point in writing about how exciting it is to be here; that’s obvious. Instead I was just going to post some stupid joke about how I’m in the future now, or about how everyone around me is Asian.
Now that I’m here, though, I can’t help but say how amazing it is. But in a very different way from the first time I came.
A year and a half ago, I was a totally helpless gaijin, being led around by my most excellent friend Nick. Without knowing a word of Japanese, I would’ve been lost on my own. Sure, some people speak a few words of English, and the friendly locals are always willing to help as much as they can, but Japan is not like Europe. For the most part peoples’ English skills are so limited that they really can’t say more than “Hallo, America?”
But this time I see things from a totally different perspective. I can read signs, understand conversations, and talk to people. Never before have I actually been in a situation where my survival was dependant on conversing in a foreign language. Just getting from Narita Airport to my hotel required me to talk with 5 or so locals totally in Japanese. In America I’m still bashful about speaking Japanese with my friends, but here I don’t have a choice. My speech is of course completely slow and broken, but I’ve been able to get my point across so far in every situation – from buying train tickets to asking directions to activating my Japanese cell phone. It just feels really, really amazing to be able to communicate in another language. I’ve never done anything like it before.
So anyways, here I am in Tokyo; my room in Ueno is the expected 6 foot by 6 foot square cubicle with tatami mat floors. Because the hotel is all the way across town from the nightlife area (Shibuya/Shinjuku/Roppongi), and because I didn’t really get checked in and settled until after 10:00pm I just relaxed for awhile last night and went for an hour or so a walk around the neighborhood.
So that brings me to my first wacky encounter. And after only being in the country for 3 hours. Geez! On my walk, I stopped in a 7/11 to get some oden for dinner. On the way out, I was approached by an old Japanese man with no more than three or four teeth. His drunken mumbling was totally incomprehensible; I responded a few times with “wakarimasen,” but whenever I started to walk away he’d pretend to cry, rubbing his eyes like a little kid would. I was somewhat entertained so I stuck around for a few more minutes, just to see if I could figure out what he was trying to say. Eventually, he put out his hand to shake mine…so I did the same…but instead of shaking it, he grabbed my hand and KISSED it, saying something about “America.” Okay…I excused myself and started walking back towards the hotel, but he quickly grabbed my hand again, this time biting it with his three teeth, all the while continuing his incomprehensible mumblage. Whoa there, buddy…that was about enough for me. What’s weird is, I know that these types of old guys don’t mean any harm; for whatever reason they just love interacting with Americans; but they’re always so CREEPY about it. Nick, I know I don’t have to tell you this 😛
So anyways, I walked back to the hotel, ate my dinner, and went to bed.
I’ve decided to spend another day here in Tokyo before heading to Osaka, meaning that I won’t have reliable internet or my VoIP phone set up until then, but I’ll try to keep in touch as best as I can. If you NEED to reach me, you can call me at Hotel New Azuma (03-6802-0716), but of course I don’t expect to be spending too much time in my room 🙂
Pictures next time!