Bright and early, Monday, the 14th of September, I walked into LAX International Airport. I was full of anticipation and excitement, ready to start my once-in-a-lifetime journey. About 5 minuets later I realized I was in the wrong part of the airport and walked right back out. It was only when I had boarded my plane, (and then off that plane and onto my larger and more international second plane) that I started to realize just what exactly I was doing.
And it was a little bit terrifying…
After getting off out the plane 10 hours (and apparently a full day later because time difference is a thing) I went through customs, collected and shipped my luggage off to my homestay family, and then sat in the airport and introduced myself to the others, as we waited for the hotel shuttle to come pick us up.
Once we arrived at the hotel, we were given our schedule packets, name tags and room keys. And then we were set loose. After scoping out our rooms, we spent the rest of the day finding food, exploring, and looking for a 7-11 (which at this point I am convinced does not exist). was our first full day in Japan. We awoke early, and very jet-lagged. We participated in our first CIEE orientation where we were introduced to the people we hadn’t already met. We were given our schedules, and then went over some important rules and guidelines. After all this, we boarded a bus for Narita-san Shinshoji Temple.
Narita-san temple was the first Japanese temple I had ever seen in person, and it was extremely exciting! History has always been a big interest of mine, and walking on over a thousand year old grounds is an amazing opportunity the one does not experience every day!
The temple itself was very large and ornate. After entering, we threw coins into the large box provided, then prayed for our wishes. Exploring the temple grounds also gave us more time to get to know each other, and after a while it was hard to believe that we had only arrived the day before. After we left the temple we went to lunch and then to Sophia University, where we were introduced to the CIEE Study Center and had our first orientation about homestay. Once the orientation finished, we were taken to our hotel in Tokyo. After getting settled in, a group of us went out into the rain (which had started around the time we entered the city) for dinner. We ate at a small Korean restaurant where many of us had to experience ordering food in Japanese for the first time. It was a bit rough, but luckily we were, for the most part, able to order what we wanted.
The next day was Thursday, the day we were going to we met our host families. I was very nervous about this; I knew a little bit about them from a packet we were given the day before. Even still, we went through the day, and I kept wondering and worrying. We started the day by going back to the Study Center in Sophia for a couple more orientations. The rain that had begun the night before continued, and was falling harder as we walked toward The Intercultural Institute of Japan, where we would be studying Japanese in a few weeks’ time. After visiting Intercult we headed back to Sophia to meet our host families. Some of us met their families on campus, while others, (me included) met their families at their homes. Meeting my host family was really exciting, but at the same time a little scary. But as I settled in I felt more at ease. I am very happy to have become a part of this family!
Friday, we were given the day off to get to know our families. Being a year long student, my host mom brought me to the city hall to enroll in Japanese National Health Insurance. After all of my legal work was finished, my host mom took me on a test run to Intercult to help me become more familiar with the route I would be taking. It was very helpful, as I felt more comfortable with the idea of finding my way to the school by myself. It also gave me time to get to know my host mom more! The next day we met up at the Study Center to listen to a guest speaker from the American Embassy in Tokyo. After the speaker we had some classes and then participated in a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt was a great competition to get more familiar with Tokyo as well as well as become more acquainted with our teammates. (Group B = Group Bae!)
Sunday, my host family and I went to church. I really enjoyed it, even though most of the service was in Japanese! Our CIEE core classes started on Tuesday, but we were given Monday off. My host family had planned a trip to Asakusa for sightseeing. Meeting up with a family friend, we traveled by train to the Shitamanchi distinct where our destination was. Everywhere we went, it was very crowded and almost impossible to not get separated, as foreigners and natives alike tried to navigate the busy streets. As we made our way to the Kaminarimon, a group of American tourists passed us all in a row, holding onto each other’s backpacks so they wouldn’t get lost. My family joked that I could join the end of their line and they probably would even notice!
After passing through the large gate we found ourselves walking along the Nakamise shopping street.
Stopping for snacks and lunch all along the way we follows the path - and the hordes of people - to Sensoji temple.
Sensoji Temple was, in some ways, different from Narita-san. It was a bit bigger and the style was different. However, there was a fountain for purification, and inside the temple itself was the same large box to throw money in for luck. Which I did of course, I need all the luck I can get!
Next to the large Sensoji Temple there was a smaller shrine. Even though it was a bit smaller, it was still very beautiful. There was a monkey performing outside of the shrine, it was adorable!
It has been a crazy week, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next. In times like these where you can’t even imagine what to expect next, it is always good to remember this piece of advice from my new friend Jack, “Don’t Japanic”!
Until next time!