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Arriving in Japan, Part I 日本に来ることI

March 21, 2010 1 comment

Well, it’s been almost a week and a half since I arrived in Japan. Sorry there hasn’t been any updates since I got here, but trust me when I say it’s been a crazy week and a half! But since I’ve got so much stuff to talk about, I need to seperate this into two parts. This post will deal with the first half of the time, and another blog post will deal with the later half.

Anyway, we got San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday the 10th after staying at my great-aunts house for the night with my parents, Emily, and her mom. We got our tickets and our baggage checked, said goodbye to our parents, and went through security. (I almost got to go through one of the cool full body scanners! Unfortunately they didn’t seem to think I was dangerous looking enough T_T). We eventually met up with Kelsey and got a snack. I exchanged my last remaining US dollars I had saved, and bought a memory card for my camera. And before you knew it, they were calling for our seats to get on the plane.

Kelsey, Emily, and I were separated on the plane, unfortunately (though not too far–Emily was two seats behind me, and Kelsey was three seats to my right). It took some effort to get my bags properly stowed, but it worked out fine, and eventually we took off on our 11-hour flight. The flight itself was smooth, if not a bit tedious (but it’s an 11-hour flight, so what else is expected?). However, there were some things which totally made the flight worthwhile.

For one thing, the stewardesses were all amazing. It was hard to believe that we were getting the service we were getting in economy class. The were constantly coming by to refill drinks, give more snacks, etc. They even had complimentary snack baskets by the restroom, which included cinnamon rolls, cookies, and rice crackers. You can bet I took advantage of that! 😀 Another cool thing about the flight was in in-flight entertainment system. The selection of movies was unfortunately bland (2012 being the major pick… terrible movie, btw), but at least the movies were available on demand, so you could start and stop whatever movie you wanted whenever you wanted, plus they had TV (including NHK broadcasts and cartoons), with most of the options being available in both Japanese, Japanese with English subs, and English with Japanese subs. But what was even more cool was the fact that there was games on the systems. They even had Bejeweled, Go, Chess, Poker, Tetris, you name it, they had it. The in-flight meals were really good too, epsecially lunch. Ebi-curry with rice. Yum ^__^

A little over 11 hours later, we arrived at Narita International Airport (成田国際空港) in Tokyo. We were hungry so we ate our first meal in Japan: Emily and I had yakisoba, and I believe Kelsey had udon. It was pretty good for the price. It wasn’t too long of a wait, though, before we got on the plane to Nagoya. We were given a pleasant surprise: we had been upped to premium economy (with comfy seats, leg rests, and bendy lights!); plus, we all got to sit together. Unfortunately we didn’t get to enjoy it too much–the flight only lasted about 45 minutes. But we finally did disembark to Chuubu International Airport (中部国際空港) in Nagoya. We made it through the terminals and got our baggage safe and sound. Then we got to customs and immigration. This was the single scariest moment for me, so a bit of backstory is necessary:

As most of you know, I was bringing my hemophilia medicine with me to Japan. This normally requires a special permission slip (a Yakkan Shoumei). Well, a week before we left, I noticed that, according to Japanese guidelines, all international passengers went through customs at the final airport on the intinerary–I was under the impression that I would be going through customs at Narita, not at Chuubu. As such, I had listed on my form that my “Place of Quarantine” was Narita, when I probably should have put Chuubu, and therefore I should have sent it to the Chuubu/Kansai Regional Bureau, rather than the Kantou Bureau. I was freaking out because there was no time to change it, and I was worried that I would be detained for smuggling illicit drugs or something O_o

So you can imagine my apprehension as I’m walking out of immigration (after getting my visa) to the customs area. The customs guy (who, keep in mind, is wearing a mask and looks very scary and official-looking) takes my passport, looks at me, asks what the purpose of my stay is for (most of this is going on in Japanese, so it’s not helping!), hands me back my passport, and lets me go.
Seriously. No checking my bags, no asking for a Yakkan Shoumei. Nothing. As soon as I hit the domestic terminal I threw up my hands and shouted 😄 With that out of the way, we met up with some other fellow exchange students, and some Japanese students from the university, who were kind enough to have bought us our bus tickets. We took the bus (a 72 minute ride) from Chuubu to Fujigaoka 藤が丘 whereupon we were met by more students who flagged us all taxis and paid our fare. We arrived at Nagoya University of Foreign Studies (名古屋外国語大学) in no time, and were met at our dorm, the International House (or I-House) by several other exchange students, including Dani and Hoshiko, who helped us bring out bags in. We were given a tour by the RAs, with translations from some of the other students, and after a bit of catch-up and introductions, we promptly fell asleep.

The next day was the shopping tour. A few Japanese students from NUFS organized a trip for the new exchange students to take us to the big and popular shopping places around Nisshin-shi (the city in which we live). We went to the big superstore (which included Aoki, a really awesome gorcery store; and Kahma, a Sears-esque store), a 百円 store (hyaku-en, or 100-yen store, the rough equivalent of a dollar store in the States), some clothing stores (such as UniQlo), and some restaurants (like Sizeriya, an Italian-inspired restaurant with really good food and unlimited drinks–something hard to find in countries outside the US [they also have ice!!!!!!!]). It was informative and helpful. Aoki has been my favorite, most especially. I’ve been trying to cook more often. 😀

The next day we went to Sakae and Nagoya with Hoshiko and some of her friends. In Sakae we went to this shopping center called Oasis 21. It has some pretty neat stores, like the Shonen Jump store (got a few things from there 😉 ), as well as great restaurants, like the ramen shop we went to. At Nagoya, we went to Big Camera, a huge tech store, and Animate, and anime merch store. Animate was a little disappointing, but big camera was amazing. We also used this as a way of learning the train and bus lines for the city.

The next four days were orientations, which for the most part were informative but all together boring XP The exception to this was when we went to the Nisshin-shi City Hall to register as alien residents that the local news crew came and interviewed us. Probably amazed at the gaijin-bomb the city is getting (for those who might not know, gaijin 外人 means “foreigner”).

That’s all for this part, but stay tuned soon, when I detail some the recreation and excursions I’ve been on since then and up till now! 😀

じゃねえ!