Friday, June 24, 2005

Loving Japan

My bipolar relationship with Japan is currently in the "manic" stage. Life is busy, life is good.

I went to Tokyo to learn how to be an orientation assistant and had a great time! I went early and stayed in a capsule hotel. I've never traveled alone before (purposely) so I was a little bit worried about being lonely. But it was good. I arrived at 8 in the morning and then sat in McD's for a few hours planning out my day and trying to wake up.

I stashed my stuff in a locker and then took the train to Harajuku. This is a very famous shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo. I went to a park and slept on a bench for about an hour and then went shopping. While trying to find the Mexican restaurant in the Lonely Planet I found a Greek restaurant!!! Real Greek salad with real feta cheese!! I was in heaven. After trying on a tonne of clothes in the Gap I gave up and returned to Shinjuku to shop there.

Shinjuku is something everyone needs to experience once in their lives. I didn't get any night pictures because I didn't want to carry around my camera, but I will when I return in a few weeks. Shinjuku is everything people who have never been to Japan THINK Japan is like. Very high-tech and fashionable.

I shopped in a few department stores with no luck. I found a few gifts to send to people back home but no clothes for me (my MISSION). I decided to quit and start looking for my capsule hotel.

Capsule hotels tend to be men-only domains. I had a map with 2 hotels that accepted women so I decided to look for the closest one. I took a subway to an area called Akasaka and started exploring. Like almost everything on this trip I found it quite easily and checked in around 5pm.

start rant/
The women at the check-in counter were the most unfriendly useless bitches I have ever met! They asked me if it was my first time to a capsule hotel and I said yes, it was. They then proceeded to tell me NOTHING and just handed me my key, towels, and PJs. So then I did a bunch of things wrong, things that they could have easily told me about (I knew they spoke some English). I entered the capsule room using the wrong door, I couldn't find the lockers (despite having a floor map in my capsule -- it was wrong!), I didn't know where to put my used towels, I didn't know to leave my key when I went out, and other stupid little things. How easy would it have been to tell me a few simple instructions?? Or even have them written down, in English, to give to the gaijin? Fuckers.
/end rant

That night I ate at The Outback Steak House. Yummmmmmm! I went to bed pretty early because the overnight bus the night before, and the English camp the night before that, had wiped me out. It was a slow night on the ladies floor of the capsule hotel. Only about 8 capsules were occupied.

At around 6am I started hearing the cell phone alarms. My only complaint about my capsule experience was hearing all the stupid cell phones in the morning. I checked out at 10 and went for breakfast.

I then made my way back to Shinjuku to check into the Keio Plaza Hotel for the Tokyo orientation assistants meeting. There were about 100 JETs from all over Japan. It was great to meet new people and work together. Along with 6 other people I'm going to present a workshop on "Thriving in the Inaka". I actually remember going to this workshop way back when I first arrived in Tokyo. Should be fun.

Part of our duties when we welcome the new JETs will be standing all day at the airport to usher the newbies around and then riding on the buses with them. I'm looking forward to the energy and enthusiasm that the new JETs will bring with them. I remember coming out of customs and immigration and the first face I saw was a TOA with a huge smile on her face saying "Welcome to Japan!". Now I get to be that person!!

Are you getting all misty eyed now?

HA! It should be lots of fun.

I finished my Tokyo trip by shopping at Franc Franc for things I didn't need and a very rewarding visit to Eddie Bauer. I don't think I ever walked into an Eddie Bauer store back home. But I had heard that they have western sizes so I decided to give them a try.

It was heaven!!! I can't tell you how refreshing it was to choose any shirt or blouse and have it FIT! The prices were crazy but I didn't care! I spent 2.5 man but it was worth it. Having new clothes is like a drug. Feels gooooood!

I took the Shinkansen back to Hiroshima and then a bus back home. A very quick trip but lots of fun. I can't wait to go back for the orientation. It will be lots of work but the busier I am, the happier I am!

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