Thus begins the first section of the recording of my latest adventure: my vacation in Japan... woohoo! This post will cover my initial departure to that amazing country as well as cover my first "official"day- i.e. Day One... so enjoy.
Thursday morning (very early morning, mind you) my good friend Sarah dropped me off at Dulles International Airport where I then began my journey to Japan. Five hours later I departed in San Francisco to catch my international flight to Osaka. Well, anyone who's travelled internationally knows that usually the food is of ok quality, sleep is often hard to acquire and they are usually late. I didn't have any of this (except that the movie selection was a little lackluster- I saw the Golden Compass way too many times). My flight attendents were awesome, the food was good, and the people around me great. However, the most astonishing thing is that my flight was actually 45 minutes early, yep- early. Then it only took me about 10 minutes to get through quarantine, immigration and customs, weird huh?
Unfortunately because we were so early my pickup person was not there to acquire me. She arrived about 15 minutes after I would have gotten in. This person, named Harumi, is awesome. She is a friend of Nate's who is kinda like a mother/older sister to him. Due to a school conflict Nate was not able to pick me up so she kindly offered her services. However, Harumi felt so bad about being late, eventhough it wasn't her fault because the flight was early. I tried to convince her that is was fine (she speaks English fairly well) but there's only so much consolation that can be done. However, my waiting time was not in vain as I met another American waiting for her daughter to pick her up. This lady's daughter is in the same program as Nate and so she, too, had to wait for her daughter to get off work. So I had someone to talk too, yay!
Harumi then drove me to Nate's place. She wasn't alone though.... I got to meet three other amazing Japanese ladies. They didn't nearly speak as much English as Harumi but they were still sweet, joyous, respectful and enjoyable no the less. We all had a good time, and I didn't have jet lag so was actually functioning, which was another good sign. I was driven through many towns and gradually began making our way into the countryside, and boy was it beautiful. I immediately knew I was going to enjoy this place. A little while later I was dropped off at Nate's apartment and gave a hug to my friend whom I hadn't seen in three years! It was a nice moment that culminated with an nice relaxing evening before heading out for the next day. So a great trip out, followed by great company and ending with a successfully relaxing night. On to the party!
Day One: was called my "jet laggy day", although I really didn't experience much jet lag- thank goodness. This was one of our lighter days (for they were all pretty jammed packed). It started off with a tour of Nate's town (Schimochi-cho). Sounds simple right, wrong. There were a few things that I vaguely knew regarding Japan that came into full effect here. First Japan is a very mountainous country, and although I'm in good shape, I wasn't fully prepared to begin walking continous up the mountains. Talk about being out of breath quickly and feeling stupid too. Nate's just walking along breathing totally fine and here I am huffing and puffing, looking back it's kinda funny actually. The second thing I forgot was that Japanese people walk and drive on the left. So I immediately go to walk on the right and Nate very kindly states that if I don't want to die I had better walk on the left. Ha, nice.
We walk thorughout the town and he shows me his apartment building, grocery store, local waterfall, river, temple and school where he works. We take a tour of the school and are greeted by the chorus club practicing. The teacher invites us in and they begin to sing for us! I have no idea what they're singing but they sound absolutely amazing. We then proceed up to the city cemetary which was absolutely beautiful, old, and ancient. It was a photographic gem, and I enjoyed snapping many pictures. We then headed off to the train station to meet his friends that were going with us to the Buddhist mask parade that we were attending. So that day I got my first taste of the Japanese rail system. Talk about on time trains and comfort. They were so much better than any of the trains I've ever ridden in the states. They were nice.
Near the town Kashihada we met up with another JET named Doc. He is teaching English at the high school in the area and was nice to talk with. He took us to this noodle place where I used chopsticks for the first time. Boy was it difficult and a mess but I managed to eat all my oudon... it just took a while... but was really good. Then we headed off to the parade and met up with one more friend. Her name is Eriko and is Japanese. She is a teacher as well, although not an English teacher. Eriko is a sweetheart and very patient with all of us regarding language problems (she speaks very little English but was amazingly patient with Nate and his Japanese).
The Buddhist mask parade was awesome. It consisted of 25 different masks being worn by people dressed up in these intriciate and gorgeously designed outfits. I don't really know anything about Buddhism so didn't fully understand what was happening but I still enjoyed it none the less. The adults and children involved were elaborately dressed and very reverent about what they were doing and one felt awed by their devotion. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Afterwards we all went and got icecream; I tried the famous green tea flavor and was pleasantly surprised by it. Then the four of us sat around on a park bench and talked for awhile and gradually began to head home. It was the nice end to a rather enjoyable first day. Stay tuned... additional days to come.