Thoughts and feelings on my first few days in Japan

Alright, let’s go! I’m in Komono, but this is going to be a very reflective post, rather than an play-by-play of what happened these past few days.

Now that I posted my first Japan post, I can go into a little more detail about my first impressions, which I kind of glossed over in the previous post. First off, a list of “wow” moments, because why not!

  • Toilets (bidets, sprays, warm seats, running water or noise that triggers when you sit to mask the sound of your restroom use)
  • Doilies on the headrests of buses taxis
  • How quiet elevators and trains are (we were asked to keep it down on the train because we were bothering the other train riders!)
  • Most Japanese business men wear light blue or white shirts with dark pants and seeing many of the in the streets at the same time during rush hour is a very powerful picture
  • The amount of nodding that happens during every day interactions
  • How humbling it is to not understand ANYTHING around you
  • How much more narrow the roads are
  • The little bow the conductor gives to the passengers in the car when entering and leaving each train car
  • Placing money into a tray rather than handing it directly to the cashier
  • All of the LIGHTS!
  • The amount of visual stimuli in stores
  • How it seemed common for stores in Tokyo have multiple floors, but relatively small square footage
  • How INTENSE my jet lag was, and how important going out into the sun was at lifting my spirits and waking me up during orientation
  • How many emotions it is possible to feel in such a short amount of time

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can say that I am in my apartment, having eaten a prepackaged dinner I bought from the grocery during my grocery run with one of my co-teachers.

It is really surreal to be here. I feel at home (or maybe just relieved to finally be here), but at the same time I feel like a stranger… On the flight over here, I watched the Motorcycle Diaries, which I had started watching once in my freshman year of college, but never finished. When I finally watched it on the plane, it absolutely blew me away. There was one scene in particular though, that resonated with where I am right now…

“Dear Mom, what do we leave behind when we cross a frontier?
Each moment seems split in two:
melancholy for what is left behind, and the excitement of entering a new land.”

I don’t think I can say it any better than that, and I know that I will have to somehow navigate between those two emotions for a while. Even the peaks and valleys are difficult to navigate. Taking the train from Tokyo this morning, not knowing really what to expect at the end of the line was a surreal experience. Driving into Komono with one of my co-teachers was exhilarating, and seeing how big the mountains were in real life made me so happy that I thought I was going to cry right there in her car. Meeting some of my coworkers day was nerve-wracking, and I stuttered through my self-introduction in Japanese and sweat my way through the school like some smelly, tall, confused, googly-eyed foreigner. Being able to sit by myself in my apartment, unpack a little, and play my own music was comforting and made me feel a little more centered, but also bewildered to call this my home.

Seeing the sunset behind the mountains was beautiful, but it made me sad that I had nobody to share it with. I am sure this will all grow on me, and I am sure that the feeling of “home” will take a while to materialize. After all, it took until October for me to call Rutgers my home when I was a first year in undergrad, so I will have to exhibit the same patience (if not more) with myself these days.

View from the kitchen window of my apartment.

Anyway, this is a short post, but one to just let everybody know that I am alive, I have arrived, and I am making it one day at a time! I will post some more information about my journey from Tokyo to here (with pictures!) later.

A

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