Arriving in Japan, the first days…

So, the text in this post is taken from emails I’ve sent home to family. I figured, “why repeat myself?” Anyway, these are general first impressions, struggles, experiences, etc. I had. I’ve been in Japan a week Sunday, but I’m starting my count after Tokyo Orientation (Wednesday), since I feel I was pretty cloistered in my Tokyo hotel, going from one meeting to the next. I feel like my real experience as an expat began when I arrived to Fuji-shi. Anyway, onward to the meat of this post; my first impressions and thoughts…

Let’s see, what’s been happening with me? Well, I’ve mostly been adjusting to the culture shock of living somewhere where I don’t understand the language. The first day or two were tough—Wednesday and Thursday—because I felt frustrated about my lack of communication ability. I mean, I’m in my twenties and I’ve been pretty independent for a while now. If I need something, I just go get it! No problem! Now, suddenly, there’s a problem. How do you communicate the minutiae of daily living? Luckily, Japanese people are pretty nice (and if they are angry at you, they usually don’t show it) and will try to work with you. My communication abilities have suddenly involved a lot of gesticulations and emphasized head movements. I also need to be careful because I say the Hindi “yes” (which sounds like “hah”) instead of the Japanese “yes” (which sounds like “high”); although they sound different, they are spelled the same in English (“hai”).

I arrived at Tokyo Orientation on Sunday evening. We had Sunday free because we got there at 6:00 PM. I ended up exploring with my friend. We decided to explore around the Shinjuku area (it’s the section of Tokyo around the hotel). We tried to take a train to Shibuya, known for it’s interesting people and shopping, but we couldn’t figure out the train system (I think I could figure it out now, but at the time it seemed really complicated). So, we ended up eating curry rice at the train station, which actually was pretty good. Japanese curry is very different from Indian curry, though. Japanese people don’t like very strong flavors when it comes to spice (although they like very strong fishy or meaty flavors, which I don’t like!), so their curry is slightly sweet instead. We then went back to our hotel and explored that. It was very big! About 45 floors, with a conbini (convenience store, like 7-11 but with more things), karaoke lounge, three bars, and four restaurants. Unfortunately, the prices at the bars and restaurants were pretty high; I guess we were in a high-end hotel. We found an observation deck on floor 43 which allowed us to see the view. Tokyo is huge! Skyscrapers for as far as the eye can see!

Despite it being late on a Sunday night, Shinjuku was pretty busy and the lights kept the darkness at bay.
Reminds me of the ocean, but with skyscrapers.


Tokyo Orientation, itself, was a great networking opportunity. I met many JETs, from many walks of life, and made some friends. As for the workshops…they were hit or miss. I’d heard that in previous years, JETs were given options on which workshops to take, which would have been very beneficial to me. A lot of the workshops were crash courses in teaching, for people who had no experience. I struggled through them, wishing I had more caffeine in my system and less jetlag. Considering the JET motto (“every situation is different”), I’m surprised they had one-size-fits-all workshops.

Here we go...


The workshops where current ALTs talked about their experiences were probably the most beneficial.

The thing, though, is that nothing prepares one for the shock of entering a new life where you don’t speak the language…


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