Saturday, 10 August 2013

tokyo drift

It’s been a week since I left the comforts of home and I am now safely settled in a new apartment in the city of Miyakonojo in Miyazaki Prefecture! It’s been one of the most hectic and tiring weeks of my life, but I’ve met some fantastic people and feel ready now to take on my first full week of work at school.

The journey was long but I quite happily spent the plane ride sipping gin and tonic, watching Girls and The Bling Ring, and getting to know all the JETS sitting around me. We arrived at Narita airport Tokyo time 9.30 am (our time 1.30am!) to a lot of smiling JET helpers and some pretty humid weather, and jumped on a coach to trendy Shinjuku.

Our group of British JETs were lucky to have the whole of Sunday free to wander round and acclimatise. After finding our rooms in the ridiculously huge Keio Plaza Hotel we ventured out for sustainance.

Even on the other side of the world you can still find guys on corners selling The Big Issue!

We soon realised how friendly and polite Japanese manners are: even on a massive intersection like this in Tokyo, we couldn’t take out a map without quickly being offered help.

My first meal in Japan! We paid trying to be as polite as possible, saying arigatou gozaimasu (thank you) many times, bowing and taking the receipt with both hands as is customary.

 Later on I explored a little more with a group of girls and came upon a wonderful women’s choir singing in a plaza, dressed in beautiful kimono and obi.

In the plaza below people watched and wind chimes sounded.

The fourth lady from the bottom just broke my heart, she was so tiny and was singing with all her might!

We passed a lot of older people pursuing their hobbies in fact! Groups of elderly men did tai chi in the park and two octogenarian besties were busking on one street, with no hat for coins in sight and with an iphone set up so they could record themselves! We also came upon this charming wee cat – one of the more fluent members of our group translated his story as pretty similar to Greyfriars Bobby’s!

We proceeded onto a gorgeous green park where the cicadas drowned out any conversation.

Several passers-by stopped at this shrine to ring the bell pull and clap before going on their way – hopefully soon I’ll know what it all means. Next up we tested a rumour going round that a nearby government building offered a free elevator ride up to the 45th floor.

Happily, it turned out to be true. Tokyo stretched further than our eyes could see.

We finished our day with a very early night, after drinks (wine served in a rather fetching glass mug)…

and a sighting of a benighted pup.

 The next day was the start of a very jam-packed orientation in the hotel full of speeches, panel discussions and workshops. We started with speeches from the Ministries of Internal Affairs and Communications; Foreign Affairs; and Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. It was fantastic to meet people from all over New Zealand, the States and Canada.

 It wasn’t all so serious though. I’m still working up the courage to use the infamous Japanese toilets to their full potential…

After a long day we decided to head out and find a kareoke bar. 

Armed with maracas and tambourines, we were led to our booth. We used the phone to order drinks and then proceeded to belt it out for three solid hours!

The next evening’s activities were a little more sedate, as we were treated to a reception at the British embassy.  Over canapes we were alerted to the perilsof the Japanese justice system, and the surprising things that can earn you 21 days’ jail time (such as stealing a cardboard cutout or punching an inflatable snowman…) After this however we got to see an incredible performance on taiko drumming and had a go ourselves. The doors were opened onto the veranda and we swapped stories in the humid night air.

A bunch of us ventured to the Sky Bar back at the hotel to finish the evening with an incredible view of Tokyo. Despite the jet lag and nerves, it was a wonderful few days to start our adventures in Japan.

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