Hello! This is officially the first post of my Japanese travel blog following my adventures (and misadventures) in Japan. Although I want to focus on my internship with Second Harvest Tokyo and the food security project I am developing from my internship experiences, I also want to focus on the experiences I am having. This first post is dedicated largely to that and is a little long as it follows my first three days in Japan.
I started my journey in Japan by falling asleep at random times and thinking it was a good idea to get up at 4:30 in the morning. It’s really not, even if I went to bed at 5:30 pm the previous day. Technically I didn’t go to bed, it was more like I crashed out on my futon after I assured myself that a one hour nap with no alarm set was a good idea. It’s really not, even though I assured myself I could get up. I’m not sure if staying in bed or chugging a large coffee and struggling through until I could go to bed at a more reasonable hour would have been better, but my first evening in Japan passed rather unremarkably with me sprawled out in the clothes I had been wearing for over 24 hours. Yikes!
My next day was a bit more exciting as it was the day that I went through my program orientation and got to meet my host family. I started off (at 4:30 am) by leisurely getting ready for the day and assuring myself that I was confident and independent (insert stressed emoji), and that I could go exploring with no destination in mind. Not to say that having no particular destination when you’re exploring is bad, but Google maps is a handy tool made for the directionless (haha). I began to aimlessly wander at about 7 am and managed to end up almost getting run over in the bike lane. When I returned to the hotel for breakfast, there were two important things that I forgot about Japan: (1) trays to put your food on is a custom; (2) getting into and following the RIGHT lines is a social expectation. I gracefully managed to mess both up.
At around 10 am the other two interns (Jacob and Ian) and I met with Ishikawa-San–an IES program coordinator. She took us to the main building where Yurina-San took over most of our orientation. A recent Kanda University graduate with a great sense of style, Yurina-San introduced us to the area, gave us a tour of Kanda, and went out for sushi on a conveyor belt with us (I’m pretty sure this type of restaurant has a much more formal name than “sushi on a conveyor belt”, but I can’t remember it). Honestly, the orientation made me feel much more assured as I was feeling a bit lost before. I met with my host mom and her two daughters Chi-Chan (seven years old) and Kanae-Chan (four years old) where I came to the conclusion that my Japanese was weak despite taking three semesters of the language (even kanae-Chan had me beat by a lot).
I had dinner with the family, took a traditional Japanese style bath, and went to bed early, but at a more reasonable time than the night prior. I still managed to wake up at 3 am though. My host family is extremely kind; I just wish I could speak in Japanese a bit more. It took a little while for Chi-Chan and Kanae-Chan to realize I didn’t speak much Japanese. That happened when they looked at me eagerly after asking a question and it turned into a staring match. Truth be told, I didn’t even realize it was a question because the question marking particle “ka” was left off (often done when casual/short form speaking is used).
My host dad took the day off from work the following day to show me to the train station and around Chiba. We ended up meeting Ian and going to an outlet mall and Kissaten. My host dad had to leave to complete some work related things, and Ian and I had our own separate adventure that ended in me having one of the largest sun burns I’ve had in half a decade. We left the outlet mall and ventured to Mihama park which featured many varieties of trees, flowers, and a beautiful pond. We ended up at the beach next which was quite a different experience than I’ve had in the US. The tourist culture that surrounds beaches with the board walks and tons of seafood restaurants was nonexistent. I’m not sure if this was because of cultural differences or because Chiba is less of a tourist destination, but the beach ended up being very quiet (which could be attributed to the fact that it was a Wednesday as well).
During our beach adventure, we saw a number of dead jelly fish floating around on the beach, and a hermit crab which may or may not have been saved from our help returning it to the sea. One of my favorite parts was the jumping fish. I’m not sure what type of fish they were, but there were these long skinny fish that kept jumping out of the sea. They had so much gusto that it was amusing watching them fly through the air. Unfortunately, spending hours outside in the sun, wearing a dress, and having no sunscreen does not bode well for the pale. I ended up with a sunburn across my face, my shoulders and neck, hands, feet, ears… Basically, and because I have unilaterally decided not to provide a picture, I looked like a burnt lobster bandit (the burn on my face went down from my forehead to a little past my eyes making it appear as though I was wearing a rather unfortunate looking mask). I think my host sisters and host dad found it slightly amusing (I’m sure I will eventually).