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Winter in Japan, 2011

May 30, 2011

After being interested in Japan for years, I finally found the courage (and money) to go in February, 2011. The point of the trip was a) meet up with a friend I had made online and b) eat as much food as possible. I succeeded at both, luckily. 

So, I arrived on Feb 2nd (or was it 3rd? The time zone difference still confuses me…), and was dropped straight into the exact thing I was dreading, the very situation that had put me off from going all that time (despite being a member of the ‘Twilight Rest Home for the Terminally Short of Cash’): having to figure something out with no proper knowledge of Japanese. After making my way out of the airport, I (somehow) found myself at the airport train station at Narita. I knew where I had to get to, Yokohama, but had no idea which train(s) to take. I should have really asked BEFORE I went! Anyway, after arriving at the station and being totally confused by the complicated train map for about 20 minutes, a small voice came from somewhere.

Someone: Are you lost?

Me: *jumping* Oh, yea, I am. *blush*

Someone: Where do you need to get to?

Me: Erm… Hiyoshi… I think, maybe… is it Hiyoshi? No, Yokohama, if you know how to get there?

Someone: Yea sure!

She said, and for another 10 minutes we tried to figure out exactly where I needed to go. It looked like I would have to change twice, and that was definitely too scary for me. Luckily, after some more digging around and asking a station attendant (I have no idea what his actual job was… standing around and smiling, I think, but he was genuinely helpful), we figured out I could get a train straight to Yokohama, with no changes. It was kind of expensive at 3000円 or so, but compared to the fear of getting stuck somewhere between Narita and Yokohama, it was worth every yen.

What’s weird about going on a trip alone, is the little things you find difficult. Like trying to figure out there was not a separate platform for each train, but a separate carriage, that everyone going to the same station got onto. Then, once on the train, there was an indentation in the wall for my luggage, and some weird yellow plastic wire thingy that was supposed to hold your luggage down. Again, purely by chance (because the carriage was practically empty), the only other person there had luggage and I watched and just followed suit. I was scared right from the start, and that’s before the train has even started, a train that would take me deep into the heart of Japan’s capital and out the other side to Yokohama.

So, after a two hour train ride, I arrived at Yokohama station. I dug the scrap of paper out of my backpack that had Emi’s number on it, the friend who I was meeting up with, and found a payphone. 100円 for a phone call. I guessed that was reasonable, because I hadn’t figured out the exchange rate properly by this point. It rang, she picked up. I spoke. She didn’t understand much. I tried to describe my surroundings, but had no idea what kinds of shops I was staring at. “I think I’m at West Gate”, I said. “Where?”, “West Gate? Maybe? Do you know ### shop? I’m near there. Do you know it?” Eventually, she found me, and I gave her a hug – which was over far too quickly! I was petrified by this point, and a warm embrace from someone who I had grown to know pretty well over the preceding months, albeit only online, would have been the perfect medicine. Oh well!

It took some time for the conversation to warm up, and for each of us to get used to the other’s accent, but eventually we made it. I knew I was going to have a great time while we sat eating Okonomiyaki in a small restaurant just round the corner from Hiyoshi Station. I had heard a lot before I went about the Japanese reception of foreigners, with a lot of people going as far as calling them racist. Well, I didn’t see that, to be honest. The whole time I was largely ignored by anyone who walked past, and when I decided to speak to anyone, the reaction was always pleasant (although, I hardly spoke to anyone who wasn’t Emi. At ALL. I once plucked up the courage to order two Long Island Ice Teas from the bar at Hub, but I had to point to the picture, doh >.<;!). My first day was GREAT, apart from the cold I got that quite frankly obliterated me within hours. As far as first days go, though, it couldn’t have gone much smoother, and Emi’s family accepted me more or less with open arms, and gave me a wonderful home to stay in for the next two weeks.

In the next post, I’ll write about our first few days, and write more on the amazing food I got to try (and retry, several times, yum!) while in Japan. To end this intro post, below is the view of Hiyoshi from the station’s exit. It was somehow comforting to see the giant yellow M staring back at me.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2011 9:25 pm

    “The Giant Yellow M” … You know Japan has more Mcdonalds stores than England, Gremany & Canada combined!
    That’s a hell of a lot of “Happy Sets”.

  2. May 30, 2011 10:38 pm

    I didn’t know that! 😮 I prefer First Kitchen though, myself 😉

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