My first week in Japan
Posted on April 4, 2015 by Kristy Poisson '16.
I can’t believe that it has already been just over a week since I arrived in Tokyo. So many things have happened since the plane landed that I hardly know where to begin in recounting it all.
On March 25, I took a flight from Boston straight to Tokyo. Luckily, through the Council on International Exchange Education (CIEE) Facebook page, I had made contact with another girl from Bentley University going on the same flight. We met up at the airport in Boston and spent the 13.5-hour flight sitting at opposite sides of the plane in our assigned seats. I have to say that navigating the busy and confusing airport was made bearable with the help of my new friend Nikki. In the end, it took us two hours to go through immigration and customs and to gather our luggage and haul it all over to the meeting spot for the CIEE program. The undeniable language barrier didn’t help much either.
The next two days went by in a blur. We stayed at two hotels in Tokyo, slowly making our way to the Sophia University campus, all the while engaging in orientation activities with the program. These first two days were fuzzy from jet lag and the rushed necessity of adapting to an entirely new culture. One of the biggest and unforeseen adjustments I continually struggle with is walking on the right side of the sidewalk! You don’t think of it, but even the little things differ from culture to culture. In Japan, they drive on the opposite side of the road, and so that carries over to the directions you walk on the street.
On the third day, we moved in with our host families. I was so nervous that I hardly ate that day, but when I finally met them, I was relieved. I am currently living with a family of three, outside of Tokyo in Yokohama, which is the second largest city in Japan in regards to population. My host parents do not speak much English, but I am doing my best to learn as much Japanese as I can every time we talk. Sometimes this is tiresome and a little stressful because I wish that my conversational level of Japanese was higher so that I could hold coherent conversations, but they are both so patient and seem to enjoy learning along with me, exchanging Japanese and English words.
My host sister is 21 and lives at home with us while attending a different university. She speaks English rather well, having spent a semester abroad in Canada. Already I have met some of her friends and gone out around Japan. The younger people I have met are so excited to talk to me as a foreigner and really want to practice speaking English with me.
It is also currently cherry blossom, or Sakura, season. Just about everyone in Tokyo, whether foreign or native, stops to take pictures of the beautiful pink trees along the roads. There are also dozens of hanami, or flower viewing spots in the city. These spots are set up like little festivals with food and games. I have already been to a couple hanami and tried numerous traditional Japanese festival foods. Everything is so delicious!
For now, the excitement is still running high, but soon classes will be chosen and school will start up again. I am looking forward to all that I will experience while here. I’ll be in touch again soon!