In The Beginning…
So much has happened I don't even know where to begin. I am in Japan, the land of my dreams. I have waited so long for this opportunity and it has finally arrived. So far, I am very pleased. I arrived in Tokyo on Sunday the 16th. The Tokyo orientation for the JET Program lasted until Tuesday. I stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel, which was in Shinjuku, the busiest part of Tokyo. It was just a nice...five star hotel! Talk about being pampered!
The orientation was nice. I met a lot of good people, however, I don't know if I'll ever see half of the people I met again. My friend Vanesa from high school was there and I hung out with her a lot. We went out exploring Shinjuku with two guys, one from Indiana, and the other from Dublin, Ireland. We first went exploring trying to find a bar. We found one called Frigo and stayed there for a while. Both Vanesa and I don't drink alcohol so we drank Coca-Cola. I paid nearly $5 for it and ended up spilling half of it on myself! Everything here in Japan is so expensive! It feels like the whole country is a tourist trap where you can't escape the high prices. Anyway, we all went out after that and got lost. We ended up in the red-light district (oh yeah!) of Shinjuku where the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia) run the clubs and there are many X-rated stores and hookers running around. (By the way, I’ve been told that prostitution is legal here) We luckily found another group of JETs who knew where they were going. I didn't go to sleep until 2 o'clock that night (Monday) and I had to wake up at six o'clock the next morning. Sounds like finals week all over again.
Tuesday night Vanesa, her roommate Aaronda, and I went out for rice bowls. I haven't had a rice bowl since I went to Hawaii when I was thirteen years old. Rice bowls are one of the simplest dishes because all that's in it is rice, beef, onions, and whatever seasoning they use, but it's tastes really good!
On Wednesday, all the people from my Prefecture (Hyogo-ken) left Tokyo to go to Yashiro, which is almost in the center of my prefecture. I live in the southernmost part of my prefecture in a place called Awajishima. My town is called Tsuna-cho (cho means town). I crossed the "longest" bridge in the world (about 4km long) to get to Awajishima. The scenery when I crossed the bridge was exquisite! This land, Japan, seems to be beyond anything I could have dreamed of. The sky was the most wonderful shade of blue I had ever seen and there was one massive white cloud in the sky that I could see from the time I got on the bridge, until I got to my town which was about a forty minute drive. The water was a beautiful crystal blue color. When we got on the island, there was a beach to the left-hand side. It was funny because it was the smallest beach I'd ever seen.
In America, we take for granted the amount of space we have. Most things we have are much bigger than the Japanese version. For example, the trucks here in Japan are about half the size of trucks in America. I personally like the little box vans that are really small that look like loafs of bread on wheels.
When I arrived at the Tsuna Board of Education, I was lead to a room that had two people from the Board of Education, the principal of the school (kocho-sensei), the first grade English teacher, and Eva, the ALT who I was going to replace. The people that picked me up were Otoshi-san, Watanabe-san, and another man who worked for the Mayor's office and acted as my translator. I was extremely nervous and intimidated by everything that was going on. I had to introduce myself to everyone in the room, which was very awkward, but I somehow got through it. I was really tired throughout all of this, which did not help the situation. As everyone was talking about what I would be doing I could understand bits and pieces of what they were talking about and the man translating for me definitely helped a lot. I was amazed at how fluent Eva was in Japanese. She was talking with everyone and she was flawless in her Japanese. That made me feel like I could end up fluent in Japanese if I stay here long enough.
After the meeting, I spoke to Eva and she told me that we would go out to eat later that night around seven o'clock. Then Otoshi-san, Watanabe-san, and Eva took me to the grocery store and then to my hotel.
I must have gotten used to the Keio Plaza way to quickly because when I saw my room in this hotel (The Tateishi Hotel) I was shocked. It's about the size of my dorm room from my senior year of college but with a bathroom. The bathroom was about the size of one of the bathrooms in the house my family used to live in Queens. That bathroom was half a bathroom, just a sink and a toilet. In this hotel, they were somehow able to fit a shower in the bathroom. Interesting...
I rested for about an hour before Otoshi-san came to pick me up. He is a really nice guy. His English isn't perfect, but somehow between my broken Japanese and his broken English, we communicate what we need to. Anyway, we first went to pick up Eva at her apartment and then we went to pick up Otoishi's friend, Etokoro whose nickname is Eddie. We went out for a bite to eat. I wanted meat so they took me out to a place where they serve different kinds of meat to you raw and you cook it on a grill that is in the middle of the table (I later found out it's called Yakinikku, it's Korean barbeque). The first thing we had was a Korean dish of spicy cabbage called Kimchi. I like spicy food (thanks to Sudarika and her family) so this tasted really good to me. Then came the explanation for why I don't drink alcohol. With Eva's help I was able to explain why I don't drink and after that they didn't bother me about it.
After that the meat came. YUM! First we had cow tongue. I don't know if I had ever had it before that night, but I know one thing, it was good! After grilling it, you squeeze some lemon juice on it and eat it. Tottemo oishikata ne! Then came some other parts of the cow like liver, and the sides of the cow right outside of the ribs (whatever that is called). The real fun came when I was challenged to eat some of the liver... raw! I was very, very reluctant to do it, but somehow I summoned the courage and did it. All I could think was "No one is going to believe I did this!" It was really nasty but somehow I chewed and swallowed it. The two guys asked me all sorts of questions, what kind of music I like, if I have a girlfriend, what do I think of Japan, etc. It was nice to get to know people who live here in Tsuna-cho.
After we ate we went driving and ended going up one of the many mountains located on the island and I was in utter awe of what I saw. I had never seen such a beautiful night. The moon was a very eerie yellowish color, a color I had never seen before. On top of that, the moon was reflecting off of the water in the bay and the city of Osaka was in the background. That made me fall in love with Awaji Island! That one glorious moment made me feel extremely lucky to be here.