I have already mentioned that I did not enjoy my flight from Venice to Narita, I blame the seats. The adjustable headrests in the economy class stick out at an uncomfortable height and they prevented me from finding any enjoyable position in which I’d manage to catch some sleep. Not even hefty glasses of Turkish wine (on an Italian flight) helped so I was forced to watch films and Top Gear until the captain declared descent. Since I was flying during the night there was also not much to see outside, despite the route taking me over the Balkans, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia, and almost North Korea.
It was around 9 in the morning locally when I got off the plane and despite the sun being hidden behind a thick layer of clouds I could sense the high humidity. I was safe inside the air-conditioned terminal before it started showing off and after my luggage arrived the feeling I first noticed somewhere above China returned – I really will be staying here for a year and I have enough stuff to prove it! To avoid dragging the suitcases around we were instructed to use a delivery company whose logo fills you with confidence that your luggage will be delivered safely. I had printed instructions on how to fill out the very Japanese forms so that my luggage would get delivered to the right address but the interaction with the delivery personnel was not easy. The big communication gap was even more apparent when I was getting a ticket for the train journey to Tokyo. I did manage to acquire and fill a train fare card and was not long after on my way too get introduced to the wonderful Japanese transportation system.
Navigation proved easier than I though and I managed to get to the hotel where the Vulcanus students were gathering for the first night. If I wasn’t quite sure whether I’ve really arrived in Japan it was very obvious when I opened the bathroom door. There it was, a high-tech, manual requiring toilet! This was (un)fortunately not a very advanced model (no heated seat, music, temperature control, drier, etc.) so operation wasn’t that difficult but it still did the job and left me with very mixed feelings.
After reuniting with the Vulcanus students we quickly took the show on the road and headed to Shibuya – if it’s your first night might as well go all out! The goal was Shibuya crossing, the supposedly busiest pedestrian crossing in the world where anywhere between 2500 and 10000 people cross every green light during rush hour . The mass of people along with the skyscrapers, neon lights, noise from commercials, and everything else overwhelmed me and left me in a daze. It’s now been almost two weeks and despite being in Shibuya daily (it’s where the language school is) crossing the crossing is still special. I’m slowly adjusting to the concept of a 3D city, the ground floor is only the first floor in Japan (quite literally, they start counting floors with a 1 at the ground level). Most high buildings offer a lot more shopping and entertainment on higher up.
The first evening ended up at an izakaya, something I’ll revisit at a different time, the next day we started off with a briefing by the EU-Japan center, followed by a trip to where we’ll live for the next four months or a year (some students are temporarily staying close to Tokyo and are then moving to company locations all over Japan). This is where I reveal I am in fact not living in Tokyo but in Kawasaki City, a small suburb located between Tokyo and Yokohama with just 1.5 million inhabitants. A Fujitsu representative greeted me and Natascha – the Fujitsu interns – and took us to the place we’ll call home for the next year. This experience along with some photos will get a separate entry.
The rest of the week was marked by jet-lag (and/or an uncomfortable bed), administrative procedures, settling in, and of course the start of the Japanese course. We will be receiving 16 weeks of very intensive training that will hopefully enable us to bridge the communication chasm and allow us to function as close to normally as possible. We’re nowhere near that yet, which was evident when opening a bank account, registering residency, and just doing very common things like eating or shopping.
The next entry will show my room, my sleeping arrangements and explain why home is where the dorm manager is.