September 24, 2003 – Episode 1 – Arrival

The view outside Shinjuku station

The view outside Shinjuku station

Original post:

Well, that felt like the longest flight in the history of flying. I flew from Winnipeg to Vancouver, with a brief stop in Saskatoon. Then Vancouver to Tokyo which took 9 and a half hours. I only managed to sleep about 2 hours on the plane. When I landed, my brain thought it was 1:30am, but local time was 3:30pm. Immigration took about an hour and a half, and customs was pretty quick. All the Nova instructors met up, changed money, and sent our luggage for delivery. Then it was off to Shinjuku Station, one of the busiest stations in Japan.

En route to Shinjuku, we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could order and drink beer on the train. So all of the Canadians were introducing ourselves, drinking beer, and generally forgetting that we were in a foreign country.

When I finally arrived at Noborito it was raining hard. I was met by Minami who is one of the landlords. He walked me to Hello House and gave me my lease papers and key. By the time all is done it is 9:00pm. Not wanting to go to sleep yet, I ventured out to the Sunkus convenience store to get some food. All was well until I tried to pay and the clerk asked me a question. Well it seems my Japanese was not as good as I thought it was. Thankfully she clued in and pointed to the chopsticks that she had just offered to me. What a fun day!

Notes from 2013:

This was the longest I ever had to wait in the immigration line in all my trips to Japan. At the time the government was working on decreasing the wait times for incoming foreigners.

In my original post I should have spent more time describing the chaos at Shinjuku. Coming from a huge, underpopulated country to one of the most densely packed cities in the world is a HUGE shock to the system. The station was completely full of busy people all moving in every direction at the same time. Think of leaving the busiest sporting event or concert you have ever been to, and then multiply that by 10.

I learned another valuable cultural lesson on the train – Japanese people do not understand sarcasm. Nova was very good about having someone accompany our group to ensure that we all got off at the right stations. We were all met at the station by someone who would get us to our new homes. I was the only person getting off at Noborito station. I had blonde hair, a Canada flag backpack, a laptop bag and likely one of the largest noses that Japan has ever seen. I also was the only person not carrying an umbrella. I could not have looked more out of place.

My Japanese escort on the train said that I would be met by a man named Minami who would walk me to Hello House. I sarcastically said “gee, how will he ever recognize me”. My escort missed the sarcasm completely and called Minami to give him a description, just in case there were other blonde, jet lagged Canadian travelers getting off the train. Learning to curb my sarcasm was a very difficult adjustment, because Canadians are sarcastic bastards.

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  1. May 21, 2004 pt1 – Narita Airport | Drinking in Japan
  2. August 20, 2005 part 1 – Getting there is not half the fun | Drinking in Japan
  3. September 24, 2005 – Second Japanniversary | Drinking in Japan

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