Posts Tagged Shinjuku station

September 29, 2003 – Orientation Day

Original Post

Today was orientation in Shinjuku (downtown Tokyo). Shinjuku station is the busiest train station in the world. We were oriented for 6 hours, with a break for some disgusting cold coffee. After, we went to Subway for dinner and the bar at the bottom of our building for a few drinks. The drinks were very expensive so we got a group of about 40 and wandered Shinjuku looking for a bar. About an hour later we found and English pub and the 20 that were left happily went in for a few drinks. Drinkng with English people is fun, I recommend everyone do it one in your lifetime.
Also, I got to see Fuji-san for the first time today!!! Simply awesome, even through the Tokyo smog.

2013 Notes

There isn’t really a traditional “downtown” area in Tokyo. There are a lot of built up areas like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Shinagawa or Ueno that have their own attractions and shopping.

At orientation we signed up for cell phones and bank accounts. If you decided to sign up for a cell phone at the start of orientation you could walk away with a functioning phone at the end. Most people opted for this. My phone was an awesome flip phone with a camera and web browsing features. It is primitive by today’s standards, but was far ahead of anything available in Canada at the time.

Other than learning about the company and the job, one of the topics that was focused on was drugs. We were informed that in Japan there is no difference between “soft” drugs like marijuana and “hard” drugs like heroin or cocaine. Drugs were drugs, and they were all illegal. The police have the power to detain you while investigating, and we were told in no uncertain terms that the company would not help us at all if we ran into trouble with Japanese drug laws.

After the orientation we ended up at the Rose & Crown pub on the first floor of the NS building. I feel bad for the Rose & Crown and their periodic invasions of new English teachers. Our group was loud and enthusiastic, but fairly well behaved. A few months after I started, one of the new teachers got extremely drunk and puked all over the restaurant. The senior instructors spent a lot of time apologizing on behalf of the teachers and the company.

After the masses left the Rose & Crown we were all keen on getting another drink somewhere. Nobody really had any ideas on where to go or how to get there. After about 5-10 minutes of everyone standing around I announced “follow me!” and randomly chose a direction. To my surprise, everyone actually did follow me. We slowly started losing groups of people who either found a bar to go to, or realized that the crazy Canadian guy at the front of the line had no idea where he was going. My group of followers ended up in Hub British Pub, which is a fantastic place to have a beer or watch some footy.

Lesson of the night – everyone will follow you as long as you look confident that you know where you are going.

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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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