Made it!

“Welcome to Japan” © selyfriday

Ok, so I’ve actually been in Japan for a couple of days at this point. But it truly feels like an achievement to have finally gotten here, after months of anticipation and planning. I flew United out of SeaTac airport, and after a 10.5-hour journey, I made it to Narita late Thursday afternoon. It took me a while to get out of the airport, since I had a bunch of stuff to do: I exchanged a bit of money to get me by (at the shocking rate of 80.80 yen to the dollar–I’m so glad that my fellowship is paying me in yen!), picked up my temporary cell phone at the airport post office, and shipped one of my suitcases to my apartment via Yamato (the company with the black cat logo ala Kiki’s Delivery Service). That’s definitely one thing I like about Japan–there have been times when I desperately wished that I could cheaply and quickly ship my luggage to/from the airport in the U.S.

After 40 minutes on the Keisei Limited Express, I found myself at Yawata Station in Ichikawa, Chiba–the site of my new home. It was a rainy evening in Nihon, so I caught a taxi. Unfortunately, this particular taxi driver had no idea how the find the address of my apartment (which, in all fairness, can be really difficult to do at times). Luckily, I had printed a (somewhat makeshift) map and written down the phone number of my neighbor-to-be, so after 30 minutes of winding around ridiculously narrow Japanese streets and making occasional phone calls, we spotted a little old lady waving at us through the rain. She let me into my apartment, and I promptly passed out.

I’m very pleased with my apartment. It’s so cute and spacious (for Tokyo) and it has a lot of nice little touches that make me very happy. It’s a real apartment, not a weekly mansion (that’s what the Japanese call a tiny weekly rental apartment, don’t be fooled by the “mansion” bit)–and I have it all to my self! After 4 months of nomadicity this feels fantastic. I’m thrilled to be able to unpack my things and really settle in. The place is a bit further from the station (and from the center of Tokyo) than I’d like, but at this point, it seems like it will really be worth it.

Anyway, I don’t want to make this a minute-by-minute account of my first two days in Japan, but I’ll just say that it’s been amazingly action-packed. I had an orientation at the headquarters of the Japan Foundation (which is generously footing the bill for my next 12 months of research), registered for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (which was fairly involved), and began exploring the bit of Ichikawa where I now live. I have tons of ideas for fun posts about the area and about Japan in general, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again soon!