The Arrival

A recap of my first few hours in Japan.
Thursday, November 17, 2005

I arrived in Tokyo in a daze. Getting to the train and getting my ticket were easy (mainly because the people at the Japan Rail desk helped me), but once I stepped off they train, I was in a whole new world. People flew, no swarmed, past me as I wandered trying to find the transfer to my next line. I stood in a cloud of doubt on the rush hour crowded train, before disembarking at my stop. Hoping for signs for the correct exit, I got lucky and found myself at street level, immersed in a crisp night air filled with neon light energy and more swarms.

But at street level, there are bicyclists and cars to deal with, and while I knew it, I had forgotten that the Japanese drive on the left. One more thing to be on the lookout for. The bikes and cars seemed to just move around me, as I crossed streets without even seeing crossing lights. I could barely think, just lost in this new world that makes no sense to me. I found my hotel and checked in, amidst a myriad of rules: the towel can be changed daily, the yukata and sheets every three; shoes off at the door; wash before entering the tub; bring it all back when you check out. I took a deep breathe and headed back out to find some food. Just about anything would do, but it was cold out, so I figured noodle soup sounded nice.

I passed restaurant upon restaurant knowing that whichever I entered, I would be taking a huge step as I would hold my first conversation without speaking. After a couple of loops around the block – loops that almost got me lost – I decided on one place that had pictures on the menu, one of which looked like noodles. For ¥780, I got four pot stickers, a bowl of rice, and a huge bowl of noodle soup – ramen to be exact. Looking at all the food, I decided that I should eat it all, since leaving food is rude. I settled into my mission and before long was complete. Not bad for a first meal. It was tasty, satisfying and filling.

I wasn’t feeling adventurous, so I just headed back to the hotel; figured I’d clear my head by relaxing in the Japanese-style bath. I don the yukata and head to the tub. It wasn’t all that relaxing, but it was the ritual that counted.