On June 8, we embarked on a journey like no other: first to the ancient city of Seattle and then, to our final destination, Japan.
Forgoing the land of horses and tumbleweeds, we each prepared ourselves for an immediate culture shock.
Arriving at 12:44 p.m. (Tokyo time), we got our first taste of life in Japan, no cell phone signal. Fortunately, many of us had planned for this eventuality and purchased a “pocket WiFi,” a small wireless router that we could connect to for our internet needs.
After touching down in Tokyo, I was tired, surprisingly not hungry from the amount of food made available to us on the flight, and desperately wanted a shower.
Arriving at our hotel, Hotel Mystays Ochanomizu, we checked in and struggled to use the elevator which required us to insert our room key right side up before pressing the appropriate floor button.
“We’re really in Japan right now, Dylan,” I said to my roommate before bed.
“Yeah, man, we were really over part of the Pacific Ocean for about nine and a half hours,” Dylan replied.
Jet lagged, but starving, we woke up to get to our second meal in the country: breakfast!
As soon as I gave my breakfast ticket to the hotel staff member, I saw two things that immediately grabbed my attention: perch, spaghetti and a salad medley.
Opting for a more traditional breakfast experience, I made a beeline for what looked like Greek yogurt and granola.
Like most days on the trip, after breakfast we met in the lobby where Gilbert D. Martinez, our program director, and our local guide for the day, told us what the plan was for the rest of the day.
Visits for the day included trips to the Tsukiji Outer Market, Meiji Shrine and Takeshita Street, and a welcome dinner sponsored by the Asia Institute, which had helped coordinate and plan the trip.
Slightly sleep deprived and not yet prepared for the amount of walking we would do per day yet, we took a train to the market and walked a few blocks to the actual beginning of the square-like market.
The group window shopped and “ooohed” and “ahhhed” at the wide array of seafood available in the market and sampled octopi and other seemingly “other worldly” delicacies.
I was literally living in the future, 15 hours ahead of my friends and family in the U.S. The thing that made me snap back to reality each time were my classmates; just as perplexed and curious as I was of our new surroundings. We each took turns pinching each other to make sure it was not all a dream.
Before I turned the lights out for bed that night following the dinner, I turned to Dylan and recounted my excitement which exuded throughout my mannerisms during the day.
“Man, we really are in Japan right now,” I said. “Isn’t that wild?”
Tuckered out from our first full day, all I got was a snore and shifting body weight as a reply, but that was good enough for me.