Well, I've been here for a week and I'm barely finding time to post this, but I think I owe it to myself to take this break and summarize my journey so far. I didn't think I would be able to pinpoint the moment that I felt the "wow I'm going to live in a country that doesn't speak my language for four months" feeling, but I can tell you the precise moment that I did. Walking into O'hare to the ANA check in counter and seeing a mother, father and little girl no older than ten years old standing there is the precise moment it hit me. No question about it, that's when I felt.
Fast forward seven days and that's where I'm at now. There are a lot of little nuisance that you don't expect when you come here even after reading from the Culture Shock! series. You ALWAYS have to be passively on the look out for bikes since nobody is sure if they should ride on the street or side walk and they will go down sidewalks against the flow of people very often. On the train nobody will acknowledge anyone else unless. My professor who has lived here for 19 years told a story of a Japanese man who proceeded to get sick all over several people on a packed train and the only response he got was a grimace from those he hit. Most annoying of all...there are NO public garbage cans what so ever despite being the cleanest metropolis I've ever seen. I've walked from my house to the train station which is about a ten minute walk through residential and city streets and I had to carry a banana peel the whole way until I found the washroom in the station.
Tokyo is a lot like US cities though. Its what I would imagine Minneapolis would be in bizzaro world. The street plays music when its time to cross, toilets talk to you and you can buy anything from beer to school girl's underwear in vending machines that are no further than 100 feet from one another.
One of the coolest aspects about Tokyo is the mix of new and old. You walk in the heart of Shibuya or Shinjuku and you'd think you're in the 31st century. Walk through the alleys or residential streets one block over and you'd think you're in the 19th century. You can even be walking down some random and across the street from a 7-11 (By the way, one of the best places to get get a cheap really good lunch here, no comparison to the states) will be a Temple preserved from who knows how long ago. I've heard both complaints and praise about this. One side argues that they value spiritualism so much that they would never tear it down no matter who wants to build a skyscraper there and then the other side argues that if they valued it so much they wouldn't have built a major metropolis around it. However, I lean much heavier to the side of those who praise it.
I'll save my next post for describing the school environment. To give you a little hint 60% of the student body is made up of Japanese students, probably 25% from the US and another 15% from elsewhere. Unfortunately, the different groups tend to stick to themselves with a few exceptions.
Until next time!