Well, I’m in Japan! For those people who are interested in doing JET, I will give a quick rundown of getting to Japan, and Tokyo Orientation. After that I will share my thoughts about my new life here so far.
We left Wellington airport at 7:30 on Saturday. It was a very sad goodbye. My parents, brothers, and boyfriend came to see me off. I really didn’t want to say goodbye! Luckily all the other JETs were there having emotional farewells too. That night we flew to Auckland, where we stayed overnight in a hotel near the airport. That night, we met a few of the Christchurch JETs who were also staying at the hotel, so it was nice to chat with them and find out about their journeys.
The next morning (and I mean morning…think waking up before 5am) we left for the airport, and caught an 8:30am flight to Narita Airport in Tokyo. The flight from Auckland takes just over 11 hours. So many people think it is a short flight from New Zealand to Japan, but it’s not! You can hardly get a short flight from New Zealand anywhere really, because it is such an isolated country. Luckily for me, the flight felt like it went very quickly anyway (I watched two movies, Moulin Rouge and Silver Linings Playbook, and started watching Terminator II, so maybe that’s why :P).
We arrived in Tokyo and went through immigration, where we received our resident’s card. Most of us ended up being separated from the main kiwi group some way or another, but everyone else around you were clearly JETs, so I didn’t feel worried. There were also loads of current JETs around in green t-shirts, helping to direct you to the next stage. If you’ve watched the DVD from the JET General Information Handbook, it is exactly like that! In the end I made it to a bus, which took about one and half hours to get to our hotel, the Keio Plaza in Shinjuku.
The first night, I went out to an izakaya (the Japanese version of a pub, in a way…a place with a range of alcoholic drinks, and food is available too) for dinner and a cocktail. It was great, but I was so tired! I felt bad because I didn’t want to stay out, but I think everyone in my group felt kind of the same way. Besides, we had a long day ahead of us. The next day was filled with speeches, presentations, and seminars. A great keynote speech on internationalisation and culture shock was given by an ex-JET (again, if you’ve watched the dvd from the GIH, it was the man from CLAIR who introduces all the videos – he is much more animated and funny in real life!). I would say that was the most informative and engaging part of the day. Getting to meet all the other Tochigi JETs was definitely another highlight! That night there was a formal reception dinner at the Keio Plaza, after which I went with my roommate into Shinjuku to track down a Yobadashi Camera store, and a New Zealand adaptor for electronics (tip for other kiwis: this is called an O to A type adaptor!).
There were more seminars the next day, all of which I have to say were much more useful than those on the first day. You choose which seminars you want to go to, as there are multiple ones on at the same time. I went to a long one about activities for Senior High School, along with one on learning resources for Japanese language beginners, and both were great. Some people decided not to go to any seminars on either day. Although it is entirely your choice, and nobody is going to chase you up if you don’t go, I highly recommend going. You are being paid by your contracting organisation to attend these seminars, so you can do the best you can for your students. That evening we had a reception at the New Zealand Embassy in Tokyo to go to, but even after that there was still free time to go and explore Shinjuku. It’s basically a 24-hour city, so don’t feel like you’ll miss out if you spend your days going to the seminars!
After the embassy dinner, we went with a group to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. You can ride the elevator to the top floor of this tower for free, and it offers amazing views of the endless city of Tokyo. At Tokyo Orientation, it can still feel like you’re not even in Japan. There are hundreds of English-speaking JETs around you, everything at the hotel is very Westernised, etc. But looking out at the endless city lights that night, I really knew I had made it. We then went to a well-known bar in Shinjuku called The Lockup. It’s a prison/dungeon themed bar. When you open the door, it sets of a startling alarm noise (as though you have escaped from prison). There are spooky pictures and decorations around everywhere, and it really does have a creepy atmosphere. A waitress appeared and handcuffed one person in our group, leading us to the cell. We were then locked behind the bars in a small cell with a table and our chairs. We ordered one of just about every drink on the menu, which were served in laboratory beakers and test tubes, and often had to be poured into one another and combined. I ordered one for which I had to mash an oreo biscuit with a mortar and pestle before adding it to my drink (it was so good!). Other drinks had gelatine eyes and frogs floating in them. Hopefully I can get some pictures off the others I was wth to show! The drinks were good, but not very strong, so it was okay that we all tried a lot.
That night was our last night in Tokyo. The next morning, I was on a bus to my new home prefecture of Tochigi, along with all the other Tochigi JETs. It was going to be another busy day…you can read about it in my next post!