I can't really make any initial judgments on this part of the world yet--especially after being in airplanes for about 13 hours of my day, flying forward in time just enough to skip bedtime and now finding myself nodding off when it's barely even 9 o'clock here. We haven't had real Japanese food yet. We got overwhelmed with American "sunakku" food and meals on the plane--one run from the flight attendants left us with a bag of Sunchips, a mini kit-kat, and a pouch containing two oreo cookies--and after not quite getting lost but rather just not trusting every step of the way we took from Narita Int'l airport to the sub-area-prefecture-ward-however-they-break-it-up called Taito-ku (and our home for the next 2 weeks), we were ready to not leave our small, cozy, extremely Japanese room for anything until the sun came up again. We didn't really get to see the city of Tokyo; there's only so much experienced while spending time in airports, traveling in trains, and wandering underground to find which line we need to take to get to what station. The few blocks we walked to get to our hotel were exhilarating, but it was dark out, and we were too busy wanting to unload our stuff and sit down in a non-moving space to take much in. During the hunt to find our hotel, we passed little food and drink stands, magazine and comic stands; we passed an internet cafe a block away from our hotel; we peeked down alleys during our short trip through Taito-ku on foot to find Hotel Yanagibashi and saw carts and tents set up with all kinds of souvenir-looking items and snacks shaped like bear faces, and I saw lots of colorful and cute clothing. There's definitely a "high fashion standards" vibe. There were lots of men in suits on the last, smaller train we took right before arriving in Asakusabashi.
While our hotel room is not a capsule, it clearly was designed based on saving space. The bathroom is tiny, with a huge fat deep bathtub and a toilet that I'm not sure how to use. Many things are written at least partially in hiragana, but I realize now just how long it takes me to sound out each character. While many of the main signs at the airport, at stations and on trains contain basic English words and phrases, there's also lots and lots of kanji that I can't even begin to do anything with. People wear those doctor's office masks, and I think it's more of just a comfort thing, or almost a trend; I'm seeing it everywhere.
It's hard to feel like we're in Japan. I feel like I'm not home..so far away from home that I'm clinging to the internet like it's a blanket from my childhood, along with the one book of poetry I brought (Sawako Nakayasu's hurry home honey). I'm overwhelmed, and there's really weird things on the small "terebi" in our room, and there's huge kimono-type sleeping garments laying on the bed for us, and a little hot water station where we can make ocha. I feel a slightly greater amount of sympathy for the people I hear about who move to Japan and live within their mini American lifestyles, who never even learn the language; actually, I just feel slightly less indignant toward them. I feel like a gaijin. I feel like I must smell like butter. I feel like tomorrow will be a completely different experience, and I probably just need a good night of sleep. I also feel like I'm going to wake up in the morning and realize I was just sleeping in Japan.
But the things that really felt good:
1. First spotting the islands through the airplane window, then
2. getting close enough to see cars driving on the opposite side of the road, and then
3. noticing a semi-truck with a Japanese advertisement written on its long side; finally,
4. "radies and gentlemen, welcome to Tokyo" over the intercom on the plane.
...pretty much everything after that was stress. I'd insert a Japanese emoticon here if I knew any, to show that I'm really not trying to sound as negative as I think I must. Spoiled American in Japan I suppose.
Ashita Shibuya ni ikimasu. Soshite, ko-hi- wo nomimasu. Nihonjin wo mimasu, yo.