☆ i heart japan,  ☆ life

Living Tall in Japan, part 10

☆ Continued from part 9.
☆ To see all of the parts in this series, click here.

Just a few days into my new life in Japan, the country was still a place of wonder. Sure, I got lost on the trains, and had trouble trying to understand how much I was supposed to pay at the cash register. I had a few mishaps with food, too.

But none of those mattered. I was in a new land, in a new place. Every time that I went outside, it was different from anything I had experienced thus far in life. Moving to Japan changed my life in so many ways.

On the morning of my fourth full day, I woke up with a bit of trepidation. I’d go to my orientation today. At least it was just that– orientation. It wasn’t something nerve-wracking like teaching for the first time, or riding the train for the first time. I just had to dress nicely, do my makeup, and then get to the meeting place on time. Things started all right. I wore a pinstripe suit– my favorite, that I’d worn to my college  graduation, and made it to the train station with at least an hour to spare. No problems there! I rode the Nanbu line to Noborito, where I changed to the Odakyuu line, and that’s where things went wrong.

I followed the signs to change platforms, and made sure that I was going the right direction– towards Shinjuku, where I needed to be. No problems there. As was my custom, I had my train map on my lap, and I checked the stations as I went by. No problem, no problem. I could relax, because I was going the right direction. I did.

But, after a while, it seemed like it was taking an awful long time. So I waited for the next station, and looked along the train line on the map to see how far I was.

I couldn’t find it. 

I looked once, twice, three times. Nothing! We were arriving at another station by now, and I looked for it, too. What in the… what exactly was going on???

Then, I suddenly spotted it. NO WAY! My train wasn’t even going to Shinjuku, if this was correct. How could that be?! I looked down at the train map, and then back up. This wasn’t right. How could this happen NOW, when it was my orientation day?! No way no way no way! I shoved down the panic that was making me nauseous, and stood up, checking the map over and over again. No, I was right. I had to get off!

I got off at the next station, starting to panic. How could this have happened? I had been on the right platform, I was sure of it! It was the same platform that I’d used twice already. It was my third day in a row! I went up the stairs in a rush and back down to the other platform, heading back towards Noborito. What had happened???? I was looking for the right station now, and when I got to one that I KNEW was on the way to Shinjuku, I got off. I looked up at the signs on the platform.

Wait… what? I’d never thought to look at the final destinations of trains on the leaderboards before. I mean, that just means that they stay on the track longer, right?

Wrong. Well, sometimes. What I didn’t know, and nobody had ever explained to me (it wasn’t in my guidebook, either), was that on some train lines, tracks split off into two or more destinations. You not only had to know where you were going, you had to know or painstakingly check that your train was not splitting off somewhere. ARGH!

Was I supposed to know this intuitively? Because it isn’t intuitive to me. At. All. At all! If it splits off, shouldn’t it be called something else, and have you physically change trains? Apparently not. And because of this, I was panicked, stressed, sweaty, and I was about 30 minutes late to orientation. It was horribly embarrassing to walk into a room filled with new hires, and approach the name badge/sign-in table, and to see that you’re one of only two people who hadn’t yet shown up.


Check that your train is heading to the right place!

;__; Embarrassed and exhausted, I signed up and took a seat. Whatever mean things that I heard people say about Nova in the following few months, and whatever gripes I had with them for not even teaching use clueless never-seen-a-train-before people (aka, most Americans) how to use public transportation, they helped me get to Japan. They helped me get started there. At orientation, they helped us sign up for bank accounts, get a cell phone contract (a beginning of a love affair with cell phones for me!), and for the first time in days, I was surrounded by people who spoke the only language that I knew.

It was comforting. I saw people that I recognized from the airport, including the friend that I’d made, and together, we decided to brave our first restaurant together. Just walking down the street together after orientation, a guy called out to us, beckoning for us to come into his restaurant (this is really common in areas like Shinjuku and Shibuya), and so we went in. Wha restaurant was it? I don’t know. It was an izakaya– sort of a cross between a restaurant and a bar, made for large groups to sit down and eat and drink a lot. I didn’t drink, but I ate, and it was so, so nice to share stories of wha our first few days had been like.

The next morning, I had to get up early, because I was determined not to make the same mistake with the train. For this was my first day of on-the-job training. Oh boy.

It… did not go well after this.

Which of course, you’ll hear about tomorrow! ;D See you! <3

(205 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.

8 Comments

  • zoomingjapan

    Haha, that happened to me once as well.
    I sat in the train, checked that it would go where I wanted to go and everything seemed alright.
    But the train just didn’t move and there was no apology that the train is running late.
    Shortly before the train left and I repeatedly heard announcements of where this train apparently was heading to, I got off and asked what’s going on.
    They told me, that the train just split up while waiting at that station and the part of the train I should have sat in already left. ;___;

    And that was at a time when I was already pretty much fluent in Japanese. They might have mentioned / announced it once, but I listened to music, so I didn’t recognize something was wrong. 🙁

    Enjoying this series so much.
    Keep the posts coming! :333

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Oh man, that sucks!!!! I ended up doing the same thing many times. It took me years before I felt really comfortable on the trains, and even then I got lost a few times, especially on lines I hadn’t been on often. It is so confusing, I wish that they would make it more intuitive, or at least make different lines different colors on the actual train.

  • Victoria

    That sounds Soooo confusing! I wonder if other people got lost when the train lines split too…..
    What about doing laundry? How did you sign into WiFi and things like that if the numbers and other stuff was in Japanese? It’s so much fun to read about your first days in Japan!

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Back then, public wifi didn’t really exist, so that wasn’t a problem. And my roommates had internet already in the apartment, so I just had to plug it in and I was good to go! ^^ Luckily, my phone menu and everything was already set to English when I got it. 🙂

      The trains really were confusing! I feel like that was something so fundamental to riding trains and using public transport, but something you’d only know if someone taught you, so I still can’t believe that nobody thought to include that in the training materials!

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