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