Four Years Ago Today, I Moved to Japan

Four years ago, I made my very first blog post in Japan. The original title was “Tokyo Cloud Love” and the post dissected my first few days in Japan. This post appeared on an old website of mine, so I decided to bring it over here, and embellish it with any missing details that I think might interest my readers. Do enjoy!

Tokyo I

I’m finally in Japan! I’ve only been here two days and so much has already happened. The plane ride from SFO to Narita was okay… very long and very tedious… but our neighbors on the plane were pleasant enough and the food was good. I loved the clouds especially… masses and masses of cumulus clouds on the descent into Japan. At one point we passed the anvil of one. I’ve missed these sorts of cloud structures… California doesn’t have much variation with its perfect weather (haha!) so, overall, I actually enjoyed the flight over.

Tokyo I

Tokyo I

It’s July here, so the very first thing we experienced getting off the plane was the sensation of our jeans shrink-wrapping themselves to our legs. The humidity is insane right now, and that’s with 98ºF heat on top of it. Walking around outside is sort of like wading through a kiddie pool; the force of the weight in the air is enough to make you sluggish and mild to soaking wet.

Immigration and Customs in Japan were really time-consuming and inefficient. Our plane got in at 3pm, but by the time I was anywhere near an exit, it was already 5pm. Transportation to Sugamo took roughly another hour or so from Narita, but the trains were super cool. While we were waiting to board, the seats swiveled automatically to allow a swifter cleaning of the train, and the train itself was impeccably clean. In fact, all of Tokyo is incredibly clean.

We arrived in Sugamo around 6pm, fully ready to just relax and take it easy for a few hours, but that was an impossibility. Despite my asking EAP (Education Abroad Program, through the UC Berkeley system) on three separate occasions about NJ staying with me, no red flags were raised until we actually arrived there at 6pm. The long and short of it was that they told NJ that she couldn’t stay in my room, but they had another room that she could rent for 5 nights. She’s done that, and today she found and leased a beautiful room in Shinjuku (20 minutes away)- it’s actually quite the deal. She’s paying less than I am, for twice the space and a garden. It may turn out that I just spend the night at her place half the time instead of staying here. 84º and humid is not the most awesome weather to have while in a cramped room in Tokyo. Neither of us can wait until we’re in Kyoto. The cities are just too hectic.

This is how small my room is, by the way:


I’ll be living here for six weeks!

The night we flew in I had my first bar experience ever (for those that don’t know me, I don’t drink). I had a beer and some soju (Korean sake)… I didn’t get buzzed though, so at least I know I can drink casually here and not have any major side effects. This is a relief because I’ve been told drinking is sort of part of the culture here. [2014 note: Yes, yes it is.]

Afterwards, we pretty much crashed––but, with the humidity, my night’s sleep was restless to say the least, and even though NJ rented out her own room, we stayed together anyway, which meant I was practically falling off the size mini mattress most of the night.

This morning was my placement test, which I did well on. Afterwards I finally got my phone activated. Japanese cellphones are so awesome. Even the cheapest brands here do much more than most phones in the U.S. I’m really excited about finally having one. One of the coolest features is infrared, so when you are trying to exchange info, or photos, or any other sort of data, all you have to do is literally “beam” it so a nearby phone. No input required.

I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Sugamo, including a really awesome cemetery. Photos at the bottom of the post.


Tonight Nao invited us to go to the Festival of Light… it was a massive, one hour fireworks show on the canal… roughly ten thousand people were there, and the fireworks were super close. I got some video and pictures, but spent a majority of the time just watching them. It was really amazing. Very slowly, it’s sinking in that I’m in Japan finally, and I’m loosening up to allow myself to enjoy the experience. I have this weird bite on my neck though, that has a three inch diameter of red around it I hope it goes away soon. [Turned out that I was, and still am, seriously allergic to Japanese bugs.]

Enjoy the photo set from the Festival of Light here, or on Flickr:

Video of the firework show’s start:


8 thoughts on “Four Years Ago Today, I Moved to Japan

  1. The cicada is really pretty.
    So, now that we know how you felt upon arriving, you really need to give an actual retrospective on how you think about those events, now.

    And why were you not allowed to share a room?


    1. It’s kind of weird but I still feel very much the same as I did then. I was thinking my mentality towards stuff certainly would have changed in the interim, but I found myself just sort of nodding at it all… then again, I never experienced culture shock coming over (I did have culture shock going back to the U.S., though).

      We couldn’t share a room because 1) in Japan, rooms charge per person, not per space… and since it was a 1-person room, they refused to go over “max capacity”. And 2), even though I’m an adult, I was still a student, and they didn’t want two students staying in the same room, for obvious reasons.


  2. I enjoy seeing all of your photos from various parts of Japan, and of course this post wouldn’t be complete without a picture of a cute little cicada. 🙂 I love the enthusiasm and excitement resonating in your words here. Is the summer still as hot this year? I think it’s amazing that you and NJ have had this wonderful experience together. I couldn’t imagine moving across the world and beginning a new life. I hope you do something fun to celebrate five years living in Japan!


    1. It’s been SO hot, Miranda, it’s ridiculous. It rained yesterday, but it didn’t cool down anything at all. It felt like I was walking into an outdoor, steaming shower when I stepped out. But, the baby frogs have just come out, and the cicada are buzzing (my ears hurt, haha!)… it is very much summer here. 🙂

      We are planning on going to the beach, once summer school is over. It’s going to be great!


    1. You know, not much. 😉 It was funny, when I looked at that picture of my hotel room this week, I thought “Actually, that’s not so small…” and then I realized, “Man, every house in America is going to look like a mansion when I go back.”


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