Originally published on 6 June 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” that I wrote during my first ever solo summer abroad living and working in Japan!
Hello to all! I have officially conquered Tokyo with the help of Mrs. Fujita and her amazing family. I hopped the morning train (6:48am) from Ise to Tokyo, with a train change at Nagoya. Shinkansen trains, or bullet trains, are nice, by the way. They bring a cart around with snacks (you have to pay for them, though), and the announcements are in Japanese AND English, which is super helpful, as you might imagine!
I got to Tokyo at 10:46am and met Mrs. Fujita there. She’s a friend of the Kodas’, and she’s the one who let the word out at Tennessee Tech University (where I go to school) about this job I’m doing this summer. Her husband worked at Tennessee Tech for several years. She’s done so much to make sure I’m taken care of. You wouldn’t believe it!
So anyway, we hopped a couple of subways and met her husband for lunch at Waseda University (where they both teach now). We ate at an extremely tall building, and we could see the whole campus and a good part of Tokyo. It was overcast, but still and amazing view–Tokyo is bigger than I thought, and everything is TALL! We had sushi and soba noodles (buckwheat noodles). They were surprised at how much I love Japanese food and my chopstick-using abilities.
Mr. Fujita had bought me a Waseda sweatshirt, which was so kind! During lunch, they asked me about home, and I said the thing I miss most (other than family) is good old oatmeal. So he bought me some on his way home so I could have it for breakfast and take it back with me. So kind. After lunch they showed me an exhibit about the founder of Waseda (the school is 125 years old!), then we parted ways for the afternoon.
Mrs. Fujita took me on a bus tour of Tokyo, which was way cool! We went to the top of the World Trade Tower, and we could see all around Tokyo in all directions. I’m such a country bumpkin and Tokyo is such a massive city. We could see the Tokyo tower, the ocean, the Imperial Palace, Ginza (a big time, high-end shopping center!), huge buildings, and a place close to the ocean where there are 20 (yes, twenty) sushi restaurants. If I ever go back to Tokyo, I’m so going there!
One thing that stood out to me was this ancient Buddhist Temple that’s still being used. It was right at the foot of the Tokyo tower. Something so important and historical is just sitting there among the modern, technologically advanced, new, somewhat superficial stuff. It just amazes me.
After the Trade tower, we took a boat down a river with a bunch of cool bridges, then got off to go to a temple. (Right in the middle of the city!) Honestly, all the temples look the same to me. But I’m always up for a visit to a new one!
After the temple, we hopped the bus again and headed toward the Imperial Palace. You could only see it fron a distance, through the trees, but it was amazing to me because that’s where the Emperor lives–and it has a mote. It’d be neat if the White House had a mote, don’t you think?
So then we got dropped off at Ginza. All the stuff there was very impressive (and expensive). Window shopping was a blast, though! After that, we took more subways to Mrs. Fujita’s sister’s house for supper. We had beef stew, salad with salmon, rice, eggplant and green peppers, potatoes, asperagus, tea, Japanese sweet bean cookies, honeydew melon, chiffon cake, AND cherries! It was quite the spread. Oh, and they had Tuna sashimi just for me b/c they found out I like sashimi.
It was a fun few hours since Mrs. Fujita’s sister doesn’t speak English very well, but wants to learn. Her husband came home later from an English lesson, actually, so it was fun talking to him, too! People like to practice their Japanese with me. They were so nice. Everyone here has been so nice to me. I have no idea how I could possibly repay them for such kindness.
After supper, we took the subway again to the Fujita’s home. Their son Hiro picked us up, and when we got there, they showed me the room where I’d be staying. They wanted to see pictures of my home and family, so I showed them some I had with me on my thumb drive. Mr. Fujita then became my hero. I think it was pretty apparent how much I miss my family, so he told me that since their son lives in Denver, they call to the US pretty often–for the equivalent of 2 cents a minute. He said I could call my family and talk as long as I wanted!
So I called my house and talked to my younger brother Joel. Then I called Dad’s cell and left a message telling him to feel so bad for missing me, then I called Mom, who was buying coffee at Kroger. We talked for about 15 minutes, then I called Dad at work (it was about 9:30 am Saturday morning in Carthage, TN). They were all very pleased and surprised to hear from me! He and I talked about 15 minutes, too. Too bad I didn’t get in touch with my older brother Jared, but I’ll try again another time! I was so glad to be able to hear their voices.
After that, it was nearly midnight my time, so I went to bed and got the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks!
I love you all and am so thankful for your prayers and support. Update me on what’s going on where you are! Love, Whit