Originally published on 27 July 2006. This post is part of a series of “e-mails to home” from my summer living and working abroad in Japan!
And now I’m back from Tokyo! The train ride there was quite a feat. It took 7 1/2 hours and 4 train changes with only 3 to 8 minutes etween each train. The Fujitas said that qualifies me as an expert train rider! I would have never (NEVER) made it to the right places without the detailed schedule they provided, though. Those train stations are so efficient. They’re just like airports. The big ones are anyway. the little ones are VERY little, but even those have to be as efficient as the major ones. Whew! I caught the first train to Nagoya at 7:44 Monday morning. Things went relatively smoothly, except I didn’t have enough time to find a bathroom between trains. (This could have been disastrous!)
I met a girl on one of my trains who speaks English very well. She went to school in Seattle (I keep meeting all these English-speaking Japanese people who lived in Seattle) for 2 years, and just got back in April. We talked a little and discovered we were supposed to switch to the same train at the next stop. That was comforting because I really do get nervous changing trains by myself. It’s a little confusing when you can’t read everything. Most things are in English, but you just never know. And I definitely can’t understand verbal announcements.
So anyway, I grabbed a riceball for lunch at one of the little convenience store thingies and we got on the train. I had to find a bathroom, and lo and behold–the universal man/woman symbol for a bathroom was right there in the next car! Only problem: It was… Japanese style. So I used the Japanese toilet on a moving train. I guess that makes me an expert in that field as well! I’ve conquered Japanese toilets. Now that’s something to put on my resume, don’t you think?
So this girl and I talked some more till she had to get off. She’s 22, and I didn’t quite get her name, but it was nice to have a companion for an hour and a half or so.
I almost missed my next train because I had a little miscommunication with one of the rail road guys. I knew it didn’t feel right for some reason (God was kicking me out–glad I didn’t ignore it). I frantically asked the people in the train, “Odawara?” (my next destination), and a blessed soul who apparently spoke some English said, “Mistake!” So I flew off that train and ran around asking anyone with a uniform about the Odawara train. Another sweet, English-peaking person ran after me asking if I was ok, and I probably seemed very rude, but all I had time to do was holler over my shoulder, “Yes! I’m about to miss my train!” I wish I could thank her for checking on me (oh, the kindness of strangers), but I HAD to make that train. And I did! Standing room only, but it was just a 20 minute ride. God took such good care of me!
And I made it. At the next station (Odawara), I had to buy a ticket on a private line to get to the station closest to the Fujitas’ house. I got a lady who worked there to help me, thank goodness. I had to get the ticket from a computer kiosk. I’d have never gotten it without help, and I even had a few minutes to relax before the next train left, so that was nice. Whew!
Mrs. Fujita picked me up at the next station, and we went to her house. She said I could do whatever I wanted while she fixed up Hiro’s (her middle son’s) room for me. She showed me some DVDs and videos from when they lived in Cookeville, TN, when their sons were little. I also watched the live version of The Jungle Book. Did you know parts of it were filmed at Burgess Falls in Cookeville, just a few minutes from my college campus? I didn’t know till she told me! I thought that was pretty neat-o. So I relaxed and sat in a comfy chair watching the movie. When the part where they’re teaching him to speak came on, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to learn a language that quickly?” Oh, to live in a movie.
As I sat watching and relaxing, I realized that I was in a home, where a family lives. Definitely made me anxious to get home and sit in my own den with my family and watch a movie. Just 4 days left!
About 4:30, Mrs. Fujita and I went to the vet to get her dog’s stitches out. Poor thing had her insides taken out a few weeks ago, and when we went that day the vet said she needed to go on a diet. Poor girl! I feel bad for her. Glad I’m not a dog!
After we got back from that, we met Mr. Fujita at their home and went out for Italian food. It was interesting. It was a very nice place with 8 (yes, eight) courses. One of which was sword fish sashimi. I don’t think that’s quite Italian, but I’m always up for sashimi! Everything was incredibly oily, though, which my stomach didn’t really appreciate. I still had room for chocolate for dessert, though!
And speaking of dessert, we went to the grocery after supper and they bought lots of expensive Japanese fruit and oatmeal for me. They know I’ve missed my plain old oatmeal, and I can’t afford the good fruit. They decided I needed to learn how to eat fruit the Japanese way–no peels. So, when we got back to the house, I learned how to peel these humongous, monstrous grapes, ate a 400-yen (a little less than $4) apple (also very big), and an apple-pear, which is a pear shaped like an apple and with a little different taste (called an Asian pear). All of it was very good, but I was so stuffed after all that.
After that gluttonous event, which I paid for later, I got to call my family! It was about 7:30 or 8 am Monday morning there when I called. Mom was already at work, but I talked to my Daddy for a while and left a message on my older brother’s phone (he was at work). The Fujitas are the people who have a son in Denver and have a special line to the US that only costs 3 cents a minute, and they said I can call my family and talk as long as I like!
After that happy occasion, I visited with the Fujitas a little more and went to bed around 10:30. It was a good but exhausting day.
Next up: Mount Fuji through the fog, music boxes, the 400-year old immigration gate, and natural (natural as in smelling of sulfur) hot springs!