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Friday, August 10, 2001

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Orientation and Still More Orientation

Orientation was great for eating and meeting people; most of what was actually discussed, though, was either in our handbook or items that I had already researched on my own.

The food at the Keio Plaza was absolutely phenomenal. Breakfast was a buffet of mostly western foods - scrambled eggs, cereal, fruit, bacon, sausages. My stomach was very much on mountain standard time so by the time breakfast rolled around, I was famished and the food tasted that much better. Lunch was usually Japanese food although nothing too outrageous for the tastebuds; my one complaint about lunch was that the portions were too small.

The only dinner we were served was at the main banquet where many, MANY speeches were given. The speeches were surprisingly interesting. The members of CLAIR (Council of Local Authorities for International Relations) and Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs was in attendence and spoke to us, all 1400+ JETs. Each began their speeches with very witty, often humourous comments. A number of them spoke to us in English and so I was rather amazed at the humour that was present in the speeches; humour in another language and culture is probably one of the most difficult things to learn. I was fairly highly impressed.

Dinner was served buffet style after the speeches and it was absolute chaos. I had been forewarned that I should stand near the buffet tables to ensure that I got some food quickly. Even standing near the tables, it took me nearly 45 minutes to get some food. People were lined up on both ends of the table going in every which direction. The lack of organization was as surprising as the humour in the speeches; one would think that the hotel has done this often enough to have the buffet tables set up in an orderly fashion. It tainted what would have otherwise been a very pleasant evening.

I did manage to get out into the city a little bit. One evening, I headed out into the Shinjuku area that surrounds the hotel with some fellow Edmonton JETs and enjoyed some very expensive beer. We managed to get ourselves a Japanese gentleman tagalong who seemed to enjoy our company and who I think liked to show us off.

On another evening, I headed out with my friend, Ryan, who has been living in Tokyo for three years. We had an absolutely fabulous meal of beef that you barbeque yourself - the Japanese name for it escapes me at the moment. As we were munching away, the waiter approaches Ry and asks him a question at which Ryan laughed. Apparently if it isn't uncommon to be asked if the person with whom you are eating dinner is your lover and I should get used to this in Japan. Very odd... Despite the odd questioning, the meal really was oishi (delicious) and I owe Ryan dinner whenever he comes up to visit me in Hokkaido.

One thing that can't go unmentioned about my time in Tokyo is the toilets in the hotel. I have never, ever experienced such decadent creations before. All of the toilets were equiped with a bidet to cleanse and refresh your posterior. You could change the aim and pressure of the water if its current settings were not favourable to you. A number of the toilets were also equiped with seat warmers. I have been told that these toilets are around $1000 each; truly, at that price, they are indeed thrones and we are the foolish royalty that sit upon them.

Leaving Tokyo was bittersweet. It meant that I was finally embarking on the adventure that I had come here to partake in. It meant that I was leaving behind the Edmonton JETs whose company I had found delightful and comforting. It meant leaving behind the safety of being surrounded by English speaking folk. It meant that I was on my way to my home for the next year or two or three.

Last modified: Thursday, 13-Sep-2001 07:39:21 MDT
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