It has been almost two months since I moved to Japan. In some ways, it feels like a long time ago, and in other ways it feels just like yesterday. It’s difficult to put into words, and it’s even harder for me to process, that in only 7 weeks, I have managed to change residences, start a new job, get into a new routine, and meet some pretty amazing people.
Everything that was familiar, still feels familiar, and but the same time so far away, and things that at first seemed new and strange, are beginning to feel at home. Like the wave from the store clerk as I walk by the local convenience store, the metro stations closest to work and home, or the sound of my share mates playing mahjong (which they are doing right now. :).
So far, I am really enjoying Tokyo, and Japan in general (although I have yet to go outside of Tokyo…it has ONLY been 7 weeks after all. :)).
One question that I often get is, what is your favourite thing about Tokyo? I don’t have one favourite. Rather, it’s a combination of things, that have added to my experience and made it amazing so far. The first of these is the people, or 人達 (in kanji) or hitotachi (in romaji).
I have to admit, that prior to coming here I did not know what to expect. While I usually do some research, or have a frame of reference prior to travelling to places, that was not the case this time. Wrapping things up at my former job, trying to move out of my apartment in Toronto, trying to find an apartment here, and saying goodbye to friends, did not leave time for anything else. So I figured that I would wing it.
When I think about it, I don’t know that if having any prior knowledge would have made a difference. Having immigrated with my family from East Africa to the Canadian prairies at a time where there were few other African families, I was prepared for anything. Being an “outsider”, or different in appearance from everyone else, is nothing new to me. The experience has molded me, helped me to adapt quickly to situations that are initially outside of my comfort zone.
So what are the people like? In generally, the majority of the people that I have encountered have been genuinely very nice, friendly, and welcoming.
My first few days here are proof of that. An example is the two high school girls that I asked for directions on the train from Narita Airport. Upon assuring me that I was on the right train, they turned to each other engrossed in something, only to turn back to me about 10 minutes later with a hand-drawn map of the route head, complete with approximate arrival times, and my destination.
Fast forward to the business man that went out his way to help me find my way to my landlord’s leasing office, from one of the craziest, busiest subway stations (Shibuya), walking with me and helping me carry my luggage (I had a lot of it) across an overhead pass, and eventually finding the leasing office.
Those are just some examples of kindness from random strangers, but even better are some of the friendships that I have made, including my roommates in the share house, that help me with everything from translating my mail, advising me where to shop or introducing me to new food.
Sometimes, it’s the people that make a place, and sometimes it’s the place that makes the people. In this case, I would say that it has been both. Here’s to winging it! 😉