Thursday, December 3, 2009

Japan! Yokohama

The ship docked in Yokohama on November 20 and left from Kobe on November 24. Everything that happened in between was an adventure. This adventure was five days, four nights, thirteen hours of sleep, hundreds of miles, five major cities,
and the experience of a lifetime.

       We were only in Yokohama for the amount of time it took to walk from the ship’s terminal to the metro station. (Granted, the time inside of the terminal was extensive due to Japanese Immigration Standards that required face-to-face interview, fingerprints, infrared temperatures, and personal photo upon arrival.) But the short two block walk was enough to make a striking first impression of Japan. This was the first port that the streets were not comprised of a loud ensemble of (depending on the country) angry taxi drivers, squealing motobikes, deafening horns, rickshaws, ox, donkey, cow, intense pedestrian traffic or any other general chaos. Once we noticed the difference it was deafening, cutting off one sense to fully take in another. Japan looked and smelled much cleaner than any of the past several countries we had been to.
       Even inside of the metro stations I would feel safe to eat something that had failed the ten-second rule. Looking back on it, I must laugh when I describe the utter confusion of our group and discombobulating manner that we tried to decipher maps, signs, hand signals, and Japanese phrase books. After no less than forty five minutes, half of us boarded a train heading for central Tokyo. The other half set out to find their Japanese Rail Passes that they had pre-ordered. We wondered if they would make it to Tokyo. Brian, Meghan, Meena, Dave, and I watched Japan transform from countryside, to suburbs, to tight housing districts, then go underground. In only forty five minutes we arrived at the central Tokyo station. We stepped outside and I strained my neck to look up and all the way down the grid of tall buildings. Once again the buildings seemed to personify the typical Japanese businessman- standing in regiment single file in their finest, sleekest, black or blue suit awaiting an order to dutifully fulfill.
       We pulled out maps trying to find our way. A nice local man heard us speaking English, formally introduced himself with business card and all, explained he attended high school in San Francisco, and then asked if he could be of assistance. We showed him the address we were trying to get to and the options of circles that had been drawn on the map by conflicting local opinions. He shook his head and led us all the way to another metro station, walked us downstairs, showed us what buttons to push, which train to take, and where to get off. Well we got the right ticket. Got on the wrong train, skipped the right stop, and then backtracked to do it all over again.
       Finally we were in Nishi-Nippori, the district of our hostel. We began to walk in the general direction- I even got out a compass to make sure that if we were going to walk aimlessly, we were going to go the right way. Luckily, we ran into some other SAS students. They pointed us in a direction and we found it!

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