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Japan Day 7: Shinjuku

When faced with an entirely new city—a new life—even when you master or conquer one obstacle there always seems to be yet another challenge. Todays challenge is perhaps less imposing than the challenges of the past few days, but it is a challenge none the less. Yesterday I made plans with IES friends to go into Tokyo and meet at Shinjuku. Fortunately for most of the people going, they live in the same dorm and are traveling in an English speaking pack to and from the same location. For me and two of the other host family students who are going, we needed to somehow find our way to a train station we had never been to (on time!) and meet each other before hopping on the train. To make matters worse, the three of us have been communicating in English and needing to explain to our host families in Japanese… and somehow or another there was a slight miscommunication, though I am still not sure what it was. Whatever it was, obaachan received a call from Brian’s mom, and immediately after she came upstairs laughing and tried to explain the situation and how it wouldn’t have worked out the way we were planning it. However the way she explained the “correct” way seemed to be exactly what Brian and I had originally intended to do…. Hmmmm…

After the confusion of getting to and riding the train, we needed to get off at the correct stop and somehow find the pack of people traveling together. Of course the rest of the day would be an adventure, but for us host students especially there was that constant thought not only of how to return to the correct station, but how to find our way back to our host families houses. In the US this might not be too challenging, but here there really aren’t any street signs, and house numbers go by when the house was built and are not in any sort of numerical order as you go down the street.

We did successfully find our way to Shinjuku, and took a commemorative picture 😉

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When we met up with the rest of our group we walked in a determined way towards… something. We actually ended up with a group of 19 people, and while the two people in the front seemed to be leading us somewhere, the rest of us in the back had no idea where it was (and were too busy taking pictures of everything to go up and ask them!)

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Shortly after, we ended up at the Shinjuku Park. The entrance fee was 200 yen (a little less than $3) and was well worth it. First we walked around and took pictures of everything. Seriously, it was so obvious that we were a group of tourists—literally all 17 of the non-Japanese people in the group had their cameras and phones out the entire time. It is nice though, because if you ever get lost you just need to look for the huge group of gaijin!

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We walked around part of the park looking at nature for awhile, but the park is very large and everyone was getting hungry. Thankfully there was a restaurant within the park so we didn’t need to leave in order to be fed. I ended up with some udon which was delicious, but not quite as spectacular as the green tea soba that one of my friends got.

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After lunch we walked a short way until we saw a tea house. At first I was incredibly confused as to how it worked, because you needed to buy a ticked outside of the house and then entered into an old fashioned tea room with no one in it. All of us ended up going in for traditional Matcha and Wagashi, much to the surprise of the woman who came out to serve us!

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It was the first time for many people to eat wagashi and drink matcha, so it was quite entertaining to watch.

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After that we once again went out around the garden. If anyone has the time and is in Tokyo, I would highly recommend this as an outing. It is so amazing to be in this peaceful garden and only just outside the entrance is one of the busiest shopping districts in all of Japan.

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After awhile we headed into Shinjuku proper to do some shopping, but not too long after it started raining quite heavily, more and more people were on the streets, some people were hungry and some people wanted to return home. We started to feel the reality of traveling in a pack of 19, so we split up. Not before a long and awkward discussion about what to do…in the rain…in the middle of a random sidewalk…

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I ended up returning at this time with the other home stay students. All of us are still a little shaky about how to find our way home at night from the stations, and at this point we were in the middle of a full blown thunderstorm. To celebrate our success, we again took a commemorative photo 😉

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I have to admit, walking home from the station (which I had only been to once, in the morning) in the middle of a thunderstorm at night was a bit creepy and I definitely had to retrace my steps 2-3 times. Not to worry though, I mostly knew where I was at all times, and I could always see the shining beacon of the IES building to know I was at least going in the correct direction!

I returned home soaked, but it was definitely a successful day. It seems that even when I make plans they seem to naturally change into something else that I never would have considered by myself. For that reason especially, I am so grateful to all my IES friends, KUIS friends, and the other people I meet on this journey.

Tomorrow is the Japanese placement test, and I am surprisingly not concerned about it. I think I am ready though, even if I didn’t study besides looking over a few kanji this weekend… >.<

Well, be on the lookout for this week’s posts, and as always, leave me comments! ^_^

じゃ、また明日!

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