Day 3

TUESDAY OCTOBER 16, 2007: (DAY 3)

 We arrived in Japan’s Narita Airport just a few minutes late about 2:40pm.  I AM IN JAPAN!!!!  Off the plane, and followed the signs to Customs.  In the customs hall you had to line up and a man appeared with a big sign that read “END OF THE LINE, HERE”!  Hmmm.   There were two forms to fill out and submit with your passport.  It was quickly my turn, a sticker was printed and put into my passport allowing me entry and also a card stapled to a passport page was included, which would be my exit card three weeks from now.  Now on to baggage claim.  The place is beautiful and clean.  The bags had already arrived and so the pick up was easy.    There were literally 15 people holding signs reading JFMF with arrows indicating where we  go out of the terminal and to our selected bus. I passed several people holding signs outside the Customs and Immigration Hall of the airport.  One of the signs read “Drew Carey”  (I wonder if it’s the Drew Carey that “we” know?)  There were more signs attracting the attention of the JFMF teachers indicating the direction we needed to walk. The policemen that were working the street crossings were wearing bright blue uniforms and white gloves.  There were more JFMF signs with people attached to them welcoming us to Japan and to continue on to the parking area where particular busses were awaiting us.  Everything is extraordinarily marked with road signs.  At the bus was another sign person and a check in list person.  The sign read “Chiba/Ota-ku”.  She was Keiko, and is to be our guide for the next couple of days into Tokyo and also for our tour around Tokyo later on.  Those teachers that would later be going to Chiba or Ota-ku were to board this bus.  The Ota-ku people sitting on the left hand side of the bus, the Chiba people to sit on the right hand side of the bus.  The time here is 13 hours ahead of Indianapolis/Carmel time (EST).  They drive on the opposite side of the road here compared to the US (so it’s British style).  Several of us had to go to the bathroom and, well, we got our first exposure to the unusual (to us) toilets.  The seat has a large section that sticks out the side that houses all kinds of controls.  In pre-information reading, some the toileting procedures were explained.  Well, here was the first encounter!  The controls had a temperature control for the seat, and also a washing control, where water would spray up from the rear of the toilet seat and be a “bottom washer”.  Oh and I didn’t mention that when you would sit down on the seat, a water running sound would take place for privacy, so no one nearby would hear you!  I didn’t try any of these, at this time, but just had a good look!.  Anyway, back to the bus and away we went for about a two hour drive into downtown Tokyo, to the Tokyo Prince Hotel.  We passed all kinds of unusual sites.  Really old houses and buildings squished by brand new skyscrapers or new and oddly shaped buildings.  We passed tiny areas that had rice patties (tiny fields that had rice growing in them, or had rice growing in them).  Incredible.  On the bus, we were given an allowance of  Y 25000 (25000 Yen which is approximately USD 250, that’s $250) for meals throughout our time here that was provided by the JFMF and the Japanese Government.  This is to help defray costs as we have dinner on our own many of the nights of the three weeks.  As we continued our drive into Tokyo, we passed Tokyo Disneyland (which had just turned 15 years old) and Disney  Sea (which had just turned six years old).  We passed an area called “Odaiba” that housed Nippon Television (Japanese Television station), then across an incredible multi-layered bridge called “Rainbow Bridge”, on roads that went right by windows where people were working in 15 story buildings.  It was told to us that our luggage would be delivered to the hotel later on in the evening, as we had put it in a truck when we boarded the bus..  There in front of us the Tokyo Prince Hotel with some sort of temple or shrine at its side and a very tall communications tower looming behind it.  Turns out the tower is not only for communication, but is a tourist destination as it is a copy of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, and is known as “Tokyo  Tower.”  We had just a few minutes to go to our rooms.  Mine was 884.  The room was very nice, I am at the far end of the hall, but I have a beautiful view of Tokyo Tower-right outside my window!  It was 6:15 and time to be in the Sunflower Room.  There we were assigned a special table to meet a Fulbright Alumnus.. Live traditional Japanese music was playing in the background—or should I say right in the front of the room, it was a man playing some sort of flute instrument and a lady playing a sort of guitar-mandolin-stinged instrument and was so appropriate.  I was assigned to table 5 and met up with three different teachers I hadn’t yet met and also a 72 year old gentleman from the official Fulbright program.  His name was Mr. Masahiko Machida.  In 1959 he was a Fulbright Scholar, having gone to the United States to study at the University  of Wisconsin.  He told us that he enjoyed photography and was planning to to go to the US east coast this autumn to take pictures of the changing leaves.  He thought they were most beautiful in New England.  The early arriving teachers all were given a random table to meet with and have dinner with a Fulbright Alumn.  On the way into Tokyo, we were also instructed on how to pay, pointing out that the Fulbright person was not to pay for our meals, but their own, and that would give us a chance to learn the money without spending too much and including someone else.  And, the instructions were already given to the Fulbright Alumni that would be participating with us in the dinner experience!  So the ground rules were clearly laid out for us.  Also, on the way in, the ceremony of business card exchange was explained that you always had your business card with the card information facing the person, and normally given with two hands.  When we would receive a business card from someone, they would do the same an dwe were to receive the card with both hands, look at the card and accept it graciously and then put it in a “special place”.  This place could be in our wallet, name tag badge or somewhere that didn’t look like it was just dumped away.  And, we were not to deface the card (in other words, not to write on it with any information in front of the person/s giving the card.  So after a few minutes of conversation off we went to dinner just in the front walk of the hotel at the Prince Villa Restaurant.  We all shared our food so we could learn the different items.  Masahiko didn’t think that we should be very hungry, but more tired!  (In actuality, I think we were all the opposite! But, our politeness ruled as it should and we deferred to what he thought best!)  We tried to do the business card exchange and the three of us that were at dinner with him thought we had done something wrong.  He explained that it wasn’t necessary for us to give him our business cards as he felt that we would need them for later as there would be much more serious times for us to give them to people we came into contact with.  We really did feel a bit awkward, but he allowed us to actually practice, even though he didn’t want us wasting our cards!  The dinner time went by quickly.  As Americans, we quickly tried to be able to pay for our host’s dinner, but that was not allowed, and we all wound up paying our own.  We felt very strange, as this gentleman was being very kind to us explaining different ways of the food, the business cards, and he was being our guide for the first two hours that we were actually out of the hotel in Tokyo!  It had been raining earlier in the evening, I guess, as when we returned back to the hotel (only a five minute walk) our host got his umbrella from the umbrella locker…really.. there were hundreds of them in the lockers.  He bid us farewell and disappeared off into the darkness and commencing light rain.  The other three teachers and I weren’t quite ready to call it a night, so we walked through the hotel and out the back door, across the street and up a small hill to the tower which seemed enormous, looming over our hotel.  It is called “Tokyo Tower” and is beautifully illuminated, and is red-orange and white, and in one of the faces of the tower it says “TOKYO”.  We bought a Y1420 ticket to go all the way up to the top, stopping at the half-way point.  It was completely dark out, but the lights from the skyscrapers and signs all around Tokyo were fantastic.  Then climbed a few stairs to the next elevator and then up to the very top.  It was fantastic!  (Going up in tall buildings like the Empire State Building in New York or the Sears Tower in Chicago are always a great way to see the city lights, and this was no exception).  After several photos, it was time to head down, taking the two elevators to the bottom and arriving in a series of small shops called “Foot  Town”.  We had a quick look around and thought that this would be something for another time and we all headed back to the hotel and called it a day ..or was that two days?  After struggling with a phone card I purchased at home to try and call home, I studied the probIems other people were having.  Some were going to the machines and buying phone cards.  One of the machines had very pretty cards with photographs of Japanese things, but it seemed that the Americans that were buying these were having a difficulty using them.  There was another machine that had drawings on the phone cards.  Those people that were buying those didn’t seem to have too much difficulty.  So, I went ahead and bought a Y1000 card with the drawings on it, and after a few trials and errors, was able to call home.  All is well.  Oh, and from what I heard from home:  Drew Carey did a great job hosting the Price is Right.   When I hung up, I was surprised to see four people lined up right behind me.  Other phones were available, but these folks had no idea how to use them and they all had questions.  I helped each one of them.  Three out of the four were part of the JFMF teacher group and the fourth person was a German tourist having a difficulty as well.  I helped her, too.   I suggested to each of them that they could help another person use the phone when they were done.  They each agreed this was a good idea.  I hope that they did.  I was exhausted!  Good night!