Samantha in Japan


Posted on: January 27, 2009

This post’s title is taken directly from my very first Engrish-spotting sign. Absolutely brilliant, this giant pachinko “amusement space.” Very “exiting!” For those of you who don’t know, I have a fondness for Engrish, the adorable butchering of English words into random Japanese signs/whatnot. I think it’s the cutest… almost-language on the planet, so I love running into these little things.

So anyway, I managed to barely escape the boring halls of O’Hare to get on that 14-hour flight. Of death. I don’t understand how I went through that without flying first class. The first few hours were okay, they had a bunch of movies playing for free, and they served us dinner. I passed on the dinner, though. It was served at around 2 AM Chicago time, 3 AM New York time, so I wasn’t very hungry at that point. It looked like dog food, too. We had our choice of steak or… some Korean kimchi stuff. The two girls sitting next to be got the steak, and I’m still glad I passed on that. So, after sitting through “dinner” and gulping down tons of water, I zoned, and tried to sleep. That was awful. The guy in front of me kept his reading light on… all night, even though he never read anything and was sleeping too, there were people coughing, babies crying, and… those chairs were just nightmares. Breakfast was pretty good, at least. They served pancakes with fruit rolled up into them, sausage (which didn’t look like dog food, they did it right that time!), and some other stuff I didn’t mess with. Let me just say that I’m ecstatic that I won’t have to do that again for four months. It’s not an experience I want to have again very soon. (Upgrade to first class, dearest mom and dad? :D)

So, I got to Korea, and it was… different. Some guy came up to me, speaking in Korean (do I even look… remotely Korean?), had to go through security… AGAIN, and then wandered around the airport. For the record, EVERYONE wears a black suit in that airport. EVERYONE. Ironically, the information desk people were dressed up in flourescent traditional-style clothing. Easy to find, at least! Anyway, the information desk guy helped me find my gate, and then I had to zone for another four hours. There WAS stuff to do at this airport, but I had no Korean money to spend! I was sad. And freaking thirsty.

That’s another thing, I’ve been INSANELY thirsty ever since leaving NY. Virtually NO appetite, but I’m constantly looking for liquids.

So I got on the plane to Japan after four hours, left Korea, and got there in pretty good time. They served a Japanese-style meal on the plane. I tried it. I wasn’t messing with the stuff that looked like sushi, but I had the rice, the apple, and this AMAZING cake… thing that they had on there. I looked at it like, “Well, I’ll try it, but it looks like it’ll taste like orange-flavored cardboard.” But once that cake hit my mouth, I was like, “OM NOM NOM! WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!”

Landed in Japan, and it finally struck me that I was in, “WHOA, FREAKING JAPAN!” I got rushed through customs, spoke Japanese with the customs guy who had to look at my baggage, went through the gates to meet the two people holding the huge “KANSAI GAIDAI” signs. The woman asked for my name, gave me a sheet, and said, “The bus leaves at 3:15! You have a lot of time!”

… NOT what I wanted to hear. At that point, I was SO sick of traveling and waiting, and I just wanted to take a SHOWER. I was just… ugh, so grody. But no, I had to wait another three hours… for a bus ride that would take… an hour and a half! AAAGH.

Airport was pretty… boring. They didn’t have much to do there, at least in the section I was roaming around, dragging my luggage around with me (even the customs baggage guy said my luggage was heavy!) But there was one girl here– blonde, clearly stuck out from the sea of Japanese people, and she asked if I was going to Kansai Gaidai. That was a relief, because I was wondering that, myself. When we got talking, we discovered we’d been on the same flights since Chicago! Anyway, she and I have been hanging out quite a bit since. She already told me she wants me to put in a good word with my host family when I move out of the dorms so she can come and visit and escape the madness. I don’t blame her!

So! Kansai Gaidai– yesterday was exhausting and confusing. Once we got done with the bus ride (only FOUR of us were on this big bus– me, the girl I’d met already, and two new guys that just got there before the bus arrived), where an Australian guy was marveling at the fact that I’d been traveling for like… 30 hours, got rushed to check-in at a dorm that wasn’t mine, got taken over to my actual dorm, and just deposited in my room. Literally. Like “OH! There you go~ your room~ have fun!”

I have two roommates. It’s a room only fit for two people. And I was the last one there. D’oh!

The futons were all up against one wall– the two on the sides rolled out, and the one in the middle all rolled up, just waiting for me. I saw it and cringed. The room is SO cramped with three people and all their luggage in it. It doesn’t help that my two roommates, both of which I’m pretty sure are staying in the dorm and not moving to a homestay, haven’t unpacked very much, so all their suitcases AND mine are just stowed away in this tiny compartment closed off by shoji screens, where their desks are. I promise I’ll post pictures of the room (and more) once I get my laptop connected. I have to go to laptop registration tomorrow, and hopefully they can approve my laptop and get me onto the network. The computer I’m typing from is a public one, and it’s as old as dirt. SO slow, and I have nowhere to store pictures if I upload them.

But anyway, yeah, the room situation– not so good. For the record, I moved my “middle” futon out from its original position and put it along one of the other walls, because I NEED some semblance of a personal bubble.

As for my roommates themselves, one’s good, one’s not so good. One acts like an absolute know-it-all, and seems to think my (and the other roomate’s) questions are annoying. Whatev. I hang out with the other girl more, anyway, who’s a hell of a lot nicer. And, on that note, I’m pretty sure I’m the only roommate not to break down crying yet. Yay, me! The nice roommate came into the room this morning while I was getting ready and collapsed on my futon, crying because she missed people from home. And the not-so-nice roommate was crying about… something, I don’t know, earlier in the week.

OH, MY SHOWER. So, right– got to Kansai Gaidai, my hair was still grody, so the minute I got a chance, I was like, “AGH, NEED SHOWER!” I dug into my suitcases, and found that I was lacking SHAMPOO AND CONDITIONER. I talked to mom today and she insists they’re there– I haven’t checked yet, but I will later on. But it was incredibly distressing. So I threw on my shoes, went down to find some local students who were signing people in, and asked how to get to a place that sold shampoo. She found a group of American students who were leaving to help me, but they only took me, uh, about two minutes out, and then gave me directions to a supermarket because they were going in a different direction. So I set off. My two thoughts were, “AGH, NEED SHAMPOO,” and, “I’ve been in Japan for a little over two hours, it’s nighttime, and I’m heading out into the city… alone… to buy some shampoo.” It was just sheer… OMGWTF.

But I found the place with no problem, and got back in one piece, and hurried off to take my SHOWER. (Ironically, some girl complimented my hair later that night. That’s what a head of hair that needs washing and a bottle of supermarket shampoo get you. Go figure!)

I went to bed around 11 PM. Which is … insane for me. But I was exhausted. I remember looking at the stuff on my cell phone (which is an AMAZING investment– so useful so far, plus I’ve had other foreign students staring in awe at it,– (” OMG HOW’D YOU GET THAT CELL PHONE?!”)), and apparently I dozed off, because the next thing I remember is being startled because my phone was vibrating, telling me I had a voicemail message. Reception SUCKS in the dorms, too. 😦

But … I won’t have to deal with that much longer! I seriously cannot WAIT to GTFO and go to my homestay family’s house. It’ll be such a fantastic change. I still haven’t found out where I’ll be living, or the family I’ll be staying with. (Even one of the local students was like, “WHAT?! They STILL haven’t told you?! That’s awful!”) I’ll find out on Thursday. Boo.

Um, anyway, today was okay. Went up to the school (and back again, because I’m dumb and forget vital things like… my passport), which takes about 25 minutes to get to on foot, to do orientation stuff. Had a language placement test in the morning (which was silly– they made everyone, except those who had NO Japanese experience, sit through ALL levels of listening comprehension. I was so lost at some points), then ran back to my dorm to get my passport, ran back to open a bank account (which was a BEAST– I had to fill out the forms THREE TIMES, because I would make a mistake on the SIMPLEST things (writing a letter in a different style (like pointy, not loopy) than it was on my passport, and they had to throw out the whole form! SO frustrating)), then I had to go to this other language lab orientation, got back to my room (after getting confused about where the hell my dorm was, and getting one of the local student advisors to help me find the entrance), only to run out again a few hours later for this “supermarket tour,” since I missed the city tour they did earlier because I was stuck up at school. Found that Engrish sign from the post title while out on that tour. And met a guy from Ohio who uses internet speak while he’s talking. Keeper! Just got back from that a little while ago. I’m still exhausted and jet-lagged, but I’ll be taking a shower soon and passing out, because I need to get back to campus at 8:50… AM. SO NOT COOL.

Anyway, I think I’ve rambled enough. Like I said, pictures will be coming ASAP, I just don’t have any way to upload them yet. But for now, I need to get back to my room, try not to take up my roommates (the nice one was asleep when I got back, and that was only at 9:15 PM, while the not-so-nice one was on her way to take a shower and sleep, I’m assuming), and take another lovely shower. Oh, by the way, the showers are different here, too. The water flow isn’t constant, you press a lever, and it gives you about 10-15 seconds of water and stops. So… pretty much a navy shower. (But I was just happy to BE in a shower last night!)

To close this post up, some random things I’ve found interesting about Japan:

  • There are vending machines EVERYWHERE. EVERYWHERE. Out on the street corners, in front of shops, in front of houses, on campus. EVERYWHERE. I love it!
  • There are also WALLS everywhere, enclosing in what little “yards” people have here. The houses are placed EVERY WHICH WAY so they can SQUEEZE the most space for homes out of what little they have. You have not seen a crowded neighborhood until you’ve been to Japan.
  • Cars don’t look out for pedestrians. Pedestrians look out for cars.
  • SO MANY PEOPLE ride bicycles or mopeds here (after taking the 25-minute walks around the city constantly today, I can’t blame them!)
  • People decorate their houses with SO MUCH STUFF SOMETIMES, it’s funny. So many plants and trees shoved into a yard that’s three feet wide.

So, yeah, sayonara for now! I hope you crazy people over in the states aren’t having too much fun without me!



You will have an amazing time for sure! Enjoy it! If you get Tajima or Saigo sensei as your language teachers, you are very lucky!!

Yay – you’re in Japan! Now you will have lots of material to send to

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  • Paula: Hey: I'm so glad you are swine flu-free. A little over-kill, don't you think? Anyway, I'm so glad you are enjoying your last few days there. Live it u
  • Paula: There's no place like home, there's no place like home!!! Can't wait to see you...we are counting the days.


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