Somehow, I made it through week three with my dignity intact. And I made some friends! I wanted to blog more, but as it were, I am here because of work and work has been very busy. I have also found that by the time I get home at night, I am EXHAUSTED. I actually started wondering this week if maybe I was sick, but then it occurred to me that living and working in a foreign country is, in and of itself, exhausting. So, yesterday when I didn’t leave my apartment until 3:00, I cut myself a little slack (plus I did work out).
So, here are the events from last week worth noting:
1. I moved into a new apartment and it is DREAMY! I was in a nice apartment before, but as previously stated, my lovely international assignment consultant and my lovely mobility colleague got me into a bigger apartment. I’m on the 11th floor and have a pretty awesome view. Oh, and don’t worry, it’s like 100 sq feet bigger than my apartment was in NY. Like I said, DREAMY!
|The moving part was not so dreamy, but it could have been worse…and well worth it for the dreaminess.|
|I have a couch and a table. And between the couch and my bed, there’s a partition I can pull across if I have people over.|
|A dreary day, but what a difference seven floors can make.|
|My view at 7 am. Oh, sunlight! How I’ve missed you! Both while living in the cute cave (no hating–it was a great apartment) and since moving here in the rainy season.|
|Okay, there is on negative. I found out I live right next to this cemetery. Small price…|
2. I went up to the top of Tokyo Tower to see the city and watch some fireworks. For those of you who don’t know this, I was a geography major undergrad. I love geography; physical, spatial, social, any kind really. But part of that love causes problems for me. If I don’t have a good handle on my surroundings, I feel completely and totally discombobulated. So, going to the top of TT was not just for tourist purposes or fireworks observation. It was to help me wrap my head around this city. I think it helped and hurt. This place is HUGE!
Fireworks are a big thing here in Japan. It seems there’s a fireworks display somewhere every weekend during the summer. And these were pretty impressive. Because I was already at the top of the tower, I decided to just hang out there and wait rather than attempt to go watch them down by the bay. It was crazy how long some people waited there. And then, when they started, there was a fight that broke out. Not fists or anything, but the old woman was yelling about something and a guy in the front of the crowd (we were all trying to watch out of the east facing window) was yelling back at her. It was a lot of emotion in a very small place.
That finally passed and we all enjoyed the fireworks. One of the advantages of being a relatively tall woman in the US is that I am really tall here, so I was able to easily see over everyone and get some good photos, too.
|Amazing…the blue line in the background? A bridge on the other side of Tokyo Bay.|
|A shot of Tokyo Tower at night. Beautiful!|
|And I discovered a Baskin-Robbins at the bottom with super yummy mango-passionfruit sherbet and Pop-Rock ice cream.|
3. I made some friends at church and at work!!! The first couple of weeks I was here, being friendless was fine. Work really is busy during the week and it’s been nice to remember a life that doesn’t involve some sort of socializing every single night. I am getting sleep and exercising (which is a dang good thing considering all the amazing food I’ve been consuming), but then last Friday, I realized friends on the weekend would be nice.
So, this past week at work, I invited a couple of coworkers to lunch on different days and got to know them. They are both darling. What I’ve been told (and am experiencing) about the Japanese is that they are somewhat shy when it comes to inviting foreigners to do things, but once invited, they are all about inclusion. I have now been invited to one of their homes for New Years (which is a big family holiday here). And she also invited me to hangout with her and her fiance on the weekends as they live near me and are kind of mellow on the weekends. I will probably have to make sure she knows I really want to do it, but that’s totally fine. I’m just excited to have some people with whom to do stuff! The other great thing about having Japanese friends is that they can introduce me to all kinds of fun things and help me with my attempts at Japanese.
|With one coworker, we went to a Chinese place where there was a Chinese Tea Master. I had no idea such a thing existed, but it was kind of amazing. And the tea was so good.|
|With my other coworker, I had Tonkatsu. This absolutely divine fried pork (panko is the way to go for breading).|
Additionally, at church last Sunday, I stepped WAY outside of my comfort zone and basically went up to this girl and told her she had a cute baby (yes, I’ve hit the age where that’s my pickup line for making new friends at church–judge away–but seriously, her baby is darling and she seemed like she’d be a fun friend). As it turns out, my instincts were correct and my new friend, Holly, organized a little girls’ night out for me and a few other ladies at church. The location? TGI Friday’s right near my apartment. It was my first American meal since I arrived three weeks ago. It was so much fun.
|My kind of ladies…lots of appetizers including table-side guacamole!|
One of the other really fun things about these new girlfriends from church is that one reminds me totally of my sis-in-law, Shelley and it makes me feel like I have a little piece of home. After dinner, she took us on a little tour of the city (she had to drop off snowboards to her teenage sons at their friends’ apartment because they were going to this indoor snowboarding place the next day…Japan does not mess around). Anyway, as part of this tour, we went through this crazy ward called Shibuya. It is home of the busiest intersection in the world. It was quite a fun little spin around town.
4. I decided I needed to just have a “normal” Saturday as opposed to an “I’m a foreigner living in Tokyo” Saturday. I slept in (which is no small miracle), talked to my cousin on the phone while working out on the treadmill, and headed to a spa for a pedicure. I happened upon this little store along the way. (I stopped inside and got a couple of pieces for a LARGE fortune.)
One of the things that is so interesting about Tokyo (like New York) is how hidden many of the businesses are. But in Tokyo, it’s even more that way because there are so many narrow, little, winding streets (alleys, really) throughout the city. I found this place online (I’ve learned to search for products and that usually serves me well). The place was super cute and clean, and had America gossip rags. 🙂 It was not the same as my happy place in NYC (no massaging chairs or gel baths), but the girls did a great job and it was super relaxing.
After that, I just walked for a long time, working my way slowly down to Shibuya so I could take some pics of the intersection (okay, I had to do some touristing). It was so quiet and lovely and amazing when I happened upon a crazy street in the heart of Harajuku. That’s the crazy part of Tokyo. You can be walking along on a totally quiet, almost suburban street, turn the corner, and you are in the heart of craziness. No transition. No warning. Just BOOM! In your face.
|One of my favorite things about Tokyo (from a practicality standpoint) is the abundance of vending machines. Even down a small side alley, you will find vending machines. It’s so great.|
|This is the size of most side streets in Tokyo. There are some big, main roads, but the side streets are all mostly itty-bitty.|
|I just took this to illustrate how tight parking is some places. Serious skill (and cajones) to park this thing here.|
|Some sort of ginormous fish(?) carcass. Outside a restaurant. Not exactly what would make me want to go inside.|
Once I made it to Shibuya, I went up in the second floor of a Starbucks and watched the foot traffic. It was not a super busy night, and even so, it was kind of incredible. I did not take the video below (although I did take one), but it shows the intersection and how crazy it is…and that happens every 3-5 minutes depending on the light cycle.
5. As part of my “normal” Saturday, I decided to go to a movie. This was a big deal because movies here are NOT cheap….like “$28 for a ticket to see Avengers in 3D (no other option)” not cheap. But I hadn’t seen it yet and I just wanted to go not think for a while…and see what it was like to see a movie in Japan. Turns out, it’s expensive, but it’s pretty awesome; reserved seats, regular AND caramel popcorn, these awesome little trays that sit in the cup holders. The only downside…people apparently think it’s perfectly acceptable to remove your shoes once seated in the theater. And at the end of a day in the summer, I can assure you that was not pleasant. But I got over it.
And that is my week in a very big nutshell. Pretty much, Tokyo is still awesome and I’m still loving it!