I am able to sleep for about four hours total on my flight from Atlanta, Georgia to Tokyo, Japan. It wasn’t a bad flight. I feel a little stiff though.
I see everyone scurrying around getting all their belongings and I just sit. I don’t feel the need to get up and join the circus just yet. Instead I collect my thoughts, “I actually made it to Japan! We are sitting on this plane and outside of it is JAPAN! When I step outside I will actually be on Japanese soil!”
As you can probably infer, I’m very excited about coming to this country. I’ve never been to Asia and I never really seriously thought I would come to live here. My first stop is Tokyo. This is where all of us JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program participants go for orientation.
As I finally grab my hiking backpack and messenger bag from the overhead compartment, I think, “I hope the sushi is as good as they say…” I slap a big JET sticker on my shirt, just like they told us to do in Atlanta, and step off the plane. I don’t get much further when a friendly Japanese woman greets me holding a JET sign, and tells me to turn right to go through customs. I do as I’m told, but then she stops me again and says that it’s not that customs desk but the one further down. Why didn’t she say so?! (I’m kidding). After waiting awhile and chatting with my fellow JETs in line, I approach the customs counter and the officer asks to take my picture. “Oh God,” I thought, “I must be looking pretty heinous right now.” But I guess I don’t have a choice…I stare into a camera attached to his station and he clicks the button. I wait a few seconds, and he prints out my alien residence card. “Wow! That was so quick! And I didn’t have to wait hours in a government office like I had done in Spain.”
I enter the baggage claim room and I see that both of my suitcases have already arrived. One is severely overweight and the other is just slightly; I’m thinking about just grabbing them and rolling them along. Then I see a few people grabbing luggage carts. I get my own and stack my luggage one on top of the other (major mistake!) and then pile on my backpack and messenger bag. We are on a roll now, and I see more smiling faces with JET signs as we exit the room. I was one of the last ones off the plane and it took a few minutes to load my luggage; most of the Atlanta group has already been through, and I’m now with the LA group. I’m guided to an escalator going up, but stop, look at my cart, and think to myself, “How the hell is this thing going to get on an escalator?” Before I know it I’m pulled along with the crowd and onto the escalator! The cart locks into place and smoothly rides the machine up. My panic fades and I am so thankful for this cart! The next escalator unfortunately doesn’t go so well.
I stroll up to the stairs, this time they are going down. I shift my backpack to the front of the cart and take out the suit I’ll need for Tokyo orientation. I push the cart onto the platform and lock it into place between two of the escalator’s plates. When the stairs start to form, gravity pulls my cart down, causing my backpack to tumble off and roll down the escalator, smashing into the back of girl below. I yell down, “So sorry!” I try to stabilize the rest of my luggage. My suit, which was on top of my suitcase, also decides to slip off and fall. I stare helplessly while it plummets down the steps. I’m not sure how, but the worker below who is supposed to be helping us as we get off the escalator is oblivious to my situation, despite my screams. I have to make a decision: either I continue to yell for help, or I bulldoze through to my backpack and suit with the cart. I chose the latter of the two. I push and trample right over my suit and smack my backpack out of the way. The airport employee at the bottom runs over to me to help, but it’s too late. The excitement is over.
Luckily my suit is not ruined and my backpack is only a little dirty. I am sweating profusely because we are now outside. Japan in the summer is HOT… and I know hot, I’m from Mississippi! The humidity is a killer here. We are finally able to move toward the buses after what seems like an eternity standing in the sun. I drop off both my suitcases with a twinge of apprehension, because I will not see them again during my Tokyo stay. I just have my backpack and messenger bag from now on, until I arrive in Okinawa anyways. I board the bus and we take off to Shinjuku, in the heart of Tokyo.