It’s been a whirlwind two weeks for me recently, with my parents and two friends coming through to Japan. I’ve had to try and organize hotels, itineraries and transport for them as well as helping them navigate the many subtle things that make Japan so Japan.
It was tremendously fun to spend some time with them in Tokyo and Yokohama, as I haven’t had much chance to go outside my little countryside town for the past few months.
Tokyo itself is always a bit of a shock to my system as it’s so big compared to every other city I’ve ever been to. Half the fun in a city as big as Tokyo is just losing yourself in the myriad of small streets and alleys that seem to hold an endless supply of small izakaya and snack bars.
There’s also the thrill of trying to decipher the spider’s web that is the Tokyo railway system. Luckily sites such as Hyperdia can come to the rescue and tell you exactly where to go and what time you need to catch a train. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to help fellow foreigners figure out the best route to take to get where they want to go or which train they need to take.
The most interesting thing though about the recent visit of my friends and family was that it helped me to see just how far I’ve come as an expat in Japan. Many of the things they found unique or that they struggled with while they were here were things that I am now accustomed to or that I learned to cope with in my first few months in Japan. To a large degree I’ve become acclimatized to life here in Japan now, and I’ve gone through the cycle of culture shock that is part and parcel of living in a country such as Japan. Of course there are still times when it might get tough, or you miss your family and friends, but the worst of the culture shock of living here is now thankfully behind me.
Seeing Japan through their eyes while they visited helped me to appreciate this wonderful country that I find myself living and working in, and helped to find joy in the small things of everyday life here that I gloss over on a daily basis.
As for the trip itself, it was fun from start to finish with some exciting adventures in Tokyo, Matsumoto and Nagano. We ventured up Tokyo Tower, went through the crowds of salarymen and office ladies in Shinjuku, and browsed the expensive boutiques and shops in Omotesando. We tried liberal amounts of strange ice cream flavours at Baskin-Robbins and ate black burgers at Burger King. Throw in copious amounts of fun at a local amusement centre in the baseball batting cages and at the hundreds of arcade cabinets, and it was a once in a lifetime experience for all of us.
It was certainly different being on the other end of the flights this time around, as I didn’t have to worry about 24 hours of flights via Dubai with Emirates and time spent unpacking and packing luggage in order to get under the weight restrictions. It was certainly far more relaxing for me this way!
Now that everyone has flown back home I do feel a bit sad as the crazy conversations and adventures we had are at an end, but I am glad that I had a chance to connect with everyone again and hopefully in the near future I can head back home for a week or two and have fun times with my friends and family.