So everything was a bit hectic for those two summer months of 2013. I was finishing my Master’s thesis while everything in the previous posts happened. However, after all that preparation September finally arrived and I was able to pack my things.
Then, on September 6th 2013 my mom and my friend Sara took me to the airport. There, sitting at the café we laughed, took photos and cried.
Of my flight I don’t remember too much, I have just a vague idea of me sitting in the window sit with a free middle sit on my right and a Japanese business man sitting in the aisle sit. I remember the flight took forever. After 6 hours and two movies I was already done and ready to leave that plane, but nope.
12 hours after boarding we were given immigration’s papers to fill and pretty soon we finally landed. Everyone left the plane and went to pass through immigration. There I talked with am officer who asked me in what language he could speak to me and a series of other questions – which of course I don’t remember, but must have been something as “why are you coming to Japan?”, “What will you do”, “where will you stay” – Also my fingerprints were checked, photos were taken, passport stamped and then I moved on.
After that, I got my luggage and went through the arrival gates at Narita. I remember my first feeling after this moment was “what have I done?!” there was an intense feeling of loneliness. For the first time I was truly in an unknown place. I shook the tears in my eyes and told myself “I need to get that Train”
I haven’t written here before but my destination was Sendai in Tohoku. For those who don’t know in 2011 there was a huge earthquake in Japan, it was the Tohoku earthquake, where there is still today a radiation problem.
Before I went to Japan I already knew a lot about the area, I accompanied the earthquake news on NHK world, the follow up documentaries and the revivals of the different communities. And before traveling there, I had to research a lot about the radiation levels, what was safe to eat, where it was worse and which precautions I should take.
So as my destination was Sendai Tohoku, I had to take the Tohoku Shinkansen, the fast train to Sendai. Because this Shinkansen passes through Ueno I decided to take the Skyliner to Ueno. I must admit before Japan, I had only taken a train once before, I pretty much live in the center of Lisbon and take the bus everywhere. So yes my first comfortable travel by train was that one in the Skyliner. These Japanese trains will forever be the trains with which I compare all my train travels since then.
I arrived in Ueno Keisei station and transfered to Ueno JR station. This is a smaller train station in comparison with others such as Shinjuku, Shibuya or Tokyo Station, but still at that time saw 181,880 passengers daily.
I didn’t stop to relax and take in the area, at that time I was so tired and desperate for a shower that I bought the ticket at the ticket office and boarded the train to Sendai getting only a scent of Tokyo.
Or at least I tried to board the Shinkansen – in each major station in Japan you can see more or less 3 levels. Metro, will be underground, regular trains, will be more or less at ground level and shinkansen will generally be at the top most level – Getting to the train was not easy. All I can say, it takes a little of Japanese and a lot of experience to navigate those platforms and the correct carriage.
The shinkansen is one of the most expensive methods of transportation, however I never travelled on one that was not completely full. It’s unbelievable. That ticket to Sendai from Ueno cost me around 100 euros and the train was full.
Second amazing thing, after trains, was getting used to separating myself from my things. Leaving by big luggage at the entrance of a train was something that I would simply never do in a train in Portugal. It isn’t safe. But it Japan, I left the luggage at the entrance and relaxed myself in my comfortable sit.
I was so tired and wanted to sleep so badly but I couldn’t relax. I really recommend you to use those showers at the airport. At this time, I didn’t know about them, but I wish I had.
Eventually I got to Sendai station and met my IAESTE contact at the station. Then, together we took the bus and went to the dormitory. Urban Castle Kawauchi is one of the dormitories for Tohoku University students. It is privately owned and so it is not as cheap as the official dormitories. However it was still the perfect place for me.
I arrived there and soon I was showed my small room, my corner of safety for the next 7 months. My starting point to many travels in Japan. My home
The picture above shows the view from my room. The dormitory is in Kawauchi and I had a beautiful view over Nishin Koen.
In the next post I will try to finally write about Sendai. It might take a while as I cannot imagine how to compress so much information in a respectable amount of lines.