With a cramped hiney and a stuffed carry-on bag, I stumbled off the plane after a twelve hour torture session. Sleep was merely an idea that floated around in the back of my head as we were herded into the line for customs. The videogames that were lifesaving distractions on the plane became dead weight in my backpack as my siblings rejoiced with their feet on solid ground. Irritation bubbled to the surface of my mother’s exhausted face and I could tell that we were both wishing the same thing; to be back on that plane heading home, or what used to be home.
Still unaccustomed to the Japanese culture, and the time difference, the first few weeks were full of sleepless nights followed by zombie-like days, during which we ran around trying to set up basic necessities. After the initial shock wore off, I began to realize that between the interesting food, the kindness of the people and the humorous, backwards way of doing things, I might actually grow to like this Ramen-crazed country. My first adventure into the wild unknown was not exactly planned, but then again, who tries to get lost in a foreign country? Unable to say much besides the necessary “Toire wa doku deska?” translation: “Where is the toilet?” my dad and I wandered around hopelessly amongst the crowds getting on and off the trains. In the midst of a crowd of short, Asian people, I’m sure that we stood out like a sore thumb, and eventually a middle age Japanese man came to our rescue guiding us to the correct train. This experience is enough to hamper any tourist’s mood and make them hop right back on a return flight, but this was just the beginning of my three-year long vacation.
As for the food, a common misconception is that the Japanese people eat only raw fish however I discovered a delicious variety of their world-famous Ramen noodles and chicken rival to KFC. The phenomenon known as “yakitori” or “teriyaki chicken” can be found on almost every street corner, right next door to your comfort food of McDonalds and Starbucks. I once unknowingly ate “taco” (octopus), mochi (pounded rice balls) and was volun-told to eat sweet-potato ice cream (which was purple by the way). There are some things that I am glad I got to try, and then there are some I could have lived without, the sweet potato ice cream is definitely one of the later. While exploring the historical sites such as the Great Buddha, various shrines and castles you might get that little tickle in the back of your throat, no need to fear, there are drink machines in every direction as far as the eye can see. Though the names might throw you off, don’t be afraid to try the native “Calpis” or “PocariSweat”.
Overall, besides driving on the wrong side of the road, stinky roadside fresh fish markets, and never really understanding what people were saying, my experience in
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