Fight or Flight

And so ends our journey, dear readers.

After giving myself a day to recover, I am writing up what will likely be the final post for the Japanese semester blog. A rather strange thing for me to type, but, indeed, it is over.

It has been a bit strange to think about the fact that it is over. Being back here for a bit seems normal, but the idea of it being a permanent end to my time at Wakeijuku has yet to really settle in. It was really the best.

But, well, on to the main course of our story, yes?

Sunday morning, I woke up ready to get the journey started. I scrubbed the room clean (at least, as close to Japanese standards as Americanly possible) for several hours, and then took my two enormous suitcases (alongside a backpack that weighed a good 50 pounds) and set off. My farewell committee was made up of several Japanese students (three of which I believe I spoke to once, and they knew absolutely no English for said conversation) and Mr. Watanabe. A hug preceded by “Come here you big lug” was the final Watanabe exchange. I took my suitcases, went outside, had three more farewells as they continuously followed me up the road, and finally we were off.

It was around 110 degrees that day, which would make the journey quite fun. It would be around an hour and a half commute to make my way to the airport, tugging along two massive suitcases behind me. Truly I was shaking with anticipation for the endless fun that would await me during this hour and a half.

As I stumbled my way down the hill I had to climb every day (which, I was thrilled to realize I would never have to go through that herculean task ever again), I was suddenly approached by a Japanese couple, both holding babies, and they asked if I needed any help in English. We had a good ten minute conversation discussing my time in Tokyo. I had five more people ask me if I needed help over the span of ten minutes. Japan is the best.

Eventually, I somehow made it to my station without killing someone with my suitcases, and rode my usual train for two stops. At the next junction, I had to carry my suitcases up 30 stairs…my arms are still reeling from this journey two days later. But, well, we got through it. Trying not to melt from the heat, I waited for the next train arrived probably looking like I just went swimming due to my sweat. Not ideal.

I took the next train for around 10 minutes to my last stop, which was the connecting station to the airport. I had to take a special bullet train to the airport, called, fittingingly, the Narita Airport Express. It was an extra $25 to take this train straight to my terminal. I didn’t argue.

It was more spacious than the other bullet train I had taken previously, but without the airport service carts moving up and down the aisles. It took around forty minutes to get to the airport. I sat next to a very large man who told me he was from India and was excited to go home. He then proceeded to belch at a very loud decibel, sneezed almost directly on me, and slept until our arrival. Thank you for boosting my day sir.

We eventually arrived at the airport and I had to begin the great process known as “TSA Bumblings”. The airport was absolutely massive and somewhat difficult to navigate, and this was only the international section of it. I made my way through the baggage drop-off and entered the security check. I went through the first time without a hitch, only to realize I didn’t drop off my Japanese Health Insurance card at the postbox. So I had to leave security, drop the card off, and go back through. Except, of course, that line closed directly after I left, so I had to head through a whole different security section, restarting the process. I took out what I believed were all of my electronics, set my backpack down, and waited for it to go through the scanner.

Only for it to be sent to the “DETECTED MATERIAL” lane.

Oh great.

“EXCUSE ME, SIR?!” The woman at the counter yelled nervously. “THIS YOURS??”

“Yes, that’s my bag.” I said, not entirely sure if I wanted to claim it at that point.

I walked over to the counter where she did an additional scan, only to remember I forgot to take my tablet out. That was mildly embarrassing. And, of course, since I didn’t remember to take out the tablet, I had to go through security again without it this time.

So, three security checks later, and Japan was certain that I was not carrying anything hazardous while still being a complete buffoon.

Customs, amusingly, was far easier. A twenty minute queue where I had to fill out a single form. They did not note the fact my visa had vanished in an unfortunate rinse cycle assault. So I went through without a hitch.

As for the plane ride itself? Surprisingly not as bad as I expected. Maybe because I knew what to expect out of it this time. It was twelve straight hours to DC. Some advice for you potential travelers reading this: make good use of the movie options on the airplane. Every movie you get through on the plane is two less hours you will be riding on it. Six movies later, and you are good to go.

Food was, unsurprisingly, rather abysmal on the flight, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary really. I had two girls from Japan sitting next to me who asked for clarification at every instruction the pilot gave in English. They also did not understand my explanations. But they weren’t kicking my chair, so I’m not complaining.

We did, of course, have a baby sit diagonal to me who screamed for almost twelve hours straight. I didn’t expect anything less at this point.

After landing, I had to pick up my baggage and once again and go through a much faster security and customs check. I waited by the lane designated for our baggage for a good ten minutes or so. Suddenly a worker walks up to me, stares in confusion, and says, “What the heck are you waiting for, boy.”

I was rather confused myself. “Baggage from the flight from Narita?” I said as more of a question than a statement.

“Ain’t here boy.”

So we all awkwardly move to the neighboring lane marked for Switzerland, which, apparently, was the actual lane for baggage from Japan. It was strange. But our bags arrived and it was off to customs and security.

Customs took about two minutes. The man barely even glanced at my passport, which was a little disappointing being I spent several minutes in line making sure I had all the forms necessary to get through and he didn’t need any of them. Security was four lines of people. The man in the far left lane was absolutely massive. Quite possibly the most intimidating man I have ever seen, likely able to beat most professional boxers with his eyes closed.

“This lane’s open, but only the strong are allowed in.” He stated to the room.

I entered his lane, set my bags down, and asked with a chuckle, “Think I’m strong enough?”

He paused for a moment, then said, “Well son, every branch needs twigs.”

Thanks.

The flight to Rochester was pretty smooth by comparison. An hour and a half flight compared to a twelve hour one was over in what felt like a couple minutes. Our pilot was a bit of a maniac, however.

“Weather in Rochester is 82 today. Clear skies all around. Don’t believe me? Then Google the weather.”

At one point over the intercom he announced, “We are about to experience some turbulence. OH YEAH!” I wondered when Kenny Loggins was going to appear to serenade this man’s Top Gun performance.

But, eventually I arrived. I met my parents at the bottom of the escalator leading out of the flights area, had an excellent reunion, and then went out for the best thing a person could have after four months straight of sticky rice: a cheeseburger.

It’s nice to be back in the US. It hasn’t sank in yet that my times in Japan are over, but it was certainly great the entire time it lasted.

Phrase of the Day: Hikoki (Hee-koh-kee) means “Airplane”.

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His Last Bow

Captain’s Log: Star Date 8/3/2019.

Well. We’re here.

Today was my final, full day in Tokyo. Tomorrow, as of the time I am writing this, I will be on an airplane bound for the United States, with a small child no doubt kicking my chair the entire journey. Truly, I am shaking with anticipation for boarding a 16 hour flight once again.

It’s kind of funny, you know. I’ve thought about this day arriving a lot since I came here. It feels like forever ago that I was just arriving here, with poor Mr. Watanabe looking at me wondering what horror he just submitted himself to for four months. And yet, it also feels like that just happened a few weeks ago.

I’ve experienced so much since I have arrived here. I went from barely knowing most of the people here to feeling like I’ve known most of them for years. I’ve been on countless adventures. I’ve been to castles, temples, towers and museums. I feel like I’ve seen everything. And yet, I feel like I’ve barely even scratched the endless surface of things to do in this country. There are historic sites all over this nation that I no doubt would’ve drooled over the chance of seeing.

Someone asked me if I was sad about not attending a school in Kyoto, the historic capital of Japan. I just kind of laughed in response. Sure, I have no doubt Kyoto would’ve been an excellent experience as well…but I wouldn’t have traded a moment of this experience. Okay, maybe that was a mild exaggeration. I probably would happily trade you my pedestrian traffic jam yesterday for a solid cheeseburger.

I have a brief anecdote for you that a professor from Washington and Jefferson College told me before my arrival here. “Dan,” he said, because that is my name. “Studying abroad is like a line graph.” Already you can tell this story will be exhilarating. But bear with me.

“When you first arrive, you will be at the top of the graph. Everything will be awe-inspiring. You’ll want to explore every nook and cranny of the country. You’ll stare in fascination at everything through the windows of your daily subway. It’ll feel like a brand new, exciting adventure.

“But then things change. You’ll settle in, and the golden aura you see will begin to fade a little. Not everything is perfect in this country. Some things they do over there will feel…different, and not necessarily in a good way (public showers, anyone?). You’ll miss some of the commodities readily available at home that are now nearly impossible to find.

“And your trip will continue, and this feeling will continue as well. You’ll feel homesick now and then, and there will be times when you wish for nothing more than the comfort of your own house, free of the work of classes and the culture that you have been forced to experience every day. It’s new and different, but now and then you crave a bit of what you have always experienced back at home. The comfort of normalcy, where everything is as it has always been.

“But your trip continues, regardless of your feelings on the matter. And in time, your tune changes. You may feel homesick now and then, true. But you grow to appreciate the changes you are subjugated to, things you aren’t used to. That’s why you are there, after all. The culture becomes easier to adapt to. And some of the changes you think might be for the better, you really begin to enjoy. Things are great once again.

“Eventually, your trip will end. You will fly home, sad by what you are leaving behind, but perhaps finally ready to return to what you’ve always known. There will be a time of adjustment, difficulty in returning to the normalcy you remember when life abroad has become so ingrained. But eventually you will settle in, with your line graph perhaps ending a little lower than when you first arrived, but a greater experience than you ever would’ve had otherwise. There will be a small part of you that will always be sad it is over, but there is one thing to remember: the experiences you had abroad will always be yours, and yours alone. They are things no one else can ever claim, things that cannot be stolen or replaced. They are your fond memories of one of, hopefully, the best experiences of your life, that you will carry with you forever.”

Well, the professor was right on most notes here. Except, perhaps, one part. The line graph is ending exactly where it began at. My entire stay in Tokyo, I have never stopped having that feeling of wonder and excitement at every little detail, even with the (sometimes seemingly constant) culture shock.

I’ve had some great experiences here. One Japanese student told me once that I was just like every American stereotype he had ever heard. No one ever seemed to deny this. I certainly wouldn’t. But with that came some of my own American experiences. Some of the Japanese students substantially improved in their English speaking this semester. Mostly because I would have no idea what they were saying otherwise. But it allowed for an exchange of culture in that regard. And that was certainly entertaining.

All of this said, perhaps it would be prudent to discuss what I did for my final day. Well, the day began with Verizon Wireless turning off my data for the next two days, apparently forgetting that this was a necessity. Thank you Verizon, very cool. I had planned on going to Matsumoto Castle today, one of Tokyo’s most famous. But, by the time the phone had finally gotten situated, it was rather late into the day. By the time I arrived at Matsumoto, it would be closed. Oh well. Instead, I made my final trip to the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.

Only a few stops away, the trip seemed like it would be a rather easy one. Of course, I failed to take note of the weather today: 96 degrees and felt like 120. For those of you have never experienced 120 degree heat, a pro-tip: don’t. Walking through that was rather unpleasant.

But, eventually, I made my way to the palace after riding for four stops on a subway train relatively near my dormitory. Now, you can’t really “visit” the Imperial Palace, per say. You are allowed access to the eastern gardens of the Palace, but you aren’t allowed anywhere near the actual Imperial Manor where the royal family resides (for obvious reasons, really). Security was all over the place. I felt rather bad for those who had to stand in the Sun the entire day just to tell people not to walk on the grass. Oh, and you definitely cannot step on the grass. There are signs all over the place alerting you to this notion. Why the grass is so sacred, I cannot say.

I was, amusingly enough, one of the only Americans there. Every person I saw spoke a completely different language than the last. French, German, Hindi, Arabic, Finnish, there were probably people who only spoke in the clicking language there. All of these people congregating together in 120 degree heat to walk around some bricks and foliage. Mankind is a beautiful thing.

The end of the walking trail brings you to a hill overlooking the city, towering over the ant sized people below you. That was a pretty neat thing to see.

Perhaps my favorite part of this experience, however, was when I went to turn around to leave (not just to get out of the heat, mind you). Behind me were families all speaking different languages, with each of their children on the ground. And, like clockwork, suddenly all of these four year olds started screaming. An American family with an American kid, a German kid, and a French kid. It was like a life philosophy right before my eyes.

No matter where you are from, male or female, cultural background, social class, anything.

You can still find a way to be annoying.

Now that, right there, is a beautiful life lesson. (Sorry W&J staff reading this. I found this too amusing to not say.)

Then I came back, avoided heat stroke, and called it a day. Now it is just cleaning, typing an essay, and preparing for a 16 hour flight o’ fun.

I’m leaving with plenty of experiences, from an induction ceremony of nightmares, to a professor faking a heart attack to teach us a single phrase in Japanese, to the woman at the grocery store across the street who I have seen so frequently she no doubt wonders if I am going to buy a Ring Pop and pop the question to her before going home.

I’ve had a great time with everything here Japan. It’s been an absolute dream.

But, my professor was right, in the end.

I am ready to head home.

Phrase of the Day: Sayonara (Sah-yoh-nah-rah) means “Goodbye”.

Not to take away from that poetic finish there, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone actually say that. Usually they say “Ja mata” (See you later) or “Shitsurei Shimasu” (I AM DEEPLY SORRY). But, hey, you get what I mean.

City City Bang Bang

Today marked one of the final days of the Fellowship doing activities together.

Being my headphones managed to break the other day, somehow (how, I am not entirely sure, but the left earbud died on me), I knew I had to head down to the city to pick up a replacement pair for the grueling flight looming in the distance. Our group went back to Ikebukuro, one of my first visits here in Tokyo, so it felt rather fitting. The headphones were pretty quick to pick up. We went to a superstore in Ikebukuro that happened to have an entire floor dedicated solely to earbuds. They sound far better than my old free pair I got with my phone. Hopefully they hold up longer too.

After that, we grabbed a final round of sushi from a sushi conveyor belt restaurant. I made no qualms about eating every single piece available. Every piece was delicious and they all hit the spot. Salmon and tuna in particular reign as the kings for a reason. And if you can get a piece of fatty tuna…words can’t even describe the miracle you are being prescribed.

They decided to cap off the trip by having us all try “tapioca tea”, the choice beverage of Japanese high school girls and not of a 22 year old American man. The place serving them was quite amusingly called “SISTERS”, and the entire building was pink. As you can tell, we were the intended audience. The others, of course, found this absolutely hilarious. The drinks cost $3.00 and your man-card.

I can safely say it was the most bizarre beverage I have ever encountered in my life. They are normal tea beverages, but with these weird tapioca bubbles at the bottom that have the consistency of pre-chewed gum. Also, these drinks, if you consume the bubbles, have the same calorie count as a full breaded pork dinner here, which is hysterical. Why this is a thing I am not really clear on. I think everyone else thought it was worth it just to see my reaction to this entire process.

And that was it folks. Tomorrow is my last full day in Japan…how is that even possible?

Phrase of the Day: Tapioca bubbles (Groh-sah) means “Avoid like the plague”.

The Castle Crasher

And we’re back folks.

I decided today would be a great day to visit Odawara Castle. Being it was relatively nearby, and that I haven’t visited a castle while I have been here yet, today seemed like the ideal day.

Of course, I didn’t factor in something a little important. It was 98 degrees outside. But, well, life is full of sacrifices, eh?

I googled the route I would have to take to Odawara the morning of, not planning it out the night before like a normal person. I saw that all I needed was a single straight train from a station two stops from me. Perfect! It was a rapid express line.

Here’s some little facts about the rapid express lines: they are extremely sparse. They will appear on the same track as other trains, and only show up at very select times. Several trains going to different locations appear before and after them. If you miss the train, you better find a new route.

I didn’t read the time on the route very well. I left for the station at 10:30. That train would leave at 11:56 on the nose. The trip took about 20 minutes for me to make it to the station. Yeah. I was waiting for a little while.

But before then, I decided to unleash my long neglected superpower: to create an awkward situation with seemingly nothing to spark it. I needed to recharge my commuter’s pass, so I walked through the exit terminal to the left side of the station, where the recharge terminals were. I reloaded my card easily enough, and then noticed I needed to go to the right side of the station to get to the train I needed to. Instead of noticing the very obvious fact I could, quite simply, walk there without returning the way I came by moving my body slightly to the left, I walked right back through the terminal I exited from and tried cutting through the center.

Interesting fact: this is impossible.

Trying to register your card at two terminals right across from each other causes an error message to display. Not just this, but the entire terminal shuts down, begins glowing bright red, and starts blaring a small alert alarm to let everyone in the nearby vicinity become aware you are indeed a moron. Thankfully, there was a terminal attendant standing there who got to witness, no doubt wondering what I was possibly doing.

I approached him, and told him I needed to get through the terminal on the right side, because at this point I still didn’t notice the fact the two sides of this station were connected.

He spoke no english besides “No no”, which, believe it or not, got its fair use during our limited conversation. He reset the card, and motioned for me to go through the terminal I just entered from on the left, not the one I thought I needed on the right. I gestured towards the one on the right and said, “But please” in Japanese, like a confused child. “No no” he responded in English, also like a confused child. I reluctantly returned the way I came, thinking I was going to be awkwardly stuck on the left side until he realized the issue. Then I noticed the fact the sides were connected…and that I was a complete buffoon.

“OH.” I said aloud. “OW!” screamed the old man that walked into me. After walking through the terminal, I stood still trying to get my bearings. This, unfortunately, was not a calculated risk by the 80 year old man trying to navigate the Tokyo pedestrian traffic. The man almost wiped out. As did all the people behind him, who suddenly witnessed the collision and got caught up themselves.

In a matter of seconds, the station spiraled into anarchy. You’d think the station was made of ice all because I didn’t realize I could’ve walked left.

After ensuring people were fine, and then quickly fleeing the premises like a buffoon, I made my way to where I had to wait for my rapid express line. It was a 45 minute wait in the 98 degree heat being it was an outdoor train. That…was less than ideal. I heard the conductors make the exact same announcement over and over with each train arrival.

In Japanese: THE TRAIN IS HERE. THE TRAIN IS HERE. THERE ARE DOORS THAT CLOSE. THE DOORS ARE NOW OPEN. THE DOORS ARE OPEN. THE DOORS WILL CLOSE. THERE ARE DOORS THAT CLOSE.

This was very useful information that I am certain most people were unaware of. I was very happy to hear it many times in a row to reaffirm this.

Yeah, the Sun was getting to me a bit if that wasn’t clear.

Eventually, the train did indeed arrive. It was an hour and a half ride straight to the station for the castle. I was excited.

The train was rather crowded when I got on, but very quickly emptied after two stops. By the time I got through all 20, I was the only person in my car. Evidently, Odawara is not the hottest tourist destination. The brief pauses from Japanese citizens looking at me as I walked around town solidified this fact, probably wondering how I got lost and ended up there.

The place itself was like a small city district with its own distinct identity from Tokyo. The streets were paved with many sigils of the Hojo Clan, the original holders of the district and the original builders of Odawara Castle. I thought this was a neat historical nod and beamed at each one of them.

The castle itself was a 7 minute walk from the station, and I was greatly excited to see it. You could see the castle looming over some restaurants on the approach, which a pretty neat sight to see. The approach was a solid path of gravel up to a giant red bridge leading to the main plaza. Past the bridge along the path was the main entrance to Odawara Castle, a gigantic gate, of which there were several in the complex.

Now, allow me to quickly tell the story of Odawara Castle.

When the Hojo Clan took over the region of Tokyo during the Sengoku Era, they wanted to build the capital of their clan in Odawara. There, they built a massive castle complex, which they wanted to be the envy of every clan in Japan and to showcase their power. They ruled from there for many years, holding off sieges from many rival clans. The Uesugi Clan, led by the “God of War” Uesugi Kenshin, failed in their siege on Odawara. The Takeda Clan (you might recall them from a long time ago. They all wore bright red to stand out to their enemies) too failed to conquer the Hojo Clan. A marriage with Takeda Shingen’s sister to the Hojo clan’s leader marked an alliance and a temporary end to hostilities between them. The Uesugi were appeased by the Hojo offering a son to be taken in by the clan and raised as a Uesugi prince. In all, the Hojo managed to survive.

And survive they did. They were the final holdout against Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s unification of Japan. Hideyoshi laid siege to Odawara Castle towards the very end of his conquest campaign. It was there that one of the most glorious battles in Japanese history was fought. Much blood was shed, and endless tears as well. The pain…

Actually, no.

In fact, the Siege of Odawara was considered one of Hideyoshi’s easiest victories. He stood outside with his army all around the castle. He hired jugglers to entertain his men while they waited. Inside the castle, the soldiers stood next to arbalests, preparing to fire them if Hideyoshi attempted to attack. But, he didn’t. So they just waited on both sides until food supplies ran low in the castle, and then the Hojo surrendered. The Hojo Clan leader committed seppuku as a result of his loss. And so ends the Hojo Clan.

Hideyoshi gifted Odawara to Tokugawa Ieyasu, a loyal general, believing him deserving of the Tokyo region. This would prove to be a terrible decision, as Ieyasu would use this base to launch his unification of Japan after Hideyoshi’s death, and wiped out his entire family. Well, hindsight’s 20/20.

After the Tokugawa family took over, they ruled for over 200 years until the Meiji Restoration, in which the Emperor retook control over the nation. The Emperor wanted to solidify his control over the region, so he ordered the destruction of rival castles to the Imperial Palace. Odawara was destroyed.

Years and years later, a restoration group set to rebuilding the castle complex much like how it looked under the Hojo. The modern castle is significantly smaller than the original due to the massive amount of land the original took up. But, still, it makes for a massive and daunting sight.

There is not much to do in the complex. The castle itself is mostly a museum of various samurai artifacts, which is neat to see. You are allowed access to the roof to look over all of Odawara, including some very nice sights of the ocean. It was a pretty cool experience, especially to imagine as it was hundreds of years ago from up there.

For my trip back, I decided it was time to try out a Shinkansen (a bullet train) before leaving Japan. I bought a ticket (which, even for me, was surprisingly easy) and waited at the station for it to arrive. Shinkansen’s arrive to the second their arrival time is listed. It is absolutely incredible. My train arrived after about a five minute wait. I took a non-reserved seat to avoid spending half a fortune on a brief train ride. My ride to Odawara on the rapid express was an hour and a half. The Shinkansen back was 30 minutes. It was pretty impressive.

The train itself is situated exactly like an airplane (down to having a hostess wheel a cart up and down the aisle), but rides like an incredibly smooth train. It was a pretty solid experience. No kids kicking the back of my chair either. Everyone wins!

When I got back, I decided to grab a quick bowl of abura soba before I never see that glorious cuisine again. It was 4:00 PM, so the counter was practically abandoned. I hadn’t eaten for several hours in 98 degree heat. I was starving.

So I ordered the Triple size bowl with double meat.

Whenever you order food there, you buy a ticket from the vending machine and show it to the chefs, who then prepare the meal for you. Usually it gets no more than a glance, you sit, and you’re golden.

I really wish I had a picture of this guy’s reaction. I guess this isn’t a common order.

I handed him the ticket, he said “Welcome” in Japanese, and then looked at the ticket. Then he went bug-eyed. He looked over at his co-worker in pure horror. His co-worker looked at the ticket, and then proceeded to laugh out loud. I began wondering what monstrosity I just ordered.

I sat at the counter and was served the largest bowl I have ever seen, with pork practically overflowing from the sides. The one cook was still laughing. The other guy spent the entire meal watching in a mix of fascination and horror as I devoured it.

Even I couldn’t eat it all. It was a great meal. I’m really going to miss abura soba.

And so ended another solid day in Tokyo. I’m not sure what is on the table for tomorrow. I still have one last final to type up, so that will likely be the majority of the day. Time will tell.

Phrase of the Day: Shiro (Shee-roh) means “Castle”. Maybe there is still one more on the table? We shall see.

Closing Time

No real story for you folks today. As long as the weather holds up, I should resume my traveling tomorrow, which excites me greatly. I haven’t had a good traveling story in a while. Now is the time, I say.

That said, I got a picture with Mr. Watanabe today:

He emphasized the need to have that kanji behind us in the background. That means “West”, as in the section of Wakeijuku I live in. He has been less than pleased about the fact I will be moving out soon. I’m going to miss this crowd!

Phrase of the Day: Kanashi (Kah-nah-shee) means “Sad”.

Bumble in the Jungle

I believe, at long, LONG, last, the Japanese bureaucracy can finally be told “adios”. Today, I made a return to the government building in Bunkyo. I haven’t been to the good old giant pez dispenser since I first arrived here, when I had a man continously say, “Please, I ask you” over and over at every individual action he suggested.

I’m somewhat disappointed to say that this trip was rather uneventful, for once.

We went in the late afternoon to pay off our health insurance bill. The waiting area was practically deserted, but somehow the employees that actually spoke English were all busy. Typical. I got a very friendly woman who spoke only Japanese, except for the word “finished”. She had me fill out a form for her, and every completed section got the audible response of “FINISHED!”, like I just completed a lap on a race. She would then explain the instructions for the next section entirely in Japanese. I would look back at her blankly, she would point at the paper like I was four years old, and nod. The sheet, thankfully, was in English, which made the necessary paperwork much easier to complete.

At the very end, she clapped, and said, “FINISHED!” alerting me that our entertaining fifteen minute reenactment of “Lost in Translation” was completed. We had to go upstairs to pay the bill, I was told, so we made our way up 9 floors in a glass elevator (nervous? Me? Nah) and entered the area to pay. It took only a few minutes, and we were out the door.

I’m almost a bit disappointed in you, Japan. I figured that process would’ve been at least four hours instead of one. You’re starting to slip, bureaucracy.

Phrase of the Day: Seifu (Say-foo) means “government”.

That’s a Wrap

And that’s it!

Yes, the light at the end of the final exam tunnel. We’ve finished them all, ladies and gentlemen. Well, there is still one last essay to write, but that isn’t due until after I leave Japan. I have the full week to get that done now.

So what’s next?

Well, tomorrow is “Bureaucracy Day”. I need to get some last things sorted before I can depart on Sunday, so it will be a wonderful day of queues and confused employees. I for one can’t wait.

After that? Well, there are still plenty of things to visit here in Japan…guess I’ll have to get on that.

Phrase of the Day: Soba (Soh-bah) means “Noodles”.