This post is by Beth L., an alumni of the International Education program at GWU.
A few things I’ve learned since arriving in Japan just one day ago.
#1: No, that’s not chocolate!
After our orientation and bento box lunch, our group took a walk around Asakusa today, visiting the Senso-ji temple. Near the temple, Monica (my travel buddy) and I spotted a line of Japanese teenagers around a snack stall. Through a series of hand motions, we each managed to procure a set of four adorably shaped Ningyo-Yaki: a bird, a dragon, a lantern, and a temple. We thought they looked like pancakes filled with melted chocolate, but we weren’t disappointed with the red bean paste we found inside instead.
#2: My luck is better than yours
In front of the shrine, we got our Omiguji fortunes told. We shook a box of chopsticks until one fell out of a hole the size of a pencil. On that pencil were markings, and we matched the markings to different draws containing fortunes. I got “good fortune” (Lucky me!) while Monica managed only a “regular fortune.”
#3: Stand on the left!
We DC residents know that, on the escalator, you walk on the left and stand on the right (I’m looking at you, cherry blossom tourists). It had taken me nearly 3 years to fully hammer that into my DC brain. So you can imagine I was ill-equipped to deal with Tokyo escalators, where one stands on the left and walks on the right.
#4: We’re not in Kansas anymore, or at least not Kansas’ public transit
I have been around the world and seen a lot of public transit systems. Heck, I don’t even own a car in Washington, DC, relying solely on a mixture of walking, biking, metro, bus, and short-term car rental. But no amount of Metro Center transferring could prepare me for Tokyo’s labyrinth of a metro system:
#5: Cat cafes are either amazing or disgusting and I’m not sure which
I think the title says it all. It had long been my dream to go to a cat cafe and snuggle cats while sipping a latte. Sadly, the cats did not feel like snuggling with me or anyone else. I’m not sure what those cats do like to do, but I am quite sure it is not any form of cuddling, playing, or purring. They seem to enjoy sleeping and stinking up the place. Still, a (smelly) dream fulfilled. In case cats aren’t your thing, never fear: They also have an “Owl and Parrot Cafe”
Thank you to the Japan Foundation and the Kakehashi Project for making this trip possible!