Jul 1, 2018
For those who have been wanting to visit Japan for a long time, the first visit can be magical, but it can also have its disappointments. Here are some of my memories from my first visit (which was eleven years ago).
Landing at Narita Airport, my first impression of Japan was that there were lush green hills, with bamboo and conifers thickly growing. (In another article, I'll comment more on my obsession with the greenery eventually taking over any inanimate objects.) I didn't see this as a huge difference from living in Oregon, US, but it was a huge difference from living in Southern California where the plants look brown and dead most of the time.
Arriving at the crowded airport was inviting and crowded, but well organized. I didn't remember having any issues with the language difference despite my limited ability. Now the airport is redesigned with the 2020 Olympics in mind, but at that time there were still payphones in the lobby.
I mean a lot of confusion and a super quick acceptance that I didn't know what was going on 90% of the time. But I was in Japan!
There was so much asking for help. And apologizing. There was also lots of giving gifts to everyone who helped us out. We had a few friends in Tokyo who helped us so much. From hosting us in their homes to inviting us to go sightseeing, it made the experience a lot more special than staying in a hotel would have been.
The first day we walked past shoe lockers at the entrance of an onsen and at the check in desk were politely asked to take our shoes off. Silly foreigners.
I believed my grandpa when he told me I wouldn't be able to use a Debit Card. I don't blame him, but I should have known better. I didn't bring it and couldn't get cash at an ATM the whole time I was in Japan. I had to pay with a credit card (not set up with a pin for cashback) and borrow money from my friend the whole time. Not that many places accepted credit cards and back then most people paid cash for everything.
I've always loved Japanese design and knew I'd be blown away by all the cute. I took lots of pictures of architecture and scenery. I don't think I had a digital camera yet and I definitely didn't have a cellphone. My eyes were wide open and took in all the new sights.
I was so sad to go, but knew I'd be back. There's something about Japan for me and I'm guessing most of you have a strange place in your heart for the country as well.