Having arrived in Japan two weeks ago, I am still suffering the adverse effects of jet lag and the vertigo of cultural difference. A person’s home country provides manifold means of connection. Calibration to a cultural pulse provides familiarity at moments so mundane that they pass under the threshold of awareness. Their cultural personality congeals over time and is reinforced at every moment that they are affirmed by their culture. It is only after having lived in another cultural matrix that I have been able to discover this subtle aspect of the personality, which is susceptible to delineation only when it is uprooted and stricken at its core.
My first two weeks in Japan were comprised of orientations and activities intended to aid us in adjusting to a new culture. During this time, and before moving in with our host families, my program group stayed at the Sakura Hotel in Ikebukuro, a popular temporary home-stay for internationals.
Of all the locations visited by our group during orientation, the most iconic is perhaps the Tokyo Sky Tree, currently the tallest tower in the world. The tower stands at 2,080 feet (or 634 meters) in Sumida, Tokyo.
Beyond its allure as a tourist attraction, the tower is used for radio and television broadcasting. From the highest levels of the tower, one can see Tokyo’s vast city sprawl. We waited in a long, winding line for ten minutes and were finally brought to the top of the tower via a large elevator that fits around 30 people.
If the sky is clear, one is afforded a view of Mount Fuji. Unfortunately, we did not go on such a day.
One of the other notable orientation activities was an earthquake simulation facility. Earthquakes are fairly common in Japan. We have experienced two in the past couple of weeks (albeit, small ones). At the facility, half of the group sat in the first floor of a model Japanese house. The Japanese earthquake scale ranges in magnitude from 1-7. The attendant progressively increased the intensity of the earthquake level by level. In all, we each experienced 8 different intensities of earthquakes: one for each level on the scale, and one that emulated the seismic activity profile of the March 11th, 2011 earthquake in Japan. We were familiarized with the protocol for earthquake safety. Of particular importance is the fact that it is safer to be inside a building than on the streets, where one is at risk of being injured by falling glass.
My time in Japan–even after such a short period–is proving to be a valuable experience. I look forward to further documenting my experiences, both for myself and the reader.