Waking up to, “I don`t know what time you were planning on waking up, but it`s 0822” was not the most promising start to my first full day in Japan.
A day of talks
In a flurry of minutes I was sorted and booted and had tackled at least some of the inevitable dehydration of sleeping in an air conditioned room.
Queuing for the elevators (as would eventually become a staple feature of Orientation) I bumped into an American gentleman who would later turn out to be the other new JET in Bungo-Ono.
Stepping out of the lift (which I`ve already written above as elevator; how quickly and easily I am influenced by the Americans around me?) I bumped into Emma Bainbridge, whom, despite being Northern, was a welcome sight in a sea (or tsunami!) of Americans.
Sitting in the Main Concord of the Keio Plaza Hotel, Tokyo, an ornate ballroom of grandeur and sophistication lacking in the ballroom of Strictly Come Dancing, it resembled what I can only ever remember seeing in films where a cult is preached to by the Supreme Terrestrial Overlord, whilst paying several thousands dollars for the privilege.
Thankfully, this event involved neither of those things, but did involve a number of presenters informing us about the JET Programme.
A key social difference I discovered at this point did not involve the Japanese at all, but instead was the clear difference in pride loudness between the Brits and Americans, who whooped and cheered at the mere mention of a state or even the US of A, whilst the British sat in utmost respectful silence. Naturally the Australians and New Zealanders were torn between which overlords to adopt: their distant ancestors the Brits, along with their ruling monarchy, or the Land of the Free, frightfully optimistic American `buddies`. At best they opted for a mere alley cats copy of the all American `YEEEEAAHHH!!!`.
Lunch also offered another example of these differences. Whilst on the 47th floor surveying the unending urban mass that is Tokyo – extending in every direction as far as one can see, in a white and grey mosaic pricked frequently and sporadically by colossal buildings that dwarf the surrounding seven-storey properties, until Mt. Fuji looms at the end of the earth towering over everything from somewhere beyond the horizon – a young American happened to per chance spot a roof top on which grew a bed of green foliage…
“Grass on the roof???… Only in f@cking Japan!”
Oh those crazy Japanese…
The evening then saw the reception event, in which everybody was divided into prefectural groups and hosted around the same table to facilitate inter-prefecture mingling; this was apparently a real struggle for people like Rachael and myself, who took a while to warm up and be sufficiently lubricated to mingle with the unknown Oita peeps.
By the end of the session, Anthony (the other new Bungo Ono ALT (Assitant Language Teacher), Aaron, Tamarah, Lorel, Zack and Sarah had been met, equally lubricated with beer, and a plan made to go to karaoke – finally!!!
Can we Karaoke?
A group of 12 or so of us soon occupied the room and circled the table. Unlike Western karaoke, Asian karaoke is done in the fully terrifying safety of your friends in your own private booth.
And what a booth! Two microphones, two TVS, and two tablets to select the songs. Yet all this outdone by the 60s inspired, Elvis Presley microphone and stand upon its own staged area!
Thankfully the average level of Japanese language in the room was pulled up from zero to a level in which we were able to negotiate the Japanese system to find the roman alphabet and western songs.
Highlights included Let it Go, Do you want to Build a Snowman? Barbie Girl and ended in a soaring crescendo of a group rendition of Mr Brightside.
Truly, I had arrived in Japan, and the Lord had made it good.