Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Flashback Friday: Alone in Japan

As you've probably noticed, I've pretty much run out of cohesive adventure stories to tell for Flashback Friday. So today, you get another set of brief anecdotes that together make up an adventurous whole. At least I hope so.

I spent the summer of 2000 on a BYU Study Abroad program in Kyoto, Japan. It was a wonderful experience and I still look back on that time as being a little slice of heaven.

All was not ease and sunshine, however. At the end of the program, I had plans to go to Tokyo, population 12 million, to hang out with a Japanese exchange student who my family had hosted in Oregon the year before. I was going to stay with her, get taken around the city by her, and basically shown a safe, planned-ahead good time by her.

What ended up happening was that I got off the train in Tokyo and after parting ways with a few fellow BYU students, I was completely by myself, with no idea where I was even going to sleep that night. It was thrilling, exciting, and moderately terrifying.

I found a good youth hostel but they couldn't take me until the next night. Somehow I found a hotel for that night in a moderately sketchy (for Japan) neighborhood of Tokyo. I had to walk a ways from a distant train station to get there and in doing so, I heaved all my luggage down a flight of stairs into an underground pedestrian tunnel only to encounter a passed out drunk guy. I walked past him as quietly as I could through the underpass and juuuuust managed not to wake him. I dragged my stuff up the stairs...and realized I had crossed the wrong way across the street. I'd like to point out that this is the second week in a row this has happened to me in a Flashback Friday.

So I did what I had to: I hauled everything back down the stairs, back across the tunnel, back past the sleeping drunk guy, and back up the stairs. And I didn't make that mistake again.

Other highlights of my solo days in Tokyo include attending the Tokyo ward/branch of my church. I think I ended up at the international meeting because I remember a few models and random foreigners being there. (Two of those random foreigners happened to be missionaries who were serving in Tokyo but who were from my hometown. It is a small Mormon world sometimes, let me tell you.) The models in the congregation sat together, in front of me, and I remember eavesdropping on their conversations about what it was like to be a Mormon super(ish)model. Most of that conversation revolved around the models having to tell the people in charge over and over again exactly what they would not take off for a picture.

Speaking of taking clothes off, the hostel I eventually ended up staying at did not have private bathing facilities. Instead, it had a traditional Japanese public bath - you scrubbed off at a common showerhead and then took a long (nude) soak in a big hot tub, accompanied by other strangers doing the same thing. Thinking back, and knowing myself as I do, I can hardly believe I went there, and did that, but I did. I think my reasons for doing so involved needing to take a shower and having no other place to do so, but also a little bit of wanting to experience the culture, for real, all the way.

I did meet up with my Japanese friend the night before I left and it was great to see her. Even though things didn't turn out exactly the way I had planned, I had a good time on my own in Tokyo.

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