Saturday, 1 March 2014

The arrival and first things first

Note: Sorry, I'm way behind on the reports of my time here. Almost 5 months in fact. Life is not easy here and there is a lot to do, but I will get around writing more about it very soon. I had incredible experiences in the last months, and life is still fun and enjoyable, so stay tuned :)

My arrival to Japan was smooth like butter. My flight was fine, Etihad is quite a nice airline and I slept like a baby. They gave out nice little kits with earplugs, socks, a sleeping mask and other usefull stuff, all packed up in a cute little pouch. Anyways, upon arrival to Narita Airport the only thing I was a bit anxious about was the different type of visa I was carrying for the immigration procedure. I was told that it would be easy and again, it was. Efficient as usual.

I received my residence card (在留カード) right away. It's apparantly the same card that Japanese residents are using, so it was quite a feeling to get it. Luckily, I was told to present some certain piece of paper at the immigration officer, namely a "Permission to engage in other activities". By processing this piece of paper, my residence card got a stamp on the back stating that I'm in fact allowed to work, but not more than 28h per week. This lead to some confusion at first, because the front clearly says "not allowed to work". I had a heart-attack for a millisecond when someone pointed that out to me in the Khaosan bar.

I took the Keisei Skyliner from Narita and listened to different songs, one lovely piece from Klavierkunst and the other being "On top of the world" by Imagine Dragons. I had mixed feelings being finally here at the end of my plans but the beginning of a new road to my future. The emotional rollercoaster that was so typical for my trips to Japan was right there again, greeting me with it's sweet "welcome back" melody.

I felt like crying but also like smiling excessively. This time I came to stay, only leaving Japan for taking vaction and not going back from my vacation. Weird feeling, but so exciting!

First things first, I headed to Asakusa to check in to Khaosan Samurai Hostel again. I was happy to see friends and aquaintances again. For instance Aya-san, who I was chatting with quite often after my last trip during New Year. She lived in a shared house of the cheaper sort and I was curious if this would be a good place for me to stay if my expenses are too high. Her place was around 45.000 Yen and mine 70.000 Yen, quite a difference. Her shared house was part of the Ex-Khaosan family so to say and quite a party place. Not really my thing, I knew that right away.

The usual routine followed. Going to to the Sensouji-Temple and of course, getting a drink at the Ex-Khaosan Bar, now International Bar 634 or Musashi-Bar.

The next day I had a meeting with Stella, who worked for the Modern Guesthouse Living company. We met at Ryogoku station, which is famous for the Kokugikan sports arena, THE place for Sumo in Tokyo and probably Japan itself. Again, there was a little strange coincidence with this. My Iaido dojo back in Berlin was also called Kokugikan. This stuff always happens to me in Japan, I kid you not.

O-Sumo-San flags in front of the Kokugikan
Stella showed me my future room 906 on the top 9th floor near the station. The room was a bit smaller than I thought but the whole apartment itself was really lovely. The kitchen and the living room were huge and I didn't even have to worry about washing, drying, printing or other daily-life necessities which would cost money eventually. Even though I was supposed to move in from the beginning of October, the room was already empty and Stella handed me the key. I paid the deposit, signed the contract and that was it.

Shoe for size comparison
I then went on to visit Verena at my future school in Asakusa. After all the hundreds of emails and messages we finally met. After my registration with the school we had a little chat and she invited to me a nearby Curry place which serves a lunch menu for only 500 Yen. Quite cheap and also very delicious. I would be eating there a lot more in the future.

We made plans for the next days too. In fact, we already had a couple of things planned ahead of time. One was going to a fancy seminar/meeting of the Japanese-German Business Association (JDW). I brought my two bests suits to Japan, so I was totally up for that. Didn't have my business cards yet though. Another date was going to Sumo on Saturday. Verena is a Sumo expert and I was looking forward to see this traditional sport finally. In terms of bureaucrazy (no typo), I had two complete four more things. Get a personal seal to stamp official documents in Japan (around 800 Yen), open a bank account (only possible with a seal), register my address on my residence card and enter the Japanese National Health Insurance. Verena helped me with all of these except the bank account, I left that one up for myself as a challenge. And boy, what a challenge it was. I even sent a pic of the filled-out form to her during my waiting just to be sure that I'm not taking on a loan or so. But the people in the bank did their best to help me and eventually things got done, nice and smooth.

It turned out that a lot of procedures were either changed or adjusted to be simpler, making it a lot easier for foreigners to register in Japan or enter the National Health Insurance. However, without any Japanese or knowing where to go, it was next to impossible I thought. Even though she was kind of constantly nagging about how stupid and ineffecient the bureaucracy in Japan was, she was a great help.

I was quite busy on the very first weekend. I watched Sumo, met a lovely girl from China who lived and worked in Yokohama for over 3 years, and had a party night at my favorite club in Shibuya with people from Aya's shared house. I even registered myself online for the JLPT N3 exam in December. I was really on fire!

The Womb, favorite club in Tokyo

My party people for the night. German, Japanese, Spanish, Indian, French, we had it all!

Drunk couple holding hands. Cute.
Oh and because I still had some energy left, I met Junichi-san in Saitama at his home to have a meal together and to receive a lot of free stuff he was giving away. He was the guy who almost ended up in my place with his German wife. Before I visited his place to get random items, we went to my first Japanese pizza experience, a chain restaurant called Saizeriya (サイゼリヤ). Wasn't even that bad, if you don't mind the size. It was definitely cheap and would come in handy during my poor student days ahead.

Saizeriya Pizza. 2€ coin for size comparison.
Jun-san was so generous to even give me his bicycle for free! I was in Japan for only a couple of days but I already owned a bike, awesome sauce! I had to be careful though. First thing that the Japanese police seems to be checking is a Gaijin on a bike. Since this bike was still registered to Junichi-san, chances were high I could end up in jail even though he gave it to me for free. Luckily there was an app a form for that! It was the proof that he sold the bike to me and should save my ass in case the police checks me before I would register it to my own name and address. The only downer to this: a 2-3 hour ride by bike from Saitama to Ryogoku.

But even that I managed with all that energy and the pizza in my belly. Next to-do on my list: register as a model in a foreign talent agency. Let's see how that works out for me...