Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Maiden Voyage

I am here in Gifu! and I can't believe it. Everything is so different, it's unreal and slightly overwhelming.
3 days ago, we got up at 4:00 am, and stumbled to the car in the dark. My dad, my mom, and my sister Rose all arrived at the airport and checked in with Asiana Airlines, and the computer said that I wasn't authorized to stay the 2 months, at which point I just stared at the screen and had a moment of panic. But it was just an error or something and the lady cleared it up. Then we had an hour to kill and the line for security was short so we got breakfast.

I had a delicious bagel and locks.

This is a picture of my two sisters, Rose and Ruby, and I right before I went through security.
Then I got on my plane to San Francisco, and I was excited to see that I had a window seat. But I promptly fell asleep and when I woke up, I looked out to see the Golden Gate bridge, and I was so amazed that I just stared and forgot to take a picture. When I arrived at San Francisco International I wandered around for an hour trying to locate Asiana Airlines, it was such a huge airport! I finally found my gate, and I was amazed by the Korean Air hostesses. So I stealthily took pictures of them.

It turns out that most asian airlines require their air hostesses to go to school, where they learn how to be polite, friendly, and sociable. They also learn how to apply makeup to look natural and sophisticated, unlike american air hostesses, who usually look like they applied their makeup with a paintbrush, and are usually rude. The Korean air hostesses all had matching uniforms down to their nylons and scarves. Ayako, my host sister, is unbelievably smart and is going to a prestigious college, and she wants to be a flight attendant. At first, I was really confused, because I was used to american flight attendants, but it's actually a highly honored and prestigious career in Japan. But it turns out that she is too short, and they don't have any rules about it but they won't hire her, because they want taller women. :( So she changed her dream to being a diplomat.
I left San Francisco bound for Korea at noon, in a huge plane that had 9 seat across. But I was in the middle so I couldn't take pictures out the window. During the flight I slept, watched movies, and drank tons and tons of water, which caused me to have to pee like 45 times.

Someone on the plane had a birthday, so the flight attendants dressed up and sung happy birthday to them, one of them even played the violin. It was so awesome.

It was really annoying to fly right over Tokyo, because I was going to have to fly back there anyway. I wish I could've like parachuted off the plane or something. haha.

Then I arrived in Korea at the Incheon Airport and I had to run to catch my plane because there was only one person helping check people at customs and the flight was a bit late. Luckily I made it, and had time to marvel at the Airport's architecture.

I felt like everybody was staring at me in the Korean Airport, but I guess I don't blame them. I must've been quite a site.
When I finally arrived at Narita in Tokyo, I was so happy to be there. But it wasn't over yet! I had to go through a huge customs line and then they took everybody's fingerprints and pictures. I was so happy when I finally saw Ayako, I ran and gave her a huge hug. then we took a bus to the Hotel, which was really fancy but we got to stay there cheap because her Dad has connections. Here is the lobby.

I thought it was so cute that Ayako was carrying a huge carton of green tea in her bag.

I took photos of everything, even the toilet. But seriously, the toilet was more complex than most computers. I stood there for 5 minutes trying to figure out how to flush it. haha

Vending machines. You can get almost anything out of a vending machine in Japan. No joke. Anything.

While Ayako and I were getting ready in the morning, I suddenly felt as if we were swaying, and I said "Are we moving?!" haha and Ayako was like "Earthquake!!!" and I freaked out but it was really no big deal, only a level 3. But we were on the eleventh floor, and the building was literally swaying. haha it was awesome.
Then we got on a bus that would take us to the airport, so we could get some breakfast and catch a train.
I love green tea.

Here is our hotel from far away.

It was really annoying that we had to lug around my huge suitcases all over the city all day, and Ayako and I ended up with blisters on our hands at the end of the day. haha.

Here is some plastic food in a display in the airport, a lot of restaurants have plastic representations of their food in front, and it's actually quite an art form making them.

For breakfast we went to(of all places) Mcdonalds! haha we just wanted fast food. It's amazing how tiny the portions are compared to in America, but it was just the right amount.

Then we began our endless treck that would take around 6 hours, going from subway to train to super fast train to subway. It was exhausting. But it was fun with Aya.

Ayako wears a mask in the trains to keep from catching germs, which I think is really smart, and a lot of people in Japan wear them to keep from catching germs and giving their sickness to someone else.

Tokyo Banana is a company that makes delicious twinkie-like confections that taste like bananas. mmmm so good. We stppped and got some for Aya's mom because she loves them. Another great thing about Japan is their customer service. I have not met one rude person at a restaurant or anything yet. They are always happy!

Here is a picture of the super fast train and the station from which we took it.

We were starving so we stopped in a tiny store and bought this delicious eel and rice ensemble for about ten dollars. It was amazing.

Then we got on the fast train, which looked like a plane inside and always sounded like it was going to take off.
I saw a lot of awesome stuff on that ride, we even saw Mt. Fuji, and Ayako yelled "Mt. Fuji!!!" when she realized, scaring the wits out of me and the japanese woman sleeping next to her. haha...

This is Aya looking very tired and cute.

Then we arrived in Nagoya, which was awesome, like a mini version of downtown Tokyo. I felt like I was in the future. There were glass buildings, where you could see the elevators shooting up and down.

Then we went down into the subway, and began the final stretch to Gifu. We were so tired, Ayako was doind to amazing thing where she sleeps standing up on the subway, so I tried it too, but it was difficult because I was hanging on the those overhead things and I kept swinging around. I managed to fall asleep a couple times but then the train would stop suddenly and I would lurch awake. haha.

I took a picture of this girl because I thought her style was really cute. Ayako and I were thinking I could ask people if I could take their picture for an American Magazine on an article about japanese culture or something. haha. So then they wouldn't think I was so creepy taking their picture. haha.

Finally, we made it to Gifu, and walked to Aya's apartment building. It's so awesome. We took the elevator up and Ayako's neighbor, this little boy, rode up with us. He looked terrified of me and as soon as his floor came he ran away. haha. poor kid.
Their room is super high up, and you can see all around the city for miles, it seems to never end. Here are some pictures of my room and their apartment.

Their apartment is tiny but it's just right. I even have my own balcony!
Aya's mom is so nice, and such a goooood cook! She made the most amazing curry the night we arrived, and I inhaled it and went to bed. I seriously wish I had a pool of her curry that I could dive headfirst into. And they gave me my own pair of slippers.

They also have a tiny dishwasher and a microwave that they also use as an oven. I love it.

So I went to bed at like 8 pm, and when I woke up Aya's mom had prepared this delicious breakfast of apples, bananas, kiwis, and plums in a bowl of yoghurt. I was really excited to learn that they eat this every morning. mmm.