Left home in greater Minneapolis 3 days ago, and now in Ebina, Japan. Our adventure so far...
The flight - direct from Minneapolis to Narita JP - was uneventful, except for the uncomfortable 1 1/2 year old sitting next to me. I guess Mirah does not like 12 hour plane rides. Who would have thought?
There were a lot of forms to fill out getting ourselves and our things here. That was expected, and it payed off. (Entering the country was smooth.) Since being here, there have been some more forms, notably, a form to exchange cash (get Yen from Dollars), where I was asked my hotel and its phone number. I think perhaps the more info is on a form, the less language-barrier-type-mistakes might be made, but still it feels a little like big brother is following my paper trail.
Speaking of language barrier, the airport was relatively easily navigable, but in large part because there are people standing around ready to tell you what to do next in English. I imagined the rest of Japan to be just like the airport, but without those helpful people. It turned out our hotel, Nikko Narita, was very English friendly, and convenient. There's a small convenience store where I got some snacks before bed, and - while the thought never crossed my mind - the cashier put a few plastic spoons in my bag with my snacks. They must have done this before.
The next morning, we had an arranged ride from the airport to our next hotel in Ebina. Our chief concern about Ebina was that where the airport hotel was international/multilingual (read western), Ebina (being farther out from Tokyo) would be hard to navigate by unpracticed newbies like us. The car ride of about 2 hours took us from the sparser NE outskirts of Tokyo center, into the sea of massive architecture in Tokyo proper, and out into more local streets starting around Machida. From there, the streets got smaller, tighter, and (what seemed) busier, through a few more neighborhoods (probably more properly, cities). And we finally landed in Ebina, our next unknown home.
Priority 1: internet. It turns out there's not a lot of English spoken here, but somehow, it's still possible to communicate. Wireless was showing up at the hotel, but encrypted, and no documentation about the WEP key in the room. Went to the front desk armed with the SSID written on paper. "intaneto?", I asked. "intaneto akusessu?", he replied. I pointed to the SSID, then the space below it. Bingo. The guy had the 10 digits memorized.
Priority 2: food. If we were to survive this place, we would need to eat supper. Looked up how to get to the mall with the fruits of priority 1, and we were off with the stroller. Walked around, found a food court, and ordered some Italian food by pointing and trying to pronounce our orders. (They were labeled in katakana: na-po-ri-ta-n, and ma-ru-ge-ri-ta. The examples were in view to us, but not to the order taker, so pointing wasn't really effective at this restaurant.) We got our food, but had a little trouble with what we were supposed to do with our garbage after. [It's 2 days later and I still don't know that one.]
And with that, we had a home base we could live in for a while. More adventures to come.