The Program Begins

Watch your fingers...
Tuesday the 3rd, the first day of the program, was an absolutely amazing day. After 12:00, people started to show up. First were Jackson and Sean. About an hour after they joined us, members started streaming in one after the other. It wasn't long at all until we had a full group.

A little after 4, a couple of Japanese women showed up and started taking a head count. Our program director, Shoji Azuma, wouldn't be showing up until Wednesday, apparently. After they had introduced themselves (I'm bad with names, so don't ask), they told us to go take a walk for 40 minutes; we would be leaving then.

I was planning to just go to the convenience store and grab a snack or a drink, but on the way there, most of us were distracted by the bookstore. I was in heaven. Japanese books everywhere. That 40 minutes went by like it was nothing.

I bought a couple of books (how could I not?) and then we all headed back downstairs. We were going to stop by the grocery store before hitting the wakoryo, so I just gave up on the convenient store.


High livin'
We all quickly packed up our stuff, and rolled/carried our way outside and began walking down the sidewalk to where the bus was. I was a little behind because I had to dismantle my boredom-relief station first, so one of our leaders and I talked a little. We talked about what school I came from. What textbook I used, etc.

I think the Japanese have a different sense of what a limo is. I saw several vehicles which I would almost certainly call “buses,” but on the side of them, it said “limousine.” Back in the states, Azuma-Sensei told us that we would be taken to our home in a limousine. I guess that was probably what he meant. We all packed our luggage in and hopped aboard the limousine.

When we first got in the car, I was reading one of the manga I had just bought. I looked up and out the window, and realized that there was something much more interesting I could be doing. Instead of sticking my nose in a book, I decided to take pictures of the Japanese countryside we were rolling through.

As we neared our destination, we went down an extremely narrow road. There were warning signs everywhere, but our driver must have been used to it, because he was wizzing by at a good 20 miles per hour. It was actually kind of scary.
This road is super narrow.
The picture really doesn't do it justice.


We finally arrived at the supermarket, our first stop. I didn't bring my camera inside, because I knew there would be a lot of people in there, and taking pictures of certain people tends to make them uncomfortable. 

Walking inside a Japanese supermarket was a crazy experience. It seemed relatively normal at first, but that was the produce department. I shuffled around the rest of the store with the rest of the confused mass of people, and we tried to find things we recognized to eat for dinner and breakfast the next morning. There were many strange packages, and, unsure what kind of kitchen setup we would be dealing with, I didn't really have the confidence to grab any of them. In the end, I bought some bananas, some natou (a traditional Japanese breakfast that I've always wanted to try), a thing of cup noodles and a big bag of rice. The bag of rice wasn't cheap, but I talked to the other people living in the wakoryo and they said they could chip in to share it.

The "main" road nearest to the wakoryo.

The Switcheroo

We piled back aboard the bus, and rode to the wakoryo, which was just up the street. After I got my stuff together and lugged it off of the bus, I saw the group outside. They were standing with one of the guys in charge of the program, and he was handing out our keys.

He gave Kilo, Jackson and I the keys to room 102, so we stepped in and started setting down our stuff. We were to meet in room 101 once the girls arrived.

Sorry, these came out blurry for some reason.

Something seemed a little off about the room. As you may recall from my previous post, we were promised a Japanese-style room. But this room had normal beds, and all hard-wood floor, and really the only thing that was Japanese about it was the genkan and the toilet. I was a little disappointed, but when we migrated over to room 101, I understood.

Room 101

It seems that somewhere along the way the groups on the lower floor got switched. There was kind of an awkward pause when we all realized this, so I filled that pause with my take on the situation. I apologized for if they had been getting excited, but I told them that I would feel robbed if I didn't get the Japanese-style room. The others understood, so we all picked up our luggage once more, and moved it over to the other room.

So we all settled into our respective rooms. Just as we were starting to get dinner started (cup ramen, yay!), everybody showed up and we started our meeting. We went over a few basic rules, when we would be meeting in the morning, and then everybody had their picture taken for a student ID. After everybody left, we finished our dinners and started getting the rooms figured out.

All of the futon were in our room, so it was a while before everybody had gotten settled in. I took a moment to look around and see what kind of tools we had to live with. The room is pretty well equipped. There is a rice cooker, a water heater (for tea, cup noodles, etc), a fridge and a washing machine. There is an interesting microwave/toaster oven-type thing, that works like a microwave but also has a heating element in the top. We have a full Japanese-style bath and shower setup, and  one of those beloved high-tech Japanese toilets, too.
I took a shower/bath, laid out on my futon, and prepared for what would surely be an awesome tomorrow.

I finally finished typing this post, and it is now 4 days after the fact. I'll try to go into as much detail as I can in future posts, but I'm going to start letting them center around pictures instead. Of course, I'll continue answering any questions you have for me.

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