Today came in highs and lows. The largest low was this morning's (for me, it was Thursday evening for Philly folks) panicked phone call from my mom that Frannie, our oldest cat, was having severe labored breathing. She's responding to lasix, thank God, but this was my nightmare situation, and it happens within 24 hours of my landing in Japan. The rest of the day basically centered around transportation and sundry tasks related to orientation preparation. I am highly excited that with the help of 5-10 fine Japanese people and one wonderful Pakistani man, I made it from the hostel to the Kanayama Plaza hotel. I did originally go to the Kanayama Washington Hotel, only to find out that it was not the right hotel and then start the long walk to the correct hotel. By long I mean, under five blocks, but with my sense of direction, language, and reading skills, probably another 1-2 hours of wandering around Nagoya.
I am proud to say that I have succeeded in using and understanding the Nagoya Subway system. I decided upon leaving my hostel/ryokan that since I had five and a half hours to kill before I checked in at the hotel that instead of taking the cab to the train station, I'd walk it. According to the hostel website and my roommate, it was only a ten minute walk and it would it save me the 7500 yen for the cab ride. So I set off in the direction that Hiro-san had told me towards what I thought was the Meitetsu Line.
Now, to put things in context, before I left Philly, I printed out google map directions from the hostel to the hotel, as well as for every other place I thought I'd need to go in the first few days. They've been only mildly helpful, in large part because the street maps are grainy and the station names and lines are written in Kanji. Small, grainy kanji. So I've been highly dependent on asking for directions about every 5-10 minutes in order to see if I'm on track. The major problem with asking for directions in a language you barely speak is that you don't know if you're asking for what you think you're asking for. So, for example, I thought I asked where the train station was for the Meitetsu line because I was trying to get to Kanayama. What I got was the subway station. So I'm looking at my grainy map, comparing it to the Nagoya subway map that I thankfully printed as well, and realizing that if I take the Sakura-dori line to Nagoya station, I'll be back in line with my google maps directions. (for however helpful that will be.) And so my luggage and I went underground.
I asked for directions again before descending, and was told to go to the Kokksai Center (cultural center) stop and then take the Sakura-dori line one stop to Nagoya. So I followed signs for Sakura-dori (thankfully in English) until I got to a station. A lovely old woman pointed me to the nearest Sakura-dori station. She probably was giving me useful information in Japanese (like, the fact that I was not going to the cultural center) but I didn't understand it. So I get to the stop, and it's Sakura-dori, but not Koksai Center. At every station, there's a giant map of the subway line above the automatic ticket counter. It has a “You Are Here” in Japanese, which is prominently displayed in Kanji. I had a good feeling that the kanji in question meant “you are here” and a nice person confirmed this for me.
Once I got to Nagoya Station, I was greeted with a station that was five levels deep and connected with multiple subways and buses, and so the confusion began again. But again, with the aid of “doko desu ka” and the ability to follow signs, I made it to the train. My confidence with asking for directions and using Japanese subways is growing by leaps and bounds! Of course, when I got off of the train, I found the Kanayama Washington Hotel with little difficulty--stopping at a vender inside the train to get some amazingly delicious tamago sushi with seaweed wrapped something that was also tasty as heck! Not speaking the language well means you have to be adventurous with food. I rarely know what I'm eating, beyond in the most general sense: looks like sushi, could be chicken, maybe that's an orange, betting that's milk, etc. But it's all been great so far—knowing what you're eating is clearly overrated. Also, thankfully, there are lots of pictures on food and drink, and English abounds, at least in Nagoya, so it's not as confusing as it could be. I have a can of mangos from the store I went to yesterday, and chopsticks, so that's breakfast.
Which is where I'm leaving off today because I have to get showered and dressed for Orientation now.
Day one, second half to come soon!
Food note: I had an Onigiri (rice and something wrapped in seaweed--delicious) yesterday labeled シナ＝ shina, which meant inside the rice and seaweed was Shina. Tasted like Tuna, and when I looked up Tuna one of the selections was シナ = canned tuna. So now I've added Canned Tuna to my list of food vocabulary!