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Japan Trip Day 1: This is different

I expected this trip to be a bit different than at home. I was scared because I didn't know what it'd be like. As of this paragraph, it is only 3 hours ago that my flight landed. I'm finally starting to understand what culture shock is. I actually feel like an out of place foreigner.

1 The challenges of Narita

I have sucessfully completed most of my missions at my stop in Narita (city, not airport). My debit card works and isn't rejected (as verified by a withdrawal using a 7-bank ATM), I have obtained sunscreen (it's thickly overcast, so not urgent, but now I have it. I have also obtained a bottle of the so famed Pocari Sweat. In the process, I have already accumulated an ungodly amount of coins (and in hindsight, I realize I gave a non-sensical combination of coins at the drug store. People there were nice though, and we were able to communicate using single words of Japanese and English. Not getting much milage out of all that grammar I've studied. Not that two interactions is a statistically significant dataset, but it's setting the tone for now. As I'm writing this, I'm on a train to my next exciting destination, where more challenges lurk, like lunch.

In the meantime, I'll enjoy with increadibly bumpy train ride, the train carridge is mostly empty, mostly there's what looks like middle school students.

2 So, what's up Chōshi?

If you look up Chōshi on a map, you might think I caught the wrong train to Tokyo, but it was the plan all along!

So, I'm in Chōshi. First order of business is to walk to Nakanocho to buy a one-day pass. It would technically be 20 cents cheaper to buy just a return ticket, but the one-day pass is a lot more substantial in terms of paper. And Japan is all about leaving a paper trail. The station itself is a bit hidden away, and I did manage to get lost once trying to find it. Thankfully Google maps on my tablet had cached the area around Chōshi, so I could find my way back and buy the pass.

The somewhat out of place station handling all advance ticket sale

Figure 1 - The somewhat out of place station handling all advance ticket sale

With a driver looking like that, I'm starting to wonder if their workers are unionized or not...

Figure 2 - With a driver looking like that, I'm starting to wonder if their workers are unionized or not...

After buying the pass, the plan was to head back to Chōshi station and get some ramen for my first meal in Japan. Sadly, since I got lost, there wasn't really time for that. As I line up on the platform, i see something somewhat unexpected. A dozen people holding up phones and cameras to film the train arriving. I was happy to join the crowd.

Off to Tokawa!

It was a bit of a wild trainride. It was about as bumpy as the ride to Chōshi, except this time it was going at 30 km/h. Interesting is that the train was quite used, every seat was taken and some where standing. I figured it was more popular for outings on the weekend, indeed as a lot of them were taking pictures.

Why am I even surprised? Well, the line gets subsudaries both from the city and the prefecture. Students from a local highschool ran a fundraiser in 2015, which collected a substantial part of the money required to repair a vehicle set damaged in a derailment. They also sell moist rice cakes and other snacks to support the railway. Railways in Japan are weird.

There was a snack trolley service on this train, but there's something different about it...

Figure 3 - There was a snack trolley service on this train, but there's something different about it...

To make up for that missed meal, I thought I'd stop by the 7-11 and grab something quick to eat. As it turns out, the only food item I saw that I could tell for sure what it was, was a tuna/mayo onigiri. It confirmed two things for me: I don't really like fish, and I don't really like nori (dried sheets of seaweed.) Although I think I can live with them.

I then checked out the coast and the areas around the lighthouse in Inubō.

Figure 4 - Waves hitting the rocks.

The Important mission in Chiba

The heat and humidity was starting to take its toll on me, and I could tell that despite a liberal slathering of SPF50, my skin was starting to get tired of my bullshit, so I retreated back to Inubō station. On the train back, I think they where running behind the timetable, a very dirty thing in Japan. They were going considerably faster, the connection through the two carrages where flexing like crazy, and at every stop they where running and shouting. As they opened the doors at Chōshi, the clock rolled over to 16:35, the listed time of arrival.

I ended up running to my connection, but as it turns out, it didn't start moving until I had walked through almost the entierty of the train.

I have a feeling I'm missing something, a summer festival or something. As I'm on the train towards Chiba, I see a significant amount of young women in kimono onthe platform for trains towards Chōshi. Too bad, part of me wants to head back and figure out what that's about, but I have some kind-of pressing things to sort out first. Also interesting is the man in the seats in front of me. He's spreading out on two fully reclined seats sipping some 9% alcopop. I don't mind, he asked me first in surprisingly decent English.

Anyway, I got off at Chiba. Yodobashi camera is my target, where I'm going to buy a B-Mobile visitor SIM and a USB wall charger. Should be simple enough. Except I don't have any cached google maps data anymore. All I have to guide myself is the needle on the map (thanks past self for adding it!) and the blue dot being my position, with no landmarks to guide me. My compass got a fair amount of use to guide me to the roughly correct spot, but after that I was lost. I ended up buying a drink to use thier free wifi. Turns out I was in the same buiding as it, with entrances around both corners. Doh.

I get there and for the first time so far, I struggled at communicating with them. I don't know how much was my fault, but after a whole chain of misunderstandings and involving a half-dozen employees, I leave the store with almost the things I wanted, and only about ¥1000 more expensive than intended.

The Escape From Chiba

After an equally confusing search to find my way back to Chiba station, I somehow borded the same train as planned. I did fail with parts of my mission though, I didn't get a good shot of the Chiba monorail, my patience had run out and it is really dark even at 7pm! I like monorails, mostly because of that song in that one episode of The Simpsons. With the data SIM in hand, my days of getting hopelessly lost are hopefully over.

For once, arriving at the hostel was rather uneventful, I managed get the right exit and found it immediately. While there, I did get my data SIM working, and the charger doesn't seem to blow anything up, At this point I was very sleepy and should've gone to sleep immedately. Instead I ended up chatting with others at the hostel until 1:30 at night. Will I cath the early train as planned? That'll be next post.


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