Tokyo Orientation started pretty much the second we disembarked from the plane. While taking a second to collect myself in the bathroom, myself and some of the lovely Scottish people got a little behind the main group and had to be rounded up by a lady with a sign. We didn’t quite realise that the whole group were waiting for us either – or we’d have walked a little faster!
That’s my first Tokyo Orientation Top TIP! Either go to the bathroom just before you land, or go to the very first bathroom you see in the airport. You won’t have a chance to do much else until you get into your hotel room.
After being rounded up, we were shuttled through immigration. My previous experiences in Narita have involved quite long queues, so I was pleasantly surprised at the speed at which we were shuttled through. They take fingerprints and pictures, and then you are moved to a desk where your zairyu (residence) card is completed.
After that, you head through to baggage collection. I’d done some serious packing hacks for the plane involving three coats and stuffing extra clothing into the pockets, so I really wanted to get the coats into my bigger bag to be shipped down to Tamana without me having to carry them! All the blogs I had previously read had suggested that I wouldn’t be given any time at this point, but I actually found I had more than enough time to repack my luggage to my satisfaction. After repacking, I walked through customs with no trouble as I wasn’t bringing any medication in so didn’t need to go through the yakkei shounin (or however you spell that customs form..).
Following the chain of purple people, I headed outside to the buses. It was a really painless process to send off my larger bag to my prefecture, and get the smaller of my suitcases onto the bus.
We were bussed to the hotel through the bottom half of Tokyo over the Rainbow Bridge and past Odaiba. It was beautiful and after our super long flight we were all really happy to see some of the sights.
When we got to the hotel we had a short briefing followed by collecting our name badges, our JET bags with our documents in, and our room keys. This was the thing I was a little concerned about because I knew we would be sharing rooms with other people, but I wasn’t sure who. Would they be on my flight or would they be total randoms from other places in the world who I’d have to live with? Luckily, my two roommates were Ami and Sophie (remember them?) so we were all on the same plane and we’d hung out previously which was really nice. I was on an earlier bus to them, so I made it to the room first! And gave myself the smallest bed because I’m a lovely person XD All the beds were full doubles though so it wasn’t that much of a sacrifice. I also put the kettle on because I am a good friend and British to the core! We were all going to need a cup of tea after that trip.
We slightly unpacked and then Sophie and I headed off to find a konbini (convenience store) for a snack because I couldn’t face any more airplane food and had rejected my final meal on the plane as it made me feel sick. I bought some chocolate brownie ice cream and some jelly for a delicious first meal back in Japan. We headed back to our room which had a glorious view of the Tokyo Metropolitan Building and collapsed into bed. We had to be up for breakfast by 7:00 after all, and it was now about 23:30.
Tokyo Orientation was all a bit of a blur but the most important thing they tell you is that you MUST remember a suit jacket for the Welcome Ceremony. Luckily we all managed to do that and so were permitted to enter the huge hall to take our places with the other new JETs.
My stomach had not been pleased with me after all the plane food, and the jet lag was kicking in a bit too. The best description of it was like a wave, you’d be at the top and feel great, then suddenly you’d come crashing down and find you’d zoned out for the last ten minutes and had no idea what was going on, before heading back up again. Another top tip that I found for this was to actually use the breaks. It might be tempting to sit down and relax, but if you get up, go to the loo or get some water which they hand out between sessions, you feel better. I also made sure I took my complementary room water with me to the session so that I drank enough throughout the day.
The workshops on the first day ranged from formal introductions to various CLAIR staff members, Team Teaching demos by current JETS and JTES, Professionalism and Manners and more. We also got fed lunch which I don’t remember being too exciting but it was at least plentiful. Most irritatingly for the UK JETs was the lack of tea as there was only coffee on offer after the meal.
Once the day was over we had a short time to relax which we used to head back up to the room to drop off our paperwork from the day before heading down to the Welcome Reception. This was an event where we could meet other people heading to our prefectures, eat and drink. I met a lot of people but the most memorable part for me was probably the sweep I did of all the long tables to try and clear up any remaining puddings! The chiffon cake was delicious and I wanted all of it. Much to Sophie’s annoyance I also managed to snag a brownie despite her trawling around the hall looking for them. We then headed back up to our room to change again and headed out into Tokyo with a selection of UK JETs to do some karaoke. #sleepisfortheweak
Day Two started bright and early with breakfast at 7:30ish. We were pros at this buffet lark so for me it was straight to the melon plate and the tea! I think I may have also had chips for breakfast on Day Two. I needed the salt..
Day Two comprised of classes from the British Council on how to teach various aspects of English. Most of the classes were interactive which was nice, but it was easy to drift off as most of us were still pretty jet lagged.
After the main workshops we were released to our prefectures where we met our PAs (Prefectural Advisors) for the first time. It was scary and exciting all at once to meet people you’d been emailing from the other side of the world. Luckily the Kumamoto PAs are very nice people who seemed to understand how shell shocked we all were and made sure to give us all the information in paper form (and cookies!). We were gently given the news we’d have to leave the hotel early in the morning so I had to be eating breakfast at 7am. I just counted my lucky stars I wasn’t in the group who had to leave at 6:30 and have a special restaurant opened for them! I think that might have been Sendai. After we were instructed, we had some photos taken and we were dismissed. The PAs were heading out to dinner with anyone who wanted to join them, but UK JETs had an invite to the British Embassy and how often do you get to go to the British Embassy for a reception? Well I mean we’d been twice in the last two weeks but that’s a bit unusual!
We headed off to get changed and met back up in the lobby of the hotel with the other UK JETs who were going. Tokyo then decided to really help us out and absolutely chucked it down with rain. We were going to use the metro but just getting to the metro had most of us totally soaked! Luckily the Embassy is really close to the station, so we scurried in and were able to dry off with the help of some wine.
The reception was interesting, we had presentations on various things and the Ambassador spoke to us. We also had a display of taiko drumming from the Embassy taiko team, and we were fed which is always a bonus. When the reception was over we then headed back to the hotel and I started to pack as I had to be up super early the next morning.