Japan (Part 1)

I’m in between jobs right now so on the suggestion of my parents, I decided to take a short vacation to Tokyo (東京).  The final decision was a bit spur-of-the-moment; I only bought the plane tickets on Friday and I left Seattle yesterday.  I’m sure there will be a lot going on over the next week, and I won’t have time to chronicle everything in minute detail, so I’ll settle for writing short paragraphs about little adventures here and there.  Here goes…

I got to the airport early but my flight was delayed a couple hours, so I found an outlet, connected to the wifi and worked on an Android app while I waited.  It’s on my github, if anyone out there is interested (latest changes haven’t been pushed yet).  I made more progress than I expected to, which was encouraging.  Some of the Android dev I’ve tried to do in the past hasn’t gotten very far, so it was cool to get some basic functionality in this new app.

I wondered if people I met in Japan would assume that I was Japanese because I’m Asian and speak to me in Japanese.  So far, most Japanese people I’ve met have just started speaking to me in Japanese right away.  Occasionally they’ll switch to English, or start using more English words when they realize my Japanese is obviously non-native.  I’ve forgotten a lot of Japanese since I last took classes.  But, some of it is coming back to me as I talk to people and I’m still able to communicate semi-decently, although there are times that I have to switch to English because I just don’t understand.

The famously intimidating train stations in Tokyo are actually intimidating.  While buying tickets and figuring out where to go hasn’t been too bad, there is a huge preponderance of train lines.  Also, it apparently matters which car of the train you get on; certain cars open doors at specific stops.  I’ve also discovered that you insert your subway ticket in the *right* side of the gate and not the left.  I’ve already inserted my ticket and tried to enter the wrong gate twice now.

Also, I think I mistakenly got on the wrong train from the airport to Shinagawa.  While it still went to Shinagawa, the train I was supposed to get on was an express train and I got on the non-express one, making my trip a lot longer than it probably should have been.  This turned out to be a good thing, though.  As I sat on the train and watched people get on and off the train, I noticed a couple and two young kids signing to each other.  After making sure that they really were signing and not just waving their hands around while they talked, I moved my bags over and sat across from them so I could start a conversation.  I motioned to get their attention and asked if they were deaf, which they confirmed.  They looked happy to talk to me.  Communication seemed a little more difficult than I expected it to.  Some of the signs they used were similar to the ones I’d learned, yet others were completely different.  Occasionally, the mom would ask her hearing son, who looked about 11, to say something for her when she couldn’t get the message across.  After a bit of signing back and forth and spelling things in the air, I realized that they were from Brazil and signing Brazilian Sign Language (Libras)!  Communication was a lot easier after that, and got even better after we compared ASL and Libras fingerspelling alphabets.  It was fun to learn signs in a different sign language, and it was cool to discover that we could still communicate on a basic level, even though there were some major sign differences.

After getting off the final stop in Shin-yokohama (新横浜), I had a ways to walk to get to the hotel.  The map I had printed out wasn’t super detailed, so it was a little difficult to figure out which direction I was going.  I stopped a couple times to ask for directions in Japanese.  I kept seeing stores that were still open late at night (why can’t Seattle have that?) that I wanted to check out, but I figured I should probably check in to the hotel first instead so I wouldn’t have to carry all my bags around.  But now that I’m actually at the hotel, I realized that I’ve been up for a long time and that I’d rather go to sleep.

Also, the bathroom door in my hotel room confusingly is a push to open instead of pull to open like every bathroom I can remember.  I wonder if this is a Japanese thing.

More adventures tomorrow…

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4 thoughts on “Japan (Part 1)

  1. Wow, I didn’t even notice that you put the tickets on the left side of the gate. I guess I have just follow the crowd and did it correctly accidentally. Signing in Libra, that is super cool.

  2. Now you must find a Deaf Japanese person to sign with! Although, I’ve read the sign language is used far less frequently in Japan…

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