Friday, June 14, 2013

The Waiting Game, Part 3 (Parts 1 & 2 to come)


That still seems a bit surreal to say. I’ve been working toward this for over a year now, and part of me can’t believe that it’s finally paying off. More than anything, it’s overwhelming. After the initial 5 minutes of excitement, I entered panic mode. There is so much do to. How do I pack a suitcase for moving to the other side of the world? How do I keep track of everything that I need to do, buy, sell, learn, and submit? HOW AM I NOT MORE PREPARED FOR THIS AFTER A YEAR OF PLANNING?!

Deep breath. It is the 14th today. I literally did a double-take at the calendar this morning (the 14th? Where did the 13th go?!). It is exactly three months until I leave for Nagoya. Though I’m still terrified, it’s more contained now. There’s room for the excitement. I can remind myself that I WANT to do this and I’m happy about it.

I’ve sent in my contract and some paperwork needed to get my visa, so I’m playing the waiting game again. The process to get a working visa is pretty long, but it is made easier/possible by the fact that my employer is sponsoring me. The Japanese government has okayed me for a Certificate of Eligibility, which is being sent to the school to be forwarded on to me. Once I get this—in up to 10 weeks—I take it to the nearest Japanese consulate to apply for my work visa. For me, this means a trek to Detroit. I have to admit, a daytrip to Detroit scares me more than moving to Japan for a year. Is that denial or remarkable good sense?

Whenever I say I’m moving to Japan, the first thing people ask me is where I’ll be. From the way most of these conversations have progressed, I’ve learned that (A) Tokyo is the only place in Japan that most people can name (aside from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which shall henceforth be referred to as The-Cities-That-Must-Not-Be-Named), and (B) they still don’t know where that is, so it makes a pretty poor reference point.

Map of Japan, helpfully color-coded into regions that don't mean anything.

I’m going to be in Nagoya, which is the third or fourth largest city in Japan, depending on who you ask. Nagoya is especially interesting to me because it’s the auto capital of Japan, much like Detroit is for the U.S. As a Michigan girl, that’s extra exciting! Here’s Nagoya:

Don’t panic. Tokyo is right there.

Well, that’s kind of misleading. The big red circle is actually around Aichi, my prefecture. The red dot inside the circle is Nagoya.

Nagoya, its friends, and the loser towns not big enough to have names.

Before I go any further, let me address the wonky way Japan is divvied up. For the most part, Japan is divided into regions (see picture 1), then into prefectures, then into cities, towns, villages, etc. The regions aren’t official or administrative in any capacity. They’re like the American Midwest or New England states—just general groupings of geographically close places. Officially, Japan is divided into prefectures (American translation: states). Within these prefectures, there is the occasional city that is big enough to be subdivided into wards. The closest American parallel I can draw is something akin to the boroughs of New York City—each ward/borough has its own small government that is under the direct supervision of the city government. Only very large cities are divided into wards, and Nagoya is one of these.

Nagoya’s Wards

I will be living in the Midori ward of Nagoya, which is the capital city of Aichi prefecture in the Chubu region on the island of Honshu. It’s a great placement, and I’m so excited!

Flights started at just under $1100. I decided to fly from Michigan to Denver in order to split up my travel time, thus knocking a couple hours off the horrendously long second leg of my journey. Even so, the flight from Denver to Narita will be about 12 hours.
Actually, I have an aisle seat. Score!
Narita International Airport, which is in Tokyo, is only the end of the second leg, not the final destination. Almost all the flights in and out of Japan go through Narita (I read this in a manga and fact-checked it on Wikipedia, so take that with a grain of salt). I’ll have just over two hours on the ground here, presumably just enough time to get through customs, change over my money, and stop hyperventilating. There will likely also be some cringing in the bathroom mirror at how tired I look, since it will be approximately 2:30 a.m., Michigan time.

The final flight is short and sweet—just over an hour—and will take me to Nagoya, where my new boss will pick me up. I anticipate making a great first impression.

I will presumably spend the hour-long trip to my new apartment forgetting all my Japanese, sweating through my clothes in the heat of a subtropical summer evening, and feeling self-conscious over my appearance (and scent) after almost 24 straight hours of traveling. At the very end of the day, I will meet the teacher I’m replacing (and my temporary roommate), G. Then I will collapse.