Saturday, 2 April 2016

Wandering To Work

Day 1 of work started the day after I landed and I woke up with one mission in mind: get to work on time. Being in a completely new area, this was easier said than done. I got lost at least five times while trying to find the train station and Google maps was of no assistance because 1) I did not have Wifi en route and 2) when I looked up directions prior to leaving, it told me things like "head northeast" and "cross the crosswalk". Well Google maps, let me ask you this, "which direction is northeast??" (my compass obviously didn't make the cut into baggage) and "which crosswalk???" Luckily, I knew enough Japanese to ask for directions and eventually found the Yoyogi Station, which is about a ten minute walk from where I live in Sendagaya (side note: one of the cool things about the Tokyo area is that everything is generally within a walkable distance).



One of the things I get to see during the walk to work. Notice the diagonal crosswalk! It's been a game changer.

In Japan, there are two basic methods of transportation (three if you count the bus): the train, which is commonly referred to as "JR" because that's the name of the company that operates it, and the subway. Aside from the company differences, the train goes above ground while the subway operates below ground.

If you have ever taken the underground in London, the transportation in Tokyo has the same feel to it. Everybody is generally in a rush and it feels a bit like Christmas every day because of that hustle and bustle. To take the transportation, you can either get the "suica" or "PASMO" card that you scan to get through the gates. Both passes are essentially the same in my foreigner eyes and you can actually use them to pay for food too! In London, the gates only open after you insert your ticket or scan your oyster card but in Tokyo, the gates stay open and close if you fail to scan your card or lack sufficient funds.



My suica card (yes, I wanted this one because of the penguin). The PASMO card has a pink train and subway featured on it.



My view while waiting for the train to arrive. There are gates that barricade passengers from falling onto the rails. These gates open when the train arrives.



I take the Yamanote JR line to work. You can tell this train belongs to the Yamanote line because of its green stripes!

The main reason the transportation in Tokyo reminds me of London is because of the culture during the ride. People are typically on their phones or reading quietly and it is generally frowned upon to speak. The voice in the train will routinely remind passengers to silence and refrain from speaking on their phones. During rush hour, things get very cozy in a case of what I like to call the "sardines in a can" situation. Every available space is utilized and there are times when there is so little space that everybody moves back and forth as one big mass as the train navigates the rails. Luckily for me, my commute often takes place during rush hour.

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The commute on a good day. You can tell because I had enough space to take this picture. :)



The reason I'm in Tokyo is because I was lucky enough to be selected as an intern for the Run for the Cure Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to eliminating breast cancer through education and treatment (https://runforthecure.org/en/). The Run for the Cure Foundation can be thought of as analogous to Susan G. Komen back in the U.S. because of the incredible work it does to combat breast cancer. The organization even hosts a race/walk at the Imperial Palace in November! So if you're in the Tokyo area in November you should check it out!

So far, every day has been different and it really feels like I hit the ground running from the start, which is exactly how I like it.

During my first week, work took me to Tokyo Metropolis, aka what I like to call "actual Tokyo" (I work in Osaki, which according to Wikipedia is a commercial district in Shinagawa which is in turn a ward of Tokyo). Pictures and video do not do that place justice.



The view from way up high.

I can't believe week one is Japan is already over (by the time this post publishes, week two will be over)! The days feel like they're flying by!

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