Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pre-Departure, Tokyo Orientation, and Hokkaido Arrival


Let me describe real quick how I feel about the past week and a half...

If you could imagine being thrown in a dark room blindfolded, then suddenly thrown outside onto a beach with the sun shining and being told everything you need to know to survive on this island in only generalizations...

Real quick, Tokyo Orientation was a BLAST, tons of information and left me a little unsure of what to expect, but I did feel safe. Tons of information... and I mean TONS... so, I did feel a little unorganized through out the entire process... but I digress, let me start from the beginning. 


I actually arrived in Atlanta on the Wednesday of the week of departure. We were scheduled for Pre-departure orientation on that Friday (24th) and then off to Japan on Saturday (25th).  My Mother, Father, and I stayed at my Uncle's house while in Atlanta. The first thing we did was....

My Mother had been wanting to go to this Ramen Restaurant for about a year... If I recall it was called "Umaido" and is located somewhere in Lawrenceville. They specialize in what is my favorite type of Ramen, "Tonkotsu".  Though, it was cool to see a semi-authentic ramen restaurant, the actual ramen wasn't excellent. I do want to add that I'm very very spoiled with the Tonkotsu Ramen I've eaten in Kansai....  If you've read my older posts you'll see a bowl of this Ramen that I had back in January... I'll post it below...

Ignore the date on the picture, but this is Tonkotsu from "Buta no Hone" the restaurant I ate at in January... you can see the difference... The one's I've had are much more rich and tastes more balanced between the soup and the noodles... Below is another bowl...

The date is accurate on this one, but this is from "Muteppo" another ramen restaurant that I went to often during my studies at Kansai Gaidai. The owner of this restaurant also owns "Buta no Hone," and in fact "Buta no Hone" was his first shop he opened and because of his busy schedule with all of his stores he can only open "Buta no Hone" once a year... so I was super lucky... once again I digress.

So this is me, my mother, my father, and my uncle at "Umaido"

The next day, I had to drop my parents off at Atlanta Airport so they could make it to our Family Reunion in Boston, that was scheduled on the same weekend as my departure. It was a sad goodbye, because it was so quick and we couldn't really hang around, but I know my parents were very proud and excited for me.

After, a long orientation in room that was freezing cold, which made it seem much longer than it really was, we headed to the reception where all 40 of us were able to enjoy dinner and conversation. After conversing we all headed either to the hotel room or to where ever we were staying for the night before our flight to Japan. I was staying in the Hotel.

NOTE: How I deal with Jet-lag.

When going to Japan, I always stay awake the night before I fly to force myself to sleep on the Plane to Japan. If I pay attention and time it right I will sleep on the long flight and wake up around 8:00am (Japan Time). Doesn't work for everyone, and though I may be adjusted... Jet lag still gets me by affecting my appetite. I tend to have a harder time eating as much as I used to...

It was quite the adventure gathering all of our luggage and getting it to the Airport.

We probably sat here waiting for about 3 hours for our flight to board.

On the way to Houston to get on the flight to Japan.

I managed to sleep most of the way between Atlanta and Houston. On our itinerary we only had a 35 minute lay over, so we HAD enough time to get to our connecting flight... While I slept in the plane to Houston, we were delayed 30 minutes at Atlanta because of the Engine was over heating. I didn't find this out until we got off the plane and was greeted by a man from Continental Airlines and was told we needed to run to the next gate... 40 of us went rushing through Houston Airport, I only regret I didn't have my camera out to film this intensely humorous event.


We arrived sunday evening and waited in line at immigration FOREVER... and it was quite toasty. After finally getting out of the airport we were herded toward the busses to drop off our bags we were going to send to our new home and then board the bus for the Keio Plaza Hotel.

This is a very unfortunate picture of Tokyo Disney Land on our way to the Keio Plaza Hotel.

After arriving at the Hotel, I put my things away, exchanged my money and met up with my friend's Dad and went to Shinanomachi. We then had dinner, and by this time I was exhausted and headed back to the hotel.

One of the breakfast rooms.

Tokyo Orientation began the next morning (Monday 26th) at 9:00am. Needing energy for the long day ahead my friend's and I had breakfast and it was quite interesting what they served... as was mentioned during the Orientation... the breakfast SEEMED right.

They had, fried eggs (which resembled what we see sandwiched in a McDonalds Breakfast sandwich), scrambled eggs (which looked more like a strange porridge), bacon, ham, cereal..., and this is where it begins to seem just not right... The rest of the buffet featured in stunning fashion, steamed vegetable medley, salad, and french fries.

This was the main room that the opening ceremony was held for Tokyo Orientation.

All together, there were 800 plus JETs for Group A orientation. in the first part of the welcome reception we were introduced to Bowing in Japan and met members of specific governing offices that oversee and are integral in the running of the JET Program.

Hokkaido JETs Representin'!!!

The entire room was organized according to prefecture and in geographical order. This arrangement put us Hokkaido JETs to the far left of the room, forcing all of us to twist our heads like Linda Blair just to see the stage clearly.

The Program Coordinators for CLAIR

These people gave their welcoming addresses and were very entertaining and introduced various aspects about the JET Program. They are responsible for the orchestrating of all the Orientations and counseling the different Contracting Organizations, JETs, and other duties. For More details check out the JET Programme Site.

After, the numerous break out sessions we had our reception where we were able to mingle with the JETs in our prefecture, other prefectures, and those that helped to organize the event. It was quite fun and they dropped bottles of beer on each of the tables.

A few of the Hokkaido JETs were really itching for some Mister Donuts, so we headed out a little early for Shinjuku Station. We were told it was real close, but after further questioning of the bellhops, we found out the nearest Mister Donuts was at the Shinjuku Station.

Right outside Shinjuku Station.

Group Shot... and yes it was very humid and a little drizzly... of course the suits didn't help.

This is supposed to be an awesome Panoramic Shot... but it doesn't come out as cool on here.

I then returned back to the Hotel and after getting changed me and my roommates went and check out the Sky Bar at the top of the Hotel.

That was the end of Day1, Day 2 was just as busy and was packed full of break out session as well... It was also on this day that Embassy night was scheduled. In the past the U.S.A. never had an Embassy night because of the sheer number of JETs from the U.S., well they had one this year at the Hotel... and I didn't go... And I know I wasn't the only one... I was way too exhausted and really wanted to get out of my suit. This was the last night in Tokyo, so many of us wanted to go out and have some fun... so we did.

Here are some pictures over looking tokyo from outside the window of the Keio Plaza.

We then headed out for the Night.  We went to dinner and it was a hodgepodge of JETs heading to different pre-fectures.  There were Hokkaido JETs, Hyogo JETs, Nagasaki JETs... 


The next morning was quite hectic for many people. The Hokkaido JETs were scheduled to leave around 11:00am from Haneda Airport, so we gathered in one of the large rooms of the Hotel around 8:20am to depart for the Airport.

On the Bus to Haneda.

On the Plane to Hokkaido!

After a 40 minute delay on our departure from Haneda, we finally boarded the plane and took off for Chitose Airport in Hokkaido. As soon as we landed we headed for the luggage carousel, where after we gathered our luggage we were allowed to exit to the terminal 4 at a time. We were lead to a upstairs on the other side of the airport, at which point our name was called out and our supervisor would pick us up and we'd head off to our new homes.

I met up with my supervisor and the first thing we did was eat Ramen at a restaurant in the airport. We then quickly headed for the train station. It was about a one hour train ride to our stop, and then it was another one hour car ride to my new town Shihoro. The first thing we did was head to the office where I met all the other staff members and the head of the board of education. After sitting for a few minutes I went to dinner with my immediate supervisors.

With a full stomach, and a very exhausted body, I finally stepped foot into my new apartment and had to deal with the daunting task of rearranging the apartment and unpacking all of my belongings... It took me about 4 hours!!!!

Well, please enjoy The Lonely Island Ep.5 and Ep.6

Episode 7 will showcase a tour of the apartment and a quick trip around town.

The Lonely Island VLOG Ep.5

The Lonely Island VLOG Ep.6

Friday, July 23, 2010

Packing for Jets and The Lonely Island VLOG Ep.4

When it comes time for this step, many of you may be pulling your hair out trying to figure out how to pack for year or more of life in Japan. Well, I hope this post helps.

First, the rules are subject to change and vary depending on country, so please use this as a rule of thumb.

Currently we are allowed Two Check-in Bags, One Carry-on bag and a Carry-on personal item (which is along the lines of a purse, laptop bag, backpack, etc.).  Essentially you're allowed to have 4 "items".

The Two Check-in Bags can not be more than 50lbs, unless you want to incur the penalties for packing too much. Then your Carry-on bag has to fit certain dimensions, which you can find out what those are through your airline. In general, any wheeled luggage that is sized for Carry-on should fit those dimensions.

Here is what I did, because the trick to packing for JET is knowing what you need and when you need it. When you arrive to Tokyo with the multitudes of confused, jet-lagged JETs, all of you will be pushed to the bus boarding area with your luggage. You will be given a ticket prior to departure for Tokyo, which you write your Contracting Organization's address on. The reason for this is because you'll have to say "Bye" to one or both of your Check-in Bags, this is up to you which one or if both will be meeting you in your new home.

Because you will have to send one of your checked bags to your Contracting Organization, you'll have to designate what bag you'll need the most, because this checked bag will be staying with you and going to the Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo.

This is what I did:

The Above picture are of the Two Check-in Bags I will be bringing.

I purchased large Duffle Bags as my Checked Luggage for a number of reasons. 
1- to save space in my new apartment.
2- to allow me to put more items in the bag in terms of weight. Since the duffle bags are mostly heavy duty cloth, it isn't nearly as heavy as other suitcases.

To protect my clothes and other items from weather and dirt, I used space-saver bags. These vacuum sealed my clothes and allowed me to put more items in one of the duffle bags. Keep in mind, Space Savers only save you space so it will still weigh the same. One of the Bags contain my clothes and necessary electronics and the other bag contains winter clothes, shoes, and other stuff. I will be sending the bag of winter clothes and such to my contracting organizations. I will be bringing the other bag with me, because it has my clothes but also I have gifts in there for my new bosses.

This is my carry-on bag and my back pack.

Now, I plan on using only the carry-on bag for the clothes I will need for Pre-departure Orientation and Tokyo Orientation. I've packed my two suits, 5 days worth of undergarments, two shorts, one pair of jeans, three t-shirts, two polos, and 4 under shirts. So, I intend to live out of this suitcase for the next 4 days until I'm settled in my home at Hokkaido. In my backpack I will carry my laptop, Bose QC15 Noise Canceling Headphones, Bose Sounddock Portable, necessary files, camera, and a few other items.

To wrap up and summarize, my two Checked Bags are solely to carry items I will need for life in Japan, but not necessarily immediately or during the first 4 days of travel. My two Carry-On items are things I felt I needed with me at all times and clothes for the first 4 days of travel.

Well, good luck and here is The Lonely Island VLOG EP4

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A quick update on the departure situation & The Lonely Island EP.3

On my last post, I had a list of things I needed to get done... Let's update that list.

Before I Go, I Need To:
- Get Clothes    -Done
- Get Gifts       - Done
- Get International Driver's Permit     -Done
- Renew Florida Driver's License       -Done
- Get a new Digital Camera   -Done
- Get an iPod Touch 64gig     -Done
- Get a Bose SoundDock Portable     -Though, I work there still need to save money
- Pack my Bags     - Pretty much complete
- The Lonely Island VLOG Ep.3 (Goodbye Florida) - Done Working on ep.4
- Send off IRS Forms     -Done
- Talk to the Bank     -Done, will be waiting for my 401k check to rollover to an IRA
- Set up my IRA     -look at the previous item on the list
- Say bye to the fam and friends    -Mostly done, but still doing that
- Save $2000     -ummm yeah about that...
- Work my Last day at Bose      - July 16th my last day at by far the best Part Time Job I've had

So, It seems i've mostly completed my to do list. This has been an interesting few weeks. With so much to do, from Work, Packing, gathering last minute items, and other responsibilities it almost feels like I barely had any time to really contemplate the impending departure. Now that things have slowed down and I've been doing nothing but focusing on departing, things have become more real regarding my life in Japan. I am very excited for sure, but I will definitely miss my friends and family.

Well, with that said, here is TheLonelyIsland VLOG Ep.3

This was more of a goodbye video, but Ep.4 will focus specifically on packing. At this time many JETs have been focusing on how to pack, what to pack, and everything that deals with this area. I will explain how I dealt with this daunting endeavor. Maybe it will shed some light on how you may want to pack for JET.