Tokyo Part Ni
Upon arrival of being in Japan, I was completely overwhelmed. I will never forget walking down the hallway stairs at the hostel and the lights changing with each step. The light gets brighter when you are walking and dims where you just left. Energy efficient lighting, even at a hostel. Welcome to Tokyo.
I couldn't exactly sleep well in the hostel, my roommates kept coming in and out at all hours. They kept bringing stuff in plastic bags in, and up into their bed rustling around and I was unable to sleep. This was a trend for the entirety of my stay in Japan. I later figured out some Japanese people temporarily stay in hostels in Tokyo and I could only best figure out it was their groceries/snacks they were eating in bed.
So still after not being able to sleep that well and flustered with my phone not working, I said screw it and got up at 7am. I decided to try to use a payphone. First I had to find where to buy a pay phone card. Turns out you can buy them at 7 11, which is a whole different concept compared to the 7 11s in the US. (7 11's originated in Japan, who knew?) So compared to the poorly kept convenience store as 7 11 is known for in the United States, in Tokyo they are IMMACULATELY clean with snacks, food and drink I have never seen in my lifetime. Every thing you buy is like a surprise.
It also turns out, not a lot of people ask for payphone cards so I struggled with trying to explain what I was looking for to the cashier. He finally understood and sold me a 20 US dollar phone card. I bring it back to the hostel and insert it into the phone in the proper slot. I am greeted by a rambling Japanese prompt, then an English one.
I punch in the card number.
Wait for a prompt. Dial the country code 1.
Then the number. It doesn't work.
I try again. This time country code 001 then the number. Then I ask the front desk at the hostel. They have no clue. Upon each failed attempt I hear the same message in Japanese, although I do not speak Japanese, tones can be universal and I knew that meant my call had failed. I kept hanging up and trying a jumble of numbers. After about 20 minutes I'm getting upset. I am flustered because of the long flight. Lack of sleep. Cultural barriers. Communication barriers. And not knowing what to do when I am sleep deprived. Also I want to call home. What's worse in the whole world then wanting to call home and you can't?
I somehow magically dialed the right combination of (card number, dialing out, country code, phone number). I don't hear a ring but hear my mother's voice. "Hello." "Mom, it's me. I made it." I then hear a prompt saying after the call connected it used 17 of the 20 minutes to connect the call to the United States. "Shit." I say and tell her I love her and that I'm fine. That I will try to get another phone card and call her back tomorrow. "Okay, sweetie." She says.
I hang up and try to go over in my head how to get the right coins for the phone because I need to make a local call and the next call I made changed my life.
I have always looked up to Mother Teresa despite what the entire world has to say. It is on my list to visit Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India. But I knew at this point in my life I wasn’t ready to go to Calcutta just yet.
However, they have houses around the world that are set up in places of extreme poverty. I knew if I didn’t really have plans set in Tokyo that I wanted to be a part of their culture and community. I felt so drawn to contacting this place it’s as if I could think of nothing else. So I somehow had found an email on the internet to the Missionaries of Charity in Tokyo right before I left Alaska. I shot them a quick email and I got this response:
I am Brother Noas Minj,you most welcome to Japan.
Month of Augast weather is hot in Japan,there will be guest in our house and we have very limited room but I think there will be no problem,let me know when you coming to japan.this is our tele no...
So upon realization that I didn’t write down the number, I email them from the hostel computer:
Dear Brother Noas,
I made it to Tokyo last night. I am staying in a hostel in Asakusa for a few days because I am very jet lagged. Where exactly is your buildling by? I am trying to figure it out.
I am staying by Sensoji temple place. Is that close to your building? Any detail would help. I plan on coming there sunday or monday....whichever is better. Thank you.
I can laugh at this now and my naivety of how large Tokyo was and how I had no clue.
The funny thing about life is that things fall into place when you least expect it. It turns out I am in the exact part of Tokyo that the brothers are in. I have no clue the odds of this but I should think it should be equivalent of coming to the United States and having no idea what city you need to travel to. And picking Juneau, Alaska and having the brothers also be in Juneau, Alaska.
I get this reply
We are very near to you,by walk is 15 minutes, if you come here Monday is better for us, if you see my mail kindly call me or give me your Hotel telephone number,
I print out a map of Asakusa. I head back to the phone. I am really excited to talk to them. Brother Noas answers in a Japanese greeting. “Hello it’s me, Jodie, I say.”
He tells me he is glad I made it and called. That yes, I can come by tomorrow and gives me the exact address. He tells me to call from a pay phone if I get lost. Okay I say (but cringe at the thought of using the pay phone again).
I ask the front desk about the address and they literally have no clue. The front desk doesn’t seem to very helpful so far. But it can’t be that hard to find this place right? Me, with no working cell phone and no idea how to read Japanese. I laugh again at my naivety of the overwhelmingly large and confusing city Tokyo is to navigate and I smile at remembering how I didn’t care that I didn’t think it was a big deal and I would find it first thing in the morning. But first, I ate some toast (since it was the only food I recognized) and took a shower and went to bed since I was on a different time zone still.
Want to read part I? Please click here