It’s taken me a while to write this post, because since I arrived in Tokyo two weeks ago, I’ve been bombarded with so many new things that it’s difficult to fully articulate my experience. Nearly everything I imagined about Tokyo in my previous comic has come true, though not at all in the ways I expected. In particular, I expected to feel somewhat lost, anxious, and overwhelmed, maybe due to culture shock, maybe from the stress and discomfort of adjusting to a totally new routine in a foreign country. And I am exhausted – living in an unfamiliar city abroad means that little things I would’ve done thoughtlessly at home require tons of energy here, like the correct etiquette for paying the cashier at a convenience store, or finding my way to the train. (Just the other day, after a week of taking the exact same train to TUJ’s campus without any mishap, I got on a train going in the wrong direction.) When I get back to my dorm, I often collapse on my bed from sheer exhaustion.
But it’s a joyful kind of exhaustion, because I know it comes from packing so many fantastic experiences into each day. Not once has it been difficult to convince myself to get back up and go out again. In fact, the greatest difficulty so far has been reminding myself that I need some time to stay in and rest instead of going out to explore yet another noodle place with my friends. If anything, I’m unnerved at how normal it feels to be living in Tokyo, hearing Japanese everywhere, riding the subway to class.
The idea of a “typical weekday” is difficult to convey, because so far, no day here has been typical. For example, “exploring someplace new” can take the form of visiting Tokyo’s famously popular districts, like Harajuku (the capital of weird fashion) or Akihabara (“electric town”), or wandering the quieter streets of the music- and used-book district after class on a windy day. Virtually every single day, I am doing something I’ve never done before. But there is some comfort in the routine of going to the convenience store, taking the train, and going out for dinner with friends – even if it’s a little different every time.