I was finally able to meet my penpal for the first time in Harajuku, a suburb of Tokyo, Japan.
That year was one of the best years of my life. For so many years, I had spent reading, studying, and learing about Japan that to go to Japan was like an apocolypse for me. It was the Summer of 1994, and I flew off to Chicago to meet up with my friend’s family. We left from Chicago for a nonstop flight to Tokyo. We used Japan Airlines, which is one of the best in the world. I loved every minute of the flight, which meant that I was up for 12 hours after take off. After landing in Tokyo, we headed for a bus that lead up to Omiya, Saitama. After the 2-hour bus ride, we took a train to Honjyo, Saitama, about 2 and a half hours away. That evening we reached our destination–evening as in Japan time which is 14 hours ahead of EST.
I had been awake for nearly 26 hours straight, and I didn’t have a good night of sleep beforehand because of my anxiety of the trip. I was exhausted when we reached the house. We ate a small dinner and collapsed on our futons. The next day, I was awake at 5:00am because of the sun shining in my eyes. Day break is a lot earlier there, but nightfall is early too. We went to McDonalds, but I just couldn’t eat anything.
I had such jet lag, that I was really upset about not eating. I began to get homesick, I was just 15, and I had never experienced jet lag before. That week we went to see Kabuki, the ancient art of drama of Japan. This was so interesting because of the brightly colored costumes they wore. I was able to meet my penpal of 3 years (at that time; now 8 years) at a town called Harajuku, which is a town filled with teenagers. It was so cool to see the person who was behind all the letters I wrote. We spent the entire day together, and I will never forget it. We then went to Tokyo Tower, Ginza, Asakusa, and other landmarks around Tokyo. I saw Mt. Fuji from atop Tokyo Tower. During my stay, I was also able to watch a Japanese Festival in Kumagaya. The Kumagaya Matsuri was a Buddhist festival filled with floats brilliantly decorated, marching to the beats of drums. These cultural events have affected me in many ways, and have shaped my personality.