Delayed entrance


(window view of Japan)

August 5th, 2012

My first views of Japan came from the window of the airplane. I couldn’t see much–small archipelagos with smatterings here and there of buildings and roads. The towns looked sleepy and unassuming. We had reached the very edges of one of the most developed and technologically advanced countries in the world, however from my tiny window, Japan seemed quaint and quiet.

Once we landed, I was brimming with excitement. I could not believe I was finally in the country I had dreamed of for so long. Eagerly, I grabbed my bags and stumbled through the endless hallways and escalators. The other JET participants traveling from Oregon made it to customs the same time as me. I waited and watched as they passed through, handing over their passports and answering a few simple questions.

Finally, it was my turn. The lady directing travelers to various customs windows stopped me in my tracks. She looked at my passport and my customs form with concern. She looked at the line marked “Address in Japan” and asked me if that was where I would be living. “Yes,” I replied, “that’s where I’m moving to.”

She shook her head energetically and grabbed me by my elbow, pulling me away from all the custom windows. As we moved along, I tried to explain to her that I was with JET (a government run program that she was sure to know about, in fact I am sure the whole airport would have been told that hundreds of JETs from all over the world would be arriving that day). In a last ditch effort I said, “You just let about 20 other JETs through!” I figured I might as well bring us all down if I was going down. She just continued to shake her head. At last we arrived at a door, and she was about to usher me through when she began talking with another employee.

He looked at my passport and said “JET”?

“Yes!” I replied in exasperation. Then he rattled off something quickly in Japanese to the woman, earnestly repeating “JET” over and over again. As he did so, I was once again lead by all the customs windows, to the farthest one with no line, where he allowed me to go through.

I’m still not sure why the woman wouldn’t let me through, or why she investigated my passport so thoroughly when with everyone else she simply pointed to the proper customs window.

After this, I retrieved my bags and moved cautiously through security (certain I would be pulled aside–though thankfully I wasn’t). I had made it to Japan. There was no one to stop me now. No one to pull me out of the line. No one to tell me I was crazy for moving here. No one to tell me I should just settle down. I was surrounded by other JETs, all thinking the same thing. Finally. Finally I’ve made it.


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