Besides Canada (which doesn’t count), I have not been outside of the US. Currently, I am in Okinawa, Japan, a medium sized island about a three-hour plane ride south of Tokyo. I have been to Canada multiple times, but that doesn’t count for being outside of the US since all that is different is that they have cooler money than we do. First off, the 10-hour plane ride from Seattle to Tokyo was brutal; thankfully I sat next to a nice man in the automotive industry who was on his way to Bangkok. As I got to Tokyo, I connected to Wi-Fi in hopes of being able to check my phone, let me parents know that I got to Tokyo and with any luck, translate some things. However, my phone wasn’t working and I was stuck in a small part of the airport for regional flights on ANA Airlines and there was very little English spoken or seen anywhere. At this point I was a mess—confused, lost, and had no idea that you don’t have to take your shoes off going through security (because for some reason I had to go through again). But nevertheless I made it to Naha International Airport and made it to my hotel 40 minutes later.
I woke up early and decided to go explore (after breakfast of noodles and awesome steamed dumplings naturally). I walked along the beach and met a nice couple from Seattle who came to watch the Gonzaga/Pittsburg game. There were a few things that I quickly noticed while walking around the shops in American Village in the center of Chatan—everyone here is obsessed with Christmas and American Christmas music, they love American Music and I heard plenty of Taylor Swift, and contrary to popular belief, English is not spoken well or often at all. Later in the day I took a cab down to the capitol city of Naha and went to the Makishi Public Market—a place full of traditional Japanese shops and vendors. Everywhere I walked I was handed samples of food. I ate squid, different types of fish, both cooked and raw, bacon that was fried moments earlier and was still cold on one side, and odd purple things that I still have no idea what it was. The people there were incredibly friendly, and though they spoke no English for the most part, they were able to help me and were thrilled to have me in their shops. I made it out with some squid, porcelain pieces, and Japanese candy before walking down Kokusai Dori Street amused by the people, the lights, the sounds and the culture that is so different from my own. I took refuge in a Starbucks to get some Wi-Fi and amazingly communicated where I needed to go to a cab driver who didn’t speak English. My first day experience wasn’t over there though. I found a small traditional steak restaurant hidden in an alley and had to point to something on the menu that I thought might be good (though I had no idea what I ordered). My food was interesting, and even though I don’t like raw meat, my seven-ounce cut of Wagyu was both inexpensive and delicious.
From there, I watched the sun set over the East China Sea and called it a night, tired from attempted translations and excited to explore more of this amazing culture and beautiful island.