My flight to Japan left Detroit at 3:30 PM. The one part of the journey I had been dreading was the flight because of the daunting 13 hours I would have to be sitting stationary in a tiny cramped economy seat. However, thanks to my mom, I got comfort economy seats which had 4 inches extra leg room as well as reclining 50% more than regular economy seats. These seemingly small things made all the difference on the long flight. In addition, I quickly discovered that the plane also had personal entertainment with an entire library of movies plus HBO on demand, which meant I spent the vast majority of the flight watching Game of Thrones. I quickly passed the flight and was delighted to hear the captain announce our descent into Tokyo. When I walked off the plane, I took a deep breath to settle my nerves because I knew from here on out, it is pretty much on me to find my way around the country and get to where I need to be. I was extremely scared because, in my head, I had developed an image of the Japanese as being extremely judgmental of foreigners, or gaijin, particularly those who cannot speak their language flawlessly. I am far from a master of the Japanese language so with my apprehensions I made it through baggage claim and customs as all of the signage was written in English. Outside baggage claim, I found the representative from Samurai Tours who would familiarize me with the Tokyo transit system. He pointed me to my train as well as gave me a quick primer on some common Japanese customs and courtesies. He was quick to ease my nerves about speaking to other Japanese by assuring me that the Japanese find it very flattering for a foreigner to try to speak to them in their own language. Nerves settled, I boarded my first high speed magnet train and said my goodbyes to my guide. Getting to my ryokan, or Japanese style inn, which was located somewhere in the heart of Tokyo was solely my responsibility now. As the magnets under the train fired up, the shinkansen slowly began to float above the tracks. It then accelerated to a max speed of 160 kph as it took me by hundreds of rice paddies out near the airport and the more humble houses that sparsely populated countryside. However, near the end of the 45 minute ride and I neared Tokyo proper, the paddies disappeared and apartments and offices replaced them. Finally, I arrived at 上野駅 (Ueno station) and disembarked. I took a step outside in Tokyo for the first time, taking in the large skyscrapers that overwhelmed the view of the cloudy sky from the street. It felt as though I was inside a covered mall with walls on all sides of me. From here I needed to grab a taxi for a ten minute ride to my ryokan. My nerves fired up again as I knew there was no way this taxi driver would speak English. For the first time, I was dependent upon my language skills. I waved down a taxi, put my extremely heavy suitcase in the trunk and hopped in the back seat of the taxi. In Japanese, I told him “My Japanese is extremely bad, but I need to go to this ryokan.” He took me straight to the hotel while I described to him as much as I could about myself in Japanese. He told me that I could speak ok which I had to decline at the risk of being rude, but inwardly, I was quite pleased with myself. He dropped me off just a block from my hotel. I walked down the narrow alleyway which led to the front entrance. Looking around, the alley was lined with tiny restaurants and other ryokans. It was extremely quaint and secluded from the noise I would have expected in Tokyo. I walked in the entrance to the ryokan and was quickly attended to by the wife and daughter of the family which owns the inn. They took me to my room and made sure everything was in order before leaving me be to go to sleep. The room is extremely small, but I figure it is Tokyo and space comes at a luxury. Well, it is now time to go to bed as I have an early morning tour of several sites related to the story of the 47 ronin, who are national heroes here. Hollywood is making a movie of this story starring Keanu Reeves which comes out this November. I have a feeling that it could be highly irreverent to these heroes, but we shall see. Until next time!