I was off to a difficult start, but I did not know it.
Ok, I am being totally melodramatic here. Let me rephrase. I was off to a more difficult start than I first thought, but that very quickly improved completely (luckily!).
First of all, I was exhausted when I got to my airbnb in Shibuya, at 8:30 PM, having had some 11 hours of plane in which I was too excited to sleep, the bit of struggle to find the bus stop, the queue I created while fumbling in my bag for some change, and the worry of not finding the place as my host was at work, and her instructions were not very clear to my smoggy brain.
For example, they did not include bus numbers! It is, however, a cultural thing, I believe, as we have very different ways of giving instructions in Europe. Thank God for my Japanese SIM card with more or less unlimited data and Google Maps!
The flat is small, very cute, and quite old I reckon. It is usually shared by two people – Tomomi, my host and her roommate, Takako, each of them having rooms separated by a sliding door. This is a little bit of a challenge given my usual lack of spatial organisation, and I will have to be careful not to expend myself too much.
By which I mean I knew I would share the room with Tomomi, but she might not have realised she would be sharing with me! Learning special control is one of the aims of this trip I guess, so I am sure it will be just fine. Anyway, she had prepared a futon for my arrival, right next to the bookcase.
The first thing I really needed was a shower, and the tiny Japanese style bathtub shower was a bit of a shock as the evacuation is actually on the floor (and was filled with hair when I arrived. Yuk.)
But other than that, everything is clean, and the shower has a good pressure, the water is always super hot, and so it never failed to make me feel happy so far. On the first night, it was definitely a relief.
My first internet struggle of the week was met right afterwards – when the wi-fi did not work. The router had apparently stopped functioning. My host managed to sort it out after four days, which was not too bad given that I had 3G connection… at least some of the time, because on Monday evening it suddenly stopped working, as my card was disconnected for an unknown reason. It was thankfully reconnected 3 days later, but these 3 days were quite hard, especially because there was no wifi at “home” during one of them. I was very lost, but Google Maps did work without a connection so I could find my way to a café recommended by Tomomi and deal with things.
Another bad surprise during the first night – it was freezing cold. So much so that it woke me up. Turned out that the heating system is one of these machines that does both air con and heating, and in my tired state I had, of course, not realised it. I think it was so obvious for Tomomi that she did not leave a note, as the remote control was placed right next to my futon. Luckily I could read the kanji and got it to work in less than 5 minutes before going back to bed, feeling cold, upset, stupid and very clever all at the same time.
The flat itself is located at the end of Shibuya, with a very nice view on Shinjuku, so it gave me plenty of opportunity for walking in the first days, armed with Google Maps (and, I must confess it, Pokemon Go… when I had a connection, that is). I have tried to visit at least one thing a day, and so far I have succeeded. But that will be the subject of another post!
It actually took almost a week for me to really meet Tomomi and her housemate, as they both work very hard and get home late in the evening, leaving early in the morning. But they are both really funny and kind, and make me feel at home, so I do not regret my choice.
Yesterday evening they were free, so they invited me to a little house gathering with Tomomi’s boyfriend (he is from Rwanda) to eat and drink, and Takako cooked Nabe, which is basically a hot pot filled with vegetables and meat and at the very end, udon noodles. We drank lots of beer and sake I had brought. A lovely evening to conclude my first week!
Edit post-week 3: Week 2, 3 and the beginning of 4 were very quiet, as Tomomi left the house for about 10 days for a work trip and was barely there when she was working in Tokyo. Overall, the small flat felt like home and I really enjoyed my time there, though I was also happy to leave for a new adventure!