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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Allie is in Tokyo ... planes, trains, and automobiles (second in a series)

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After a 14-hour plane ride from Atlanta, a train ride from Narita International Airport into the city and a 13-hour time difference, I’ve finally arrived in Tokyo!

I thought I would share some of my early impressions of visiting Japan. First of all, the people are incredibly friendly. Yes, there is definitely a language barrier, but a smile and a short bow of the head goes a long way!

So far, there hasn’t been anything that I haven’t been able to communicate, even through I don't know a single word of Japanese. I’ve been able to easily order in restaurants (by pointing), navigate the city, and even track down wrapping paper and tape for some gifts.

To me, Tokyo is its most beautiful at night, when the city is lit up with thousands of signs, flashing lights, and illuminated office buildings, with employees hard are work often to the late evening. I am staying in Shibuya, the Tokyo Times Square area, which is centrally located so there are plenty of lights and signs all around.

Navigating my way from the airport to my hotel and around the city has been pretty easy – most signs that a tourist would need to read are written in both Japanese and English. There are comforts of home right outside of my hotel – a Krispy Kreme and a Starbucks! Both are extremely popular and crowded at all hours of the day and evening.

The Krispy Kreme is even two stories tall with booths and tables for enjoying the sugary goodness. I peaked in the window to see if I could notice any differences from our Krispy Kremes at home and couldn’t spot anything majorly different. If the bags and bags of donuts that I saw heading out the door are any indication, they must taste the same as they do at home.

One obvious difference that I have noticed is the smaller size and portions of food then we are used to at home. This was especially apparent at the Starbucks, where the average-size drink is equivalent to a kid's-meal-sized drink back in the US.

One of my other favorite things to do in a new city is to visit a grocery store. You can learn a lot about a location by just visiting something as simple as where they do their shopping. The most striking difference happened to be the price of fruits and vegetables. Bananas were sold individually and were the equivalent of $2 each. Grapes were selling for $15 a bunch and cantaloupes were more than $20 each.

Yesterday evening, I hosted the first of our Asia receptions. We had a great turnout of 15 alumni, parents, and spouses. The group was very gracious and appreciated the opportunity to get to know other Emory alumni in Tokyo and to hear about what was happening back on campus.

All agreed that they wanted to continue to meet on a more regular occasion. After only two days in Japan, I am about to board a plane for South Korea to prepare for our large alumni event on October 9. Thank you Japan and the Emory alumni in Tokyo for a short but sweet visit!

-- Allie Hill, director, international alumni relations, EAA

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