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Back to my Roots, In a Way

Happy Umi no Hi (or as we would say in English, Ocean Day)! Umi no Hi is one of Japan's plentiful national holidays, and is not the only one that is dedicated (arbitrarily?) to some force of nature.

I finished up my training yesterday. They had us work in the store our classroom was located in for a few hours, albeit under supervision. So I greeted customers, helped a few find the items they were looking for, rang up an order slip for a pillow, and helped pack and wrap items at the registers when they were busy. It was a fast-paced few hours, so I can tell that my workdays will always be busy and changing.

I won't lie when I say I'm nervous for tomorrow--my first real day of work. All I can do though is try to remember the things I learned over this past week to the best of my ability and approach all new learning opportunities with a smile and a can-do attitude. I'm trying to keep the Yale Glee Club's unofficial motto in mind here: "Always be the first to help out and the last to complain."

That being said, I had quite a busy day today and was joined by a few special people along the way.

First, I went to check out St. Alban's the only English-language Episcopalian church in Tokyo, if not Japan.

It was a charming wooden structure that the Pastor informed me was built in the post-war period, which explains why it has some prime real estate just a short distance away from Tokyo Tower. It has a decent-sized plot of land with a nursery, a small cabin for boy and girl scouts, office space, and the other trimmings that usually accompany an active church.

I wasn't able to stay for long because there was an ordination happening at the catholic chapel next door and the Pastor (as well as everyone else in the complex) was attending. So I chilled by myself at a coffee house/cafe type thing I found down the street and took advantage of their free wifi and plug space for my phone (for those of you interested, I provided a link to its website under the "Coffee" section of my blog; more detailed description to come).

Then I went and met up with these fun people:

My cousins, Andrew and Brian! They're finishing up an extensive trip through Asia and Tokyo is their final stop in Japan. So together we toured the Meiji Jingu shrine and meandered through Harajuku, enjoying the crowd and the eclectic sights.

 Meiji Jingu and the bustling, eclectic Harajuku shopping area are right across the street from each other. It struck me, as I came back here with other people, that this juxtaposition of tradition/serenity and modernity/capitalism/riotous color were what drew me to Japan in the first place eight years ago when I first came with my family on a Yale GALE (Global Alumni Leadership Exchange) trip, not that I was an aluma of the university at the time, merely an aspiring one. Returning here on the eve of my first post-grad job seemed fortuitous in a way, given my jangling nerves and fits of worry that I wouldn't actually be good enough to do it, because it reminded me why I loved Japan in the first place. Now I just have to keep that love in mind through the inevitable frustrations and stresses of working life!

Crepes might help. :)

We finished out the evening with ramen, from my favorite ramen joint, Tsurugi-men! (In case you're interested, HERE'S a link to their website.) This ramen shop's unique feature is that they fry their noodles, so there's this nice crispy layer to them that adds both flavor and texture to the bowl. Their broth is also really rich and meaty, and it stands up GREAT with the thicker, more flavorful noodles.

As a bowl of ramen goes, it's pretty perfect. And it's the first time I've had ramen since I got here, which shocks even me. I've been trying to cook as much as possible (keep your eyes out for a food-themed post later this week!) so I've hardly eaten out at all...

Wish me luck for tomorrow, knock on wood, send up a prayer, what have you. Much obliged all around.


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