Travelling to Imabari is quite an ordeal, I left Tokyo at 5:00 AM and finally arrived in Imbari at 2:30 PM. Luckily, just the idea of being in Japan kept me awake, that and the fact that if I missed any of my transfers I would arrive an hour later than planned.
It was exciting making such a long trip on my own; and since I only had about 20 min to transfer trains at any station I was constantly accosting any clerk I could find to get directions 😀 What’s interesting is how the level of gaijin friendliness is directly proportional to how far you get away from Tokyo. Given that JR is nationwide, I thought they would maintain the same standard no matter how far I went.
In Tokyo, all of the announcements on trains in subways are shown on an electronic board, it shows the names of all the stations the train will stop at in kanji, hiragana, and English. In addition there would be audio announcements whenever the train was close to a station, once in Japanese and once in English. After my flight from Tokyo to Osaka, they only showed the names of the places in kanji and English. From Osaka I took the shinkansen until I reached Okayama, where I transferred trains for a ~3 hour ride to Imabari. This time the screen only showed the kanji for the next stop and audio announcements were made only in Japanese.
The same thing happened with the station clerks, the farther I got a away from Tokyo the less eager they were to switch to English. Which was kind of nice since I kind of felt like a failure when clerks would immediately switch to English after hearing me speak.
So after an exciting adventure in sitting, I finally arrived at Imabari station at 2:43 PM. There 3 people from the company came to greet me. Hi-san, my contact while getting together all the materials needed to come to Japan, Kaji-san an HR rep, and Mi-san. After introductions and a commemorative photo I put my luggage in Kaji’s car and went to the company dorms. According to Kaji not many people at the company speak English and all of the previous interns didn’t speak Japanese. So I was somewhat of an anomaly.
Upon arriving at the dorm, Kaji-san took me on a tour and showed me my room; then we went to the store to pick up some things I needed. I also met his son, Kairi and who spent most of the car ride trying to pronounce Mickey Mouse properly.
After getting back to the dorm, I did a little unpacking and a lot of watching Japanese television.