My running was over, and I had finally reached my destination. As I removed my bag from the overhead compartment and stepped onto the firm ground of Narita International Airport, the sudden realization came that perhaps this wasn't quite where I wanted to be.

However, that's besides the point. There was no way I could turn back now. My own damned stubbornness would see to that. So here I was, an ocean away from home with only a handful of yen (albeit a handful of rather valuable bills), no friends, and a knowledge of the Japanese language that felt incredibly incomprehensive at the moment.

As I proceed from the arrival gates to the check-in counter, one of the first billboards I encounter has a picture of a Miyazakiesque family with the sentence "Welcome to Japan!" in large black letters right next to them. If there were any lingering doubts that I was in Japan, that billboard has quickly dispersed them. On subsequent billboards, I put my knowledge of kanji to the test on them and I fail miserably. I am somewhat disheartened by this.

As I step into the main terminal, my brain snaps out of its amazement and wonder mode and back to matters at hand. I realize that everyone is speaking a language that I barely understand. And right now I have to find my way to a destination roughly two and a half hours away in a country I have never been to in my life. This is a bit frightening, to say the least. I have practically memorized the directions my school gave me before I left. My first objective was to pick up a Narita Express train ticket to Shinjuku.

I walk over to the counter that has a Narita Express sign hanging over it. I try to figure out the time tables, but see only words I have never learned. To my great amazement, I manage to form one sentence and say it out loud...

"Shinjuku e iku no densha wa nanji desu ka?"

The girl behind the counter smiles and points at the schedule. She says something in Japanese which I can't understand, but I assume she's asking me if I want ticket for that train. I nod and give her some money, hoping that it'll be enough. She gives me the ticket and my change, and I'm off to try and find the train platform.

As I wait for the train, I tell myself to calm down. My heart is beating very rapidly and at that point I've broken into a cold sweat. I sit on my camping backpack and pause for a moment to look at my surroundings. I find a map of the train routes and look it over. Once again, I understand very little and nothing at all helpful. As the time passes, I grow increasingly paranoid that I'm on the wrong side of the train platform...

But without any major complications, the train arrives exactly at the time listed on my ticket. I stow my luggage and settle into my seat. The train leaves shortly, and I'm graced with images of ricefields as the train makes its way from Narita to the heart of Tokyo.

This is it, I'm thought to myself. I'm at the birthplace of my hobbies, interests, and obsessions. And for better or worse, I'd be calling this place home for a year.

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