So, Tokyo Orientation. Not long to go now for all you 2015 incoming JETs – 10 days to go if you’re in Group A! If you have ever done an online search you may have come across many posts about orientation, full of useful information. Well, now it’s my turn, and hopefully some of the information I will provide from my own experience last year will help you get an idea as to what to expect when you get here.
Before I continue with this post, I’d like to direct you to one of my first posts on this blog that I wrote last year about my time at Tokyo Orientation and the ‘smurfs’.
Disclaimer: As always, these posts reflect my own experiences and I provide only the knowledge that I have at hand. Some things may have changed a bit for the 2015 Tokyo Orientation, so don’t take the information I provide as the ‘set in stone’ facts. But, you’ll at least get a good idea as to what to expect. 🙂
Arriving in Japan…
From the moment you step out of the plane you are practically guided the whole way by smurfs (well, they were blue smurfs last year… they might of changed colour this year). From immigration through to customs it is pretty much smooth sailing. Every step of the way there is a JET representative (a ‘smurf’) who will show you where to go next.
Tip #1: You will be tired, hot and most likely bordering on zombie. But don’t worry, the smurfs will be there with signs to show you the way. Don’t panic if you don’t know what to do, everyone will be super helpful.
Tips #2: You will probably be given a JET sticker to wear. Make sure you put it on when you land in Tokyo and that it is visible. When I went through customs, as soon as the officer saw the JET sticker he didn’t spend any more time asking me questions and let me straight through. The sticker helps!
And subsequently melting…
Once you cross that breach from the air-conditioned airport building to the outside world, there is no going back. The only way forward is to get to your bus as quickly as possible. Yes, the heat will be intense, and your clothes will super-glue themselves to you in protest of the humidity.
Tip #3: Wearing jeans on arrival is not a good idea (it is stifling to wear them in the humidity). Best to wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. Do not wear your business suit on arrival – you will only need that from the Monday morning once orientation official starts.
You may only take one piece of luggage, and your carry-on, with you to orientation. All other pieces must be forwarded to your school/BOE. And this means waiting in a queue to pass your bag onto the luggage forwarding people. It should go relatively quickly as everything is well organised and the representatives will make sure you understand the procedure of sending your luggage on. Once that is over you can hop into the air-conditioned bus and relax for a bit before arriving at the hotel.
Tip #4: When packing for Japan (and you plan to forward some of your luggage) make sure the bag you take with you to orientation has everything you will need. This includes your business suit and whatever else you might require for the next 3 days.
Arriving at the hotel…
The hotel that you will be arriving at is most likely the Keio Plaza Hotel. This is one massive hotel and one can get easily lost. Fortunately, the overly smiley smurfs are everywhere and will be waiting for you at the doors when you arrive.
Quickly ushering you through the corridors, upstairs and around corners, you will soon be ladened with your JET goodie-bag (a tote bag that I now use to carry around all my school stuff) which will be full of useful info.
Tip #5: This tip might not be the case for everyone reading this. But, if you have an insurance form that needs to be handed in once you get to the hotel, then if possible, fill it out before you arrive at the hotel (like on the bus). Or at least have all your information on hand. Before you can move onto the next part of receiving information or getting to your room, you need to hand in the form. It can take a bit of time and the last thing you want to be doing, in a jet-lagged state, is filling out forms.
Orientation days: Food
Breakfast and lunch are held in two large dining rooms in the hotel. As with all large events, the breakfast and lunch venues do fill up quickly and sometimes it is better to either go first thing (when others are still waking up/getting ready), or near to the end of the time when most people have eaten and moved on.
Tip #6: When it comes to lunch I discovered that you don’t have to eat it at the hotel. On the second day I was not up to eating what was on offer, so a group of us decided to head out into the neighbourhood and grab lunch at a nearby restaurant. Do note that going outside for lunch will mean it will be just as busy, but instead of other JETs you’ll be with salarymen. And don’t forget to be back in time for the start of the after-lunch lectures and workshops.
Tip #7: There is a conbini lurking in the depths of the hotel. If you take the escalators to the basement you will find it there, full of munchies, drinks and small meals.
Talking about drinks – don’t forget to drink lots of water! There will be water available outside the main lecture rooms, but it is also a good idea to carry around your own water bottle as well. It will be very hot and humid in Tokyo and you will need to keep hydrated after your long flight.
On the Monday night there is a mandatory welcome ceremony and dinner in the main hall. Here you get to meet and socialise with the other JETs who are heading to your prefecture. There are free drinks, free food and it’s lot of fun! However, if there is one tip I can give:
Tip #8: When the signal is given to start helping yourself to the buffet table, don’t just go for the savoury stuff first, believing that the desserts will still be waiting for you once you are ready for them. They won’t be. I found this out very quickly when I discovered all the desserts were gone by the time ‘dessert time’ came around. It seems that others helped themselves to both the mains and dessert at the same time. Might not be the case for you, but you never know. 😉
Orientation takes a cool-bizz approach when it comes to clothes. However, at least for the Monday opening ceremony, I would say wear your business suit with blazer. I wore business pants, a blouse, and a blazer – which is pretty much what everyone else wore. Simple and straight forward, you can’t go wrong with a business suit/dress.
Tip #9: Don’t forget to pack casual clothes for when you go out in the evening to explore Tokyo. Additionally, your country’s embassy might invite you to a welcome party on the Tuesday night (like the South African embassy did), so having a back-up semi-casual set of clothes is a good idea.
Tip #10: Shoes! Shoes are important. Make sure you are wearing comfortable shoes, especially when going outside the hotel to explore. You will do a lot of walking and it will be hot and sticky, therefore wearing brand new shoes that haven’t been worn in is not a good idea.
Lectures, seminars and workshops
This is what will keep you busy for the majority of the time while at orientation. They will all be useful to you in some form or the other, and will provide you with numerous resources to refer to while teaching in Japan.
Tip #11: Do make it on time to all your lectures and workshops. As soon as you arrive at the hotel you are officially working for your contracting organisation. They are paying you to be at orientation and as such you need to be on time and not skip them – unless you have a really good reason to. You can tell this was drilled into me when I arrived…
Also, some of the lectures will be tough to get through, especially on the second day. Not because of the content, but because you will be getting over jet-lag, coming down from the initial euphoria of arriving in Japan, and exhausted from being on your feet the whole day. The best way to stay awake is to doodle! I found that kept my eyes open and my mind somewhat compos mentis.
Tip #12: Enjoy yourself.
If it is your first time in Tokyo, let alone Japan, then go out and explore! You will have time in the evenings to explore, and in the goodie bag you receive you will find extra information (found in the AJET Connect magazine) on nearby places you can visit during that free time. Take lots of pictures, have fun with your new-found friends, and don’t forget to call home! There is free wi-fi in the rooms so use that to Skype or e-mail home.
To all the incoming 2015 JETs, I do hope you have a wonderful time at Tokyo Orientation. It will fly by in a flash and before you know it you will be arriving in your new town! Enjoy the awesome ride. 😀