I apologize for not updating sooner, but it's been a little difficult not having internet. I have some access to it now, but it's only in my laboratory, so I don't think I'll really be able to write much at work after my lab hours and classes begin.
Anyways, my flight to Japan went fairly well. I was late leaving Nashville, but other than that, everything ran fairly smoothly. On my long flight, there were only about six people in my entire section, so it was fairly comfortable. However, I couldn't sleep at all on the plane, so I was awake for probably 23-27 hours straight. Not sleeping that long was tough for me, and on top of that, when I did make it into my dorm room, they staff forgot to supply me bedding so I had to sleep on the floor that first night... needless to say the first day I was exhausted. Some people may disagree, but even with the futon now, it's not a comfortable bed to sleep on. I really miss my queen-size bed (though that would take up the entire surface area of my room).
Upon arriving in Japan, my friend Taku and a Kyushu University staff met me at the entrance of the airport, where they got me a taxi to take me to the dormitory. I didn't realize it at the time (it was night time and I was half-awake) but Ito campus of Kyushu University is waaaaay out in the countryside. It's probably about an hour from the major city, and is surrounded by rice patties and hills of bamboo/kudzu. The following morning my support team of Japanese students met me to go set up a bank account, go grocery shopping, and handle the mounds of paperwork given to me. I cannot be more thankful to them for the amount of crap they have to go through to get me settled. Not knowing the native language makes me completely dependent on them, and I can't stand relying on others all the time for help.
Yamaguchi-san is my main supporter and is one of the main PHD students in my laboratory. He's probably the smartest person in the lab, but he's extremely humble and won't admit to being good at anything (I think that's a very typical Japanese thing). Everyone else in the lab nicknamed him 'Taxi' since he drives everyone everywhere they need to go. Obayashi-san is another PHD student who at one point lived in the United States so he is fluent in both English and Japanese. He says he's losing his English-speaking ability, but so far, I haven't noticed his speech lacking in anything. The last member of my support team is Yamamoto-san (Masa). His English is not the best, but he genuinely tries to make an effort to talk to me. All three are extremely friendly people, and so is everyone else in the lab. I wish I could communicate more with them, but until Japanese lessons start, I have a limited vocabulary.
During my first weekend, my cousins came to visit me, along with Hiroto's girlfriend Rei. One cousin speaks fluent English (with a London accent) so it was good to have a translator for that first weekend. Saturday, they took me out to the subway station which has a huge built in shopping complex, and to a Japanese temple. We had a tasty lunch of fried pork cutlets, salad, and rice inside the restaurant area of the subway station, and I also purchased an umbrella from one of the shops. Next, the temple we went to, was built in dedication to a famous scholar from Kyoto, so to pray there is suppose to help you with your studies (I need all the luck I can get). Sunday they took me to a HUGE shopping mall called 'Canal City' where we looked for some clothes, and I bought some housing goods for the dorm room. They had a lot of brands I have never heard of, but a few of them were familiar. Rei, unfortunately could not come with us on Sunday, but I got to have a nice seafood lunch with my family. All of them were so genuinely kind, I really had a good time, but I was so tired we had to call it an early evening both days. I hope next time I see them I am able to speak more Japanese! They seemed like such fun people.
I will post again with pictures later! This first week of school is pretty crazy, so I never know when I'll have time to sit and type (or when I will have internet). Thanks for your patience.