Saturday morning, orientation programs started! Just as exciting, I finally got the melon pan I had been looking forward to. Two other interns and I woke up early to explore a konbini (Japanese version of a convenience store) near the hotel. A konbini, though it shares some similarities to the American version of a convenience store, is honestly a completely different experience. A konbini sells everything from shampoo to fully cooked, ready to eat meals, and are everywhere in Tokyo- at least on every corner. It’s hard to walk two minutes without seeing one of the brightly lit signs. The melon pan I bought there is a cross between a cheap bread and a sugar cookie, shaped like a tortoise shell, and not tasting at all like melon. I also got a CC Lemon Vitamin C drink- fizzy and lemony, it was just what I needed to wake myself up a bit.
After breakfast, we had some free time to explore Asakusa. A festival was going on at the shrine at Senso-ji, the main temple complex in Asakusa that forms its largest tourist attraction. The temple was beautiful and people dressed in beautiful yukata (traditional Japanese casual summer dress) were everywhere!
However, my favorite part of the festival was the amazing variety of food stalls all around the temple. You could buy every street food from yakitori (grilled meat on a stick) to takoyaki (fried octopus bread balls) to sweets like manju and dango (sticky rice balls with sweet sauces or filled with bean paste).
Saturday continued with a walk past Tokyo Skytree (the largest structure in Tokyo) to arrive at the Disaster Training Center. We went through four simulations in smaller groups, being trained on how to brave the force of a tsunami, how to extinguish a fire (with practice fire extinguishers), how to survive a level 7 earthquake, and how to escape a smoke-filled room during a fire. All the simulations were completely safe, but were great practice should disaster strike! We also watched a harrowing video depicting the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami, and the aftereffects around Japan.
After the disaster training came a short boat ride to Hamamatsucho (floating past famous areas like Tsukiji Fish Market on the water) and a ride on the Yamanote Train Line to dinner in Akihabara. Dinner was at an izakaya (traditional Japanese pub) where we had our own private room! The meal included nabe (a stewpot of vegetables and meat cooked at the table on a small stove) and amazing appetizers of meat gelatin, potatoes, salads, and tuna sashimi.
The three hour long dinner was accompanied by loud conversations between the interns and program heads, who came to join us for long periods of time at our tables. Even though we were a bit exhausted after the day, a few interns and I ended up walking back from the dinner to the hostel (about 45 minute walk) to see more of the city before we left for our share houses the next day! The walk was the perfect ending to the day, and we passed through areas of Tokyo that we will likely not have time to come back to.