At 3PM on August 16th 1990 my flight landed at Narita airport outside of Tokyo. I had a plan to come to Tokyo and study Aikido at the World Headquarters for six months, then go back to Canada.
I took the Airport Limousine Bus to Ikebukuro, and waited in a train station for about 3 hours until I could meet up with a friend when they got off work. This was back before the days of cell phones or the internet, I had arranged to meet said friend via letters, actually written by hand on paper, stuffed into envelopes and then mailed My friend told me where in the station we would meet but I'd have to wait until they finished work. The station was vast, and complex, but I eventually found the meeting place and then sat down on my duffle bag. I had a three hour wait, I had used up most of my Japanese money and did not know where to get any money exchanged. I spoke about four words of Japanese. During the wait I drank a couple of cold drinks from a vending machine and read a book. I got hassled by the cops once but left alone after that. When my friend showed up, I don't think I've ever been so happy to see someone before in my life. I had taken a real milk run of a flight, Vancouver to Seattle, change planes, Seattle to Los Angeles, change planes, LA to Hawaii, sit on plane on tarmac for a few hours, not allowed to disembark, then Hawaii to Korea, then Korea to Tokyo, or I should say to Narita. By the time my friend showed up, I had been traveling for well over 24 hours.
I stayed with said friend for a few days until I could hook up with a Canadian guy that was also practicing Aikido. No one had a phone at home, it was very expensive to have a landline in your apartment back then, so I could not phone him, again this meet-up was arranged via international post. I was to meet him at a McDonalds next to Shin-Okubo station at a specific time, we would then go together to the Dojo and he would help me sign up and introduce me, as well as show me around the dojo. Eventually I got an apartment that was very close to the dojo, it was a 4.5 mat room, that is about 9'x 9', with a small closet, the cooking area was just big enough for a sink and a hot plate, it also served as the entranceway into my little aparto. The toilet was down the hall, and there was no bath or shower, you used the public bath house. No AC only a fan, and no really good heat in the winter, you sweated out the summer and froze in the winters, yes it does not get that cold here, but the walls have zero insulation and neither do the roofs, so the moment you turn off your heater, the room gets cold!
My how my life has changed in the 23 years since then. I'm glad to be here and hope to be around at least another 23 years.