Upon arrival of being in Japan, I was completely overwhelmed. I will never forget walking down the hallway stairs at the hostel and the lights changing with each step. The light gets brighter when you are walking and dims where you just left. Energy efficient lighting, even at a hostel. Welcome to Tokyo.
I couldn't exactly sleep well in the hostel, my roommates kept coming in and out at all hours. They kept bringing stuff in plastic bags in, and up into their bed rustling around and I was unable to sleep. This was a trend for the entirety of my stay in Japan. I later figured out some Japanese people temporarily stay in hostels in Tokyo and I could only best figure out it was their groceries/snacks they were eating in bed.
So still after not being able to sleep that well and flustered with my phone not working, I said screw it and got up at 7am. I decided to try to use a payphone. First I had to find where to buy a pay phone card. Turns out you can buy them at 7 11, which is a whole different concept compared to the 7 11s in the US. (7 11's originated in Japan, who knew?) So compared to the poorly kept convenience store as 7 11 is known for in the United States, in Tokyo they are IMMACULATELY clean with snacks, food and drink I have never seen in my lifetime. Every thing you buy is like a surprise.
It also turns out, not a lot of people ask for payphone cards so I struggled with trying to explain what I was looking for to the cashier. He finally understood and sold me a 20 US dollar phone card. I bring it back to the hostel and insert it into the phone in the proper slot. I am greeted by a rambling Japanese prompt, then an English one.
I punch in the card number.
Wait for a prompt. Dial the country code 1.
Then the number. It doesn't work.
I try again. This time country code 001 then the number. Then I ask the front desk at the hostel. They have no clue. Upon each failed attempt I hear the same message in Japanese, although I do not speak Japanese, tones can be universal and I knew that meant my call had failed. I kept hanging up and trying a jumble of numbers. After about 20 minutes I'm getting upset. I am flustered because of the long flight. Lack of sleep. Cultural barriers. Communication barriers. And not knowing what to do when I am sleep deprived. Also I want to call home. What's worse in the whole world then wanting to call home and you can't?
I somehow magically dialed the right combination of (card number, dialing out, country code, phone number). I don't hear a ring but hear my mother's voice. "Hello." "Mom, it's me. I made it." I then hear a prompt saying after the call connected it used 17 of the 20 minutes to connect the call to the United States. "Shit." I say and tell her I love her and that I'm fine. That I will try to get another phone card and call her back tomorrow. "Okay, sweetie." She says.
I hang up and try to go over in my head how to get the right coins for the phone because I need to make a local call and the next call I made changed my life.
...to be continued...
Want to read part I? Please click here