I walk through hallways and tunnels like I am on another planet. This Nartita airport is so big that I have a feeling l I am walking some marathon path a few kilometers long. I think I can hear some music coming out of speakers, but I cannot swear, maybe it’s just a buzzing in my ears. All workers at the airport are wearing nice uniforms and a smile. I have never seen smiles on the people who work the same job in Europe. Here, anywhere you look someone is smiling warmly and nicely. I pass through customs and passport control without any problem. I pick up my luggage and let the crowd take me out, because I am not sure if I could find the exit myself. I am like a headless chicken just staring around.
After the exit people are spreading everywhere, heading to someone who is waiting for them. I am the only one stuck in the middle of the way out, and I have just realized that I am not sure what to do now. Again the same situation and again I am telling myself the same thing: you stupid goose, how come all the crazy things in the world you have on your mind, but you forget to ask about very crucial details for your trip-like how, when and where you land! Maybe you need to get a tattoo with these question for the next time.
And here I am. I don’t know what to do. Actually the only thing I can do is stand here and pretend to look for something in my bag, so people don’t see the confused look on my face. Let’s find a note book and pretend to be looking for some information. Oh, here is a pen. Now I can flip the pages like I am looking for a number, but they are blank. (It is a new note book Nina gave me to write down everything interesting that happens to me, so I don’t forget to tell her about it when I go back home). I take a phone to pretend to call someone, but the phones from Europe are not working on this planet. Now I look at the floor, like I am thinking. The minutes pass when finally, I see someone’s shoes standing in front of me. I look up and I see a ragged head bowing. He asks me if am I Ines, looking at the photo in his hand and comparing it with my face.
“Yes, that is me. Nice to meet you!”
The guy says his name, but I know I need at least 3 days and a minimum of 25 repeats to remember it. Shameful, I know, but somehow the names do not stick in my head. The first time meeting someone I concentrate on saying my name clearly, so I lose the name of my companion. Then I ask a few times about it, but it is still not enough for me to remember. Somehow it evaporates from my mind the second I need it. Then I have to find a way to address the person without the name, using pronouns, or other words. I don’t know why I am telling you all this, making my embarrassment even bigger. It’s even worse in Japanese, with the unfamiliar names. I will train hard my memory here.
Here we are. He takes my suitcase and we walk to the parking place in silence. I am staring around, shocked at how many cars are outside. When we sit in the car he tells me about my day and the tasks we have to do. It is noon now, so we have plenty of time. And I find out I will continue my day by going to castings with other girls. Very good, straight to the fire. He says we have to stop by the agency first, to meet the bookers and managers. What is a manager? Isn’t it the same thing as a booker?
So I ask him who the managers are and what they do.
“I am one of the managers. We drive you to castings and we represent the girls to the clients.”
I don’t understand but never mind. I am overwhelmed with the picture of the city. This city is huge. Tokyo. And me in it. Oh, yeah!
Let me start with the shock at how clean and tidy the space next to the highway is. With flowers, cropped grass, everything looks like in a fairy tale, like the gardens of castles. Colorful, fresh and jolly. Here and there you can see somebody working on the grass, dressed like a surgeon, kneeling and being fully dedicated to his work. If we had something like that in my country, I would like to consider it as my future profession. Amazing job.
Now we are passing a bridge, beautiful, long and high in the air. In my country bridges are like from the Stone Age, and some destroyed bridges are left from after the bombing. Ok, fine, there are some newer ones like from 1946. Tons of iron used to make something to look like a bridge, left by the Germans after WW2. Well, I am sure they told us when they left that the bridge was temporary, but we pretended we didn’t hear that part and we still use it. It screaks, squeaks, it is eaten by rust, but we ignore all that and still pass over it. I am sure you don’t care about that.
The cars around us, the newest models. Millions of cars. Everything going smoothly. They don’t honk. Silence. Joy to drive here. In my country (here I go again) the youngest car was discontinued in the late 70’s. And the drivers are always in a rush and they all honk like crazy, so you lose your hearing after a few years of driving.
Everywhere around me are buildings reaching as high as the clouds. I have my mouth open. Really. This is all far, very far away from anything I have seen in my life. We have one building tall and high, and we are very proud of it, but it is not even knee high to these Japanese buildings. Never mind, I still love our tallest building, our “lady of the city.” Here, everything is made in glass, polished; billboards and light commercials are very colorful. It is a sunny day and the sun is making everything even more beautiful, giving a special charm to the city.
Now we are stuck in traffic. And I am shocked for the hundredth time today: at the bus station people are waiting in a line. One by one, in a straight, perfect line. Waiting for a bus.
The bus is here and one by one they are entering the first door.
In my city, the bus station is like the stands of some sports field, and when a bus comes it is like a stampede. Who gets in is lucky, and who is left out gets a wish for better luck next time from the lucky ones in the bus. I never dreamed that Tokyo was such a different planet.
The people are all dressed in a similar way. My manager says it is because many occupations have uniforms, and uniform catalogs pay good money to models, if a girl is lucky enough to get the job. But I want to ask him something else:
“Why are the women not in kimonos? For me Japanese women have their hair in a bun with sticks coming out of it, dress in kimonos and wear those funny looking clogs.”
“You will see women dressed in kimonos around the city, but not all of them are dressed that way. Mostly rich women or women whose occupations require kimonos as uniforms are wearing them today. Kimonos are very expensive. A real kimono could cost more than ten thousand dollars. Younger women and girls like the western style of dressing more than the traditional, but Tokyo is a big city, and you will see every kind of style.”
Shock again. The price of a kimono is ringing in my ears. And I wanted to buy one. Pure dream.
Men have longer hair with a tails in the back. I don’t know how to explain it, but you can see that they spend some time in the morning to make it look like that. Every head of hair is perfectly done; even if it is fuzzy it is perfectly fuzzy.
I am watching the commercials and billboards, but it’s strange when you don’t recognize the letters. You can just stare at the moving photos.
I don’t want to be annoying and ask a lot of stupid questions, but my manager is very quiet, so I decide to leave him alone and end this trip in silence. The length of the trip has made me hungry. Luckily I have a banana in my bag, but I ask him to stop somewhere to buy something before the castings. He says he will stop at a “convenience store”- whatever that means.
It means the store in front of the agency, where you can buy all different things to eat and drink. I take some kind of triangle sandwich, not sure how it tastes. I can see from this point that I will have a problem with food here, so just in case, I buy snacks. Who knows if I will like the taste of the sandwich? I buy fruits too, for later. I take enough for a shock at the register. I have no idea how much people make here, but I spend a third of what I brought here just for this little bit of food. Cheers.
The sandwich is yuck. Some kind of spread with pepper that burns my tongue, but it cost a fortune. I eat it all, and I would eat it even if shit was inside. I have no money left. Eat and shut up.