I arrived in Japan about a week ago, and the very first night I made my way into a Japanese convenience store. I had watched many videos in the past about Japanese convenience stores, but nonetheless, when I stepped inside I felt completely unprepared. There were so many products I had never tried before; the layout was completely different than US stores, and the queuing system felt strange; when the staff asked me questions at check-out, I could not understand a word of it (despite having heard them over and over again while studying in the US).
Everything here has felt like stepping into that Japanese convenience store (コンビニ) for the first time. It does not matter how much you prepared. It will feel different than how you expected, and it will be disorienting. In the last week, I have walked around various cities within Tokyo, asked directions many times from the locals, tried a lot of new food, and explored what will soon be my school. Each new experience I have is like trying another product on the shelf at a コンビニ. The more things I try, the more I learn about myself, and the more I start to understand my surroundings in a deeper way.
I have now gone into a コンビニ many times. I can hear what question they’re asking me clearly and have grown in my confidence so much. I have products I for sure like and things I never want to buy again (beware of almond pudding). The progress I’ve made this week at convenience stores shows me that I can look forward to a lot of growth here in the next year! It is difficult to not put myself down for not being at the level I feel like I should be. However, if I can grow this much just by buying some おにぎり rice balls, in a year I’ll be just fine.