Monthly Archives: September 2012

My sister coming to visit and starting at uni!

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Later that Friday evening my darling sister came to visit me! I went to meet her at Haneda airport after finding a really convienient bus service straight from Kasai to it. Although I got a bit confused when I got to the station as I couldn’t for the life of me see where stand 13 was. So I asked a lady whether she knew where it was, and instead of just saying ‘no’ she took me over to a group of girls, asked them if they knew, and when they didn’t, she took me to the information desk and asked them, and then pointed me in the right direction. How nice was that?! So after a relatively short journey to the airport (so much better than the journey from Narita to the dorms!) I was reunited with me sister! We went straight to Nishiย  Kasai, where her hotel was, and walked around it a little, aka we got lost on the way back to the station. But we did get chatted up and asked to go for drinks by this fairly nice chap, but unfortunately I have curfew sooooo… ๐Ÿ˜‰

The next day I went to meet Emily at Nishi Kasai and we headed to Iidabashi so she could see Hosei.ย  Then we went to Shibuya, and they had an H&M. Omg, EUROPEAN CLOTHES SIZES. So we got excited about that. We also went in 109, the fairly famous department store. It was loud. And cutsie. We didn’t stay that long. After that we were a bit tired and so headed back, though not before we got film for the awesome polaroid camera she got me for my birthday (my birthday was in January btw). We went back to our separate places for a rest and then met up again for dinner. I noticed a steak place on the way to the station, and remembered where it was as I know Emily likes steak. So, I found her, and somehow I managed to get lost. Again. Funny seeing as the steak place is literally on the way down the straight road from my dorm to the station. But the steak was good.

On Sunday we went for breakfast, along with Daishia and her friend, and I had PANCAKES. Nom nom nom again. Then we went to my dorms as Emily wanted to see them. After that we went to meet Izumi, who Emily stayed with when she went on the exchange. He took us to see Sky Tree, but we went in the building next to it as it’s free and still offers a pretty good view of the city. We then went back to his home and met Mizuki and Mikako there. Takumi came with us earlier. We were fed some very nice cake, though unfortunately at this point I was developing a head ache so wasn’t the liveliest I could have been. They then treated us to dinner, which was really good, and then they dropped us back home.

In the morning we met again for breakfast, I may have had pancakes again, shush! And we went and had a wander around Minami Sunamachi and then headed back to Kasai to get to the airport. Unfortunately the next bus wasn’t until too late a time so we had to get a taxi. However the taxi driver was really nice and didn’t seem to mind that we had no idea which terminal Emily had to fly from. We got there in time, and parted ways! She’s coming back in a month, can’t keep her away.

So I headed back and found myself in a quiet dorm as everyone had gone to a pool party. I hadn’t wanted to go, mainly as although being a ‘pool’ party you weren’t allowed to swim and that I would be getting there after the free entry cut off and I wasn’t paying! So I took the afternoon to chill, get myself organised and do laundry. It was actually really pleasant! I later went out to get tea with Rachel, and then came to find the others had returned and were playing spoons. I like spoons.

However the next day, I found my streak of being the only one without mosquito bites had ended. Lo and behold five beautiful red blotches had appeared! They’ve not been too badly itchy and seem to be reacting well to sudocrem. God bless sudocrem….

And off we went to uni! I hadn’t quite chosen which modules I wanted to do yet so I was going to any I liked the sound of. First was Culture and Society in Meiji and Taisho Japan, and having gone in thinking I wouldn’t do it, I came out with the opposite opinion. Me, Celest and Ollie took a trip to the uni stationary shop and picked up some supplies and then tried the uni canteen food. While being nice, it is a tad pricey for a student budget. After that was Japanese Conversation class. Which was okay, however we had the really really quiet talker from the interviews so we really had to pay attention! Which was probably a good thing. And after that was cultural diversity, which again was very good, but as I was running on 4 hours sleep due to jet lag once again rearing it’s ugly head, I found it hard to focus and had to keep myself awake!

Today I had Classical Japanese Literature, which seems like it’s going to be a fantastic class! But also like it’s going to be a lot of work. So as I really want to do that one I have decided to drop the other literature modules I was going to do and do some of the other cultural ones. Otherwise there would be far too much reading to do!ย  Also Japanese Composition went really well. However it does seem to be a lot of grammar we’ve done before, so it is a bit of a concern. Especially as McAuley emailed the other day and announced we have to pass JLPT 2 this year AND learn all 200 jouyou kanji. Great….

Later me and Sophie went to Shinjuku to try and find the Tale of Heike book that Nelson (the C.J.L professor) wants us to use. We found the amazing bookstore, going off station maps and my vague memory of going there once with my friend Emma five years ago on the exchange. It made me feel old… But once we got there, not only was the book not there but it was ridiculously expensive. So we decided to Amazon it later. I did however stand there drooling over a copy of The Tale of Genji which I really had to stop myself from buying. And then I found the pillow book and various other translations of the classical texts we’d been translating in Tranter’s class last year. I felt a bit sorry for Sophie who had to stand and wait for me to finish being a traditional story nerd. We then bought post cards so that it wasn’t a wasted trip.

We got back and had some really nice food. Got to love the free food provided by the dorm! We then looked at Heike Monogatari on Amazon, and decided to do a group order with Lera to save on shipping costs. However, even using the Japanese site, it turns out that the books won’t arrive until two weeks after the start of the course. So after some emailing, Tanaka, our ESOP coordinator, has offered to order them for us.

Also it rained today. My natural habitat ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Communal bathing, giant insects and living without tea

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My first week and a half in Japan has gone so fast! And it feels like I’ve been here for ages already. I’ve already managed to make some friends (despite acting my general weird self. I know, surprising right?). In the past week I have walked around Kasai a few times, so now have a fairly good knowledge of the local area! Also we’ve gone exploring some other parts of Tokyo, including both the juku’s (Shinjuku and Harajuku), Shibuya and I went and looked at Sky Tree. It’s a wee bit expensive to go up.

I’ve also managed to meet up with a few of my friends here, who happen to live in the same district as me, and it’s been really nice to see them all! I met up with Haruka on my first Sunday here, and we went to a department store where I got a pillow which isn’t a piece of material full of cut up straws. And we then went and got Okonomiyaki, which was really good after Haruka picked all of my ‘enemy’ out of it, aka Ginger. Yeah I know, strange to have a ginger that can’t eat ginger. I like to think I’m not being canabalistic.

And the next day I met up with Chiharu and we went to Minami Sunamachi, where there’s a nice shopping mall, and I picked up a few more bits for my room. Also we got indian curry, om nom nom, and learnt that egg curry is not mild. We were sweating even more when we left. I also got very excited at finding a Lush there. I love Lush just a little bit.

The day after that, orientation started, and we had the dreaded placement test! I came out not really knowing how I’d done, and got more confused over the university tour. After we were done for the day we went on our first trip to Shinjuku, and literally just walked around it and came back. Though we did find a nice temple.

The next day we had interviews, and I found that I actually didn’t do all that bad, but my ‘interview’ sort of turned into a conversation. Me, Ollie, other Ollie and Dane decided to go have a look at Yasukuni Shrine in the gap between the interviews and the welcome party. Yasukuni is an odd place due to it’s controversial history, but it was actually very nice. Once you ignored the nationlist flags for sale in the gift shop. We had the welcome party, and were intorduced to some of the lecturers and some students and had a lot of food. After that we went to Harajuku. Ollie managed to get confused and we ended walking around the block before she realised the big hyaku en store (100 yen store) was actually on the main street. After buying lots of things for rooms (I got some wrapping paper to cover my weird door marks) we had a nose around and Celeste got very attached to pair of Hello Kitty glasses. After having a giggle over some of the amusing items we found in one of the shops, we headed back to the dorms as our feet hurt. Though we managed to get confused on the trains again. Whoops.

Later that day we found out which group we were placed in, and luckily I got group 3, which is the second from top! I was quite pleased ๐Ÿ˜€

The next day we had some help filling in the national medical insurance forms, we are required to take this out by law. Though we have to pay 2000 yen a month for it unfortunately -.- But I guess it’ll come in handy if I accidentally manage to impail myself on something… It could happen. We decided to go to Donkihote, yet another department store, to find some more stuff. Though I got there and realised I didn’t want anything. Ah well.

And the day after that, we went to the bank and opened bank accounts with Mitsubishi. I of course, in my mature stage of life, opted for the disney designed bank card. Who wouldn’t? We went back to the uni for more Q&A on the course listings, and then we headed to Shinjuku (again) to find out stuff about phones. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do about a phone here. None of the deals seem very good, so I’m going to walk into a Softbank and wave my iphone in someones face and see if they can do anything about it. It should be unlocked as I was on payasyougo in the UK so fingers crossed!

However, this week I did have to be brave. The private showers were closed for maintainence so it was a choice between being really smelly for a week, or getting naked in front of people. The latter seemed the least undesirable so I gritted my teeth and used the public bath in the dorm. And it actually turned out to be really nice! And anyone who knows me, knows how shy I am really, so yes, achievement sticker please!

And also, the bugs are huge. Especially unpleasant when a cicada decides to fall out a tree right next to you and start dying. Not to mention the giant hand spider I saw this morning. I mean it was the size of hand. Not just a hand crawling around.

And living without tea is so far going okay. However I am determined to get a mini fridge and find some semi skimmed milk. I will accomplish this mission, as any respectable English person would.

I’VE ARRIVED!

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So yes, after a summer of preparing and planning, I am finally here in Japan!

I flew from Heathrow on 6th September at 1.30pm, and arrived at Narita on the 7th at 9.05am. I met one of my course mates there as we had just happened to book the same flight, and after a teary good bye with my parents (the tears coming from them of course ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) we made our through security and got on the plane. The flight was as good as a long haul can be, and despite being sat next to a slightly eccentric Chemist guy who was a spit talker and didn’t quite understand that when I fell silent it meant ‘I want to watch The Avengers now which I’ve had on pause for about 45 minutes’, it was fairly chilled. Didn’t sleep at all, but I never do. I watched about four films on the way (The Avengers = good, Brave = good, Dark Shadows = wasn’t overly impressed, Five Year Engagement = didn’t get to watch the end, but it was okay).

I was met at the airport by my friend Yuki’s mum, Shizuka, and having been warned by Yuki that her mum couldn’t speak a word of English, I was all prepared to start talking in Japanese. Despite having had no sleep for over 12 hours, I was quite awake and for the first hour or so managed okay. My Japanese is still fairly broken, and I haven’t done much revision this summer but I managed to make myself understood. Around 11.00 thought, I started to crash and found it much more difficult, but Shizuka didn’t seem to mind and let me just sit quitely for the rest of the journey. She was very kind to me, she paid for all my train tickets, and even bought me a top up rail card, which she had already put about 5000 yen on me, and took me right to the dorm, helping me with all my stuff, and then took me out for lunch.

Nothing could have prepared me for the heat though. Everyone had said ‘make sure you pack light and cool clothes’, so I threw all my summer things into my suitcase, but I didn’t understand just how hot it was going to be. It’s roughly 32 degrees outside and incredibly humid. Even if I wear skirts and shorts with strappy tops, you feel like you’re wearing a full body of clothes as the heat just envelopes you. Also because of the humidity you just feel sticky, which is horrible. Because I wasn’t used to it, I ended up feeling a bit ill on my first day, and I could barely eat my lunch. I felt really bad, but Shizuka didn’t seem to mind.

She took me back to the dorm, and I gave her the tea cosy we’d got her as a thank you gift. She then went home, and I thought I’d start unpacking. However, a couple of girls came to my door and introduced themselves. I can’t remember one of their names as I haven’t really seen her since, but the other was Arielle, a very bubbly and cheery American, and they both helped me sort out my bedding and then we went up to Arielle’s room to have a chat. After that, me and Arielle decided to go for a stroll around Kasai. She showed me a shop where I got a ‘hanko’, which is a Japanese name stamp which you use for all sorts of official documents (it sort of replaces a signature) and then we decided to walk through a pachinko parlour as we’d never been in one before. It was the loudest place I had ever been in, and I don’t know how the Japanese can do it! We got some odd looks as we went through, but I guess we were being a bit strange for just walking through like that!

We then had a look in a book store that was just down the street and got blinded by the manga section so we made a hasty retreat. After strolling around a bit more we headed back to the dorm, and I had a proper unpack. By that point I was feeling a tad overwhelmed and I did get a bit teary, so I finished unpacking and lay down on my bed and had an unintentional nap. I woke up and realised it was time to go and have some tea so made my way to the dorm food hall. Due to the nap I was feeling a lot better but I was still pretty tired. Also, the food, not the best I’ve ever had, but it’s free so I guess I can’t complain too much. I finished my food and went back to my room and skyped mum and dad to see if they were okay. After that I watched Doctor Who and went to sleep. I only woke up once during the night which was surprising and I managed to get to sleep again fairly easy.

Breakfast was much nicer than the tea, and after getting very confused over how to eat a croquette with chopsticks I asked the girls sitting next to me (in Japanese!) how to and they showed me. Later I met up with Dane, my course mate who was also placed at Hosei, and we went on another exploration around Kasai. We found a really good store where everything upstairs was 100 yen and the man at the till was really friendly and helpful. He clearly wanted to have a go at speaking in English so we ended up having a conversation where he’d speak to me in English and I’d reply in Japanese. Well, I’m here for a reason!

We decided to be really brave and try the local McDonalds, which was very nice, and then continued our exploration. We found a little park and looked at a memorial thing, which we then realised was one for Hiroshima. As we tend to be asked if we’re American, we thought that perhaps we should move. Don’t want no awkward arguments now.

After an long walk around town, we went our separate ways as the boy’s dormitory is in Minami Kasai. I headed back and collapsed on my bed until the dormitory mum knocked for me to say tea was ready and that there were some more exchange students for me to meet. So I wandered down and introduced myself, and hurrah! We have another Brit! After chatting for a bit we took ourselves off to our rooms and went to Bedfordshire. Aka, bed ๐Ÿ˜‰

Jenny’s adventure to London to get a visa

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A couple of weeks ago, I went up to London with my dad to get my visa for next year. We’d driven up to my great aunt’s the day before, she lives in Thatcham, and caught the train in the morning so we could spend the whole day as IT WAS THE OLYMPICS! Very exciting stuff. We went and got my visa from the embassy first, which was actually very straight forward and quick as I was amazing and had got all the forms and documents I needed ready to perfection! Well, I was organised anyway, which, for me, is amazing.

After we got my visa I wanted to go visit Speedy’s Cafe, which is the one used in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes series (though it’s called ‘Mrs Hudson’s snacks and sandwiches’ or something like that) and is next to the flat that poses as 221B in the series. So we went there, had a cup of tea and a cake, took a photo of me next to the door, and went to Hyde Park.

It was baking hot in London, and I had foolishly listened to my Dad’s recommendation of clothing and was wearing jeans and boots and not a particularly thin top, so I wasn’t very comfortable. We trawled our way through the sea of people so we could reach the Serpentine and see the 10K swimming. It was very exciting and I’m glad I have a sort of ‘I was there moment’ for the London 2012 Olympics ๐Ÿ™‚ Buuuuut, by that point I couldn’t take the heat any more and so text my mum and asked her if she could find out where the nearest Primark was. I just had to change.

So a few minutes later me and my dad emerged from Primark, with me now happily clad in cooler clothes, we headed back to Hyde Park, grabbing some KFC on the way, and purchased some Olympics merchandise. We then went to the National Gallery and I discovered that me and Dad had the exact same taste in art, so we happily ogled works by Monet, Manet, Degas, and, my absolute favourite, if a bit of a clichรฉ, Van Gogh. It was amazing to see some of those pictures in real life as opposed to an image on the computer. After wandering through the Impressionists and Post Impressionists, we headed for the exit and criticised all the other paintings ’cause we’re artsy fartsy and all that. That and nothing beats those paintings.

Then we headed over to Baker Street to go see the Sherlock Holmes museum, which is actually at 221B Baker Street. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to go into the museum, but we went into the shop and had a picture taken outside wearing a deer Stalker and a pipe with a Victorian policeman. I then bought myself a deer stalker.

So we headed back to Paddington Station and got on the train back to Thatcham, and so ended my London adventure.