Tag Archives: Japan

Two months down. Day trips begin!

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Well, definitely can say am settled in now. Almost destroyed a kitchen appliance, therefore I am moved in! In the past month, I have been getting down to uni work, attempted weekly gym sessions… so far slightly failed in that aspect, but still better then nothing! Also, I’ve witnessed tradtional singing and biwa performance, still not felt an earthquake and have been attending Izakayas! So far so good.

I have managed to squeeze in a bit of travelling lately as well. I went to Kyuushuu at the beginning of November to see my sister and to witness Karatsu city’s famous Kunchi festival. I’ll dedicate another post to that as it really deserves it. For the time being I’ll just say, it was epic. I’ve attended a Disney Land halloween, which was terrifyingly pricey, but luckily I saved money on bills that month so I could afford to go! Other than that, it was very good fun. Though we all realised how cold Tokyo at night can be. Luckily we have central heating! Oh no…. wait….

The past couple of weekends I’ve been on a couple of day trips. Last weekend I went to Enoshima Island with Sophie. it’s an Island just off the coast of Tokyo/Kamakura, and you can walk over to it via a bridge. It takes about a couple of hours to get to it by train from our part of Tokyo, but it’s fairly easy journey wise. Also it was nice to get out of central Tokyo for a change. When we got there, we bought a day pass for the island which was a 1000 yen (about 8 quid) and with that you could get into all the attractions on the island whenever and how many times you liked. You also got to use the special escalators up to the top of the island. You also get a discount in the shops and some of the restuarants. To go up the island, you walk up a shopping street filled with various food and gift stalls. We decided to try a tub of these teeny tiny whole raw fish. Eyes and everything. YUM! Actually wasn’t half bad after I got Sophie all the ginger poluted ones. So we walked up to the Tori gate, and each got a fortune. Luckily we both got really good ones so we could take them with us, usually you tie the bads one onto a line there to ‘leave your bad fortune behind you’. So we climbed up the island through the various lovely shrines and watched an ‘all round entertainer’ that was funny, but not so special that he does the same show every half an hour. So we strolled through the streets on top of Enoshima, and saw some lovely spiders that I absolutely LOVED, saw an amazing view of Mt Fuji and wandered down to the caves (logically enough, in Japanese, the word ‘cave’ is made of the kanji for ‘stone’ and ‘room’. Makes sense.) After being handed a candle, and left to walk/ almost crawl through the caves to see some buddha/boddhisattva and dragon statues (even Japanese nature isn’t designed for tall people), we emerged back into the daylight. The caves were nice and it’s interesting to see that the Japanese really did just stick shrines anywhere, but I wouldn’t reccomend it if you have back problems.

We then made our way back up to the top of the Island and had a mooch around the ‘Cocking Gardens’ (yes I know….. Straight faces were hard to be maintained). I wondered whether they had gotten the katakana wrong for ‘Cooking’ and then we discovered it was someones surname. Unfortunate. We had a look at the ‘Miami Beach Area’, which in the fast coming, cold, autumn evening wasn’t that Miami like. Then we went up the observation tower, which was brilliant! You could see for miles, one side vast ocean and on the other a mass of buildings penned in by mountains. It was pretty spectacular. After goggling at the view for a while, we headed back to the miami beach area to get a ‘french toast’ desert thing. After waiting for 40 mins or so to have our number called, we, now quite cold, sat down at our outside table to eat. The thought of ice cream no longer seemed good, however, it turned out that the ‘toast’ bit was warm and they also served hot wine, which turned out to be almost mulled wine. Wrapped up in blankets and woolies we had a rather pleasant little meal!

This weekend I went to Kamakura, again with Sophie, my friend Yuki and Ollie and her girlfriend Morgan. It was a lovely day, the sun was out and the leaves are beginning to turn. Autumn is considered to be Japan’s best season, so I’m very excited to see it! We made our way around two of the Zen shrines first, which were stunning. One of them involved walking up a very big hill, but again the view across the valley was worth it. It’s times like this that I realise I came to Japan. After looking at lots of lovely scenery, a couple of national treasures and some tengu statues we went to one of the most famous Kamakura shrines Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. We were a little keen to see this one having heard SO much about Hachiman in the Tale of the Heike (Hachiman is the god of war and stuff. Many prayers to him in Heike) Though it is a great shrine, I went there 5 years ago on the Exchange. After that we were planning on going to the Daibutsu, but it gets dark pretty early here and we spent a lot of time at the other shrines so we didn’t have time. No matter we’ll go back and do it another time (and I’ve already seen it, mwah ha ha haaaa).

That’s my day trips covered then. Still a bit more to catch this blog on but that’ll have to wait as bed is calling me.

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Nearly a month in…

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As of tomorrow I will have been four weeks! So far I’ve slept through more earthquakes, experienced a typhoon and probably know my way around shinjuku really well now!

Uni is going really well, though my language classes seem to be a bit on the easy side despite being the second highest. This weeks grammar homework is to switch dictionary form verbs into polite form. Something I’ve been able to do since I was 16… So looks like There is a lot of self study ahead if I want to get my JLPT 2 at the end of the year. The other classes all seem very interesting too. This semester I’m studying Japanese Thought, Culture and Society in Late Meiji and Taisho Japan, Classical Japanese Literature and Japanese Culture. These are all taught in English, apart from Culture where we have a really eccentric Japanese lady teaching us. She’s amazing!

Home life is going pretty well, but the Internet which started off slow is now pretty much non existent. Pretty sure the typhoon was to blame but it’s now ridiculous. Fee feeling tempted to complain to the dorm company as we’re paying   a monthly fee for this and it hasn’t worked properly for almost a week now.

Last Saturday was Celeste’s birthday so we went out for the day in Shinjuku. First we went to a cat cafe where you basically pay ten quid to go sit with cats for an hour. While cat’s aren’t my favourite thing, some of them were pretty cute. After that we went to ‘Sweets Paradise’ which is an ‘all you can eat’ cake shop. It was pretty awesome, though a bit cake overkill. So after eating a lot of cake we went to Meiji jingu, via purikura machines. Meiji jingu is a really big shrine, built in, surprise surprise, the Meiji era! There are a lot of trees and grass so it was a nice change of scene! There were a couple of Shinto weddings going on while we were there too, though I got told off for taking photos by a security guard, despite being surrounded by other people taking photos. I was little put out by that as I don’t know why he randomly picked on me. We then went home and got in our pj’s and got PIZZA! And beer. We also watched A History of Violence which was an absolutely terrible film. Don’t watch it. The dialogue made me cringe.

Also, I have a phone! A phone that makes me feel like I’ve gone back in time, but still a phone!!! Image

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 Nishi  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… 😉

The next day I went to meet Emily at Nishi Kasai and we headed to Iidabashi so she could see Hosei.  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!  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 😉

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 😀

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.