As promised, toilet talk!

Japanese toilets, a lot like many things in Japan are either very modern, or very not. Unlike toilets in the U.S., modern Japanese toilets (as was seen in my first post) have lots of buttons and options for sprays or bidet, and sounds or music to play for modesty while you go. Plus, a great many of them will talk to you. I still sit on pre-warmed seats and mistakenly think someone was just sitting there. On the other hand, traditional Japanese style toilets are namely a porcelain hole in the floor you have to squat over.

That moment when you look in the stall door and…it’s a washiki.

This is one of the images we all dread when we entering a public restroom. I’ve heard some Japanese actually prefer these toilets, but I haven’t talked to that subset yet. Regardless, a second difference that is hard to get used to is that bathrooms will, in houses and in the school gym, have separate shoes you wear that are only for the bathroom. After having used one of the Washiki-Japanese toilets, I completely understand why there would be toilet-only shoes.

Lastly, thanks to the influence of washiki, the toilets have floor to almost-ceiling doors! This is something the US actually gets made fun of for online (look it up!). The doors in the US are often short on the top and the bottom as well as that silly little gap that allows you to see into the darn stall. I do not miss those.

 

Lunch with a friend:
I have talked a little bit before about being vegetarian. For vegetarian restaurants there are often pizza places with cheese or “Margarita” pizzas and some Indian places!
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We also found a yummy place in Nanba-eki that was all-you-can-eat style Japanese food with a lot of vegetables and traditional foods! So yummy!

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We talked about a lot of things and I was reminded of dating and one important difference. In Japan, there is this focus on the confession. Particularly with the guy confessing to the girl. You don’t date before that confession, at least not exclusively, and the time of confession may have been only shortly after you met in order to avoid the non-exclusive phase. “Hey, I like you!”, and then suddenly it’s a serious relationship. Frankly, I thought that was one of the silly TV exaggerations, but it turns out it’s not entirely false. Yet, in the US, you’re sort of expected to date before any kind of “confession” and certainly before saying “I love you”. Exclusivity may or may not need to be talked about, but no one would ever say they were in a relationship with someone they only met once or twice.
Granted, I’m generalizing, but it’s interesting the different approaches and thought it was interesting to think about. I think I’d be a bit terrified if I got a confession from someone I didn’t know. At the same time, there are so many different types of dating in the U.S. (even the word dating is controversial in meaning!) that it might be nice to know where you stand without having to have a “relationship talk”.
Oh, and don’t be fooled. Hookups happen all the same here. They just might be more socially acceptable in the US.

Field Trips! The part of the blog you were all waiting for! Were you?

Osaka University took all of us off to a pottery shop for a day of making pottery!

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This little old man whipped out three, four, no five of those little pottery pieces in less than 5 minutes! You can see the 1st four on the little board in front of him and a couple of friends in the foreground. My teacher asked me what I had made and I said I didn’t know! It’s a little big to be a cup and a little…no. Maybe it’s just right for a rice bowl or soup bowl in Japan! My finished product is in a picture below with the picture of unbaked pottery of many of the students.
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…so it’s a little awkward and crooked, I know. Afterwards, we went to a pottery museum and learned about the history of pottery in Japan. This is where I got the bamboo stuff I sent a few of you for Christmas! You’ll know what I mean when you get it. Whenever you get it….

There are a lot of little mascots for Japan’s tourist centers and such. I don’t know what this guy is for, but he’s awful cute!

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In the background of the other photo you can see a little bit of Christmas. I know New Years is a bigger deal in Japan, but Christmas!!! My sister sent me a bunch of gifts and so now my room finally feels like Christmas. I’m not allowed to open them yet, but I know one of them is coffee. I can smell it!
Anyway, thank you for the gifts! I don’t really deserve so much, but thank you! :)

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Japan Expo commemoration park- This is a park built on the 1970 World Expo held in Japan. What can I say? This place was gorgeous! A friend and I walked around for hours looking at the scenery and taking pictures. There was a lovely foot bath where we soaked our feet for 10min and looked outside.

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Also, look at how adorable the warning signs are! Isn’t that just Japan?

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Minoh Waterfalls -Minoh has a nice little hike up to a tall, but at the time weak, waterfall. It’s at half-full, see? Trickle, trickle.

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However Japan has an entire culture and thus business around Fall leaf viewing or 紅葉. The nice thing is that you can really enjoy the scenery around you wherever you are. In this respect I don’t think Japan is inherently more beautiful than Seattle, but it is more appreciated and that has changed the degree to which it’s scenery has been beautified.
On the way there we mistakenly took a 400-meter detour up these rather steep stone steps, but were rewarded with a nice scenic view!
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Japan has temples and shrines everywhere and some of them have fortunes you can buy. I got one of these fortunes that would later come true! Apparently if it’s bad (which mine was only one step above that) you’re supposed to hang it on a tree near the shrine/temple. After what happened later that week, I’m sure to remember!

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One touristy thing about Maple leaf viewing in Minoh is that they sell friend Maple leaves. Literally, maple leaves dipped in sweet batter and deep fried! The leaves are crunchy enough to break apart and they don’t taste bitter at all. Actually quite yummy!

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Of note is how small of a place Osaka is in regards to the Exchange students! I can hardly go anywhere without running into a fellow group. I ran into three separate groups on this day as well as the night before. All in all it is pretty fun, though.

Kinkakuji- More shrine visiting and some of the temples lit up their gardens, one of which we did visit. More interesting was the Ninja Cafe (actually restaurant) that we went to. Some of the interesting food dishes were crackers made in the shape of shuriken, an ice cream frog and my chocolate bonsai ice-cream-almost-cake.

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Bridge to Heaven – Amanohashidate: So, I think Osaka University is trying to bribe us into saying good things about them when we go back home by spoiling us and sending us on really cool field trips. It’s working. We took a shuttle bus up to several tourist vistas and lastly to Amanohashidate-Bridge to heaven, where there is a small, sandbar that looks like a bridge with view points where you bend over to look out. Like so:

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Dear family: remember this pose. You’ll see it again later! Afterwards we went to a Japanese Hotel which was….oh my. The food was supper yummy, they made veggies specially for the vegetarians and fed us too much!!!

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The first photo is actually a breakfast photo and is less than half the hall. The rest of the dining room spreads out behind me. Following dinner was a a run of karaoke in the same hall at which point I went into the onsen. The onsen was a lot like a hot tub with an indoor and outdoor version. Except you’re all naked and squeaky clean from showering first. I went to the outdoor one which was…quite and experience. At some point, after some remark about the boys, one of the girls realized that their onsen was right across the fence and loudly said so, “Shh! The boys are right there, they can hear us!!!”. So I replied with “So what?” and then said, “Good evening!”and was answered with loud laughter from the men’s bath (I guess they really could head everything! oops). Things calmed down after that for a bit, but that evening did devolve into “someone’s peeping!” “eek eek!” screams and laughter. There may have been some throwing of cold water over of the fence in hopes to catch a pervert if there was one. I’m not sure if anyone was actually there, but there was a crack in the fence that from where I was I could see a bit of movement, but one of the heroic girls plugged with a washrag. After that I decided it was too rambunctious and that I was plenty toasty and left.

The next day we wandered around Izushi castle town, also famous for yummy soba. The streets were remnant of feudal Japan and I managed to take a lot of lovely photos. However, in the process of climbing back down an old wooden ladder to the upper level of one of the shrine’s gates I fell backwards and hit my head on the pavement. This post is about…oh 3-4weeks after the fact; I am okay, but there’s still the tiniest of bumps and it actually hurts still! Boo on that, I say. Boo.

The gate I tried to explore when I fell.

The gate I tried to explore when I fell.

Nagoya- I had a friend of mine come visit from the US! I got to meet some of his awesome friends and they held a Friendsgiving feast instead of the Thanksgiving I would have had back home. We stayed at a Guesthouse and while my friend slept off his cold I sat downstairs and chatted with other guests in Japanese and made a few new lovely friends. Later that evening we went to an awesome musical in English called “Dreamcatcher”, had a soup dinner and coffee sweets/desserts to finish off the evening. I felt a bit like I was back in America that evening.

Ferris wheel in Nagoya.

Ferris wheel in Nagoya.


Kobe Luminarie
-Crowded! A light up festival for those who died in the great Hanshin earthquake and NOT part of the christmas festivals. Actually, the lights are HANDMADE and lit with bio-mass energy to remain energy efficient! It’s amazing enough to look at alone and the lights are slightly different each year.

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However after we went to a restaurant where I discovered the joy of Umeshu! :3. Basically Japanese sweet plum wine! It’s not necessarily my favorite unless it’s rokku-umeshu, or umeshu poured over a giant ice cube. That, that is liquid joy. We also drank on the train a little bit as we came back since it’s not illegal in Japan. Though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s socially sanctioned, either. There are no pictures of me drunk on Umeshu, though a few friends did get a chuckle as I met them on the way back to our dorm.

Yassai hossai- I can’t say I understand everything about this festival There was a fair amount of chanting by the shrine priests, and it gets it’s name from the cheer “yassai, hossai” as they carry a man through the embers as symbolic of warming up one of the many gods in shinto folklore. I went with a friend (and met a few others there) and we tried to keep our hands warm while we waited for the ceremony to start.

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Later, as the fire burned and fell apart the crown pushed back away from the heat. One older lady urged me forward so I could see better and told us a bit about the ceremony. Once the fire had calmed down they ran giant bamboo sticks to spread it out so the young men could run through and later individuals from the crowd.  One of them being my brave friend, but sadly I didn’t run through. I don’t know why.

Arashiyama- Arashiyama is a lovely little mountain with a bamboo forest. Due to my foolishness I only got to explore some of the night scenery. One of the walkways at the rail station was light up by tubes that I’m told were made from old kimonos. There was also a beautiful night time light up of the bamboo and walkways.

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As for my foolishness, I dropped my camera somewhere, dropped and found my gloves, after reporting my lost camera I accidentally brushed my coat on a heater in the tent and burnt a hole in it. I think I fell down, too! Oh well, at the end of it all, one of my friends felt so bad for me they gave me some sweet candies as a gift.
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I can’t bring myself to open them yet. I know it was a small gesture, but I’m grateful. Thank you!

Harvest hill – I took a fun trip to a far off farm/tourist spot? They have animals to pet and a lot of work shops, but I caught a wrong train and a wrong bus on the way there, so I was a bit late for the animals. I still was able to walk around and see some of the cute displays and prayer candles.  A lot of people (children) write their prayers or hopes on a candle and then light it. Afterwards was a nice little fireworks show and then I caught the train back home. We had a small beer and takoyaki (fried balls with octopus inside) party.

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With this, I think I’m caught up with current events. Woo! Until next time, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!

Next year: Let’s just take it as it comes, hmmm?

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I caught a cold..

…and I neglected this blog. Shame on me, I know. Sorry. How about a picture of a bug to make up for it? 

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Kinda-big Bug!

For those of you on my Facebook, don’t be alarmed if some photos of me wearing a surgical mask pops up. Either now or in the future. In Japan, when you are sick and coughing, sneezing, etc., instead of staying home to rest up, you put on a mask as a courtesy to others, take some medicine and go on as if you were not sick. And don’t, whatever you do, blow your nose in public. Sniffle until you find an appropriately private place to do so. I was not very Japanese, I accidentally slept through 3 morning classes last week and I blew my nose once in a semi-public place (but no one was around?). More shame on me, I know.
Yes, I am pretty much better, thank you for your care to those who asked! Even if only in your heads as you read this; I heard you.

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Lady wearing a mask while bringing her child to receive prayers for 七五三 (7,5,3. ages of the children). About: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shichi-Go-San

Culture Contrast: I am given the privilege of talking with Japanese friends about interesting topics from time to time and there’s one interesting way Japanese and Americans, very generally, seem to approach problem solving. One overall theme of the way things are done in Japan is slowly, but surely. In the US it’s two bird with one stone. Both cultures value correctness and a job well done. In America, the student that is fastest to answer is perceived as smart whereas in Japan, if you answer the fastest it looks like you didn’t consider your answer and thus are someone who doesn’t think. I was asked, “Why do they think that in the US?”. I’m sure some people right now are asking, “Why do they think that in Japan?”. Well, I’m not entirely sure in either case. In some ways it seems more efficient to do the best you can in the less time spent, but it also seems reckless to forego doing something thoroughly and risk making mistakes for the sake of saving time and being efficient. it’s a good question to think about and you can come up with your own answer, although how soon you can answer that might depend on your culture!

As for being a native English speaker and hanging around with exchange students from various countries I can say that a lot of the world feels pressured to be proficient in English (next up is probably Chinese). This results in experiences that I have mixed feelings about. Since I know some of my fellow exchange students like to check this out, this part might be especially for you. First, everyone else can bond over the fact that English is hard. I can only commiserate about Japanese and envy those Chinese students with their Kanji knowledge. 

While sometimes people are busy listening to me chatter on English with awe and interest I am just as fascinated listening to them. They not only have learned Japanese, often much more proficiently than I, but have studied English as well to the point where I can’t even hope to have a private conversation because well, EVERYONE HAS STUDIED ENGLISH. Even if they’re too scared to speak it most understand pretty well. Many of the Europeans know another language or two in addition to these three (Home Language + Japanese + English + ????). Please don’t be jealous that I am fluent in English. It’s one language. Where I come from almost everyone is and it doesn’t give me a distinct advantage there, trust.

Since most people can, to varying degrees, speak English, not only are private conversations in public impossible, but there’s less incentive for me to actually speak Japanese outside of class. Plus I’m a bit shy. No, really. It’s true. So it also relates to the Japanese. Sometimes Japanese will avoid talking to me because they think they have to use English. Sometimes people are surprised that I can speak even some Japanese (and sometimes they’re just being nice) so I’m not sure to what degree this is because they assume my Japanese proficiency is low to zero. I do get some brave souls using English. A lunch server said thank you and a few times in rural areas the young middle school boys said “Hello” and waved to get my attention while riding by on their bicycles. It was pretty adorable.  

Events and Adventures~! (No, not the theme park)

Something I knew little about was the school festivals. I wasn’t able to get a lot of good pictures of this, but these are part of a performance I was watching. 
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The School festival essentially consisted of all the school groups or clubs hosting booths to sell food and/or showing live performances of what they do. It was really fun, I got to watch dance and music performances, drink semi-decent coffee while listening to a nice Jazz band. In addition, I watched a Japanese comedy performance called 落語 (Rakugo. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rakugo). I mentioned before that colleges in Japan have clubs that are a bit more serious such as Aikido, Although clubs that compete seriously (think US football or so) are so intense that for some students it takes priority over their studies. There are also circles which are much more lax. However, clubs and circles are an important part of student life and there are numerous, numerous clubs and circles that are taken pretty seriously here. Moreso than in the US, I believe, although the school festival did feel like we were just a bunch of kids having fun.

Also back in October I got the chance to go to Nara park and 東大寺 (Todaiji = Large East Temple). Nara Park is really famous for it’s numerous and tame deer wandering around. At first, not many deer were hungry, but I did eventually find the ones that were and it was crazy. They bob their heads to beg for more food and will stealthily sneak up behind you to pilfer your pockets and yank things from your hands in hopes it’s more food. One of the friends with me more or less rescued and old lady’s map from one of the deer. Crazy deer, just look at him. Her. Whatever.  

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The Temple was also really cool and they had a 49 foot tall statue as well as guardian (King?) statues of the cardinal directions. There are two here, West and North respectively. After the great 500 ton Buddha statue, of course.

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Okay, I’m exhausted. Whew! Blogging is work! I’m going to go sleep off the last of this cold and hope that the pictures are cool enough to make up for my long absence. There’s some things I haven’t talked about yet so I guess will leave that for…

Next: School sponsored field trips! Yaaay! Oh, and toilets. And toilet slippers. And more.

 

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Classes, Aikido, and Inadequate Deodorant…

In classic Japanese fashion, let’s start by talking about the weather. Compared to Seattle, Osaka is still relatively warm. I turned on (learned to use) my heater one cold night, but since then it’s been a humid and damp week or so where at most I’ve worn a sweater.

Today marks the third Typhoon to pass us by and rain on our fall parade since, well, fall began. It’s been lots of rain which feels natural to me. There’s a wind-tunnel of sorts right by our dorm and I’ve been lucky that while fighting nature with our round nylon shields my weak umbrella hasn’t snapped like a twig. I know a few who broke theirs trying to use it!

A pic of the many-functioned Air-con/Heater/Dehumidifier:

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Classes in Japan, and particularly at the school I am at are a bit different. In short, we at Osaka are a group of spoiled foreign exchange students. Our teachers come to class a few minutes later than we do and, while there is some work to do and you do need to study, it’s not a big deal if there are (a lot of) things you don’t understand. Classes cover a variety of topics, mostly culture, society and language and consist almost entirely of foreign exchange students. Oh, and when there’s a scheduled trip for students in the program to partake in, there’s no classes that day. 

First of all, Japan is on a Semester system and I jumped in with the 2nd semester of 2013 and will finish with the 1st semester of 2014. Classes are 1 day a week for 1.5 hours and they are either 1 or 2 credit classes. We all have a home room class that is required and those who placed slightly lower have a few required language classes.  We were given nearly 3 weeks to try out classes and decide which ones we thought worked best for us which was awesome, but a bit disorienting at first. In the end, I chose the following 8 classes for this Semester:

Dialects in Japan, Calligraphy, Osaka Life & Culture, Composition, Morphology & Syntax:  “Subject” in Japanese , Mythology (taught in English), Festivals, and Religion.

Sample Syllabus from Mythology:

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Two of the other classes were originally taught in English, but the Teacher decided the students levels were high enough to be taught in Japanese and that it was better for the class. Only two of my classes have a final exam, the rest have reports or presentations as part of the final grade. I’m still terrified, though, even of the easy classes!

I joined the Aikido club! They let me borrow a dougi (said kind of like dough + gie) to wear for practice and everyone is super nice. Practice is 2.5hrs and I just about died after the first day of practice. Honestly, on the shuttle back immediately after I very nearly fainted. At first I thought I was extremely nauseous, but then the world started to go quiet and I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Eventually I just sat on the floor so that I wouldn’t fall if I did pass out. Eventually I was able to sit in one of the seats and since it was so crowded I don’t think anyone noticed my little episode. I’ll drink more water next time, guys. I promise.

One funny thing I first noticed at Aikido is that a lot of Japanese feel like they will have  to use English with a (English-speaking-looking) foreigner around and this can make them afraid to talk to you. However, I’ll talk more about being an English speaker around East Asians later. I did notice that after all the back bends, tumbling, and generally dragging each other around you sort of sweat a lot. Which brings me to…

Deodorant in Japan. It’s not good enough for me. Seriously. I ran out and went to a local drug store to find aisles of Spray-on. Have I ever mentioned that I hate the sprays? Well, I do and Japan has them in abundance. Afterwards I read that Japanese (Koreans and Chinese among others) tend to lack a certain gene allowing them to have less of those sweaty armpit glands than someone such as I. Which might account for the abundance of foot deodorant, water deodorant, and other gentle things for your whole body, but not the array of choices for your under arm I am used to.  Even in America I often needed something a little stronger to re-apply throughout the work day, so I eventually decided on this:

MEDICATED~!

MEDICATED~!

I’m not sure what it’s medicated with and it might not be strong enough still. I showered, used it, went to Aikido and ended up with that post-work-out funk. Yet, after I changed out of my uniform the smell subsided, so I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a smell that’s in the dougi. I soaked it overnight and hand-washed it really well after I accidentally got blood on it. So maybe? Unfortunately, it hasn’t dried completely yet, so the final results aren’t in on the source. I’m not giving up!

Laundry in Japan, is also not something I expected. They do have dryers! Our floor’s dryer takes foreeeeeever. It will start and stop itself, turn itself off, and worst of all drop water all over the washer beneath it. Hey, it’s Japan and usually you’re supposed to dry things outside. At least they have one to use for times like this with back to back typhoons, where it would be wetter if you tried to dry it outside, assuming the wind doesn’t take it, of course.

For those that are curious, and for any future students that might happen to find this blog-like thing.  There’s a helpful link for seeing what weather and earthquakes are like in Japan. Japan Meteorological Agency. Great for also seeing if campus is closed due to a warning. Secondly, a rather silly group tumblr by 2012-2013 Maple program students. Enjoy that last one. :)

Lastly, it was requested that I post pictures of the giant bugs, but a lot of them have flown too fast or I squashed them to a pulp and I don’t think you want pictures of bug pulp, that’s just gross, so for now you get a picture of an ordinary stink bug. It’s not soo big, but it’s all I’ve got. There’s 3 or 4 of them wintering inside the dorm.

Stink bug!

Stink bug!

I hope everyone is happy and enjoying sweet pumpkin-cinnamon flavored things in my stead! I need to see if they have pumpkin pie somewhere…oh boy, pumpkin pie….

Next: Aspects of Japanese Culture, Being a Native English Speaker, and a Trip to Nara!

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I made it!

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I arrived in Osaka a bit ago now and everyday has been a new adventure. I stayed at a hotel in Tokyo on the way and I have a room here at Osaka University that is small, but not as much as I expected. I even have my own bathroom! (It’s the door on the left that you can’t see in the picture.) The showers and other rooms I share with five other women. As for some general questions I’ve received:

Yes, it’s hot. It’s humid. There are a LOT of bugs that are huge compared to Seattle ones! I’ve already killed cockroaches, Mukade (giant centipede), and numerous ants and beetles. The little mosquitoes devoured me the first few days, but I seem to have gotten better at avoiding them.

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The little pervert.

There are two stray cats that hang out outside the dorm. We affectionately named this one Chikan-chan. It roughly means “Little pervert”.

The other seems a bit more sickly and I’m really concerned about how to help and if I should.

As for the adventures I’ve had so far, well, there’s a lot. I’ll try to reign my chatty self in, but cover as much as I can and answer some questions as well.

My flight on Day 1 was 11 hours with an overnight layover in Tokyo. I arrived at Narita Airport with my bags of luggage (there were more adventures with me pushing a cart around the airport trying to find the lockers and getting lost.) and passed out in the nice Nikko Hotel.

Conveniently provided air freshener.

Conveniently provided air freshener.

Early the next morning I just about missed my flight trying to find arrivals from departures while pushing around my luggage cart (which was gratis!). I misunderstood the baggage check woman and almost left my luggage there in stead of carrying it myself to the scanner before heading to my gate.

After I arrived at the airport in Osaka and immediately misunderstood the signs. I was supposed to meet my driver near the Starbucks inside and yet I had to ask for help to find my luggage since I had walked right past my luggage carousel. As it turns out, you can’t go back into that area once you’ve exited.  

I found Starbucks, but was starving so I ate very yummy udon whereupon the very diligent driver found me, put my luggage in the van and then led me to the Starbucks I was supposed to be waiting at where I met Zhou Li, an exchange student from China. We waited for the other two from Thailand–who were arriving 3-hours delayed due to a typhoon–and chatted in Japanese during the next three hours. I didn’t know I had that much Japanese in me after a summer of intensive Spanish class.

After a 3-hour drive through a VERY DENSE Osaka prefecture

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(the three fell asleep, but my caffeinated self took a bunch of photos) we arrived in Minoh where the campus and dorms are that I will be staying in. Due to the 3 hour delay we had barely enough time to submit documents, get my keys, info, take a photo at a convenient booth in the Cafeteria/lounge and go to orientation. From there I started meeting people like crazy from all over the world. The vast majority of them can and often speak English. I’m still not sure if this is a good thing or not.

The next day and onward there were numerous orientations and paperwork. A field trip to City hall for a residency registration and a Japan Post Bank Account. Apparently the post office also doubles as a bank in Japan. I can’t say the number of orientations there were for campus-life, the library, scholarship info, etc. My first two weeks were essentially orientations and learning how to catch the bus which leads me into adventures…

My first outing was meeting a friend in Umeda which prompts me to speak a tad about public transportation in Japan. There are buses, trains, and Monorail. There are multiple train lines (Much like Seattle has metro and Sound Transit buses) and multiple stations with similar sounding names. However, all the stops are kindly called out in English and Japanese which helps the Kanji-challenged traveler. As for the day itself I…
+ accidentally left my wallet in my dorm room and waited an hour for the next one.
+ made it to the train, but I accidentally got off at the wrong station.
+ found the McDonalds at the wrong station and waited.
+ half an hour later saw a map and got instructions on how to get the next station.
+ found a kind Japanese man who helped me find a McDonalds, walk through both floors of both of them and lent me his phone to send my friend a message to see if she was still around and let her know I was leaving the station. He then walked me back to the other station so I could catch my train back to campus. I gave him Haribo and many thanks.
+ took the bus to Saito-nishi
+ was supposed to take the one to Saito-nishi-eki (Saito-nishi-Station)
I realized at the last stop that this was not my bus and the driver kindly helped me get to the right stop to head in the proper direction. I still got on the wrong bus, but the drivers helped me a lot so I eventually made it back.

The next weekend I spent a lot of time walking around to find Shrines and Temples. There are some pictures below of some of them. Many are in walking distance so I could avoid paying transportation costs, but unfortunately they seemed closed and I was much too shy to go knocking on a door or walking inside. I love going to them and I need to find more, actually. Although, I’m not really sure how to pay proper respects when I go to them, yet.

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I’m not sure how much is culture shock, but I loved every challenge until around the end of two weeks when the newness faded and I started to feel frustrated with the things I don’t like. There seems to be a lot of paperwork bureaucracy and a lot of things that you’re required to do manually, routinely, and frequently. I’m always doing something wrong such as eating or drinking outside of a designated area or standing on the wrong side of the escalator. I was sunburnt, mosquito-devoured, and grumpy at the lack of vegetable options. The pros outweigh the cons, but there always seems to be a time of adjusting where the newness wears off. I think I’ve come back out of that and am feeling more settled and comfortable, at least with the day to day. Week-to-week is still a new thing.

As for daily life difficulties, there is grocery shopping. At first I only knew of the convenience stores, which are pretty darn convenient, but sometimes you just want some freshly cooked vegetables. Fruit is too expensive and often overripe at my local grocery for my tastes. I did find a farmers-market-like place which was awesome, but equally priced. Also everything has meat in it! Well, almost. The meat and fish counter is just as large as the fruit and vegetable aisles. As a former vegan it makes me a little sad that I can’t avoid meat however I have been able to live more or less vegetarian thus far. As long as I can avoid outright chunks of meat I think that’s enough of an accomplishment for the time being. I ordered Omu-rice (Omelette-rice) yesterday and there were chunks of chicken in the rice! Assume everything has meat and appreciate every meal that doesn’t seems to be my new motto. 

Some of this brought about the problem of I-can’t-cook-without-dishes. Again, the dollar stores here are wonderful and offer a great many things. I also rummaged through some of the discarded things of former residents and inherited a nice little water boiler for my morning instant coffee! That was a treasure for sure.

There have been a few parties since my arrival. Most of them are mostly us exchange students hanging out and chatting more or less successfully in Japanese and English. Ping-pong is the game of choice and a lot of the conversation is about daily life and things about our home country (Congress, get it together. You’re embarrassing us all!). One of the nights I joined in when we went out to an izakaya in Japan. Usually they are places to drink and eat, but this was a special event night and like a club in America it turned into a large dance party. A few groups of drunken Japanese (mostly male) would pull random people into a circle and start jumping around. I’m not sure how normal this is, but it was interesting to randomly get dragged in or suddenly surrounded by them. Thankfully, even drunken, the Japanese were neither overly rude nor pushy. Some people came to talk to us, but mostly it was laughter, drinking, and dancing. Exhausted, I took the last train home while the larger part of our group went to all-night Karaoke and returned on the earliest morning train.

Cockroaches are one of the bugs I am very, very not fond of. (All the bugs here are bigger, and one poor lady watched me run from my bus stop because there was a giant bee.) I’ve killed 4 cockroaches so far, the majority of them while in another dorm. The first one I didn’t know what it was. While complaining about giant bugs via Skype to some friends, sure enough, a giant one comes flying into my room and fluttering around my light. I thought it was a fat moth. It was a cockroach, much to their amusement. Cockroach spray doesn’t work, by the way, but my flip-flop was very effective. Except that I accidentally soiled my placement test take-home essay.
Cockroach #2  appeared while in another dorm with some friends. While eating a snack between orientations it came running out from another table. There was a guy nearby that I asked “Cockroach! Please kill it! Please kill it!” He tried to spray it, and did, but it kept running and disappeared. It reappeared, whereupon we chased it around with a window spray (I was thinking to squish it, but the others thought it was bug spray). Eventually, I realized it was about the size of the bottom of the bottle and I killed it with my orientation packet instead. Thankfully, only the envelope was soiled.
Cockroaches 3 and 4  appeared in that same dorm during a random get-together of some exchange students. We chased  #3 around a bit before he hid on the side of a cough under the ledge. It was too small of a space to fit a foot in sideways. I found a large manga book and killed him with the spine. Then I was teased for being ruthless to the bugs for someone who is vegetarian(ish). #4 was found by the others, and while someone was trying to pick it up, unsuccessfully,  another was trying to kill it with the book, but it was getting away. So I took the book and killed him. I think the cockroaches are receiving all of my frustration or maybe, I really don’t like them!

I have more stories, but I think this is adequate of life up until now. Until next post. Feel free to send me questions! :)


Next time: Aikido and Academics

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