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.
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.
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
(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.
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