Ok, I’m sorry I have to do this, but I’m going to be breaking the chronological order of things here a bit. I have, as of yesterday, moved into the Ryugakusei Kaikan… the Kagawa University International House! So right now, due to some limiting circumstances, I don’t have access to the internet at my dormitory, and therefore, cannot offer blog posts from the comfort of my own room. That means that I have now reverted back to a time when I had to use a public computer to access the internet. Furthermore, I cannot provide a plethora of photos as usual, and without such props, I would not be able to adequately portray my last two days in the Oki house. So! Here is a lame, photo-less blog post about my move-in to the dormitory and my first day of school.
Monday, October 1
It was a cold, cloudy, drizzling day in Takamatsu. I woke up with a sense of nostalgia. After spending only a week with the Oki’s, I was already feeling like I had a second family, and was quite at home in their abode. But alas, all good things must make way for what lies ahead! The next stage of my journey was about to begin.
I woke up at 6:30 that morning. I spent the next 20 minutes packing my bags, straightening Ryunosuke-san’s room, and rolling up my Japanese-style futon (fu ~ tone). I proceed downstairs a little before 7:00. Takao-san was already ready for work, the kids were moving around slowly, but surely, getting ready for another day of another week at school. Chiharu-san was, as usual, looking alive in the kitchen. When Takao was about ready to leave, I follow him to the door in order to give a sincere thanks (along with a deep bow, properly done with your hands placed on the front of your thighs) for his generosity, hospitality, and all his additional help. He says, “Doitashimashite, you are welcome here anytime!”
Breakfast was served. I sat down with Ryunosuke-kun and Ayano-san and ate a bowl of rice, broth, and a half-cooked egg, a grapefruit half, and a few other things. As Ryunosuke got up to leave, I get up as well in order to say excuse me, and thank you, for the use of his room. Of course, he said don’t mention it.
I return to the table, as Chiharu was sitting down to begin her breakfast. We chat for a little while longer and then Ayano gets up to leave. Chiharu and I follow her to the door and say farewell as she joins her friend who was waiting for her at the gate.
Chiharu and I go back to the table and finish our breakfast. Once I was finished, Chiharu tells me to go relax,but first I went up to begin bring down my luggage and futon. After that however, there was nothing left to do but wait for Sone-san to show up, who had offered to take me, and help me move-in to, the International House. He was going to arrive at 10:00. I lay down on the couch, already tired. Soon, Chiharu joins me, and we begin what we determined had become our tradition. Drinking coffee and eating chocolate while we watch her 15 minute 8:00 drama after the hustle and bustle of the morning had ended. Like at night when Takao and I stay up eating, drinking, and chatting, this had become Chiharu and I’s time together. It was really enjoyable. Around 9:00, she asks me if I would like to go with her for a short walk to the local Jinjya, and then shows me a Japanese to English translation on her phone. It was very rough, but its meaning went something like this: As our family parts ways, I wish to pray that we do so with smiles on our faces. Thinking about it now brings a slight tear to my eye. And so we go. It was a quick trip, and we were soon back. As we are about to go inside, I stop at the large bowl outside their door where they had kept a fish, but who had died a few days earlier. Chiharu goes to get a spade and some fish food. I joked about not thinking that the fish was very hungry. Thankfully, I don’t think she understood.
We went to the garden, she dug a single scoop and laid the fish to rest, covered it up, and then poured two shakes of food by the grave. This is a custom in Japanese death rituals. For the same reason, it is rude to leave chopsticks sticking up in your bowl of rice because that is how they offer food to the dead. It is also custom to cremate in Japan, instead of bury. Which makes sense to me because it follows a theme that I have noticed everywhere I look in Japan. Conservation of space. Nearly half the cars on the road are compacts, another quarter are minivans and coupes, another three-sixteeths are sedans, and the last sixteenth is composed of the random sports cars and SUV’s and others… The rooms and houses are generally small. Typically, rooms in Japanese houses serve multiple purposes. During the day it can be used for activities, and at night the futons are taken out of the closet for sleeping. Nearly all of the unused land that is not conserved, even the sides of mountains, are cultivated for rice paddies. Therefore, they do not feel the urge to take up acres and acres of space burying the dead. Instead, they usually keep the ashes in an urn within an honored, specially made chest. Space conservation…
Anyway, now that that tangent has run its course, back to the cloudy, cold, rainy day. Takao, it turns out, has decided to give me the bike that I have been using to this point, as his birthday gift to me. After informing me of that, she says that she will follow behind Sone-san on the way to the dormitory, with the bike in the back of her van. I gratefully accept her help, and the gift. After a little more time spent waiting, chatting, and teaching each other phrases in Japanese and English, 10 soon arrives along with a call from Sone, saying that he is outside. We load up the car with my bags, snap one last picture of Chiharu and I out in front of the house, and are off.
After what seemed to be a long drive, since I was measuring it in terms of my morning bicycle commute, we arrive to the dorm. Upon entering, we are indicated to a sign that told us to take off our shoes. A very rapid Japanese-speaking lady, Sugiura-san, greets us and begins drowning my ears in a never-ending stream of Japanese. With that, along with papers, forms, and pointing, head-nodding, and gestures, we follow her upstairs to my new room.
As we open the door, we enter by a narrow, 5 foot long entrance hall with a shoe cabinet by the door, and a clothes cabinet/closet along the wall as it widens to the, slightly less narrow, rest of the room. Along the left wall, right after the closet, is a belly-button height refrigerator, followed by my twin-size bed that stretches along to wall to the back left corner of the room. At the end of the room, there is a glass sliding door with curtains that leads to a balcony overlooking the canal and bike path that lay out front of the house. We are on the 4th (top) floor all the way at the east end. In the corner on the opposite side of the room is a desk with a swiveling, reclining, desk chair. Upon the desk is a water boiler and desk lamp. Working towards us, next to the desk is a tall storage shelf with cubby-like compartments. Next to that is a rolling cart with two shelves underneath it, which is next to my sink/mirror/toiletry area. In the entrance hallway on the right there is a step up into a doorway that leads to my toilet room. After I had set things up, I kinda liked it. It has a cozy feel to it. And after a little more effort and amenities, I will easily be able to call it home. Internet might help… All in good time I suppose.
Ok! So after we drop my bags off in my room, Sone helps me go through my paperwork, which I then proceed to fill out. (Quick note: In the dorm, we aren’t allowed to have guests above the 1st floor. Sone was a one-time exception since he is my tutor. I was slightly worried about this, but later on that day I met all the people on my floor, and I think I’ll be okay.) After completing what I could, we go back downstairs. Chiharu was waiting in the lobby. We go to get my bike out of her car and I lock it up with the rest of the bikes underneath a covered walkway by the backdoor. Chiharu then has to leave. She had plans to meet with Takao at a certain time, and it was getting late. We say our goodbyes, she says to try my best and good luck. She offers me a handshake, which I accept, and then give her a hug, then she left.
Sone and I left as well to go shopping, and to go find a photo booth to get little sized pictures. Turns out I needed one for one of the forms. We find a nearby supermarket, where I decide to pick up just the bare essentials. After paying the first month’s double rent, I didn’t have much left remaining from what I had exchanged at the airport. I get a large and small towel, some body soap, toilet paper, toilet cleaning supplies, and some shaving cream, then we move on to the food section of the market. There I get some apples, some bread, eggs, cheese and mayo for my breakfast sandwiches for the week, some super cheap ramen bowls (which despite the price, MUST be better than the Ramen noodles in the U.S. I mean, c’mon, I’m in Japan!), a large bottle of the same brand Ion Supply drink I got at the 7/11 in Rinku Town on my run the first day in Japan, and that was it. After that we move on to the ¥100 shop for some clothes hangers, air freshener, and a large bowl. Back to the dorm we went!
Sone dropped me off, and went to head out himself. I’ll see him Wednesday at the Engineering campus. I go upstairs to go set up my new diggs. After, I decide to go for a run along the canal. After about 20 minutes, I find my way back to the dorm on the other side of the canal and decide to keep going. I decide to go towards the mountain I saw in the near distance. Soon I was huffing up a steep hill, which became ever steeper as I progressed, and I began passing Jinjya Torii, the shinto shrine gates. I kept going until I couldn’t go any farther. I continue walking and find some steps, and go up those as well, and see a large structure, closed off. I go to the drinking well to get some water and when I turn around, I see the amazing sight of the mist laden mountains to the south stretching to beyond where I can see. (I will post a picture when I can) It was twilight then, so I begin to jog down the winding road that accompanies the steps. After jogging not more than a minute down the road, I turn the bend to see a wild boar standing in the middle of the road, along with two small ones. I quickly turn around and head back to the shrine, to continue onwards using the steps.
After getting back down the hill and walking the rest of the way back to the dorm, I head upstairs to the fourth floor to my room to get ready to take a shower in the community shower room. Fortunately, it was unoccupied, and I enjoyed a nice, hot, high-pressured shower to the sounds of the playlist I listened to while leaving Rinku Town from my iPhone speakers. When I leave the shower room I see signs of life down the hall. Anxious to meet people, I hurry up and get ready so that I can go socialize with my new hall mates.
As it turns out, there are 4 girls from China, 2 girls from Korea, 1 girl from France, 1 guy from Korea, and 1 guy from China. With myself, that makes 10, and a very satisfactory ratio as well. That night, they offered to cook for me some basic chinese food. After chatting and hanging out for a while at various times throughout the night, people began to retreat to their rooms. It was close to 10:00 when I decided to do the same myself.
Tuesday, October 2 (Today! Woohoo, posting the day of!)
I wake up slowly around 6:45. Use some mouthwash, gather my breakfast sandwich material, and stagger down the hall to concoct some breakfast for myself in the alien kitchen. It was there that I startle my new friend Li San, from 407. Probably fairly easy to do at 7:00 in the morning, looking the way I did. But she had just finished cooking what looked to be some seasoned eggplant and some other rice and vegetables, so I began to do my thing. We ate breakfast together and then she left to go get ready. She had a first period class this morning.
Last night we discovered that we have a lot of the same interests, probably, as she deems it, because our birthdays are only 7 days apart. We both share jazz piano as our favorite style of jazz, and also share a lot of other similar likes in music. She likes to jog as well, so we determined we would run together in the future. I told her about my trip to Ritsurin Park (which happened on Saturday, which I have yet to write about) and she said she hadn’t gone yet but would like to. Anyway, I think I’ve made a friend.
I went to wash my hair, then got dressed and ready to go. As I walked out my door, I see Li San and one of my other new friends, Nancy from 406, getting ready to leave. We all biked to Takamatsu together this morning (I had no idea where I was going… thank God). I part with them once we reach a part of downtown I recognized, and made my way to the bank to take care of some business. Afterwards, I pick up a can of iced coffee at the konbini (short for convenience store) and sit in Central Park while I drink it. Then I head to campus.
There was the first-day-of-class energy in the air on campus when I arrived. Not knowing where to go, I return to the International Student office on the 4th floor of a building I had been to once before about a week earlier. They end up accomplishing not only showing me where my class was going to be, but also provided me with my student number and a form that I had been needing to print out for a few days now, to fill out and turn in tomorrow when I go to the engineering campus. While filling out the form there in the International Student lounge, I was soon joined my Takamizu-sensei, my new Japanese teacher. We walked together to class, which begun at 10:30. The class mostly consisted of Japanese I couldn’t understand. But at a certain point, one by one, the people in the class begin to give one minute introductions to the rest of the class. I must’ve done a fairly decent job, as Takamizu-sensei didn’t correct me as he had some others. Plus, I was only one of two males in the room, and the only American in the room out of the 14. I think I made a good impression, as I saw many shocked faces when I began speaking.
After class, I was starving, so I went to get some udon at a local shop, then went to where I sit now, typing the lame, picture-less blog post. Soon I will begin my trek back to what will be my home for the next 3-12 months, completing the first round-trip journey out of many yet to come, on the next stage of my journey here in Japan.
Editor’s notes for the future:
Some things to look forward to…
Sometime – Pictures to accompany this post!
Some other time – Post covering my last weekend with the Oki’s where I accompany them to one of the most famous and revered parks in the country! Also, I discover my new favorite furniture designer! Then, I get to lay eyes upon the island famous for producing the highest quality olive oil in the world… while cold and wet! Get ready 😉
Some other time, in Novermber – I will accompany Sone-san, another research colleague, and Kii-sensei on an all-expense-paid trip to Tokyo for a research seminar! Hooray for research seminars!