It has now been a whole week since I moved into the dorm. My impression so far is that I am really going to love it here. There have been a few things that bug me about it, but that hardly compares to the great times and the wonderful people I have met so far! Since it has been a whole week of life in Japan since my last real post, I may have to breeze past a few details here and there, but I am going to try and point out the highlights of my week thus far, so here goes…
Tuesday, October 2 (second recap I guess 😛 …)
I woke up very early that day. It was my first day of class and I still had a lot of non-school related things to take care of in addition to my impending classes. So I wake up around 6:00 or so. I start slow, but soon enough I begin what what soon to be my semi-normal morning routine. Roll out of bed, zombie-walk with my cooking materials down the hall 10 meters or so until I stumble into the kitchen. Fumble around with some knives, gas range stove controls, hazardous waste, etc… And bam! I have myself an egg sandwich with some sautéed onions and peppers and cheese on a large piece of toast. After my breakfast was completely devoured, I clean up after myself and head back to my room to prepare for my shower, to which I only have to stumble 2-3 meters to from my door. After my shower with a super high-pressure head and deliciously hot water, the stumbling begins to give way to a more confident stride. Dress, deodorize, gather my daily necessities into my backpack, and I’m out the door. This was my first trip from the dorm to main campus so I wasn’t quite sure what to do or how to get there except that I knew I needed to go east. Fortunately for me however, I met some friends in the hallway who were also about to leave for campus, so I joined them! Once we reached Takamatsu however, I parted ways to take care of an errand prior to going to campus. But soon afterward, I went to campus and went to the International Student Office to get my bearings and some help. It was there that they took care of some essential paperwork, I received my Student ID Number and filled some other forms out. I was then met by my Japanese professor and we went to the classroom together for the start of class.
It was a good class despite the fact that generally, I couldn’t understand what the professor was saying. What made it fun was that everyone in the room had to go around and introduce themselves in Japanese and ask questions about each other. I enjoyed that because it was interesting to hear where everyone was from, what they were in Japan to do/study, and what they enjoyed. During class I found out that there was going to be a Japanese placement test held on Thursday. After that, class was dismissed.
I went to go get some udon, which I found very close to campus. Afterwards, I went to my internet haven to the north of Takamatsu at E-topia and caught myself up. Then I went to a grocery store close by to pick up a few more essentials and some fish for that night’s dinner. When I got home I got scolded by the very motherly dormitory manager because I had told a few people that I was going to follow them to campus the previous day but I had left earlier than expected because of my errand at the bank. Apparently they had all went looking for me that morning! It is really hard to defend yourself when you’re getting scolded in a language you don’t understand… During the show (because I’m sure it must’ve been quite amusing to see) a research student from Germany who lives here on the 2nd floor came back in from having a smoke. He stops and stares at the spectacle before him, nearly as bewildered as I was. After Sugiura-san had finished her rant in rapid Japanese, Felix and I meet, happy to meet another English speaker in the dorm! I had fish in my pack however so I couldn’t talk long and we parted ways.
It was still relatively early, so I decided I would go to the nearby department store for a few more essentials like a futon cover and a pillow. My neighbor, Mina from Korea, ended up escorting me there and helped me with my shopping 🙂 After we got back I spent a little more time on my room, then decided to prepare dinner around the same time that my other friend on the floor, Li San from China, was preparing hers.
We ate together and then I retreated to my room for a bit before leaving again. I ran into Felix who was coming up to see me. We sit in the kitchen and begin chatting when, before too long, two girls came upstairs looking frantically for help. After gathering bits and pieces of information, we realize that they had lost the key to their bike lock and needed help breaking it! So, being the men we are, we go to help the females in distress! It took a little bit, but eventually we manage to get the bike freed. Elated, the girls ask us to follow then upstairs and after one disappears to her room for a minute, she soon re-emerges holding two bottles of whiskey. One was a large one with a few splashes left and the other was a small one with a splash missing. They said, “Please come drink with us!” And once again, being the men we are, of course accepted their offer and we proceeded to the kitchen for a few “kampai’s.” It was a short session, but fun! Felix had laundry, and once he remembered, so did they! So everyone had stuff to do, so we split, but not before they gave me the rest of the whiskey as a gift for helping them! Quite the interesting first meet in my opinion. It was then about time for bed, so I retreated once again for my room and went to sleep.
Wednesday, October 3
That day I planned to go to the engineering campus from my dorm, making the trip for the first time. But before that however, I went for the same run that I took the video on. Afterward I went home, showered, cooked my breakfast again, then went downstairs to get ready to embark. As I was about to however, Sugiura-san came running out and from what I gathered, she was worried about me going to engineering and getting lost. She wanted to find someone for me to go with and then forced me to look at a map, etc, etc, until finally I told her that with a map I will be just fine…
…After getting lost and biking for about an hour, I get to the the engineering campus. It seems that I am a bit early and no one was in the lab yet. I met with one of the people primarily responsible for me being here in Japan, Takahashi-sensei. We took care of some additional paperwork, then I called Sone-san and proceeded to wait for 30 or so minutes until he showed up. We went up to the lab and then people slowly started showing up after that. I helped Kii-sensei by editing a paper of his written in English. The research group and I all went across the street to an udon shop by the engineering campus for lunch. I met with Iwamoto-sensei briefly to catch up with him. We worked on my new desktop computer, trying to get it working in English. After a few hours, we still hadn’t gotten it to work. I also spent most of that day writing a long blog post using the internet there. That day I also received my Kagawa University Student ID and access card to the lab!
I stayed at school late that night until around 6:30, I met with another engineering research student that lives in my dorm, Thomas from France, and we and his tutor biked back to the dorm together. I learned a better way to go in the process. It was then that I realized I really needed a light for my bike!
That night I cooked up some instant ramen (wayyy better here) with an egg in it and some rice. I ate all the noodles and then once they were all gone, I added the rice to what was left of the broth! It was delicious!
Later, I met with Felix and Thomas to share the rest of the gifted whiskey. We had a good time chatting and learning a bit about each other. It turns out that all of us love electronic music and that Felix, like me, enjoys deejaying! Felix also likes to go jogging on occasion, so we made a plan to go running the next morning. They took their leave. It had been a long day for me so I decided to hit the hay to make way for the next day.
Thursday, October 4
Felix and I had made plans to go for a run that morning at 7:00. After pressing snooze and reseting my alarm for an hour or so, I get up at 6:55 and stumble downstairs and find Felix walking onto the 2nd floor landing at the same time. It was then that I realized that Felix and I were probably going to become good friends. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love punctuality. So, with a few words, we walk out the door and begin our early morning run. We take the same path that I had taken the previous time. We were on somewhat of a time crunch so we didn’t make it a very long run.
Back at the dorm, I begun my routine again and upon completion, hit the road on my bike to head off to Takamatsu. I stop first at the bank to check on my money situation and then get a canned coffee at a nearby convenience store and enjoy it with a pastry while sitting in the Central Park. After thoroughly enjoying myself, I bike the rest of the way to campus and meet with the rest of the people waiting to take the placement test. After a while, we finally begun. I couldn’t even read the directions let alone the material and the corresponding questions due to the excess amount of kanji symbols. So after trying to look busy for ten or so minutes and exhausting all of the test-taking techniques I know, I turn in my exam for grading. It didn’t take them long to discover that the test was blank, so one of the sensei’s took me into the other room to discuss my classes that I’d be taking. Since I was talking to the sensei in Japanese, she deduced that it was indeed the kanji that was the issue and we worked out the class schedule accordingly.
Once that was done I walk outside to see another student waiting for me. I had noticed him earlier having the same issue as me. His name is Julian and he is from France. He however, lives here in Japan with his Japanese wife and had a child too. We exchange info and after chatting for a while, we part ways. I went to my internet haven to take care of business. Afterward though, I thought that I would give Chiharu-san a call since the bank would be calling her phone once my wire arrived. I asked her if it would be ok if I stopped by so that we could chat for a bit. She said of course it would be ok and that she’d be happy to see. So I hop on my bike and start making my way there. On the way I saw a bike shop so I stopped and took a look at their light selection. I leave very happy with my selection, a USB rechargeable battery powered white LED light with loads of difference flashing patterns! Content, I continue on my way to the Oki’s house. At that point it is about 3:00 in the afternoon or so.
I arrive to find the front gate already open waiting for me. Chiharu is at the door and welcomes me with a, “Ohisashiburi!” Which means, “It’s been a long time!” but in reality it had been about 3 days! At this I chuckled but it had indeed felt like a long time since I had seen her as well. I enter and say hello to Ayano as well and then I’m urged to sit down and relax. Chiharu brought me a cold wash cloth and some cold tea because I was sweating and hot after my ride there. We talk and catch up for a while with me talking the most, telling them how the dorm is and what I’ve been up to. Both Chiharu and Ayano were impressed with my Japanese, which I hadn’t even realized had improved, but I guess it had a little since our last meeting. After I tell Chiharu what I had come to say regarding the bank and the phone call, she asks me if I have any plans tonight and asked me to stay for dinner. Gratefully, I accept her invitation. Immediately I felt like I was home again. Ayano, Chiharu and I went out shopping for some food for that night’s dinner. After getting back, I relax a bit more, and after immersing myself in more phone internet while listening to Liszt, I fall asleep and nap for a good two hours or so. When Chiharu realized this, I believe she came over to turn the music down a bit and she also turned off the living room light for me. When I awoke, there was a bath prepared and I was asked if I’d like to take one. Once again, I gratefully accept. Afterward, I relax a bit more and then by the time 7:00 rolls around, Ryunosuke had returned and dinner was nearly complete. Then Takao came in and the house came alive and everyone gathered at the table. It was a wonderful meal, as always, and things felt as they had before I moved out. It was nice to be back. After dinner Takao and I talked for a while, as usual. The phone then rang. It was Iwamoto-sensei and apparently he was on his way over to give the Oki’s a gift. He arrived in full on, decked-out, biking gear, complete with headlamp, wrist reflectors, and whistle. He joined us at the table and we all had a very enjoyable evening. I soon became quite tired and offered to excuse myself since I still had a long ride home. Instead though, they insisted on giving me a ride home with my bike in the back of their van! Takao was then able to see where I lived.
All in all, the day had been exactly what I had needed. A nice, slow, relaxing day with nothing to worry about.
Friday, October 5
Friday morning began in a very slow fashion. Just relaxing for the early part of the morning. As I am about to leave for the engineering campus, I get a call from Takao-san. He says that he spoke with the bank and that they need to speak with me in person. Since I was running low on funds, I figured the engineering campus could wait. Unfortunately however, I had made plans with Iwamoto-sensei to have lunch that day. I had to e-mail him to let him know I wouldn’t be able to make lunch because of some business with the bank.
I leave in a hurry and make it to Takamatsu in my fastest time yet, about 25 minutes. Once I get there, I tell one of the front door attendants my name and they lead me upstairs. They quickly take care of me. There was a slight discrepancy with my wire and my account information but everything got resolved and I was told I’d have access to my money by 3:00 that day! That was a huge relief as I was down to my last 1,000 JPY…
Surprisingly enough, it was only around 11:00 by the time I got out of there. It had taken a lot less time than I had expected and I had told Iwamoto-sensei that I’d meet him around 11:30, so I gear up for another hard ride from Takamatsu to the engineering campus!
Sweaty, tired, thirsty, and out of breath, I make it to campus by 11:35. I hurry up to the 8th floor where Iwamoto-sensei’s office is and as it turns out, he wasn’t even ready and hadn’t even read my e-mail! Safe! We leave after about another 5 minutes and head to eat at the campus’s cafeteria (not udon 😦 ….). I was quite lost there because I had no experience eating there before and didn’t know what anything was or how to order it. So I only got some rice and chicken. Needless to say, I was still hungry afterwards, but it was a good chat with Iwamoto-sensei. On the elevator we parted ways, me on the 3rd floor to head to my lab and he off to the 8th floor.
In the lab was Sone-san and a few others. As time progressed, the rest of the group slowly meandered on in after classes and such. But not soon after I had gotten there, I see Iwamoto-sensei walk in. Apparently the President of the Kagawa Systemized Goodwill Guide (Kagawa SGG), Akitomo Hideo, was here to meet with me about a speech I will be doing for them in late December about a foreigner’s opinion and perspective on Japanese culture.
He was very grateful and excited to have my participation in his monthly event. I am excited as well believe it or not. It will be a bit of work and I will probably be a bit nervous, but there will be a public audience of about 40-50 people there and they all come because they’re genuinely interested in the topics being brought up. Writing and giving this speech will help me out a lot as well because I have been wanting to summarize this information for myself since getting here to Japan as well. The meeting with Akitomo-san was very helpful since I now know what exactly they are expecting of me, so now I can begin. Before, all I knew was that I had to give a speech for an hour. I feel a lot better now that I can begin working on it.
After the meeting, I go back to the lab to find most of the group there.
I suggest food shortly after my arrival and so we all leave together to go get snacks at the cafeteria shop. Since I still don’t know what my research job is, once we got back I just did my own thing on my computer until it was time for my next Japanese placement test for another class I’ll be taking.
Shortly after the class, I gather my stuff and head for home. Now that I had money, I stopped at a grocery store on the way home for some more food and other essentials… and some Sake, since it was my first Friday night at the dorm 🙂
That night Felix and I cooked a meal together and then I began drinking and mingling with the dorm floor to floor systematically. I met a bunch of new people some of whom, are now good friends.
For example, Chin Shouen!
And Chang Hyeon Kim…
The night ended with a group of about 4 or 5 people sitting at the kitchen table on one of the 3 upper floors. Some people came and went but the foundation was Felix, Thomas, and myself until we finally decided to call it a night.
Saturday, October 6
This day was another slow beginner, but it was going to be a long one. At 10:00 that morning we had a mandatory meeting on the first floor of the dorm in the common room that covered the need-to-knows about living in the dorm. I sat through that enjoying a cup of coffee. After the meeting I went to go shower and relaxed for a little while until about 11:30 when my tutor, Sone-san, came to pick me up from the dorm to go to the next mandatory meeting that was being held for all international students. Before going we went to get a quick bowl of udon for lunch (my breakfast) then hurried to get to the meeting, arriving right as it begun at 12:30. This one was a tad bit boring, but the police department did give everyone a gift. It turned out to be quite a helpful one too, a rear bike reflector/LED light.
After about 2 hours of informative speeches, we all relocated to another building on campus for a reception with the university’s international club.
It turned out to be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to meet new people. Myself and some other international students from countries where there are not a lot of students from were asked up on stage to introduce themselves to the party. After the reception had ended, a bunch of locals from the international group had planned a bowling trip! Although only a few international students, including myself and Thomas, went, it was still a great time!
In case you didn’t notice, people in Japan like the peace sign…
In those pictures you can only see a small amount of people that came but there were about 20 or so people that came out bowling! After the bowling, we walked to a restaurant for food and drinks!
After a great night, my new friends put me on a train back to my dormitory. It was very convenient and only 240 JPY!
So that was my first week in my new home. So far I am loving it!
-Tour guiding for a couple dorm-mates in Takamatsu
-Second trip to Ritsurin Koen
-I climb a mountain located in my backyard