A week never seems to pass by and I am spammed by constant Mixi messages and e-mails about joining some sort of International Party （国際交流会）or 'Event' in Shibuya and Roppongi every weekend. Normally the events are billed at the whopping cost of 2000 yen (about 500 yen more than some club nights in Pongi) and are often swamped in a see of English.
The offennding site that gained my ire this week was;
And if you don't speak Japanese, I'm saying (or is it writing?) 2000 yen is a bloody con and I thought that such things as networking were free in this world.
I appreciate such gestures now and again but I have a few pertinent questions that need answering whenever I receive such mails. Firstly, who actually makes money off this? And secondly is who stupid enough to want to go to these things anyway? This might seem blunt but I simply can't comprehend the answers for either of them.
I thought such things as social networking were free? I can understand if you market this as some type of speed dating thing but its clearly a social mixer for gaijin and Japanese people. I suppose if you want a quickie, there is always Gas-Panic and if you want a language exchange there are practically tons of ways to engineer this (such as various internet sites and newspaper ads.) But this seems to fall into a grey area of not knowing where to fall (or even stand.)
The problem I have is that I am struggling to know if such things exist because of foreigners in Japan who refuse or struggle to integrate or whether it is the problem of the Japanese in not accepting foreigners into their own country. Why do we need to have these things? Surely if we were active enough, everything would fall into place.
Oddly the Japanese are exactly like the British. Perversely obsessed with what goes on outside our little island but as soon as it dirfts upon their shore they hide away and universally double-think it to death. It'd be cool to have a [Japanese/gaijin/American] friend but I am sure as hell not going to go up and make the first move.
On an initial front, especially from my own experiences the Japanese can be very cold and very awkward when it comes to dealing with foreigners. Foreigners or 'gaijin' represent the concept of 'uchi' and 'soto' basically the ins and outs of Japan. For the most part Japan is punctuated by plenty of social groups which range from what school you represent and where you grew up. It explains why Tokoyites remain slightly aversive to people from Osaka and how a Waseda student will never fraternise with a student from Keio university. Gaijin are eternally 'uchi' to the Japanese 'soto'. As much as any dreamer will try and have you believe the Japanese will never fully accept a foreigner no matter how 'jouzu' their Japanese is or how well they bow and slurp their noodles.
Such markets represent something of a growing danger for Japan, one which stems from the mass commercialisation of 'foreignhood' in Japan and also of the apparent holes within Japanese society.
Firstly, by making money of such events you are allowing it to be corrupted by those ignorant enough to abuse the system for their own ends. Thus you can get a nefarious cocktail of any number of 'eigo-bandits', 'eigo-leeches', 'ounetsudansei' and 'gold diggers'. Worse of all comes from the fact that although some companies and NPO's will make tireless efforts with good intentions and in immense faith it can be turned over to money making machines who see no interest in fostering some type of international relations but merely to make as much money as possible.
Secondly, and slightly more crucially to the main point of my article, is that the mere existence of such 'events', especially those on a wider, mass-scale expose a certain level of failure within the Japanese system. It becomes more apparent that such issues as internationalisation and cross-cultural boundaries are failing - in part to such issues as 'uchi' and 'soto'.
Unfortunately many people in Japan, and it goes without saying this applies to a lot more countries as well, are still fairly ignorant when it comes to foreign countries and cultures. We still live in a world where the boundaries are scribbled in with a pencil and coloured in with blotchy ink. We still think of the Japanese in a certain way as industrious sexually repressed technocrats and they still think of us as those blonde haired Hollywood types with funny noses. Sadly this is continued more so whenever these international events are advertised and sold to semi-gullible twats in Japan. Replace the word International with the word 'America' and the gerund 'meeting' with 'speaking English' and you have a fine summary of what a lot of Japanese half expect at such events. I will draw from personal experience my time in Osaka and Himeji when me and my friend Chris were constantly mistaken for Americans despite the fact we spoke British English and ironically self-depricting ourselves every six seconds. (the above site avoids this misconception but there are worse ones out there which flow down this line.)
Unfortunately, for the Japanese foreign countries extend far beyond America. Believe or not, if someone has white skin, there is great statistical possibilities they will not be American. America itself is not even as close to being totally Caucasian if you compare to countries such as the UK and France - even with the number of immigrants and those descended from immigrants.
Its perhaps this startlingly high level of ignorance, along with the fact I have absolutely no interest in speaking English that I tend to avoid these events like a man covered in honey next to a swarm of killer bees.
However, something is changing inside me and believe it or not I am starting to understand even with my massive reservations and criticism why such events must or even have to take place in Japan. For one thing, the Japanese will never ever take it upon themselves to attempt to make conversation or break from their structural norms in daily life. Unlike the British who can be quite reserved in daily life, we have our places for social interaction and areas where one can forgot the norms of society and vent free (often for most places this is the local pub) for the Japanese even the most open izakaya and liberal ramen shop in the world will never change the spirit of the nation.
Lastly and probably more pertinently to the whole discussion of the issue, is that of language, both for the Japanese and for the foreigners themselves. As the vast majority both share a sense of reservation about their abilities and connections. No-one is willing to guess that all Japanese can speak fluent English as much as a foreigner can speak some level of Japanese. Here in Tokyo, you are branched into two main categories; either you are a foreigner able to speak Japanese or you are a foreigner that can speak none at all. Such events actually tear down this presupposition and presume parity on both sides upon which there is a common consensus and language to be shared; be that Japanese or English and be that from a zero to basic level to practically fluent.
It is with these deep considerations that whilst I freely look upon such events with some type of annoyance and confusion, I have been borne with being able to see some new found value. I feel now I am able to understand to a certain extent why these events exist in Japan and why they will probably still exist for the foreseeable future. I just really wish they would stop using my e-mail for the purposes of international communication.
sirusimo (aka Moritz Friedrich) is an awesome little DJ from Berlin. Fresh from remixing fellow electroheads Boys Noize (also from Germany) sirusimo is a creation of various samples and beats to bring you some really addictive tunes. The track 'High Together' recently appeared on the latest Kitsune Maison Compilation.
Sadly though I felt zed album was a bit of a sad let down compared to the previous versions which has gone more from electro into a slightly more 'alternative' rock feel. The use of 'High Together' which in itself is a wonderful track doesn't do sirusimo justice and now I am completely addicted to his other work, namely the superb "Diskosau"
The EP "The Invited Guest" is available somewhere on the internet (namely here) and if that doesn't get your fancy then check out the remix of fellow German DJ Ben Mono's "Perfection" which is right below;
On Friday morning I was rudely awoken by an earthquake. How cheeky? What on earth does it think it is doing waking up an Englishman who only went to bed a few hours before it decided to strike. It measured 5.1 on the Richter scale and centered around Tochigi prefecture.
Oddly this was not the first earthquake of the night, as one had hit the Izu peninsula a few hours before sending some of the news stations into mild panic. The news reports served as some ominous foretelling as the rest of Tokyo and the surrounding areas were to be jolted into the early morning a few hours later.
Anyway, it was a highly surreal, comical and a slightly scary moment all rolled into one. I woke up at around quarter to 6 local time here in Kawasaki and had a weird sensation of 'why have I just woken up'? I then rested my head and then felt my bed start to shake, like someone was at the other end shaking the foot of it. My head-rest rattled and I felt the windows shaking.
Because I was half asleep it was only about a few seconds into it, I realised that this was an earthquake. It never really got going and lasted for about ten seconds at the most. None of my stuff fell over and to be honest the thunderstorm I had a few months ago felt a lot worse. But the most frightening experience of it all was actually when it ended. I was thinking to myself, is this is? What now? I sat lying in bed trying to go bck to bed, but couldn't due to a sense of fear and a strange curiosity.
This was my first earthquake experience in japan and although it was a fairly mild one (5.1 on the Richter scale) it still left me feeling slightly shocked for a few hours. Because the place I live in is staffed mostly by Japanese and the odd Indonesian - those guys being fairly used to having earthquakes so the majority of the 'relaying' came from my fellow exchange students, which ranged from 'couldn't give a toss and I went back to bed' to 'I hid next to the door'.
Last year in Sheffield we experienced a similar earthquake which hit 5.1 on the Richter scale and produced similar results (i.e. no real major damage but slightly mild panic.) I also vaguely remember experiencing one in Cyprus as a small child, although that was so long ago the memory has faded. In many ways after experiencing a typhoon in October and now an earthquake I feel as I am really enjoying the Japanese experience, albeit a slightly obscure one.
All this pails into insignificance and stupid ramblings though, as Taiwan - which suffered an absolutely devastating quake in 1999 has just had a much stronger earthquake hit. And likewise the typhoon I experienced (which really was more of a tropical depression) was nothing to the one that hit the Philippines weeks earlier.
What a curious day. It started with a crush and ended with one. And although the meaning differs there was a stroke of genius and several train tickets bought in between.
Firstly I somehow managed to wake up late and end up ten minutes early to my grammar class at 9am. God bless the wonderful 'commuter express'.
The trains over here during the main rush hour periods are something of a joke and if you are unfortunate to take the more earlier ones between 8.15 and 8.30 you are in for a squash. Oddly the ones after that are ridiculous as well but not as bad as the 'real' one which I boarded today at 8.30. Eeep.
Another curious thing is that the Japanese generally are ridiculously polite and are very mindful of other's personal space. But during a train journey it simply can't be helped that you are gonna squash someone and get in their way. This is simple a process of 'shou ga nai' ('nothing can be done', but more poignantly 'just get on with it'.) Therefore on the trains you tend to see Japanese at their worst. So far I've seen several drunk salary men, one whom decided to sleep length-ways across the 'priority seating' and a few very loud schoolkids. The very worse though tends to come during these rush hour journeys when the Japanese seem to leave their little polite world behind and its a basic free for all. Getting dibs on seats is a must - hence the mad rush by the obaachans once the door opens. The second is getting off the train. Basically you can push people out of the way and it is not always necessary to say 'suimasen' (although obviously it would be nice.)
Today was one of those days where I ditched being the nice English gentleman and decided to do as the Romans do. Its becoming a recurring thing as I get used to life over here. So despite being stood fairly central to the exits I managed to push about three people aside, stepped on a old geezer's foot and then just casually strode off the train with a sense of guilt that would be to evaporate the moment I climbed the escalator.
It still doesn't pail the experience of last week though, when I simply 'guided' an old lady off the train because she was a little stuck at one end and then decided to grab my short tail and hang on for dear life as a I made a parting of the suits like Moses in a business conference making way to the coffee table. It was also the same day that when I arrived at campus I was said 'hello' to by a quaint looking Japanese fellow. It was very surreal as its the only time I have ever had this. Just a complete random stranger say something to me in English. It was actually rather uplifting after the monotony of Tokyo life in the morning. Like a small petal that floated up from somewhere and danced in front of my eyes.
There are always two ways when riding the train. The way into Shinjuku and the way out of it. Pretty much 90% of the time, the train heading into central Tokyo is a pain in the arse and relatively squashed up until you hit Shimokitazawa (the gateway to Shibuya) or Yoyogiuehara (the gateway to Asasaka, Roppongi and Ginza.)
The ride back is in complete contrast (bar the last train home and rush hour) when its just as bad as going there, if not worse. It becomes a lottery of getting the cute schoolgirl to be squashed up against or the ojiisan with halitosis. I just stand there, restraining my loins and think of England whilst my Ipod blasts out electro.
So after a mild squash into Shinjuku, I headed into the local Midori no satsuguchi (basically a ticket desk) and bought my Seishun 18 kippu. The wonder of this ticket is pretty much simple; you pay 11,000 yen during the holidays periods to have 5 free days of unlimited travel in Japan. Whilst this sounds great, there is one huge drawback in that you are not permitted to travel on trains which require advanced booking (such as the limited express and Shinkansen.) Therefore what should be a relatively simple 2 hour journey to Osaka from Tokyo is turning into a 9 hour marathon from my digs here in northern Kawasaki to Osaka station involving about 7 transfers at various stations. Cue Christmas Eve I say... I can't wait for this little journey.
However the added bonus is that having the ticket has allowed me to travel to Himeji for a day - which is awesome, as its been on my 'to see' list for a while since I got here.
Ultimately though, it may be long journey but you get to see the countryside of Japan and actually get to witness what this place is like outside the big cities which is sadly lost when you are hurtling down a track at 200km per hour.
Trying to expunge these thoughts of trains for a moment brings me onto my second focus of the day as I headed on over to the amazingly wonderful store named Don Quixote (ドン キホーテ) in Shinjuku.
Don Quixote is pretty much hard to describe. Its like the offspring of a department store and a hundred yen shop, where you can buy some really quality goods at low prices as well as some absolute bargains. And the most important thing is that they are freaking everywhere in Japan. The main idiosyncrasy of the store is its narrow little aisles with everything squashed up together tightly as you have to weave in and out of customers coming and going. The products line the shelves up to the ceiling and there is no such thing as a floor map. Quite frankly its like a labyrinth of the tacky and cheap.
Although that sounds like a really bad thing, its actually not - because if you root around the store for a bit you will find some killer products available. They have some awesome t-shirts and some really quality niche items like jewelry, belts and trainers. But above all, its the little things like Keroro-Gunso hats or some sort of Purin toy.
At first I entered to buy myself a really cheap Santa hat for Christmas but in the end I bought myself what can only describe as a ridiclous impulse buy, one of those things you see and say to yourself "I must have that!" Probably the greatest tracksuit I will ever have the fortune of buying over here.
Genius. For those of you who are not adept at Japanese or seeing the blurry image. The front says ナンパ師 which means something like 'pulling/flirting teacher' whilst the back says すいません、ナンパです！ - sorta like 'excuse me, but I'm pulling/flirting here! or I'm gonna start to pull you'
I simply have decided I must wear it when and if I ever decide to go to nanpa.
As well as that, I bought myself the aforementioned Santa hat as well as a cool red t--shirt which I clocked and thought was pretty smart. I don't have any red t-shirts in Japan and apparently its a lucky colour, which might help my nanpa in conjugation with the tracksuit. *ahem*
On the way back to Seijo, which as you would image was relatively 'ojiisan with halitosis squash free' I bought my new commuter ticket, only to discover that upon going back to the exchange office at the university I needed a fancy receipt so I could I get the rebate back from them. D'oh.
During these two visits I was introduced to a student who was interested in going to Sheffield next year as an exchange student from Seijo. I think her main concern was the fact she has learned American English even though she spoke with what I considered quite a British accent. Weird. Any ways I have no idea who is coming to Seijo next year and who indeed from Seijo is going to Sheffield!
Funny times. Oh on the way back home I stopped off at OK supermarket and saw what shall be known as from now on as 'Supermarket Girl', which is a funny little story I shall relay in due course. Needless to say it pretty much sums up my love life and is one of tragic romance tales I am desperate to make into realtiy, by either nanpa with my spiffy new tracksuit or by turning it into a slushy Japanese TV drama.
Currently I have accidentally stumbled upon the wonderfully titled Cinnamon Chasers.
I was drawn initially to the wonderful video produced for the track 'Luv Delux' and then the found myself to download the album onto my new 160GB ipod (shameless self plug for a Mac owner like myself.) Wasn't disappointed at all, the album is wonderfully crafted a lovely listen on the morning commutes back and forth from home to campus. I advise you take a listen, to watch the amazing video below and then download their album entitled "A Million Miles from Home."
Its creativity and sounds like this that makes me really excited for the future of music.
I have had two major accidents befall me in Japan recently. One is self-imposed and the other, more damningly was thrust upon me.
Firstly is the rather sad news that my Ipod was stolen in the gym two weeks ago. If I could choose a place to inadvertently place down my Ipod I would have choose the gym for many reasons but namely because it is in my university, it is in the gym and the people there are less likely to steal something. My emotions ranged from shock, horror and then a sense of outright pity.
To be honest, I know in many ways this type of thing would never happen in the UK and the fact that Seijo has only 4000 or so students and even less who go to the gym, and even less who were there that hour it had got knicked I feel nothing but pity. I feel safe that any Japanese person who uses the student gym at Sheffield will be much more safer than the other way around. Of that I am sure. It certainly offers me new light to these claims of a 'crimeless' Japan from moronic chinless gap-year pseudo-wunderkinds. The feeling of being relatively safe everywhere you go is a bit of a myth to be fair, you still have to keep an eye out for sneaky bastards. Japan may be a good country but it is not perfect. Put your guide-book down for once and smell the natto. True as some claims about Japan may be, once you live here and experience the reality of the place - your trite claims are nothing. I take your three week vacation to Shinjuku and piss all over it.
I am glad that I have since calmed down and mellowed out since last week, but there is no denying I feel a little bit ashamed that Seijo have taken me in and had this happen. I think they must be feeling very very embarrassed at the manner of one of their students. Like I say, my university reputation is being enhanced here whilst the process is being inverting the other way. Very sad indeed.
What makes me even more sad is the hours and hours of music that I had placed on the Ipod which were now lost to the ages. Thankfully, I recovered most of the good stuff later on.
The second such cock-up of the week involved an accident between a small amount of Chuu-hai, a screw-driver and twenty thousands milligrams of rage. With that, I destroyed my laptop. Me not being the technical person I was unsure if it was the BIOS that failed, the disk-drive itself or possibly the large whack I gave it once it decided to crash upon for the umpteenth time.
After being constantly fed up with Vista I decided to take the plunge into the unknown and purchase a rather spiffy looking Macbook Pro. I am considering an early Christmas present slash scholarship stipend splurge.
Admittedly not the most cost effective product you are gonna see on the market, after scouring the internet I used a popular online purchasing and selling site and managed to bag a brand new Macbook Pro, 2GB, 250gb HD for just over 700 quid, well to precise it was 1,110 dollars US. The sweetener came in the fact the shipper offered free worldwide delivery and in only 5 working days too!
So after a week of waiting and watching Japanese TV to kill the boredom of a week without a computer (which incidentally after the last time I went with internet in mt flat hasn't relented on the abhorrent quality it produces) I came home last Thursday to discover DHL had been, gone and left a giant sticker hanging outside my door telling me in California Governer stylee that they'll return. Although this being Japan you have to ring the company up and tell them when to deliver it. Because I live in a mansion (no not that type of place, but a sort of post-apoocalytic ferile concrete block to house single people in Japan) they have to come when you are around and can smell the noodles from your kitchen.
After lots of keigo (polite Japanese) and apologies for being a foreigner, I waited patiently last Friday for it to arrive. In order to kill the boredom, I relented my soul, released my sphincter and sat through the most nauseating shite Japan has to offer on its crappy analogue TV services, waiting patiently until it arrived like a misbehaving six year old who sits in the corner trying not to do something bad as he wants Santa to give him that Scaletrix replica of Le Mans.
6pm arrived... some shite about food and a cute girl getting excited over a boiled sandwich dipped with egg.
Still no Macbook....
7pm... some equally disturbing shite on the news about a dead woman, a kid being hit by a train and the world's love affair with Barack Obama.
Still no Macbook....
Urge to kill being to surface.
But just after the news from Copenhagen that the world will end under a cloud of sulfuric acid and before I managed to destory yet another electrical appliance the doorbell rang and in the pissing rain and freezing cold stood an equally looking disheveled looking woman who was carrying my Macbook with a towel to stop the rain from melting through. She looked really flustered after probably trying to find my room in the cold and rain and so me being the English gentleman I had no other instainct but to kindly offer her a hot beverage from my bacteria infested kitchen.
However this being Japan and me not having internet porn for 10 days I simply signed the form, slammed the door in her face and unwrapped the box like a kid on Christmas day. And just like that kid waiting for those toy cars, you can fuck being a good boy now and let your emotion of excitement pour forward
Even though I knew the contents of the box, I still had the awe inspired gasp of being totally gobsmacked by some silver brushed metal, a few clumps of wires, and a CD.
The thing itself is completely free of painstaking installation and although it had trouble recognising my internet connection I was able to start using it in a matter of minutes. First impressions are that I was impressed. The next few hours, sorry the following 9 hours - I would spend re-downloading my entire music collection that was on my stole Ipod and which would go on my new one bought from Shinjuku. I use a nifty little programme called Transmission, which basically acts as a torrent downloader compatible with most of the torrent sites online at the minute.
Although I don't wish to be one of those beaming self-styled "Macbook" aficionados who whine incessantly about how great their little toy is and how Vista sucks, I must admit I really am happy with the purchase I made and it seems to suit my needs perfectly. Although I'm not close to marrying the damn thing, I think we are on about second base right about now.
Still its not all love and romance though, the only annoying thing that I have really discovered on the system is the annoying process of finding compatible software and having to learn the "mac" way of things such as taking screenshots, using the little touch-pad at the bottom and having to run various things. Overall though, my Mac experience is about 98% positive!
Want to see it in action? Well how's about this post-modernist photo of me writing out this blog post ON my new Macbook Pro. Take that dada-surrealism!
So with a new Macbook and a new Ipod the bank account is not looking great. This is basically my scholarship for this month, although sadly as Crimbo now approaches I have several other big things that need paying such as the gas bill (which has been burning 24-7 since the weather got cold here) my commuter ticket renewal (which gets reimbursed but still has to come out of my wallet) and also my ticket to Osaka!
Yes that's right! I'm going to Osaka/Kobe for Christmas and I'm gonna visit Himeji castle as well! All thanks to the wonderful Seishun 18 kippu, which I'll hopefully blog about later.
PS: Hisashiburi ne? Guess I have must have been studying hard... Or not at all. Most likely the latter. Those kanji are not going to learn themselves sadly.
Wow. Well sadly the blog was supposed to be updated regularly during my first few weeks in Japan. But sadly to my horror I discovered my flat wasn't equipped with the internet, meaning a three week stay of execution from the world wide web. Well anyways, I am now in the swing of things at uni here in Japan and have a great 100mb fibre-optic line into my room. So I'll just give a quick rundown of my previous three weeks in a general summise.
Where I'm living.
I am living in the pleasantry comfort of a place called Ikuta, in northern Kawasaki just a little under 15 mins away by train from my university in Setagaya. The place is basic as hell and so far I've had two cockroach attacks (one on my first night!) The town itself is pretty small but home to lots of students, as its situated near to one of Meiji University's campuses. In fact I can see one of the buildings from across my balcony.
Its also pretty cool as most of the people living in my little appartment/guest-house are mostly Japanese. There are a few Taiwanese and one Indonesian I think.
So far the experience has been a little awkward, especially given that I am one of four, yes FOUR exchange students here. This means that many people know me, but I sure as hell don't know them. Whilst its nice have some form of minor celeb status its really annoying and sometimes a bit off-putting. One thing I'm slowly having to get used to is the constant staring when I'm walking to class, eating lunch or basically doing the most mundane, banal crap imaginable.
Every Monday and Thursday at lunch-time we have these little language/cultural exchange things with our Japanese teacher, where obviously we get together and speak Japanese and chat with Japanese people. Whilst this is good, again its a little awkward because there are so few exchange students. Last week, it was me fielding rapid-fire questions from four girls. It was kinda embarassing, especially when your Japanese fails you.
This was the same for our orientation three weeks ago, when some of the students showed us around the campus and Seijo itself. it was like 4 people to say something like 20 people. Argh. But I seriously can't fault them, they were fantastic, I just felt sorry that all their hardwork and preparation was for just four people.
The students you meet here are completely fascinated by you though. You end up wanting to do something else and suddenly it turns into a conversation about what Japanese food you like and where you want to visit in Japan. Yesterday, whilst i was at our exchange office, I was randomnly introduced to a girl who was interested in going to Sheffield next year as a exchange student. After about a minute, the conversation veered from Sheffield and suddenly became about me and what my hobbies are.
Whilst I am on the subject of that, the academic staff here at Seijo are just unbelievable. They will go completely out of their way to help you. They'll help you sign up for societies, help you sign any tricky forms in Japanese and show you around campus and help you out with absolutely any problems you have as a forienger in Japan. Although the uni here is small (something like 5,000 students) one of the benefits is that the staff know you pretty well.
As for the whole 'international bubble' that some people maybe having as a student in Japan, I can safely say that is not the case at Seijo. With the exception of one of my teachers, two of the exchange staff and select bunch of cute girls in one of my classes - practically no-one speaks English here. And that is not an understatement. They just don't speak it and when they do, its kinda basic - although I am finding that they are very reluctant to speak it, even when their English is really good.
Its great for me though to practice Japanese, although it is very, very tiring sometimes.
So far I am taking four classes, 日本語Ｂ (Nihongo B), 日本語コミュ二ケーション (Nihongo Communication), Contemporary Society and Anthropology of Japan.
Nihongo B is basically our grammar classes, hosted by Toyama-sensei, who is really lively and makes the classes at least half interesting despite the easy content. Because there are no placement tests at Seijo we are pretty much doing first year grammar which is really annoying, because its painfully easy. However the stuff like speaking Japanese in class and to the staff, students etc kinda makes up for that. Seijo is a really good place if you wanna improve your spoken Japanese.
This is highlighted in Nihongo Communication, which unlike Nihongo B, is really fecking hard. We get tons of vocab for this and are expected to start speaking in Japanese throughout the class, discussing various topics and commenting on things. Its a really rewarding class but its such a pain due to its intensity and the content.
The other two classes are sorta special modules which we have to do and are kinda pointless. The only good thing is that they are with regular Japanese students. One is in English and the class there (which is full of Japanese girls - yes I know what you are thinking, but please don't say it) is more about learning about our various cultures and acts as a sorta cultural exchange thing. Sad thing is, only three of the four exchange students take it. The other girl who is French doesn't have to do it, meaning again its about four Japanese to one foreigner. Last week I didn't go because of a prior engagement and one of the remaining two exchange students was sick, meaning that only one turned up! All that cultural exchange nonsense for nothing. Honestly, the module is kinda crap and I'm only taking it because there are hot girls there. What? Oh shut the fuck up...!
The remaning module is kinda cool and I've made some friends in that class already. The only problem is the content. Its mostly what I did for Contemporary Japanese Society at Sheffield last year. Its a bilingual class meaning we talk in English and Japanese and is chaired by Toyama-sensei, our incredible driving force in Seijo so far.
To add to all this, our classes are 90 minutes long, and we do two back to back, meaning I do three hours of consecutive Japanese every morning except Wednesday. Quite frankly it just kills you and makes the 50 minute lectures I get in Sheffield, child-like in comparison.
I can't faul them really. They are really great. But the only annoying things are the out-right xenophobic/annoying stuff tends to come from my two greatest enemies, school-girls and old people. Generally, schoolgirls think of you like some type of hilarious doll to look at and giggle whereas old people have mixed opinions but mostly seem to stare through you with a glare of steel that suggests "get the hell out of my country!" whenever you make a culutral faux-pas. ouch!
Fyi though: The girls here in Tokyo are smoking hot. But that's not the reason I'm here. *ahem*
Taking a while to get used to. So far I'm liking the food in Seijo cafeteria, its really good value and really yummy. Plus the rice in Tokyo is smoking hot. But that's not the reason I'm here. *ahem*
I've managed to lose about 4 kilos in weight so far, thanks to Japanese food which is a lot less lighter in terms of fat content, plus the fact I am sweating out the remaining energy through walking everywhere and this stupid humidity.
Well, Typhoon Melor, or 'number 18' if you are the boring Japanese has just passed after battering its way across the main island of Honshu. It was fairly scary but nothing encroaching a major disaster zone similar to the one in the Phillipines recently. The amount of rain that fell was more worrying than the wind, which was most violent at about 7am this morning once the rain had subsided. Thankfully, my classes were cancelled today so I was spared from having a treachous journey into campus. Sadly the puddle outside my door is still there, although I really don't know how the hell my room did not get flooded. Japanese houses are really built for this type of weather though, meaning that as a British person I wasn't fearing a disaster like whenever the UK gets any strong weather.
Once the typhoon had passed about 12pm JST, the skies brightened up and brought with it those lovely gusts of warm air that had greeted me when I first arrived in Japan. The foreceast now looks really good for the rest of the week, although there is still a little bit of intermitment shittiness in the skies.
Overall, the weather is a lot nicer than the UK. Especially on a night, when you can walk around in a t-shirt and not feel really cold. But I will not hear any comments from a Japanese person that it rains too much in the UK!
My first few weeks in Japan have been pretty eye-opening and much of it getting into the swing of things and doing various mundane things, like registrating as a foreigner and sorting my phone and banking out. I've not had much chance to visit any of the real touristy places yet, mainly due to time constraints and not getting my scholarship until November. So far I've been to Yokohama, Shibuya, Shinjuku and Akihabara. I'm really finding it hard to find the time to actually STUDY japanese despite the fact I am using it every day know. I think my grammar has hit a top-level now and right now I just want to cram vocab like there is no tomorrow as it is the one thing escaping me right now. So whilst, being in Japan is certainly cool, especially being just a 20 minute train ride away from Shinjuku, its a little bit of balancing the books between asobi and study. So far, its something which I'm trying to work out and perfect in the coming weeks. I still feel a little bit like a tourist rather than a student. Despite what my passport says...