Thursday, September 30, 2004

KFC in Japan

My first KFC meal in Japan!



Marshall's KFC meal. Look at how small the chips are (that's a small chips i think though)



My burger. I forgot what it was called already - but it was some sort of chicken fillet thing (japanese
style one tho)


I had my first sleep in in a while today. Didn't have class this morning so i took the opportunity to lie in bed until about 10. I did stay up until at least 2am talking to the guys on Skype and icq though so it wasn't as long a sleep as i might have hoped for. Still, felt better than getting up at 7am.

I finally received my 'alien card' today too - so now i don't need to carry my passport around with me everywhere. I went to the Saiwaikuyakusho (Saiwai Ward Office) with Marshall, a dude from Washington state in the US, who needed to get a certificate of registered matters so that he could set up his bank account.

I swear the bus drivers around here all seem really grumpy. I think i pissed the guy off more today because i thought he didn't realise we wanted to get off, so i sort of said excuse me when we were stopped outside the school we were meant to get off at. But what i didn't realise was that the stop was actually after the traffic lights we were waiting at ... ahh well i don't think i'll be catching the bus there too often anyway. The people IN the ward office are really helpful and nice though which is good :)

After that i popped into uni to check out one of the economics classes that i can take (which is being taught in english). It was incredibly bad. The actual book we are using sounds interesting, but having a japanese lecturer teach in english i think is just asking for trouble. She spent most of the lesson saying the same thing over and over. Fingers crossed the class tomorrow is better - if so i'll take that one instead.

I had my first conversation in japanese over the phone today too - because my teacher for some reason called me to check if i was taking any english classes before. I think they've tried to call me once before, but i assumed it was a wrong number when i saw the missed call. Oh well. I have to go talk to them tomorrow, so maybe i'll ask if i can move into level 3 too... Altho apparently it's been quite difficult to do that because of the large number of ppl in that class already.

I cooked again tonight. I realised that you can actually buy chicken here relatively cheaply (about 100 yen for 200g of chicken breast fillet) - so i got some of that and tried cooking it in my pot. I didn't realise i should cut the fillet up until after i had the oil all hot and the thing smoking out my room so that was a bit of fun - especially since the only knife i have is closer to a butter knife than anything else.

It turned out okay, but i think if i do it again, i will try to make a better sauce for it... Mum/Dad/Mel if you read this, could you email me some sort of recipe if you have time :) ?? Hehehe thanx! In any case, tonight is the most full i think i've been for a while - because i actually bought myself a whole pack of sushi, in addition to the chicken and vegetables i cooked. AND i just ate a huge Japanese fuji apple too. So i think i'll sleep well tonight :)

Until next time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

My first *proper* home cooked meal

Well, i couldn't think of anything ultra interesting that happened today. I've now met all the teachers that i'm going to have for the compulsory part of the level 2 japanese programme here at Keio. The classes so far have been relatively straight forward (cough boring) but i have this feeling that it will get harder. I'm still telling myself that i'm going to study myself to make sure i learn lots. I have been spending a bit more time than i would like on homework these days - considering how little i actually have to do it shouldn't be taking me an hour and a bit every night ... but it is. I guess my vocab is still a little bit limited so the dictionary checking of everything is slowing me down a fair bit.
I've decided that i'm going to take (in addition to the standard 2F programme) intermediate grammar (2 star version - i'll explain the stars in a sec); intermediate newspaper reading (2 stars); intermediate research/presentation (yet to decide no. of stars); and one english economics subject which should be on 2morrow or the day after... Basically in level 2 in the programme here there's 3 classes - B, F and G. B being the lowest, while F and G are meant to be 'accelerated'. I'm in F. When we choose electives there are a whole heap of subjects aimed at level 2 students - all of which start with 'intermediate-'. Within them though, there are often more than one so that they can match the subject to the students ability, where 1 star is easier, and 2 stars is a bit harder. I've been to quite a lot of different classes and the 1 star ones are a bit of an insult if you've been studying japanese for as long as me lol. In one of them we watched the one video clip about 5 times just to make sure we could hear some really fake-looking-japanese-actors say "yarimashouka" (shall i do it for you?)... So yeah that class is out :) I also tried going to one of the electives aimed at the level 3 students - 'advanced grammar (1 star)' ... it was hardcore. I think it would be a really good learning experience, but i'd have about a 50% chance of failing since i didn't understand any of the explanations that were given in class - all the explanations were given in japanese.

For any of you who might be curious, here's a sample:

手をこまねく → 1.何もしないで、事のなりゆきに任(まか)す。何かしたいのだが、どうにもならない、という場合もある。2.腕組みをする
例文
1.円高不況(えんだかふきょう)に対して、政府はただ手をこまねいているわけではない。
2.じっと手をこまぬいてその時を待っている。じたばたしたところでどうにもならない。

ドリル
1.彼は冷たい男かもしれない。手をこまねいているばかりで、助け___
A. ていた 
B. ようともしない
C. たくなかった
D. れなかった

That was about the only thing i actually managed to understand. After staring at it for the whole class lol. The thing is, if you don't get it, the teacher also explains in Japanese - which requires quite a lot more exposure to various expressions to make much sense of ... Oh and for those of you wondering the correct answer to the thing above is b. Congrats if you got it right :)

Anyway i don't think i'll take that class since there's a better suited grammar class to me... As some of you might have read, yesterday i went to the badminton club. I got an email from Takashi today thanking me for turning up and stuff hehe. I don't know if that's normal, but they seem really polite lol. Below are some various photos i took... And check out my cooking too (i have cooked here once before, but that wasn't a whole meal...) This one actually turned out quite nice ;)

Current song: Sore ga ai deshou (Isn't that love?) by Shimokawa Mikuni
(I just realised how much i miss listening to music ... it's nice just to be able to sit back and listen once in a while - no class tomorrow morning!)



Some of the team on court



The gymnastics people next to us.



Basketball on the right. The place is pretty huge!



My first proper home cooked meal. Itadakimasu~!



Up close and personal with the vegies.



The other stuff.



Gochisousamadeshita ~!

Badminton Training

This is going to be short because it's already almost 1am and i need to get up at 7 :( I just wanted to post now before i forget what i want to say.

Today i went to Keio's badminton team (this isn't a club i've just realised!) training session. And it's hardcore. Really hardcore. Well at least in terms of just fitness training. I was cramping about half way through - and i couldn't even keep up with the amount of footwork they do. What is bad though, is they don't have any game time (at today's session). It makes training a bit boring if you ask me :( It's good for Japanese practice i suppose - but at the moment communication is still a bit of a struggle. They all seemed pretty nice but the language barrier is a little bit of a problem.

I'm feeling a little bit down at the moment (although maybe it's just because it's late, i'm tired and i have school tomorrow). If you've ever really looked forward to something for a long time, you probably know what it's like when it doesn't quite live up to your expectations. Today's badminton session was a bit like that. Sigh now i'm not really sure if i want to fully play everyday (or every second day) like i was originally intending. Anyway, i shall sleep on it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Rain in Tokyo

Today, it rained. A lot. It was the first day that i've opened my window/door and thought i actually wanted to take a jumper with me when i went out.

I don't remember if i posted this, but after i lost my poor little blue umbrella somewhere in Roppongi i managed to get another folding one from the local convenience store for about 1000 yen. Which is not too bad. I was very thankful for it today - i would have been quite soaked without it.

I actually woke up on time this morning and got myself to the lounge downstairs in good time... so i walked to the station with a couple of other people from the dorm. Got to uni, went to class which was boring again (mmm i've had two classes and i'm bored ... well tomorrow we have a test already so maybe it'll get harder). Had lunch at the Keio Caf (they have a couple of different ones) and i tried some chicken thing which i can't actually say. I really wish my dictionary had more food words in it. After lunch we spent the rest of the day going to the different classes to see what was being offered. So far the interesting subjects look likely to be an intermediate newspaper reading class, a presentation/speaking class and possibly a composition/writing class. I really don't know what level i should be taking - because the recommended level subjects all seem really easy to me (well they're recommended for 2F which is the level i got put into... but i have this feeling that maybe i'm not in the right level). Anyway i'm sure that if i really want to, even if i take 'easy' subjects if i actually conscientiously put some effort into it i'll improve heaps just from having to hear and speak japanese all day. Plus there's heaps of vocab i don't know - it's only the grammar that i really already understand.

I went to an english class as well this afternoon, It sounded like it might be a fun class to take seeing as it seems to revolve around letting the regular Japanese students interact wif us foreigners (it was an intercultural communication subject - yeah there's lotsa girls in the class if anybody was wondering. cough). BUT i can sort of do that whenever i like without having to turn up to a class so i don't think i'll be taking that. I'm hoping to go to see some economics classes which i think will be quite interesting. I just have to hope that credit can be transferred back to Melbourne Uni if i take them.

I've started cooking a little bit too. Finally got myself some cooking oil and oyster sauce last night. I was dying to have some greens, so i got some vegies and fried them up in my trusty pot. The vegies came out ok. The pot didn't. I guess having non-stick ones is more useful than i thought. Anyway a bit of scrubbing and some hot water saw the pot almost back to normal. Tonight i went off and got more vegies just in case i got hungry (i also bought myself a bento box for dinner which was quite tasty).

I better stop it there for tonight, i need to study for my test (well, maybe learn some kanji or something shrugs... we learnt stuff that you do in year 8 japanese so it shouldn't be too terribly difficult) - but i also have a bit of homework to do.

I shall keep you all posted soon!

Karaoke Pictures!

Half of us at karaoke. I still don't know who the girl on the left is. The next guy's name i've forgotten, but his english is really good (he's Japanese). The girl next to me is Carol.


This is the other side of the karoke room - the dude on the left was really gone most of the night, Ji-Hee is in the middle and Min-Kyung (Kelly) is on the right


Fun and games. And alcohol.


I think it was starting to get late.


This is the last photo i took on the nite (or at least that somebody else took for me)... I don't know names so i'm not going to bother trying.

All you can Eat/Drink Pictures

For those of you who would like to see the cooking instructions at the nomihoudai/tabehoudai place here you go


This is a shot of the guys who were in the booth in front of us


This is the other table on our left


Me, Sung (American-Korean), Aya (Japanese girl who lived in Australia for a while) and Kris (American guy at the back)


The food! And if you use your imagination you can see the cooking bit in the middle of the table. The white powder stuff is like breadcrumbs to make the food crispy when you cook it.



Kampai!

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Changing Sheets

I just changed my bed sheets here for the first time. I'm still not quite sure how the system works here, but i do know that they are going to be collecting sheets for washing this wednesday. Whether i'm meant to put out all 4 sets of my bed sheets or just the ones i need washed i don't know still...

Anyway I thought i'd just see how long it took to actually pull everything off my bed and put it back on - and from start to finish it took me about 40 minutes~! I'm not quite sure if that's because i don't know what i'm doing properly or if it's coz my head still feels a bit weird from last night. But it feels like ages!

Oh and a quick update on the weather here in Tokyo - it's suddenly decided to become a whole lot cooler in the last few days. It's been raining a fair bit and the temperature outside is pushing down into the teens now. I better get started on my homework. See u all.

Food, Drinks and Karaoke

Last night i was meant to go out to dinner with a small group to some Izakaya (a japanese eating/drinking place) and have an early night. Somehow when we got there there was about two or three times as many people as we expected - and somehow we decided that we were going to 飲み放題 (nomihoudai - which means all you can drink). Luckily we did choose a place where it was all you can eat as well.

I met a couple of new people too. But unfortunately i can't remember the names of any of them except for Aya who is the Japanese girl in the picture below - the second from the left. She actually lived in Canberra for 4 years because her parents were diplomats, and at the time Catherine (girl on the left, who's also from Melb Uni) and her family were Aya's guardians.

This is outside the eating place in Shibuya (i think it was actually after we finished eating):


I've got lots of pix of all these people who i should know the names of, but i can't remember. I will have to ask somebody to help me name them all haha. The ones in the photo above i know except for one guy: starting from the left is Catherine, Aya, Kris (USA), the guy i don't know (studies in USA but from Korea), Kelly/Min-Kyung (studies in UK but from Korea), Ji-Hee (Korea).

The place we went to basically gave you an hour and a half where you can eat/drink all you like. They had skewers of stuff which you put some batter and breadcrumbs on, before deep-frying. You just order whatever drinks you like - there's quite a good range of stuff considering it is all you can drink. We ordered a lot. I think. Last night was definitely the most unhealthy night out in Tokyo i've had.

Because the place was a little bit cramped, and also because i was kind of sitting on the inside of one of the booths - i couldn't be bothered to get much food. Cooking it was a bit difficult too. I kept dropping the things off the skewers into the oil. The other booth had a number of close calls with splashing the oil on people from what i could hear - so i don't think they ended up eating much either. No food, and all you can drink alcohol is a bad combination.

Things only got better from there - because we decided that we should go to karaoke for the rest of the night. Originally we (well, the aussies: carol, catherine and i) were intending to have an early night and not stay out late. Anyway, half the group wanted clubbing so off they went, and the rest of us went to one of the many million karaoke places in Shibuya. It was all you could drink there as well. No food included though. I seriously don't know how, but this morning i looked at my camera and i managed to take like 150 photos during the night.

My justification i suppose is that i'm not going to go out (well i don't intend to go out) for a while so this was like a last splurge effort. I don't think i should do this too regularly though because 1) i still sort of feel like throwing up and 2) i'm going to run out of money real fast lol. I still can't wait until tuesday because there's badminton club training or something! So i shall try to get myself as involved with that as i can i think.

Anyway, i'll leave it there... I'll post up a couple more random shots in a minute.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

遅くなちゃった!

Sorry i haven't updated this thing for like ... two days ... but everything's been a bit hectic lately. I know that since i'm going to post again after this, nobody will look at this much so i won't write a lot.

I think that the worst feeling you can have when you wake up is when you look at the clock and you realise that you've slept in. I always seem to get a fright when i'm sort of half-dozing in bed, and then finally manage to find the clock and have a look at it and realise the time. Most times though (maybe i'm just lucky) i seem to check the thing when there's still enough time to get ready if i rush. Today I wasn't so lucky.

What a way to start my Uni life here at Keio - my very first class EVER in Japan started at 9am. And i woke up at about 8:40. It takes about an hour to get to uni from Plume IS. I was supposed to wake up at 7 - and leave by 8 sigh. I somehow managed to get ready in about 30 seconds and catch the 8:53 train after running/walking to the station as fast as i could. I got to class at about 9:35 - which is probably some sort of record in terms of how quickly i got from Plume IS to the Mita campus.

Unfortunately, if you are more than 30 minutes late at Keio, you are marked as absent... So i managed to get my first absence today too! I think that gives me like one more chance to miss a class before i will start losing marks for attendance :( Class was rather boring - but at least the teacher seems nice enough. After lunch we had a chance to go around and sit in some classes to get a feel for what subjects we want to take while we're here (which i thought is very considerate of them - you don't just pick blindly like we do at Melb Uni). So a bit of that, and a bit of sitting around, and then i headed back home...

Opening Ceremony

Today was the opening ceremony for the 2004 fall semester for Keio exchange students. Everybody who is studying at Keio was meant to turn up - but at least a handful of students walked in so late they missed whole opening ceremony lol. The ceremony itself was quite short - basically the head of Keio (i think he's the head of keio) spoke to us a bit about Keio's founding father, and some other random Japanese people who'd been overseas to teach Japanese to foreigners. Keio i think (if i understood him properly) prides itself on it's international focus.

The more important part of the day was the course guidance. Basically we were all split into our allocated classes (determined by the placement test last week or the week) and given a rundown of the sort of things to expect. I'm in level 2F and by the looks of things it should be fairly okay. I'm starting to wonder if i should have tried a bit harder in the placement test. But knowing how things go, the beginning of every subject is a lot easier than the end - so i probably shouldn't get too confident just yet.

To get us all into the swing of things, we got about 3 booklets worth of homework (we do like a sheet a night for each subject or something) - and we haven't even had a real class yet. Tonight i just had to write a short essay + some kanji practice - but that still took me a good hour and a half to finish. Study groups are sounding better and better the more i think about it. So far i only know one other guy properly who's in my class though - so we will have to wait and see.

Of interest today though was our spur of the moment decision to go to Asakusa (and visit the temple there which i always forget the name of) after class. After beginning with a group of about 8 people, we somehow ended with only 4 of us who went. Plus one friendly nihonjin we met while we were sitting around. His name is Hiro and he's a 3rd year law student at Keio. He was 'studying' when we met him (actually he was having a cigarette break but he was meant to be studying) - and somehow we ended up bringing him along to Asakusa (to which he'd never been despite having lived in Tokyo his whole life). So we were kind of taking HIM around. Although i must say he still knew a lot more about everything than we did. Below is a picture of the main shrine thing (if it's even a shrine, it could be a temple and i wouldn't know the difference. i will have to look it up when i have some time).



The other good news i have is the badminton club have emailed me back, and there is training about 6 days a week ahha. It runs from tuesday to sunday - and it starts this coming week. I can't wait. Hopefully if nothing else, i can improve my badminton a whole lot while i'm here :)

I better leave it there for tonight. I have class tomorrow that starts at 9am~! Yeah that's right, we have class on saturdays here. While the teachers all tell us that it's 'normal' for Japanese students, Hiro was quite confident that in reality it isn't - but skipping class here isn't really an option, because once u miss about 3 you lose about 20% of ur total mark, and if u miss another couple u fail. So no late nights on friday for me :( I'll try to post a bit more tomorrow. Night all.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Tokyo Night Life (continued)

I'm all full of blogging energy right now so i'm going to try to fill everybody in a bit more about my night out... But first let me tell you all a story about my little blue umbrella.

He was one of those little compact collapsable things that fit really nice and neatly into my bag. I think i used to carry it around to uni for most of semester one this year. He lived in my bag and hardly ever saw the sky. In fact, i think even when it was raining he tended to like to stay inside my bag (well, rather, i left him in there because putting away a wet umbrella is such a pain....).

Anyway one day he got packed away into my suitcase and flew across the ocean to the land of Japan. He came along with me on all my excursions around Tokyo. He even managed to experience first hand what it was like to be inside a bag when it was raining in Japan! (read my post from yesterday). Last night he made his last trip with me - he came club hopping. But he never came home. So somewhere out there in Tokyo (well in some club in Tokyo) lies my poor little blue umbrella, who has never seen the sky. The end. Sad huh.

Mmm well at least it will teach me not to bring anything that i can't fit in my pockets next time i intend to stay out late and drink.

Well ok on to the interesting stuff now. Last night's outing was meant to start at 10.30. We (being the ultra organised exchange students that we are) managed to leave the dorm at about 9.45. Even though we knew it took about an hour to get there. On the way to the station, Jakob and Kris decided that for 200 yen umbrellas were a good investment (i was carrying my now-lost-blue-umbrella already). That set us back another 5 mins or so. Some dawdling and 15 mins later we arrived at the train station and headed off down towards Tokyo.

The route was a bit of a pain because we had to change lines at Shinagawa station, and then again at Ebisa (we had to take the subway from there to get to Roppongi). Somehow though, when we jumped on a random subway carriage at Ebisa we ran into some of the girls from the other dorm who had managed to forget to bring ID and had gone home and come back out to get it (yeah, that's how late we were hehe). A lot of people now have gotten themselves mobile phones so everybody is busy swapping numbers (and trying to work out how to save them).

Arriving at Roppongi station we hopped out at station exit no.3 and met everybody else. I think we must have frightened off the locals since there must have been aobut 40 or 50 of us gaijins (foreigners) all standing in a huge group. I tried to take a photo but i don't think it really came out terribly well. Roppongi is basically full of activity all night. I think it's like the place where most of the foreigners go to hang out - and english is widely spoken in almost all the clubs (that we went to at least). What was a bit funny was all the dudes standing outside handing out flyers seemed to be black American guys. Bit of a shock to see (for me at least) in the heart of Tokyo. In fact, the clubs and bars seem to be run by black American guys as well. Hmm maybe it's just this area.

The first place we tried going into was so packed that i don't think all 50 of us could actually fit in. It was too noisy and not really the scene the most of us wanted so it was pretty much a walk in-walk out affair. The next club was virtually empty - but once we were in there it became quite full :) We spent a good hour or two there drinking, taking photos and generally having some fun trying to dance. The music was really old school - which made it quite fun actually. We even had the Macarena going for a bit lol. This is my German buddy Jakob. I met him one morning on the way to uni because he lives on the same floor as me in the dorm.



The next place was some night club with a 3000 yen cover charge. People weren't too happy about that, and we sort of walked in to the counter, then turned around and walked out. On the way there numerous people had managed to get more booze at a convenience store so we spent another half hour standing around outside trying to decide what to do. Some poor dude went in by himself so we had to wait for him to realise the rest of us weren't coming. And convince him to waste his 3000 yen. I'm still not sure if he came out when we left.

After that we found ourselves in some pub sort of place which was quite small and quite busy. We had a bit of fun 'following the leader' - who decided that they needed a bathroom break. Anyway i think everyone decided that despite the rather weird music the place was playing, it was time to get some more drinks happening. I, along with a couple of other people however, had decided that it was about time for some food - so we kinda ditched the group and went off to eat hehe. The good thing about Roppongi is the whole place is open pretty much 24 hours. We ended up going to this place called "Freshness Burger" where i had a bacon and omelette burger. Matthias (he's from Germany) tried a Menchi burger since that was pretty much the only thing on the menu that we couldn't work out at all, and the rest had cheeseburgers and other mundane stuff like that. It was quite nice. But very small.

About 20 minutes later we found ourselves stopping at McDonalds before heading back to the bar. When we got back though, there were more people who had decided that it was about time to get something to eat, so back we went to McDonalds. By then Kelly (my kankokujin friend) had finally realised that drinking a lot makes you feel funny, and was having trouble standing up properly. We thought that maybe she should sit down and eat something so i went off and got a meal for her - which she decided that she didn't want when i brought it. Was all good though - i was still hungry hehe :)

At that point, we somehow managed to lose about half our group - and we must have spent at least the next 30-45 minutes wandering around Roppongi looking for the club they'd gone to. We did manage to find various "massage" parlours and hotels in the back alleys - along with plenty of hookers. But no club unfortunately. Luckily we did have mobile phones and managed to meet up after finding an easy to see TGI Fridays to sit outside. The last place was probably the smallest of the lot, but by then everyone was getting kind of tired so space to jump around wasn't really so important. An hour or two later, the first train started running, and everybody (well almost everybody - a few people headed back into some other club for a bit instead) had pretty much had it for the night so we made tracks and headed for home...

And here are some more random shots (mainly from the beginning of the night before we all got too tired):

Some of the gals



Catherine and Kelly


More ppls (with Kelly's finger on the side)
Another picture of my phone
If anybody has been wondering, this is what my new mobile phone looks like. I really like the little jog-wheel kind of scrolling thing - it makes it so easy to go thru big lists of stuff.

Tokyo Night Life

Well people... it's now 6:50 am in the morning here and i just had my shower and i'm getting ready to go get some sleep (i have NO idea how i'm meant to wake up for the opening ceremony tomorrow - my sleeping pattern is going to be quite wacked out).

Tonight i saw a side of Japan that most tourists probably don't get to see. And it was lots of fun. Just about the whole contingent of new exchangees turned up and we went club hopping around one of the seedier (apparently it's one of the most dangerous too) places in Tokyo - called Roppongi. I'll post photos up later - but basically the way it works here is if you go out late, you come back the next day unless you're willing to take a cab. Cabs here will cost you between 10,000 yen to 250,000 yen (i dunno what that is in AUD, somewhere around $130-$300 dollars i'm guessing) to get from the clubs out to where the uni accomodation is, so it's cheaper to stay out and drink. Almost. Hence the reason for me only just having my shower now - we caught the first train back which runs at 5.15 am. To get to my place unfortunately takes a bit over an hour from that train though.

Anyway i'm too tired to think properly. Lots of interesting things to write about tomorrow (or whenever i happen to wake up). Stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I got a phone!

Hey everybody. This will be a really short post because i have to run in a sec. I did manage to get myself a phone today (thanks so much Kelly and the rest of my kankokujin friends for taking me along to Shinookubo!). It's a little white sony ericcson thing. Pretty basic phone (by Japanese standards) - takes photos and movies and that's about it i think. I was wrong about not being able to get phones with less than a 1 megapixel camera - this one only has a 640x480 pixel camera (about 0.3 megapixels) - which is the same res as a lot of phones back home in Australia. I went on this "Komi-Komi Standard" plan which with the student discount will cost me about 3750 yen per month.

If anybody is interested, my phone number is: 090 4176 7332
and my phone email address is: age-lim@ezweb.ne.jp
If you guys send an email there it's meant to just pop up on my phone! Hopefully the data charges aren't too high here.

Anyway haven't had a chance to really use it yet - had to run home through the rain! What i just realised though was i actually had my umbrella in my bag the whole way home... Live and learn i suppose. My phone still works so i'm happy. There's some exchange student party or something on again tonight - and i have no idea how to get there so i'm just tagging along with some other people from my dorm. Starts at 10.30 so i better go get ready - and if i don't post tomorrow it's probably because i'm still sleeping lol. Laters all!

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Course Advisor Meeting Today

I had my interview with an academic course advisor today. I’ve been recommended to do level 2F which is the intermediate level 2 class – there’s 2B (the standard class); 2F (slightly accelerated) and 2G (more accelerated). There are a total of 4 levels - 1 is for beginners and 4 is for fluent speakers. So i'm sort of a bit below the middle i suppose. My scores were pretty uneven when I had a look at them; I did a lot better in the listening comprehension than in any of the other sections. But that might have been because I kind of didn’t try as hard as I should have in those bits… Anyway I think 2F should be fun since it will (hopefully) be fairly straight forward. If it’s too hard or too easy I’m able to change classes (in the first week or so) apparently anyway.

After my interview I met up with Ryo (the other Melbourne Uni student here at Keio for exchange) who took me to the Keio library before he had to head off to another academic advisor meeting (since, being Japanese, he kinda scored a bit too high to take the normal language program; and wants to take standard classes). The library is pretty big at the Mita campus considering Mita isn’t really a main campus: if I remember correctly it’s about 5 levels. It’s probably similar in size to the legal resource centre at Melbourne. I couldn’t really find a place where I could sit down and use my laptop in there though (all the study tables have signs saying that in the interests of your fellow students, please refrain from using personal computers here). I ended up going outside and sitting at some of the tables in the shade. Did I mention it was really hot? I’m not sure when winter is coming here, but right now it still feels like summer to me. Even Ryo said this year the weather here has been really crazy. So anyway that’s why I was kind of hoping I could sit in the library – but the tables and chairs under the trees were comfortable enough with the breeze. Until I realized there was about 8 mosquitoes feeding on me. I gave up on using my laptop about then.

I had my first try at using an ATM machine here with my cash card from Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank today – and it was very straight forward. There’s an English option on the machine at the uni which is helpful – but even in Japanese it’s easy enough to understand (I tried both methods). What’s interesting is that if you use an ATM outside business hours (I think about 8am-6pm or so) you actually get charged banking fees! There’s a screen that pops up every time you go to withdraw money that tells you – and you have to click a confirm button to say you’ve read and agreed to it. I guess I shall be trying not to run out of money after hours.

And as for my mobile phone that I was meant to get today, I managed once again not to end up going to get one. The original plan was to contact my friend Kelly after my academic meeting to arrange a time to meet (since we both don’t have mobile phones yet). Of course, when I called nobody answered. I did end up meeting another guy (Jakob) after his meeting though. After we’d had lunch (and unsuccessfully tried to get in contact with Kelly again) we decided to just go back to Plume IS and head to the local ward office to get a temporary alien registration document (which you need to set up a bank account/phone account) as well as take out the national health insurance policy. On arrival we bumped into somebody else from our dorm and managed after a bit of confusion to get the necessary things sorted out. I was sort of just along for the ride since I figured I don’t need the health insurance policy since I took out travel insurance for 6 months with Melbourne Uni (which covers me for major accidents and stuff… I’ll still have to pay if I see the doctor though … but fingers cross I won’t get too sick). We all need to head back there later on to pick up our 外国人登録書 (alien registration cards) which are our primary form of identification here in Japan. So know I think I can get there on my own if I have to.

I did manage to contact Kelly while we were there at the office and we are (hopefully?) going to go get a phone tomorrow after her interview. We shall see what else I can get to go wrong before then haha.

Anyway we decided to walk back to the train station instead of take a bus back – which saved us about 200 yen or so. I spent about 400 yen on a bacon egg with mayo breadtop-style thing and some onigiri at a convenience store we passed on the way home instead. I also got my first look at the proper supermarket which is near Shinkawasaki station and it’s got a fairly decent range of stuff. Whether or not I will be cooking a whole heap I’ve yet to decide. The instant noodles here still taste quite good to me hehe. On the walk back I realized there are actually some rather large buildings quite close to Plume IS and here is one of them:



I’m still not quite sure how I missed it… it is pretty big huh. Anyway I’m back in my room now and trying to work out whether or not I should go for a quick run before I have my shower. Decisions decisions… such is life.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Farewells

Dad and Amah left today :( This is one of the last photos i took with them.


Saying goodbye was harder than i thought it would be. Dad and amah have been here for 7 days (i think) and i don't think i really appreciated their company until just now when i realised that they're not going to be with me for the next 5 months. Thanks Dad and Amah so much for all the help, it's really made the transition to life here in Japan so much easier for me. I think i'd be floundering a lot more if it wasn't for all the little things that you reminded me to get and do. (forks, spoons, bowls, plates... the list goes on).

This morning I was actually meant to go to the hotel for lunch, but instead i ended up waiting here at Plume IS for dad and amah to make their way here. We were meant to go get a rice cooker - but i forgot that today is a public holiday here in Japland (old people's day or something i think), so the local electrical store was closed. We settled for some lunch (obento boxes) which we brought back to eat in my room instead. Was quite nice n tasty - i think i'll be frequenting that place quite often in the next few months - it's nice and easy to eat, tastes good and it's cheap too!

Had a little bit of spare time before our activities in the afternoon so dad and I took a walk to the Hiyoshi campus (which is where all the younger students go). It was quite impressive - it's sort of built on this hill so when you look up at it from the road it looks HUUGE. I forgot to take my camera but i promise i'll take a shot from there and show you all what i mean. Couldn't find the badminton hall unfortunately ... i did walk into the gymnasium and some dude wearing white karate clothes came running out to greet me... i had a bit of fun trying to explain that i didn't speak proper japanese and that i wanted to play badminton. Actions ended up being more effective than words in the end lol.

The highlight of the day was the cruise we went on around Tokyo bay tonight. The meal was beautifully presented (as they always are here) and the view was quite spectacular over from the ferry. The photo at the top of this post is of us at the table (thank you mr waiter man who offered to take a photo for us ...). Most of my other photos have only 2 ppl and since my grandma doesn't know how to use the camera, i don't have ne others with dad :(( (except for one self-timer shot which was ok i suppose)...

This is a shot of Tokyo Bay Bridge from the water:




After dinner we went back to the station and said goodbye at Shinagawa Eki (i have to change lines there to get bak to Plume IS). I was feeling quite sad and lonely on the way back. But by the time i started walking to my apartment i suppose i'd put things back into perspective again and i was feeling a lot better... As my dad's been saying - my time here is not really that long (it's going to take me at least a month to really get used to life here, and i'm only here for 5 months altogether at the moment) ... So i'm going to make the most of it. I hope. Anyway, (relatively) short post today. I'm going to try to get a phone 2morrow. Again. I will update you all with how i go with that when the time comes...!


Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sunday is rest day

I guess i should start my blog for today before i get too lazy. Last night i had a welcome party hosted by Plume IS. It was lots of fun - all the new residents turned up and almost all the old ones too (even one person who has since moved out!). The food was really nice: we had about 4 types of japanese curry (different meats/vegies n stuff) with rice. And there was beer. And some sort of mixed japanese drink which i didn't quite figure out too. All for just 500yen! How's that for a deal. Anyway this is the main entrance to my accommodation.


All the residents have two keys here - one is for your post box which is just inside the main entrance, and the other is a key to open the door into the main place - as well as the door to your room.

I got my first bit of mail this morning too! My 'cash card' (ATM/eftpos card) arrived from the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi. Now i can actually withdraw money without having to worry about the exchange rate.

I woke up reasonably late today (i've been actually having to get up at 8am or 7am everyday i've been here so far), which i think might have been partly because of all the alcohol that was floating around last night. Although, i don't really remember drinking that much. By the time i got out the door it was already past 12pm - but that's ok since i didn't really have anything urgent to do today.

First stop was the Shinkawasaki station 'green window' - having received my student card i am now able to take full advantage of the student concession rates. I got myself a monthly ticket which gives me unlimited access between my station and the station that i have to go to for uni (which is like 3 stops away). That set me back 5,470 yen - but i suppose it works out to only about 180 yen per day for my necessary transport.

The other handy thing is that i can get off at Shinagawa using my pass - and Shinagawa is a reasonably big station which has lotsa food outlets and stuff. It is also the only place i know that has an international ATM machine that accepts my commonwealth eftpos card. Fingers crossed i won't really need to use that too often though. I got off at Shinagawa today after buying my pass so that i could go to the hotel to pick up various bits n pieces for my room (my dad went on a shopping trip yesterday and found a kettle and some cutlery and a rubbish bin for me! thanks dad hehe).

I got lunch for free because we had a spare 'shokuken' (food coupon) which i exchanged for a plate of chef's recommendation noodles + a pork cutlet ... The pork cutlet was really just a piece ready to be turned into katsudon or katsu curry (those things that sort of look like parmagiana crumbed fillets) - but they put some tomato sauce stuff on it instead hehe. Oh well it still tasted good to me.

The walk home was considerably more difficult than normal seeing as i had this huge bag of shopping to carry ... But i made it, and i've been sitting lazily in my room since.

Oh and Keio Uni does have a badminton club! I found their website today and sent an email to their team/club contact. I shall go back to refreshing my inbox and hope for a reply from them :)

A Picture at last!

Okay ppls, i've finally worked it out. I can now post pictures on my blog! Just to prove it here is my washing machine (and it might be a dryer too but i can't read the kanji haha).


Expect some more interesting posts from now on :P

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Orientation - Day Two

Today's orientation was really short. I think we were only there for about an hour and a bit. They just ran through stuff like 'how to get yourself a mobile phone' (which increasingly i'm beginning to realise is almost a necessity here in tokyo - they even tell you what the weather forecast is like !~).

After orientation i popped back over to the hotel to get my laptop so that i could post this :) Feels good to be back in touch with the rest of the world. Having internet access these days is almost like having a phone line - it feels like you're sort of cut off from everybody without it hehe. Anyway i plugged it in and tested Skype out - and it's all working well... My username on there is age_lim (real name is Adrian Lim) if you want to search me.


I just tried to use the picture post option for this - but i actually need to have webspace to be able to have pictures in this :(. Sigh oh well. I've been a bit lazy with the photo taking lately - i don't think i've really taken a shot of anything for a few days. Although on the other hand i probably haven't seen anything that i won't see a lot over the next 5 months either.


Tonight there's a welcome party at the dormitory which is good - because i'll get to meet some of the other ppl here a bit better ... This is going to be a short post because i think i pretty much exhausted everything i had to say in my post for yesterday hehe :)

Plus if i write too much nobody will be bothered to read my other one since this is newer hehehe. Anyway - time to see if i can find those other blogs to read :)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Orientation - Day One

Well everybody, i've now officially met everyone in the Japanese Language Programme who is starting this semester. Minus the couple who for some reason or other didn't turn up to the orientation this morning. The orientation started with the International Centre staff introducing themselves to us, but soon followed with us introducing ourselves to the international centre staff as well as the rest of the JLP students (and the couple of research students who were also there). Jikoushoukai anybody? It sort of felt like school again - and according to some of the more seasoned exchange students, that is kind of how you tend to feel at uni here in Japan.

Nevertheless, it was fun seeing how wide the spectrum of exchange students here is. There was plenty of laughing happening when some ppl decided to use their jikoshoukai to invite everybody to come play soccer and go hiking. The other thing was i met the other Aussies (go Australia!) today who are also starting this semester. The funny thing is all 3 of us are kind of 'oosutoraria-jin ni mienai hito' (not 'Australian' looking in the sense of being white-anglo-aussie). In fact all of us are asian haha. To make matters even better, the other dude from Melbourne Uni is actually Japanese (his family even lives here in Japan). He offered to help me with any Japanese homework i get (thanks Ryo~! hehehe).

The other oosutoraria-jin is a girl from Uni of NSW who's in 4th year this year (i think). Didn't really get much of a chance to talk but i'm sure we'll be bumping into each other often enough.

One thing that's starting to really annoy me is that everybody seems to be staying at Willing Setagaya which is another Keio subsidised housing place. Trouble is it's quite a trip from where I live. I think i've written this yesterday or the day before or something, because it's sounding quite familiar - but the fact that i'm writing it again today sort of emphasises the point. I think of the people i got to know today, 4 of the 6 were at Willing...

The orientation itself is very well designed and will be of great use for most people who are new to the country. For me, there was some useful stuff too - but because I had so much help from my aunty/dad/grandma it wasn't that relevant. They talked about stuff like getting your gaikokujin no touroku sho (foreign/alien registration papers) and things like that - which i'd already done. We all had to sign our housing agreements today too - which basically say that the Uni has the right to kick us out whenever they feel like it if we're naughty (and probably even if we're not too). Some of the people staying at one of the other dorms were quite unhappy by the sounds of things - one place has to share almost all their facilities except for their beds (which they aren't allowed to share at all lol). That's probably the other reason they're unhappy. There is one place which is a guys only dorm - and female visitors are not permitted at all. Not even your mother or your sister. I'm not talking over night - i mean just for a look around during the day time. Tight huh :(

At my place, i'm not allowed overnight visitors except immediate family, but at least i don't think they're that strict about enforcing the 'visitors must leave by 10:30pm curfew'. We shall see i guess :)

The other thing i found out was that file sharing programs are not allowed here at the dorms - and i can understand why (ehhe sorry guys, no web hosting for me ...). The connection here looks like it's about a 1.5mbps/256kbps dsl line or something - so it'll get maxed out pretty quickly using bittorrent. I have downloaded and set up Skype though, just so that i can talk to you guys every now and then hehe.

I've also decided that i will get a mobile phone while i'm here. They already have 3 megapixel camers on some of their phones....! Standard (or maybe it's minimum, i couldn't find anyhting with less) is 1 megapixel, and they all seem to take relatively ok video too. If you go with vodafone you can actually watch TV on your phone (properly. not the crap version we have in Australia). I think though i will probably end up with 'au by KDDI'; because they have a 50% discount off call rates and stuff for students...

As for call rates, they're not too bad. On the plan i'm looking at i'll be paying about 1,990 yen per month (which gives me 1,000 yen of free calls) and then calls are charged at 5 yen per 15 seconds. So that's like 20 yen a minute - and there's no flagfall (that i can see!). What's really cool though is their contracts are all 1 or 2 years long; but cancellation is something like 3,000 yen (that's about $40 australian lol). No prepaid for me hehe.

Bad news is that i can't actually get my phone until i receive my alien registration card - which is going to take till near the end of the month i tihnk. Oh and if you're wondering how i found out all this stuff about phones, it's because today i made a trip down to Akihabara (aka Electric City) to have a look around. They're selling oldish laptops from around 49,000 yen (about $650 AUD). And that's those ultra portable IBM ones too... My dad almost decided to buy one lol. But i suppose the processors and stuff aren't that great (some are only about celeron 500 or so). I saw a FX5900xt (128mb) for about 21,000 yen ($270 AUD) - is that cheap ??

The size of the place is still a bit hard for me to come to grips with - think Melbourne's CBD with the whole thing only selling electrical goods/computer software/games. That's sort of Akihabara. But then there's lights everywhere and most (major) shops are at least 4 stories high - the big ones are about 7 levels. There's lots of pretty girls promoting stuff and porn shops too haha.

The reason why you guys are only reading this now (Sat 18th Sep) and not yesterday when i actually wrote it, is because my dad is still finishing off some work on the laptop at the hotel, and i'm back at my accommodation. I'm really dying to catch up with everyone but i can't even send email atm (well not without catching a train to some other place and looking for an internet cafe). So this blog was written and planned 100% the good old fashion way: on paper!

I just realised that it's actually getting pretty long (and it's getting pretty late too) so i'll stop in a sec. The only other thing i wanted to write is that i remembered to time the walk from the station to my place today - it takes 12 minutes walking; and running (in the dark, with probably less people in the way than during the day when i timed the walking) it took about 4-5 minutes. It's not really that far afterall. My dad says i should go get a bike, but i don't think i can be bothered to try to park it/tie it up (actually though, come to think of it people seem to kind of just leave thei rbikes on the footpaths with no lock on them at all here). But still, i think i'll see how i go walking first :)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Placement Test Today

Today I had my placement test. Luckily (if you've read yesterday's post), i was staying at the Shinagawa Hotel so i only had to leave at about 8am. It was really hard to pull myself out of bed though. I actually went to bed quite early last night, but somehow i just woke up really tired. I think that being in a foreign country and having to try so hard to understand people takes a lot more energy than normal.

The test itself was quite tough. It sort of got to the stage of being quite impossible for me towards the end of the every paper (there were three parts: expression; listening; and reading comprehension). I probably didn't really try as hard as i should have - but i figured that the worse i do now, the less work i'll have to do later haha :) I finally met Francis (he's another Melbourne Uni exchange student at Keio, but he's been there since the start of the year) today - he actually remembered me from that one email i sent him about 6 months ago too! I'm really glad i bumped into him because he introduced me to a few people - who of course introduced me to more people. So yeah i've met two Melbourne Uni students, about 4 Koreans (3 girls, one guy i think, all of which somehow study in the UK), a couple of students from America and some Canadians too!

It's starting to get a bit more exciting now, because i'm starting to meet more people who are in the same boat as me. The first few days were a bit daunting because i was basically going around as a complete stranger everywhere - now at least i have a few friends (well... acquaintances for now, but i'm sure we'll see each other a lot more). I decided that i should write down names and email addresses - because the way my memory is, i'm not going to remember names very well and that might offend some people haha :)

The thing that's a little bit annoying is most of the people i've met (including the two other Melb Uni ppl) are staying at Willing Setagaya (which is a different accommodation place to where i am at the moment). It's going to be a little bit harder to go out together since my accommodation is quite a distance from theirs (and from Shibuya, which is apparently where most of the night life happens). I guess if i'm not afraid of a bit of a walk late at night it's not really a problem. The good thing about my accommodation is that i'm really close to the Hiyoshi campus (which is where the sports and the younger uni students are...). At the Mita campus it's all 3rd year and 4th year students who are really at the business end of their university lives. The partying all happens in 1st and 2nd year apparently which is at the Hiyoshi campus...

Anyway, what was interesting today was that it seems like the language of choice amongst the exchange students here is actually English. So this morning when i turned up for my placement test i was quite surprised to hear English floating around all over the place. It's quite weird here in the heart of Japan to here it spoken so fluently (albeit with all sorts of different accents, but i think that's what makes it fun). I had a bit of fun telling everybody that i'm Australian and from Australia - boku ga oosutorariajin ni mienai darou ne - but i guess that's why it's fun being an international student; everybody is from all over the place...

My aunty left today :( So now i'm here with my dad and my granndma and i actually have to start speaking Japanese for everybody. I'm so lost still though - everyone assumes i'm Japanese and i don't understand even the cashiers sometimes. Thanks Ros again for all your help (if you ever actually get time to read this!), I'm really really glad that you came along ...

Do you guys miss me yet? I think i'm already feeling a bit home sick ... Sigh i guess once uni gets started though it'll be much better - apparently everyone is still on holidays here until about the 28th or so... Which explains why the uni has been so empty these last few days that i've turned up. Oh and i think that my iinet email doesn't work quite right here atm, so if anybody is dying to send me an email message send them to age_lim@yahoo.com.au pleease :)

Anyway tomorrow i will write more interesting stuff (i hope).

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Another Day Over

Today I got my back account set up and managed to deposit all the travelers cheques. It took us about two and half hours of sitting in the bank waiting to do it though. I’m so glad that my aunty was here – there was no way we could have managed to get it done without her.

Problem 1: the bit of paper I was issued yesterday as a temporary paper isn’t recognized as a proper ID.
Problem 2: I (thought I) forgot to bring my Keio University papers which showed me to be an exchange student there. I later found the papers after they’d decided to let me open an account.
Problem 3: I also forgot to bring the map that we were given at Keio yesterday, which had the Keio International Centre phone number written on it.
Problem 4: the phone number of my accommodation was printed on the papers given me to Keio (which I didn’t bring) – so I didn’t have a contact number.
Problem 5: the traveler’s cheques were in my mum’s name, but had been signed and endorsed to me. They wanted to see my mum sign in front of them. Mum is in Australia.

Somehow, the bank either decided that I was legitimate enough, or my aunty managed to convince them that my case was pretty standard procedure for foreign exchange students, and they allowed me to open an account and put the money in. Seriously though, I’m very impressed with how hard they try here. I’m sure that if I was a foreign exchange student in Australia, the bank staff would have given up after about problem one. It’s really nice to see how different the work ethic is here. It’s kind of like the Asian-Chinese mentality of working hard – combined with the Western-Anglo attention to service. Yeah I know that’s pretty bad stereotyping but I can’t think of a better way to explain it. Now I just have to wait for the ATM card to be posted to me. For the moment I’ll have to make do with withdrawing in person.

After that we made another trip to my accommodation and there were actually some exchange students there! First priority was to appease my grandma and make sure I actually had a big soft pillow to sleep on (and not the small little bean one they gave me… which I thought was rather cool btw). My aunty rather accurately noted that it would be my grandma would be quite unable to sleep until I got one. Also of some concern was the matter of food, food utensils and other miscellaneous items for my place. We made a short walk down the road to the local convenience store and supermarket and picked up various things like toilet cleaner, detergent, washing powder and paper tissues. I’m so spoilt. I’m going to just move in there and have everything ready to go. I heard some of the other guys complaining about how far it was to walk when you’re carrying all the things for your room back with you…

When we got back I decided I should go meet the neighbours so I hopped in the lift and went down to the lounge on level one (or ground level in Australian talk). It’s a bit funny at first here because 1F is the lowest floor – unless there’s a basement/underground levels. I’m getting sidetracked again (although it is a blog…). When I walked in everyone kind of looked at me funny. They all spoke really good Japanese which made me feel a bit out of place. One beer and about 10 minutes later it was all good though. So far I’ve met one Korean girl (I think there’s only the one girl, there might be another guy from Korea but I’m not sure); two guys from China; one dude from America; two from Canada… They’re all really nice~ The level of Japanese actually ranges from almost beginner to quite fluent (to me anyway). I didn’t really get a chance to talk to anybody a whole heap because I’m still not actually staying at Plume IS (my accommodation) yet – but don’t worry, I’ll have plenty of opportunities in the coming weeks and months no doubt.

I’ve had hardly any time to sit on the net these past few days, so I’m really out of touch with all the blogging that’s been going on. I’m not sure where I saw it, but someone said that a few more blogs have started recently… must be in the comments somewhere. I really want to see how everyone’s been going – so as soon as I have some time I’ll sit down to read them. It can be like my homework every night… fingers crossed there isn’t too much from Keio though. That will be decided tomorrow I guess. I’ve got my placement test which will determine my class and level of Japanese that I do. That’s partly the reason that staying at the hotel is good for now – I’ll only take about 15-20 minutes to get to the university in the morning, whereas from Plume IS I’m looking at closer to 50-60 minutes with rush hour happening.


Well that's about all I can think of right now. Keep in touch everyone.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Getting ready

Okay peoples, it’s blog time again. This is actually the second update I’ve written for today! Since I’ve only written about 2 blog posts in my entire life, there’s still motivation left in me which you should all enjoy while it lasts. One thing I forgot to say in my previous post is that the weather here in Tokyo is not quite what I expected. It’s been humid since I stepped off the plane – yesterday it was about 25 degrees Celsius when we landed, and today it was 29. Not quite the freezing winter I was expecting. The humidity isn’t high as say, Malaysia, but it’s high enough to make you uncomfortable when you walk around outside in the sun. It’s a bit like Hong Kong during the warmer months.

Today started off with a traditional Japanese breakfast at one of the resident food outlets in the hotel (which accept the food coupons – shyoku ken – that our hotel room comes with). For those of you who’ve never seen a traditional Japanese breakfast, it consists of some sort of fish (which varies day to day), miso soup, various pickles, some fish ball things in some sort of savoury sauce, some kind of vegetable thing (today we had this fish salad which was really nice), and either rice (gohan) or porridge (okayu). So yeah, it’s a pretty big breakfast. That kept us all going until about 5pm.

After breakfast we embarked on an extremely long train journey to Tamachi Eki which is the closest JR station to the Keio Mita Campus (where I’ll be studying Japanese apparently). It’s a whole one stop away from Shinagawa Eki, which itself is probably in danger of being hit by badminton shuttles if I wacked them out of my hotel room. So yeah that took a whole um … 15 minutes or so including walking. What made it more interesting was my grandma being wheeled around in a wheel chair. It really makes you realize how hard it is for people who aren’t able to walk to get around anywhere. The Japanese railway staff were as always extremely helpful, and organized somebody with a ramp to escort us to the platform so that we could wheel the chair onto the train. They even organized somebody to be waiting at the other end with another ramp so we could wheel the chair out. It’s quite amazing that they manage to stop the things within a few metres every time. Anyway, the whole point of this kind of needs its own explanation. So I’ll start a new paragraph haha.

When I came to Japan in April for a short holiday, we changed a whole heap of money into yen because the exchange rate was really good at the time. My mum and my sister were with me that time and the traveler’s cheques were all in my mum’s name. In order to cash the traveler’s cheques my mum needs to be here to sign for them – so as a work around American Express suggested we endorse all the cheques to me. That’s all fine and dandy if you have a bank account to deposit them into. Now to make things more fun, Japan is quite strict when it comes to foreigners doing anything – so I need to get a ‘certificate of alien registration’ before I can open a bank account. That normally takes a couple of weeks to process – which is a bit of a problem since almost all my money is in traveler’s cheques. We thought that maybe we’d just try to see if there was some way that Keio Uni could act as a guarantor for me (hence the reason for the trip to Tamachi Eki). After walking to the Uni the answer was unfortunately no, but we did find out that the local (to where I’m going to be living) municipal office can issue temporary certificates immediately while the real one is being processed.

The main aim of the day was to check into my accommodation which is called Plume IS – which meant I sort of had to go to that area of Tokyo anyway (two birds with one stone anybody?). As a little aside, I’m still confused about the pronunciation of the silly place. In Japanese it’s written as Puramu Izu (which is sorta pronounced Plum Iz). So I don’t really know why they’ve put an ‘e’ on the end of Plum(e) – I guess it’s not really meant to be Plume Eye-Ess :P. Anyway, I’d notified Keio University that I’d make my way to the place at about 2pm today so I thought I’d better keep the appointment just in case they decided that they didn’t really want another Australian exchange student. When I turned up there, I think I was the first person to check in for this semester. The place is really nice – and it’s actually reasonably spacious for a one-person apartment. As a few of you know, the internet connection was up and running the moment I walked in the door, but apparently the level I’m on is brand new and the hot water wasn’t actually working just yet. Luckily I’m not moving in there for a few days. In the room, there’s a bed; desk; toilet; shower; sink; washing machine; and stove. A reverse cycle air-conditioner keeps the place at a nice temperature too. You really need to see the pictures, but the way they’ve organized the bathroom is really smart. They use the space so well (so next time you need to design a cramped bathroom take a look at this place). Getting to the place is quite easy – but it is a fairly substantial walk from the train station. Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain too often. There are lots of convenience stores, and other miscellaneous places very close by. There’s even a place that sells rice cookers, but I’m still not sure if I’ll get myself one or not hehe.

We ended up having to rush a little bit to try to get to that municipal office to get the registration done because we didn’t really want to get caught in the Tokyo rush hour. In the end we made it just in time, arriving back at Shinagawa for a quick bite at about 5pm (which is when the rush hour apparently starts). For my snack I finally tried McDonalds in Japan. I had a ‘Chicken Fillet Set’ which is basically a McChicken meal. But the chicken tastes different here, and so does the beef (according to my dad who had a cheeseburger or something). It seems to taste a lot more like REAL meat which is a good thing. Speaking of food, we went out to dinner tonight to a really nice teppanyaki place. It was in the hotel on the 38th floor – so the view was pretty awesome. The city is really pretty at night since nobody seems to care about saving electricity (all the buildings still had lights on). Or maybe they all just work real late. And no, they don’t throw any food at you here, so I honestly have no idea where the Australian version came from. The teppanyaki meal was also quite different – you get plain white rice with a choice of steaks. No fried prawns, or prawn heads or legs… Or even fried rice. We did have some assorted sashimi on the side, but that was not part of the standard set. Nonetheless the meal was delicious – I don’t think I’ll get to have a meal like that very often in the next 6 months.

Anyway any and all comments are appreciated. And for the guys: yeah the Q level here is generally quite high – but STOP ASKING FOR PHOTOS!

I'm in Japan!

This post is the first I’m making with my feet on Japanese soil (actually I’m lying on a bed in the hotel, but we’ll get to that shortly)! It’s about 1am here on Tuesday the 14th of September 2004. We (dad, grandma and me) arrived at Narita Airport at about 7pm after the 10 hour flight from Melbourne. We requested a wheelchair for my grandma and the airline crew have been really helpful in helping wheel her to and from the plane/terminal (on both ends of the flight). Grandma’s knee has been having some rather serious problems lately so she can’t walk for very long anymore L It’s going to be hard going if we ever get stuck in rush hour on the train.

Anyway, getting from the airport to the hotel was painless thanks to the shuttle bus services which basically give you door-to-door delivery between airport and accommodation. We’re staying at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel (which is one of about 4 Prince Hotels sitting right next to each other in Shinagawa). The last time I was here, I stayed in the New Takanawa Prince Hotel which is about 50 metres up the road from this one. The layout of the rooms is almost identical, but this place seems to be a little bit smaller – but the upside is that it is closer to Shinagawa Eki (the main train station around here).

After arriving we went to eat a quick supper/dinner (even though we did get dinner on the plane…) at the local ‘family restaurant’. I forgot the name already, but I went there last time I was here too because it’s really close to the hotel. As usual the food that comes out looks almost exactly like what you see in the photos on the menu – which is a rather welcome change from what normally happens at fast food joints in Australia (don’t believe me? go order a Big Mac and tell me it looks even remotely as big as it does in the pictures). The other thing that’s good about this place is it’s open 24 hours. The prices are sort of like Pancake Parlour (after conversion) – I paid about ¥1500 for my meal which consisted of a salmon + green salad entrée, followed by a pork chop (a pork steak they call them here apparently) with some rice and miso soup. Actually it’s probably better value than Pancake Parlour come to think of it.

And that brings me to how I got to be lying on a bed in the hotel writing this post. I think I better get some rest so I can get up in the morning.

Monday, September 13, 2004

On the plane

I’m writing this post on the plane – but I’m not sure when I’ll actually get access to the internet so it might not actually end up online until later. It’s now 10:17am (AEST) or 9:17am (Japan time) on Monday the 13th of September 2004. (edit: haha i can backdate the posts so the date still shows up right!)

I had about two hours sleep last night. Not actually feeling that tired yet though. I thought I was packed and ready to go at about 11, but I managed to find a few last minute things to do, as well as a few more odds and ends to throw in to my suitcase (thanks everyone for the Lonely Planet guide to Japan – I’m sure it’s going to come in extremely handy).

The ride to the airport was relatively smooth – and I don’t think I’ve forgotten anything major! (yeah I know… just wait a few days and you’ll see me complaining about my rather unreliable short term memory). I had a bit of time while I was having breakfast at the airport to read the card that everybody signed. It’s a really cute card – I’m gonna miss you all heaps. They’re showing Shrek 2 during the flight – so that’s going to kill a bit of time for me J. Anyway, I better stop wasting all the battery before we even get out of Victorian airspace hehehe.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

My First Blog EVER

Okay peoples i finally got myself a blog to post all my random thoughts up on. I still don't get how they managed to simplify Web Log into blog. Why not Welog ... or Wog ... Hmm okay maybe blog does sound better.

The main point of this will be for everyone stuck back here in Australia to keep up to date with my adventures in the land of the rising sun (that's Japan if you weren't sure). Since i have this funny feeling that i might not get around to emailing each and every one of you every single day, drop by here to see what i've been up to if you're curious. I'll try my best to update this as often as i can. Promise.

Anyway i'm not going to post in here again until i actually arrive in Japan - so stay tuned. And for those of you who keep on forgetting when i'm leaving i'll be flying out on 13/09/04. That's 6 days away.

I think i better go pack.