Journals from Rikkyo, Japan
2008-09-15 Greetings from Tokyo
My story begins here in Tokyo, Japan where I am studying abroad for the first time for the extent of one year, or rather 11 months. Keep in mind that I have been to Japan once before with my grandfather in 2006 to visit friends and to trip around. During that time I spent only 3 days in the city that I will now live in until August of next year.
I arrived at Narita International Airport 5 days ago exhausted from the flight, but still left with a 2-hour bus ride, followed by a 20-minute commute by train to the Rikkyo University International Dormitory. Fortunately, after the bus ride Alex (the other Linfield student on this journey with me) and I were met by two wonderfully spirited girls who were there to guide us to the dorm. Without them to guide us through the maze-like structure of the subway, Alex and I might have ended up sleeping on the street.
Though I had gone to sleep at about 12AM, I awoke once at 3AM and forced myself to bed until 6AM, when I finally got up. Distraught from the time difference, I slowly got ready and made my way to the 10AM orientation at Rikkyo University. The women from the International Programs Office ran the orientation and I soon found that if I needed anything at all, these were the people to ask.
After the morning orientation we met the students of the (IFL) International Friendly Lunch Club, who took us on a campus tour. Following the tour a two and a half hour placement test was issued regardless of how tired we were, and after this we were free to go home. I, however, could not resist the offer to go bowling and eat dinner with the IFL Club; it would be in fact my chance to make friends and practice my Japanese in Japan. After the night was over I reached my dorm a half an hour before the 12 oclock curfew, took a shower and fell asleep immediately.
I awoke early again the next morning, my body clock still disoriented from the journey. This was good, though, because we had an 8:30AM appointment for alien registration at the Ward (City) Office in the next town over. Once again a few IFL students were there to help us. I felt bad in a way, but grateful nonetheless for their help and generosity. Following this, it was back to Rikkyo for more orientation and the oral portion of the placement exam. I think this part went well for me, but Ill find out on Tuesday when the results are announced.
Monday was a national holiday in Japan, so we had a 3-day weekend to go exploring. On the first day Alex and I went to Akihabara and by chance, ran onto the Linfield students studying at KGU. We spent the rest of the day tripping around Tokyo with them, which was nice.
I think Ive found my favorite place in Tokyo, Harajuku. Im not one to dress as crazy as many of the Japanese in Harajuku, but it seems to be a place where I can find some peace in the midst of all the people. The train station is a relatively small station when compared to others in Tokyo and just behind it is a dark, Sherwood-like forest, which youd never expect to exist in a city like this. Its there for a reason, though. This forest actually houses the Harajuku Meiji Temple, which we were able to see briefly before it closed for the day. On the other side of the station is the city/town of Harajuku. The main street is a narrow brick road consumed by a river of people as they examine the abundance of the latest fashions displayed in the shops. I walked to the end of this street, crossed a highway, and entered what looked like more of a housing district than shops. But to my surprise these narrow streets were lined with warm-colored lights and fascinating shops and restaurants. After reemerging from this fairytale-like place Lindsay Loehden, Matt Hipperson and I entered a building with no stairs to go up, but rather, a large spiral walkway to get from floor to floor. We shortly found out that goods in this store were not goods at all, but futuristic prototypes for things like speakers, games, cell phones, etc. On the cell phone floor we were able to take our pictures and if we wanted, to enter our E-mail and phone number. After the picture is taken you get about 12 copies, each with a square in the bottom right-hand corner that looks like the picture had been scrambled. It turns out you can scan this square with one of the phones and it will input your E-mail and phone information. I thought that was pretty amazing, but then again, Im not much of a gadget person!