It’s odd how time passes here. Sometimes I feel as if I have already been in Japan for months, due to the semi-monotonous school routine that every student falls prey to once classes begin in earnest. Yet when I leave the immediate area surrounding the dorm, school, and local train station I am simultaneously lost and enthralled. I probably have the worst sense of direction and cannot remember directions for the life of me, making the train system a nightmarish headache full of strange faces and signs in a language that I can read and write at an elementary school level. It is because I am too busy catching snippets of conversation and musing upon the popularity of McDonald’s in Japan that I simply forget which street we turned down last. Did we turn before or after walking past the man handing out free tissues? Was that Red Bull promotional car parked on this street before or did they move it in the time that we had dinner? Needless to say, I’m glad that some of our group members have a very good sense of direction.
If anything, simply experiencing another culture is simply amazing and I do not want to miss a single second of it. In the past three weeks of trekking across the city numerous times and riding public transportation for hours at a time, I have used my iPod a grand total of once on a quiet morning train ride into Tokyo to visit the Edo Tokyo Museum when I was simply trying to push back my grogginess. As I mentioned before, time simply seems to pass differently for me here. I can ride the train for at least half an hour without resorting to a book or iPod, whereas at Linfield I can often be seen listening to my iPod on the five-minute walk from the dorm to class. Part of me simply wants to overhear conversations because people in any culture are simply fascinating and another part of me simply wants to give my environment my undivided attention. If I’m here to learn, I’m going to do my best to learn from every situation.
This year, the students from Linfield get to live in the brand-new international student and freshman dorm that is a ten-minute walk from campus. The dorm is also down the street from a convenience store and a supermarket, allowing for late night snacks and oh-crap-I-forgot-to-eat-breakfast-and-the-cafeteria-already-closed mornings. Not only that, but the dorm is about a fifteen-minute walk from the train station and a small department store-like building filled with various types of shops and goods.
Everyone has a single room smaller than the ones provided at Linfield, but roomy enough that one does not feel cramped, considering that each of us only brought at most two large suitcases full of stuff. Each room contains a desk ,a chair, a refrigerator, a book shelf, shelving for clothes, a closet, and a bed with sheets and an uncomfortably hard pillow included. We also get the added bonus of a balcony to hang our clothes. Since dryers are a bit of a rarity in Japan—and the ones in the dorm cost 100 yen or a bit over a dollar per half an hour—most students prefer to simply hang clothes outside. Fortunately, the entire dorm is Wi-Fi enabled, allowing me to post this report and keep in contact with friends.
Each floor includes communal sinks and showers as well as a public bathtub. As per Japanese custom, students shower at the end of the day and then ease into the tub to relieve the stresses of the day. Many of us Linfield students have spoken with our Japanese counterparts at length while relaxing in the tub. While a bit awkward at first, we soon got used to sharing the tub communally and being comfortable talking with others while soaking.
The dorm also provides breakfast and dinner Monday through Saturday. This is not only a great money-saver, but is also another chance to interact with Japanese students in a low-key setting. For breakfast, students have a choice between a “Western style” dish and a “Japanese style dish.” While the Western style dishes tend to be a bit more Japanese than we would prefer—sometimes you just get cravings for pancakes—the meals are always nutritional and mostly well-balanced. A large rice cooker and a pot full of miso soup are set up for students to take from at their leisure throughout the meal. Tea and water are always available and during breakfast various kinds of juice are provided as well.
Classes have been interesting as well. Through the Linfield-KGU program, students are assigned three classes that they take during their time here—culture, economics/government, and Japanese language. Through the different classes, students go on various field trips and experience different aspects of Japanese culture. In fact, tomorrow (September 27) we will be visiting a Nissan factory as a part of our economics class. As a part of our culture class we have already visited the Edo Tokyo Museum and Asakusa—a well-known temple area that is also home to various shops that sell a wide range of goods. Since this entry is already fairly long, I will not dwell on the details as much, but needless to say, we have been very busy and entertained for the past few weeks.
This Sunday, we will be moving in with our host families for a month, so I will be able to write about new experiences that I have with them as well!
See you guys next time!