I would have posted my first entry from Japan a while ago if I had internet access in my room, but I do not have it yet because it is brand new and being installed as I write. I have pictures to share of my room and everything else if you click the photos link at the top left of the page. Ok…now to the good stuff.
I arrived at Nagoya airport a few days ago, greeted by Masami, Haruka, and Hiroki. Masami was my email partner through my Japanese courses at UNCW, and we have been in touch for over a year now. Nick, you know Haruka and she is in love with you. Masami gave her a picture of us and she has it on her cell phone. Hilarious. It was so great to finally meet them! They had a big decorated sign with “Welcome to Japan Trevor Paxton!!!” written on it so I could find them through the gates. We then chatted in the airport while we waited for the other UNCW students to arrive, then headed to the ferry to catch a ride across the bay to Tsu City.
The ferry ride was about 40 minutes, and the entire time, the Japanese fed us all kinds of strange candies and foods as they laughed at our reactions to the unfamiliar tastes and textures. They judged my Japanese handwriting and helped me write some difficult characters. I attempted to write their names, but it was unbelievably hard.
When the ferry arrived, 5 more of Masami’s friends waited to greet us. Everyone was so nice and they all seemed very excited to welcome us to Japan. We headed to a Japanese family restaurant called “Gasto’s” which reminded me of a Bob Evans or something of the sort, but with Japanese food. Looking at a menu that I could barely read, and not being able to recognize any of the dishes was very frustrating, so I just had Masami pick out something for me to try. I ordered a bowl of raw fish with rice and vegetables. It was okay, but I had to forget about the raw part in order to eat it. Although I did not have much of my own food, the Japanese enjoy sharing their food at the table so everyone had everyone else’s food. We took our time eating, hanging out, and having contests to see how well us foreigners could use chopsticks. I assumed I was going to pay for my meal, but they picked it up, which I was very grateful because I had no Yen.
We then went to the University to go to the English Education Students’ hang out room. The students have a room with ping pong and all kinds of other fun stuff. Masami informed me that this room is where she spends all of her free time on campus, and that there will always be someone to hang out with in the room. We goofed around in the room, learned some origami, while waiting for our host for the night….I don’t remember his name. The combination of an eternity of rhyming names and my lack of name retention led to me forgetting almost everyone’s names immediately.
Once we arrived at his house, I began to experience some real lifestyle differences in Japan. As I walked in the door with a handful of luggage, I was reprimanded for not removing my shoes. Everywhere in Japan, even my class buildings, you must remove your shoes. In the vestibule of my dormitory, I have a locker dedicated to the shoes that I am required to remove before entering the hall. Anyways, we stayed at that guy’s place for the night…on the floor. Japanese enjoy utilizing space, so I slept under a table for the night. Get this. The table has a heater installed on the bottom that you plug into the wall. Cover it with a blanket and you have a large heated space on the floor. It was pretty amazing. The next morning I learned about the Japanese concept of a bathroom. There are no bathrooms (by our definition) in Japan. The toilet, sink, and shower are all separate and have their own doors or spaces. The same goes for my room.
We needed a place to stay for the night, because we had to wait until the next day to move into the dormitory. So, we moved in next. $900 for a year in my place may be the biggest deal on housing in the entirety of Asia. Very comfortable with great accommodations including a community kitchen, refrigerator, my own sink and toilet. I then realized I would need a towel, bedding, and toiletries and went to the store by means of our Japanese friends’ car. Masami helped me shop for everything I needed and even did my grocery shopping since Japanese food requires selectivity that I don’t have.
Now that I’ve claimed my quarters and made it a home, it was time for some University affairs. My sensei just so happened to be Masami’s favorite teacher, so she was able to setup a meeting so I could introduce myself. His name is Mr. Kazuo Tezuka and is a wonderful guy. After the meeting, I headed to the CIER (Center for International Education and Research) for some last minute paperwork…or so I thought. Everyone happened to be there so they office workers decided to take us on a trip to the city hall because we had to get alien registration cards. And then began the bureaucratic nightmare that is Japan. We spent a total of six hours out of two days in Tsu City hall getting our alien cards, Japanese social health insurance, and opening a bank account. There were so many forms flying around requiring my signature and Katakana name that I felt as though I had no idea what I was doing. The CIER provided a support staff to help us through all of the processes so that was great help.
Taking care of things on campus, the placement test is over with and I am aware of my class schedule. I will be taking 12 hours of straight Japanese courses, which will be insane. Reading, writing, listening, and who knows what, all semester. I will have my work cut out for me, but it will do nothing but lend to my growing knowledge of Japanese.