First Few Days in Japan
It’s hard to explain, but time has been going by really fast and really slow all at the same time. Honestly, I’ve pretty much lost all sense of time. I’ve been trying to keep track of my original time zone for when I go to skype with my mom and boyfriend and I think that’s making it a little harder to adjust to Japan’s time. Sleeping wise I feel like I’ve adjusted well. I can go to sleep and wake up at normal times, but I’m still pretty tired throughout the day. However, I couldn’t tell you the day of the week or the date without looking at my phone.
When I first got off the bus from the airport, I was greeted by three of the Japanese students from my dorm. They took me back to the dorm and showed me around. I learned where the dining hall, trash room, and laundry room are, how to open my mailbox, and how to use some of the stuff in my room, such as how to work the mini stove top and water heater. After that, I was left to get myself all settled in. After that, I headed back downstairs where one of the students walked us over to the nearby market called Olympic. I was able to pick up the necessary supplies I needed for my dorm, such as dishes, cups, silverware, scissors, etc. I was also able to pick up some food to keep in my dorm.
I decided not to register for the meal plan, so I’ll be cooking all of my meals on my own. I am a super picky eater (and that’s an understatement). Even back home there were only maybe 10 or 15 foods I would actually eat. I decided to opt out of the meal plan because there was no point in paying for them to make me food when there was a good chance I wasn’t even going to eat it. As you can imagine, I’ve really been struggling to find food that I’ll eat. The last few days, I’ve eaten very little, and for some reason the whole idea of food is repulsive. I know I need to eat, because at 5’0 tall and 105 pounds, I can’t really afford to loose weight. It’s just going to be an adjustment.
I’ve been struggling with homesickness, but what usually makes me the most homesick is the food. Every time breakfast, lunch, or dinner roles around I have the same battle. There really isn’t any food around that I want to eat and I start to long for American food. I want to be at home where I didn’t have this constant struggle of “What am I going to eat?”
Other than the food aspect though, I’ve really enjoyed my time here. Everybody in my dorm is super nice! All of the international students really seem to stick together. For example, the other night about 14 of us sat around a table and played Uno. A little later after a lot of people had left, we played Old Maid (in Japanese it’s called ババぬき or babanuki). The RA’s (Resident Assistants) are also super nice. They’re always willing to help us and usually hang out with us in the evenings.
I’m really lucky in that one of the RA’s at my dorm also happens to be one of the people in the Buddy Group that Rikkyo assigned to me. He’s been super helpful to me so far and he’s super nice and supportive. His English is amazing so I feel comfortable asking him questions, but he also encourages me to speak in Japanese whenever I can. His birthday was also yesterday (the 24th) so it was cool that I got to celebrate that with him as well.
The last few days have been busy with general stuff to help me get settled in. On the 23rd we went down to the city office because I have to register as a resident in the city. Honestly, I can’t tell you much about what we did there, because the Japanese students did most of the talking. Then they would hand us a few papers to sign, but they even filled out a lot of the paperwork for us. Only four of us actually needed to register, but we were there for almost 2 hours because the place was so busy. However, by the time we walked out, I had officially registered as a resident of Asaka city and signed up for the national health insurance (required for anybody who is in Japan for longer than 3 months).
Yesterday (the 24th), I went to Ikebukuro (which is part of Tokyo) for the first time with several other students from the dorm. We went to Bic Camera, which is an electronics store, where I was able to buy a wireless router (since my room has internet but no WiFi) and a SIM card for my phone (I’ll talk a little bit more about the options for SIM cards in one of my next posts, just know that I ended up going with the 3 months IIJmio Travel SIM). After Bic Camera we went to OOTOYA restaurant were I got a bowl of Udon noodles for around ￥500 (which is roughly $5). The restaurant seemed pretty fancy, so I was worried it was going to be super expensive, but was really glad when I was able to eat for so cheap. After lunch, we stopped by the Ikebukuro Marui shopping complex and went to Seria Color the Days, which is a ￥100 shop. It’s like a Dollar Tree or Dollar General back in Maerica except everything is￥100 instead of $1. There I picked up some pretty paper and envelopes so I can write letters to the people back home. Sure I can message them online and they would get it much faster, but there is something enjoyable about writing a letter.
After that we made our way to Rikkyo’s campus, where I split off from the group and went to meet up with several Rikkyo students who attended my university last year. It was super exciting to see them again. It was funny because one of the girls didn’t know I was going to be there, so when she rounded the corner and saw me standing there, she was super surprised! I also got to meet several members of JOINUS which is a circle (they call clubs “circles”) designed for helping international students adjust to life here in Japan. We hung out on campus for a while and then walked around Ikebukuro for a while. I definitely love the feel of Ikebukuro. It’s like being in New York City, except there is even more going on around you. There are so many shops tucked into every possible corner. There are tall buildings where every floor is a different store, and there are others where the entire building is one store! For example, we went to Bic Camera and that had 6 floors worth of electronics! Definitely way bigger than your average Best Buy! One of the shops we stopped by was called Book-Off which is a used book store. I was so excited because they had so much manga that, despite being a used book, was in nearly perfect condition and they were all like ￥100 or ￥200 (which is roughly $1 or $2). I was like in manga heaven since in the US one volume of manga is normally $10. Although I have a feeling all the money I’m saving on the book is going to go towards the shipping for sending it back home, haha. Of course the only downfall is that obviously the manga here is all in Japanese, so I’m really going to have to work on my Japanese if I want to be able to read these.
I returned home from Ikebukuro around 7PM, which was a bad idea. When they say that trains in Japan are packed, they weren’t kidding. My back was completely up against the person behind me, and the person in front of me had his back completely pressed up against me. I had to keep my head turned to the side, because if I tried to look forward I would have my face in somebody’s back. If you suffer from claustrophobia, don’t ride the trains in Japan. Better yet, don’t even go to Tokyo, haha.
Today I went back to Ikebukuro with Tomo (the RA who is also in my Buddy Group) and one of the other students from my home university named Shekinah. We went to the book store called Junkudo, which sells new books. It had 10 floors (if you include the basement) of nothing but books! I was totally amazed! Most of the books I obviously can’t read because my Japanese level isn’t high enough, but they did have several books designed to help study for JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), and they were much cheaper than in the US, so I definitely might have to go back and pick up a few of those before I leave Japan.
As you can tell, I’ve been super busy so far, and once orientation begins on Monday, I have a feeling I will be even busier. I look forward to getting my commuter pass, because going back and forth to Ikebukuro definitely starts to add up. I’ve added a few pictures below, but I really haven’t been able to take too many pictures because I’ve been busy running around. I’ll try and do better to take more pictures from now on!