School Clubs, Shibuya, and Shinjuku

Monday I started off the morning by heading to Ikebukuro with several people from my dorm. We stopped by St. Paul’s Plaza (the university bookstore) and then walked over to see all the different clubs (although in Japan clubs are called “circles”) that were on display. From there we wandered around Tower Records for a little bit before heading to Shibuya to do some shopping. Then in the evening I played Just Dance and Uno with several people from the dorm. Tuesday was my advising appointment, which really hadn’t been necessary and then after that I decided to wander around Shinjuku and do some shopping. Yesterday was the welcome dinner for the Kyudo club, which is a club for traditional Japanese archery.

So, obviously I attend Rikkyo University. For those of you who don’t know, the English name is St. Paul’s University, however I think Rikkyo sounds much cooler. Well, I went to St. Paul’s Plaza (which is like the university’s bookstore) to get some Rikkyo stuff, but everything said St. Paul’s on it. I mean, I realize that St. Paul’s is technically the name, but I would much rather have something that says “Rikkyo” on it.

After that I went across the street to campus where many of the clubs had tables set up advertising their activities. It was actually aimed at incoming freshman, but it was also a great opportunity for international students to check out all the clubs too. The downside is that some clubs may be hard for us to join depending on our English level. However, some of the Japanese students were brave enough to come up to us and try to speak in English. I have to give them credit. I don’t know if I would be able to advertise me club activity in a foreign language. Out of all the clubs Rikkyo has, I was mostly interested in their dance team and their Kyudo club (which is traditional Japanese archery). However, I’m hesitant to join a club only because my understanding of clubs in Japan is that they can be quite time consuming. If I was here for a year, I would definitely join a club, but as it is now, I want to make sure I have plenty of time for travel. For example, I want to go to Kyoto for a week, which would mean missing a weeks worth of club activities, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do. A lot of the clubs have open practice sessions and welcome dinners where you can see what the club is like and meet a lot of the people without officially joining the club, so I might go to some of those.

After we finished walking around campus, we stopped by Tower Records, which sells all sorts of CDs, DVDs, and more. Personally, I don’t buy CDs anymore. I buy things from iTunes or listen to music through Spotify or something similar. However, the only downside is that for things like iTunes, a lot of the music is region locked, meaning unless Japanese artists specifically make their music available in America, I can’t buy it. I think the only time I might buy a CD is if I have a Japanese artist I want to listen to and I can’t get their music on iTunes or something.

After that we made our way to Shibuya. I had been through Shibuya briefly when I want to Yoyogi, but this time I actually took more time to visit some of the stores. We went to Shibuya 109, which is well known for the sheer amount of clothing stores. There was a total of 10 floors of nothing but women’s clothing and accessories, and there was a whole separate building for men’s clothes. Yet, despite the sheer amount of clothing stores that were there, I didn’t buy anything. Almost all of the stores had more “Japanese Kawaii” kind of clothing, meaning that a lot of the clothes were pastel colors and there were lots of pretty little dresses and skirts. Considering that my closet is almost entirely black and I wear dresses and skirts on only extremely rare occasions, it’s not surprising that there wasn’t much there that I liked. Besides, most of the stores were a little expensive. I was hoping that I would be able to go to Japan and find a bunch of clothing that I could show off back in the United States, but I am very quickly realizing that Japanese women’s fashion is the complete opposite of my normal style. I ended up just going to H&M to go shopping, although I did find a shirt that said Tokyo on it, so I was excited about that.

We also walked around Forever 21 and then we walked to Harajuku (which is about a 20 minute walk) to check out some of the shops there. Unfortunately I struck out at both places, and suffice to say my feet hurt pretty bad by the end of the day. I was pretty much on my feet from 11-7:30. Even with tennis shoes, my legs still hurt. I’m just not used to do much walking. I give credit to the Japanese girls who can walk around in high heel shoes all day as if it were second nature.

In the evening I sat in the dining hall with several other students, glad to finally be able to sit for a while. However, I didn’t get to relax for long because one of the girls from Korea had brought her PlayStation 4 with her and had the game Just Dance. It took a little bit for people to warm up to it, but eventually a bunch of us got up and started doing the dances. I took some videos, but I’ll spare people the embarrassment of posting them online for the world to see how stupid we looked. Despite the embarrassment, we all had a lot of fun. Unfortunately though the fun didn’t last because the dorm manager came in and said we were being too loud so we had to stop. After that, we returned to our go-to form of entertainment of Uno and Old Maid.

Tuesday I had my advising appointment with one of the professors from the college of science. I am something called an inter-university exchange student, meaning I don’t have ties to any particular department. It makes it hard because that means that my advisor doesn’t really know anything about me or what I need to do. He more or less looked at the schedule I said I wanted, said, “oh your Monday’s are really busy, but if you work hard I think you can do it,” and that was about it. Now I just have to email my home university and let them know that my class schedule is going to be just slightly different from what we had originally planned, and then I’ll be good to go.

After my advising appointment I decided to wander around Shinjuku. I didn’t really have anywhere in particular I wanted to go, so I figured I would just wander around and explore the city. Well, that was a mistake. Shinjuku is considered to be the busiest train station in the world. Once I arrived at the station I couldn’t even figure out how to get up to the street. I was so lost and confused, haha.

Once I finally made it up to the street, I simply decided to wander with no particular destination in mind. I stopped in a store called RagTag, which I had seen in my travel guide book, but similar to many of the other Japanese clothing stores I have been to, the clothes weren’t really my style. I also stopped by a manga cafe, somewhat by accident. I had seen a sign about manga so I decided to stop in, but when I walked in the guy at the counter told me “no looking,” and that was when I realized I was in a manga cafe. At manga cafes, you basically pay by the hour to read manga. Personally, I’d rather go to Book-Off where I can read for free, and buy the volume for cheaper than it would cost me to read it at a manga cafe, but that’s just me.

I eventually made my way to H&M and Forever 21. One thing I can’t get over is just how big these store are in Japan. The H&M and Forever 21 stores in both Shinjuku and Shibuya had anywhere from 4-6 floors of nothing but clothing and accessories. At Forever 21 I found this black, red, and white hoodie that I liked and decided to try it on. I kind of liked it, and it was only ¥800 (roughly $8) because it was on sale, so I figured why not? However, the more I wear it, the more I really, really like it. It’s quickly become my favorite thing to wear and it was only ¥800! I have to say I really enjoy shopping in Japan. Sure, most of the stores are kind of expensive or have the Japanese Kawaii style that I’m not really into, but every now and then I find something awesome, and it just makes everything worth it. Wow, I sound like a shopaholic, ahaha.

When I got back from Shinjuku, I just hung out in the dining hall. We played our usual games of Old Maid and Uno, but despite how often we play it, it was still enjoyable, for the most part. Everybody seems to play Uno a little bit differently, and here in the dorm, we play with a rule in that you can play doubles, multiples, whatever you want to call it. Basically, if the person before me plays a +2 (draw 2) card, instead of drawing 2, I can also play a +2 card and the next person has to draw 4. The same can be applied with a wild +4 card. Similarly, if somebody plays a +4 card and changes the color to green, I can play a +2 green card and the next person has to draw 6. Well, thanks to this rule, I got absolutely SCREWED. They played three +4 and a +2 card. I had to draw a total of 14 cards! Surprisingly though, I didn’t lose. I wasn’t the first one to get rid of all my cards, but I wasn’t the last one either, haha.

Yesterday I woke up with a headache, so I ended up not going adventuring like I had planned. Instead, I caught up on all the TV shows I’ve been behind on since I got to Japan. It was kind of nice because this was one of the first days I’d had to really relax. Then around lunch time I went down to the dining hall and practiced Japanese with one of the Japanese students while I helped him with English. It was nice because it forced me to use Japanese, no matter how self-conscience I felt.

A little bit later I went to campus to meet up with the Kyudo club, which is traditional Japanese archery. They were having a demonstration and welcome dinner for all the freshman who might be interested in the club. I went with a few other people from the dorm, which was nice so I wasn’t alone, but at the dinner I still felt a little awkward. My Japanese speaking and listening level is pretty low in comparison to my writing ability, and the people there didn’t speak much English so I felt like I was very limited when it came to conversation. The demonstration of Kyudo was pretty cool. The ceremony and preparation part of it is all just as important as actually firing the arrow at the target which seemed to make the whole thing that much cooler. However, despite how cool it looked, I think I’m going to pass on joining the club. When it comes to clubs, socializing with the other club members is just as important as the actual club activity, but considering how much I lack in my socialization capabilities, I’m afraid that I wouldn’t like the club much. Sure, joining would provide me with a new challenge, but at the same time I feel like I could use Japanese to challenge myself in other ways without it being so stressful.

In the evening I talked with one of the Japanese freshman that lived in our dorm. I was waiting for one of my other friends to get back from his part time job because we had planned to watch a movie together, and while I waited I sat in the dining hall. I’ll admit I was a little surprised when the freshman came up to me. I had talked to her briefly before, but Japanese are typically to shy to go up to somebody and strike up a conversation, particularly a foreigner, so I was shocked when she sat down next to me, but I was glad she did. If I thought I had been forced to use Japanese before, I was really forced to use Japanese now. She told me how she wanted to have conversations in English but felt like it was so embarrassing, and I could totally relate because I felt the exact same way with Japanese. It was nice because she recognized that my Japanese was far from perfect, so she spoke relatively slowly and kept her sentences pretty simple so I was actually able to comprehend a lot of what she was telling me, and I did my best to do the same for her with English. I actually really enjoyed talking to her, and hope I’m able to do so again soon.

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