Saturday, September 27, 2008


Yesterday and today have been mostly errand running. Yesterday I had to get a pretty thorough health check in order to exercise in Waseda facilities. I can't use the pool yet though since I still need an ekg.... So thorough! We also had our last orientation session yesterday! Yay! We're all fully orientated! Plus, we got to fill our our cell phone paperwork.

Today, I got my teiki (commuter pass) so I can go to and from Waseda for free (the program reimburses the cost of the teiki). Then a bunch of us went to pick up our cell phones. Of course, they're in Japanese so we then spent the next hour trying to figure out how to use them. They're pretty high tech. And our phones our very basic. I'm sure everyone will be surprised to know that my phone is bright pink. Color choice was limited, and I didn't want something boring like black. Then Laura and I went to open bank accounts. I was the only one that actually did. She has to wait until she's 20. So soon I'll have a bank account here! Woot!

Laura and I explored Ikebukuro (where the bank we chose is) and the area around Waseda while waiting for the party we wanted to go to to start. We didn't actually go to the party as we decided socializing was not worth the 2,000en required especially since we weren't really hungry.

I also checked on my classes. I got all the ones I wanted so I will be taking Comparative historical linguistics, Public choice theory and Japanese politics, and Social and international relations of Japan along with my nine hours of Japanese per week. Cool.

I told you guys that things would start getting less interesting the longe I was here...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Finally some pictuers

Hello Kitty poster. Just for mom.

The Thunder Gate in Asakusa.

The right side of the Thunder Gate. The images would be better except there was mesh in front of the statues.

The left side.

This is Senso-ji in Asakusa.

This is Shouhei, one of our Waseda students that was helping us out. Right here he's hanging on to Jazz's bag. We thought he looked cute...

This is the torii leading to the Hachimon shrine in Kamakura. The girl on the right facing us is Asuka, another of the Waseda students.

This is the Hachimon shrine.

And here it is! The daibutsu! Big Buddha! For 20en you can go inside (which I did). The Buddha is Amida Buddha in case you wanted to know...

Doing better now.

So, I'm actually feeling a lot better than I was yesterday though I'm sure I'll have some other points where I feel a bit down.

Right now I'm watching a Japanese talk show of some kind. There doing a segment on "super kids". Basically really talented kids in one way or another from all over the world.

Today was mostly fun. My stomach was feeling a bit off so I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have. Our group went to Kamakura. Quiz for Kathy: what's important about Kamakura? Daibutsu desu yo! I totally climbed inside the Buddha! Okay, more explanation... the daibutsu is a huge Buddha statue that's hollow so you can climb inside for 20en. Another interesting place in Kamakura is the Hachimon-dera. It's a shrine that was built when the cpaital was moved from Heian-kyou to Kamakura in 1185. There's a tree there that has been there since before the shrine was built. Obviously the tree is a kami (sacred). By the end I was feeling a little better so I had some blueberry ice cream. Why can't the US do ice cream as well as other countries? Seriously...

That was today. Yesterday, I became a registered resident alien as well as signing up for Japanese National Health Insurance. Then I went to the Imperial Gardens.

Tomorrow is a day full of stuff like buying a teki (commuter pass), getting a health check so I can use the pool at Waseda, getting a cell phone (finally!!!), and hopefully getting a bank account so I can pay for things like my cell phone plan and my health insurance easily. Nothing fun planned, but it's stuff that needs to get done.

Saturday there's a SILS welcome party at Waseda. Then Sunday Kate's host family is having a barbeque for the Japan Study group. Then classes start on Monday!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Entering Stage 2

As part of our orientation, we got to learn about culture shock. There are apparently four different phases:
1. Euphoria--everything is awesome! There's nothing bad about the place you're visiting.
2. Low point--everything is strange and different. Nothing is familiar. Really you just want to lock yourself in your room or fly home.
3. Adaptation--you still have some bad spots, but things are starting to come together. You're adapting to a new culture and language even if you haven't become a part of it yet.
4. Acceptance--now you really can appreciate the culture. You feel comfortable in your new environment, and you start to see the world from your host culture's point of view.

Right now, I've hit stage two.

Yesterday, we met our host families and moved in so we're all separated from each other until a group trip tomorrow. I hate it. Don't get me wrong. My host family is very nice, and my host mom even speaks English (I'll get to that later). However, I'm suddenly without my cushion of Americans to fall back on when I need something familiar. I don't have a phone yet so they're all cut off from me. Really, I'm not so much unhappy as lost, confused, and uncomfortable. Plus, I feel like my Japanese is totally inadequate.

More on my host family though. My host father is a businessman and therefore absent. I doubt I will see him much at all. I won't even meet him until sometime in October. He's 32. My host mom is 29. She wanted to host a student because she studied in England and stayed with a family there (thus the English). She's very nice and seems to be a bit less traditional than I was prepared for. She still won't let me help with the dishes though. Not yet anyway. However, in some ways I wish she didn't speak English. I would learn faster though these first days would definitely be harder. Whenever, I pause to think about what she's saying in Japanese she immediately translates to English. I am trying to speak mostly Japanese though. Then I have a little brother who is not quite 2 and very adorable. He already speaks better Japanese than me. Actually I feel most comfortable around him as there's less pressure to be anything but a playmate.

Today, I'm going to get my alien registration and then a bit of sightseeing with my host mom's cousin. I can't wait for tomorrow when I get to rejoing the Japan study group for a day.

Sorry this post is a bit of a downer, but I'm a bit lonely right now. The plus is I seem to have found a wireless network that I can use without a password. Don't expect me to be on a lot though since I'll mostly be out during reasonable times for you guys. As I get into a more settled routine, perhaps I will set up individual times where I'll make sure to be online.......

Ja ne.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

More from Nihon

It has been a busy couple of days!

Kathy will be interested in this: On Friday we went to Asakusa which is home to a very famous Buddhist temple called Senso-ji. That's where the Thunder gate is. Of course, I will eventually have pictures to show you all, but right now, I'm still on a public computer. Between the gate and the temple is a line of little shops where I bought the cutest coin purse. Coin purses are incredibly useful here.

After Asakusa, we went to Shinjuku because a bunch of us wanted to buy electronic dictionaries. Also, just to look around. So I now have a fancy dictionary that I don't know how to use yet as I have not had any time to figure it out.

Yesterday we went to a museum of architecture that was basically like a little town of different styles of Japanese architecture. It was actually rather miserable as it was super hot and humid and the mosquitos were out it force. However, there was this giant group of kids and parents having a gigantic water war that looked so fun.

After the museum a bunch of us went to an onsen which felt wonderful especially after walking so much every single day since we got here.

Today is exciting because we get to find out about our host families! And there's the Waseda SILS opening ceremony and a party with the Rainbow club (all you can eat sushi, all you can drink, and all you can sing).

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Update, or whatever...

So I've been here a few days now so I thought I would give a bit of an update as to what I've been up to. Anyway, here goes...

Tuesday, we went to a different town (Higashi-Murayama) where we went to a Buddhist temple. I don' remember the temple's name right now though, sorry. Then Tuesday night we started our language lessons that were to help prepare us for everyday use and talking with our host families. After that a bunch of us went to karaoke. I sang so much I got really hoarse. I even wound up singing one song entirely by myself (Don't Stop Me Now by Queen). The language lessons continued yesterday (Wednesday) and we also continued to explore the area we are in right now. We discovered a wonderful sweet shop (mmm... ichigo no keiki) right next to a wonderful little udon and soba shop. Yummy yummy food.

Today we got our first look at Waseda University as we had to take a Japanese placement test (very hard by the way...I did terrible though we don't get the scores until Monday). We also got a tour from the Rainbow Club who were AWESOME. I talked with a girl named Yuri in a sort of English-Japanese hybrid and we already have plans to go to karaoke and a bar together.

Anyway, I'm going to go now as I have a piece of cake waiting to be eaten...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Here I am! Yipee!

I am at the orientation site here in Japan. We are at a dorm building until we go our separate ways next week. Today we had an orientation meeting and housing interviews along with exploring the area we are staying in. Sorry about no contractions...I cannot find the apostrophe key.

Not all of the students are here yet because one of the incoming flights got cancelled so I get to meet the rest of the program participants this evening. So far they are a really great group though.

Well, off I go to go get ice cream!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Once Upon a Time...

...there was a young woman named Mary preparing to set off on a grand adventure.

And that's what's happening now: preparing. I'm in full on packing mode. This blog is actually part of my preparations; I want to make sure everything is up and running before I go or I'll probably put it off for five months. And you guys don't want me starting my blog halfway through the trip, do you?

Well, move-in day at Knox is tomorrow, and I won't be there. I will really miss it too. I remember last year all the excitement of seeing people that I hadn't seen in several months while I settled back in. Next fall then...