The year abroad adventures of a Scottish otaku in the North of Japan

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So this is going to be a little round up of my first week in Japan and I have one word for it – hectic! Basically it was Orientation Week which means we had countless lectures on student life, courses, sex ed (yeah, we got a lecture on that one – by a 60 year old male gynaecologist), harassment prevention, cell phones…oh and a Proficiency Test! Yeah….that one was nasty – the questions were supposed to get progressively harder, but they just jumped from easy (Q1,2,3) to stupid (Q4 onwards) in a matter of seconds….not nice! My score worked out alright, though! I got into a class higher than what I was aiming for, so I’m going to have to do a bit of self-study to catch up, but you know what? I’m just happy that I don’t have to repeat 2nd year….

I’m sharing with a Japanese roommate, called Chino (she’s a little reserved – like me on a normal day). The layout is a little weird – there are two cabin beds (with desk/shelves and hanging rail underneath), a small kitchen (with hotplate, sink and tiny fridge), a toilet and a bathroom (shower/bath). It’s definitely bigger than my room back at University….

Some of my ‘up there’ moments from this week:

– A rather poignant speech by one of the lecturers (Darren Ashmore – a brit and not-so-closet Otaku) about how he got into Japanese. His uncle was a PoW in the war and lost a lot (including a leg and an eye) under torture; his mother never forgave the Japanese for what they did to her brother. However, the uncle could see past the propaganda and to the boys guarding him, who were of a similar age to him and seemed to have no idea what they were supposed to be doing, or why. He went back to Japan after the war and got to know the real Japan, not the one from the posters. It was very touching.

– My favourite meal so far at AIU – curry rice (カレーライス). I have to say, after a day of lectures and little sleep, eating a bowl of curry rice really hit the spot. Nothing better (although I may stand corrected as this adventure carries on).P1050391

– There is an advantage to your body deciding to wake up at 5am every morning – I go for a morning bug hunt. So far I have been chasing the Cicadas who disguise themselves into the tree bark. Also managed to surprise a janitor this morning when he found me lying in the middle of the path, trying to photograph a caterpillar….The bugs here are pretty cool – I also managed to get some photographs of a huge green cricket just chillin’ in the middle of the road!

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– The library. What can I say? It’s got a huge selection of English language research books and fiction books (I’m already on my second Stephen King in 3 days), Japanese DVDs (including Disney ones – so I can go on a Disney Binge). It’s a beautiful woodwork decorated library in a semi-circle shape, so you get a beautiful panoramic view of all the books. Plus – it’s SILENT (or at least until they let all the international students loose on it…) which is a plus, because the UCLan Library is….ridiculously loud. It’s not for studying so much as socialising!

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– Callum’s hilarious fail at reading Kanji (sorry, Callum, this had to go on here!). The words “what’s はん まえ ちゅう (han mae chuu)” were uttered while staring bewildered at a text containing the kanji: 午前中(ごぜんちゅう – to be read gozenchuu)….Oh, Callum….well it certainly gave us reason to have a proper laugh this morning!

Some icky moments:

– For some reason, my body has decided to wake me up at 5am EVERY MORNING! Breakfast isn’t open at the canteen until 7am, so I have to amuse myself with bug hunts and morning exercises until then 😦

– As much as I love thunder storms, having them wake me up at 4am twice in one week wasn’t exactly not I wanted…there was some fantastic rain, though – it was so loud!

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After the Matriculation Ceremony  today (in which we had lots of speeches and a beautiful performance of Saint-Saens by Keiko Watanabe – the violin teacher), I can now officially call myself a student of Akita International University. I hope that it will lay the path for a series of adventures and a genuinely wonderful experience here in Japan. Until then – またね!

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(This is our ‘how white do we feel?’ photo with “Wan-chan the University Mascot)


….and a few things that make it all worth it!

As you might be able to tell – I had a bit of a stressful landing in Tokyo. My only excuse for my grumpy attitude in this post is the lack of sleep/jetlag (^^)

Immigration

What can I say? It was 6.30 in the morning after a long and sleepless flight and this official is asking me if I speak Japanese. At my answer (a little) I get a rapid quick fire Japanese speech (or at least it seemed like it) –  I also had to wait while he sorted out my Gaijin Card (Foreign Residency Card). All this while worrying about trying to catch my 7.45 Akita flight – which leads nicely on to……

Connecting Flights

Anyone else tried to get a connecting flight at Haneda with less than an hour to get there? It’s a nightmare…By this point, I’d found a German guy (Sebastian) who’d been on my plane and was also going to Akita, and we were both racing for this flight. With Haneda airport, you have to get a bus to the Domestic Terminal, re-check in your baggage, find the check in desk (if you haven’t already checked in), race through security and then run for a flight that has 30 mins until take off. I swear they picked the furthest away gate for me, just for the craic! We did make it there on time (and I even had time to find a water fountain), and found Elena and Keirsten (both UCLan – University of Central Lancashire to you folks) who both ended up on the same flight.

The inevitable illness

As I mentioned earlier, eating Japanese food can, at first, do nasty things to your stomach. Unfortunately it decided to wait until I was on my final flight to take effect. Let’s just say I was very ill – I’m only just recovering over 24hrs later….

On the other side, despite the stressful arrival, I’m in friggin Japan! That more than make up for all the rubbish on the journey! It’s killer humid here and the cicadas make one hell of a racket, but it’s Japan. End of.

Also making up for Haneda being a stressful airport was this sitting on the runway by my gate:

Once I can get a LAN cable for the internet, I’ll be able to update more frequently, but for now またね!



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