So I arrived in Japan on Saturday, August 28th after being in the air for around 14 hours with a short layover at Narita. I didn’t sleep on the flight at all, as I had expected, and had been awake for over thirty hours at that point, so I fell asleep promptly upon arriving at Seminar House 4 where I will be living for the next semester. Waking up on the first day, after finishing unpacking and doing some organization, I can honestly say I felt a wave of home sickness flow over me. It wasn’t bad, but I do miss America somewhat. I think I’ll be able to manage 9 months just fine though.

One of the first things I can say is that it is hot here. The humidity is out of control, and during the day it feels as if the sun is targeting only you as its rays shine down on you, burning you alive. I’m starting to understand why the Japanese walk around covered from head to toe. I can’t, for the life of me, ever see myself doing such a thing because I would just pass out from overheating, but it is probably a good idea to avoid direct exposure to the sunlight for extended periods of time.

On to the second order of business… life in Japan. Now I’ve only been here a week so far, but I think I’ve kind of got it figured out as for the general area around/near the dorms. There’s some convenience stores within about 15-30 minute walk, shorter if you take a bike, and there’s plenty of cheap restaurants scattered all over the place. I also had a lot of things I had to do just being a foreign resident in Japan. On Monday, I went out and bought a bicycle, filled out my paperwork to open a bank account, paid my student bills, and turned in my insurance information. Now, I want to sign up for the National Health Care plan, but I haven’t yet received specifics on how to do so. On Tuesday, I had my Japanese language placement test and L.L. Orientation. I’ll get to the placement test in a little bit. Wednesday I went down to the city hall and applied for my alien registration card, and found out what I need to do to get my keitai. On Thursday, I had some more orientation meetings and lectures from the school.

Friday was the big day. In the morning, I had the last of the orientation lectures (it was about immigration and the such… I had already completed everything they talked about), picked up my schedule and school ID, and then after that was the trip to Kyoto. The way they went about getting us all to Kyoto was they had the Japanese students in one line, and the foreign students in another. Francesco (my Italian friend I made) and I ended up getting partnered with four Japanese students. We decided to walk to the station, which I had already done earlier in the week for alien registration, but after that was an entirely new experience. I learned how to buy a train ticket, how the buses worked, and I got to see Kiyomizu again. After we returned back from Kyoto, we went out for Yakiniku at a restaurant near the station. The food was amazing. For 2800yen we had all you could eat beef, salads, rice, soups, deserts, and drinks. It was a little expensive, but for what we got, I think it was well worth the price, and definitely not an every day excursion.

The Japanese placement test, which I mentioned earlier, was not exactly what I was expecting, but then again, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect in the first place. It consisted of four parts:

  • 10-minute listening comprehension

  • Basic hiragana/kanji/translation

  • Grammar

  • Kanji reading/recognition

The listening comprehension was by far the hardest part. They played about seven small dialogues, each played only once, and then asked two questions for each dialogue, in Japanese. For the basic hiragana/kanji/translation test, we were asked to write about 8 basic hiragana, write out the readings for a couple kanji, and then right a couple kanji based on the readings, and as for translation, we had to translate six sentences that became progressively more difficult with each sentence. Grammar had 5 sections: A, B, C, D, E. Section E was separate from the rest of the test and with it comes an interview with one of the faculty members. I started with section D to see how I would do, and I found it slightly challenging, section C was a little easier, and then section B was too easy. When I handed in the test, the proctor noticed that I had completed D and excitedly asked me if I would like E, but I quickly dismissed the idea and continued onto the Kanji test. The kanji test was pretty self-explanatory. For part one, they showed you a kanji and you selected the reading. For part 2, they showed you the reading and you selected the proper kanji. Nothing too difficult, but I left about half of it blank because I didn’t want to be placed too high.

As it turns out, I ended up in level 4, which is what I had expected to take next semester. I’m pretty proud of myself since that was the section I had been aiming for, but I would have also been happy with level 3. This just means that I’m going to have to really buckle down and study hard in the first couple of weeks while I catch up on the material I don’t quite know yet.

I didn’t get either of the two classes I had originally signed up for, so I am in the waiting list for both, and I hope to at least get out of Cross-Cultural Psychology since I am not a psychology type of guy, but the Principles of Economics class I had planned to take next semester anyways, so I am happy with that change. The Japanese classes seem to be sporadically placed during the morning sessions and they start at different times each day and some are even in different rooms. I just hope I don’t get messed up…

In conclusion, orientation week was busy, I’m tired, and tomorrow I finally check into the Seminar House for good and get my key to the gate so I can stay out past curfew! I’m looking forward to starting class on Tuesday, but not so much on Monday since it’s Cross-Cultural Psychology, but hey, maybe I’ll end up enjoying it. I know this post has been long, but I’ve had a long week as well and figured I might as well share it with the world. I've taken quite a few pictures, but they're all on Facebook right now. I'll get them up here on the blog soon enough and try to spice up my posts a little with some color.