Before my program started, I arrived early in Japan to prepare for the time difference I would face. My host university had informed students from the USAC program, an organization that facilitates partnerships between schools, that the dormitory was full, and students would have to arrange their own housing. Many of the students who I had befriended in the program at this time decided to stay at a share house. The commute would be about 45 minutes and require multiple train transfers to arrive at the university. This would be my daily commute for five days a week.
Luckily, the share house, Social Residence Academia Osaka Amagasaki, had many amenities. The rooms came with a bed, closet, a private fridge, and a private small balcony where I would hang clothes to dry. The shared spaces included a study area, a private projector room to stream movies, a large kitchen/dining room with multiple appliances, as well as two shower rooms, each with private showers. Overall, the place has 100 rooms and houses a variety of different tenants. I have met many people since I arrived. I met one lovely Japanese woman who has lived in the sharehouse for more than three years and works in multiple schools as a teacher. I’ve met foreigners who have come to work or have been working in Japan for a while as English teachers. Others are those who are on vacation or are students like me.
The first few days were spent resting and buying necessities like towels, bedsheets, and laundry detergent. I started to buy school supplies that I was unable to bring from home due to the limited amount of weight I could carry on the plane. I had arrived at a lucky time. Cherry blossom season had just begun, and I had been able to take beautiful pictures of flowering trees as well as other spring flowers in bloom at this time. The cherry blossoms, as I’ve come to learn, can have more than 20 different subspecies! I often found white cherry blossoms or light pink, but had been able to find some of the brighter pink ones I really adored.
However, despite coming to Japan early, I was still busy most of the time. I had a lot of studying to do and was trying to learn how to navigate life in Japan. When I first arrived in Japan, I had to ask the staff how to use the train passes with my limited Japanese language skills. The process isn’t complicated as the machines have the option to translate into a few different languages, but it may be difficult to navigate for the first time as the interfaces can vary. Getting a card for the first time felt like a milestone as it cemented to me that I would be constantly using the trains from now on.
Japan is very convenient when it comes to transportation. If there’s a place you have in mind to visit, then there is likely a train or a bus that takes you there! America is very behind in its public transportation, so much so that it’s quite baffling. The daily lives of those in Japan are enriched by this ease of access. In America, I often had to use a car even if the store was only a few blocks away. Japanese transportation is more accessible and easy to use, and I find it quite surprising that the USA had never adopted an extensive public transport system like Japan. As Japan is small compared to the USA, I can only see benefits from it being adopted. Especially the removal of traffic in busy areas of the USA by eliminating the requirement of owning a car to live comfortably in the USA.
I have only barely lived in Japan for a while, and I am already going to miss how convenient it is to travel to school and go grocery shopping.