Week 3: Slowly Getting the Hang of Things

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It has been some time since writing the journal. The primary reason has been that it is difficult to summarize everything that has happened to me into words. But as the third week is coming to a close there has been a lot to unpack and so much more to share with everyone.

First and foremost it is vital that I talk about how school has been going since that is the reason I am in Japan in the first place. At the moment classes are going well, but I am holding off on giving a concrete opinion on the classes for now. It is not because I do not enjoy the classes or any negative thoughts, rather it has only been a week into the semester so most of the classes were just doing introductions and going through the basic outline of the classes. I still arrive to classes early, but again I think it helps that it was instilled in me when I was a young child. Also with how strict the attendance grade is for classes at my host university I always set at least two alarms to ensure I am up in time to get to class. Although one major thing I can comment on is my improvement in productivity since being in Japan.

While I am a good student all around, I do however have a habit of procrastinating when it comes to homework. Even though I always get my homework done I have had occasions where I would wait for the last second to finish an assignment and gotten pretty close in terms of deadlines. But being in a new environment has given me the opportunity to not procrastinate as much as I would if I was back in Hawai’i. I think a lot of that is rooted in the fact that the way homework is collected in my class is a little stricter than how it is in class at my home university. For example, for one of my classes if I turn in my homework after the teacher had collected the rest of the class’s homework it would be considered “late.” But if I were to do that back home as long as it is turned in the same day it would still be on time. Yet, like I said prior I am going to wait before formulating full fledged opinions on the classes.

Even though I am here for school, I still want to go out and explore the country for everything Japan has to offer. Luckily, outside of the classroom there have been improvements in my navigational skills. Fortunately, I have not gotten lost or nearly lost like the other incidents I have had prior in this study abroad journey. I will say though I am keeping my fingers cross I do not have another accident like those previous adventures.

With all that being said it leads into a recent exploration I went on during the weekend. A few people from the dorm had wanted to go to Nagoya Castle and they were asking if anyone was interested in going with them. Up until this point I have been doing research and projects on the Nagoya Castle for a few years and I have always wanted to visit. So when the opportunity presented itself I knew that I could not miss out on the chance to go and see the historical sight.

However, what that did mean is that we had to take public transportation. And if the past encounters had taught me is that my navigational skills were not the best. Fortunately, in the group of people I went with from the dorms there was someone who had known how to get to the castle. While I was observing them I was able to learn more about how to get around the area. Which was really nice because of the negative experience I had with navigation, so it was nice to learn from someone with experience and know that it is possible to travel here. But I just needed to take some time to learn more and get a grasp for how the transportation system works here.

Anyways once we got there we were able to just explore and take in the beautiful scenery and learn a little bit more of the history of the castle and the other sights that were around the area. Although it was unfortunate that we were unable to explore inside the castle, we still got to see the tea house, the museum that contains the traditional dolls, and explore a little of the garden area. Also there was delicious food and interesting shows that the employees were hosting, but I was not able to get a good glimpse of the show so I could not tell what was going on entirely. Based on the posters I did see, I think it was a ninja presentation. Overall though, I had an amazing time and if I had to be honest I would go again on my own to explore even further than what I was able to in that moment.

Now after recounting the week it is time for some advice that is helpful in case you find yourself in a similar predicament. For as people say, “Learning from other’s mistakes will help you grow stronger.”

First, if you are planning to study abroad in Japan invest in an IC Card which can be purchased at ticketing machines in the subways, train stations, or bus stations. The IC Card is used to pay for the fares of the bus, train, and subway in Japan. It is easy and convenient to use and you would not have to worry about how to pay the ticket. Believe me when I tried to use the bus and use money it took me at least three minutes to figure out how I was supposed to pay. With the IC Card all you have to do is just tap the designated pad and it is done. Also at certain stores the IC Card can be used as electronic money and you can buy items. Although do remember to refill the IC Card if you know that you are running low on funds on the card.

Second, if you are nervous about taking public transportation, especially in a country where you are not fluent in the native language, go with a group of people. This way it allows for you to feel safe and know that you have other people around you who are equally confused. Also it provides a sense of security and ensure no one will get lost on the way back to the dorms or whatever living quarters you find yourself in during the study abroad adventure. But if possible make sure that at least one person in the group is aware of how to get to the destination, where to go, and how to pay amongst other things.

Third, if you do find yourself on the bus in Japan please know this phrase: “とまります.” If you see a bright yellow button with this phrase in bright red light near the window or on the bus pole note that this is the off button. When you want to get off at the desired stop all you have to do is push this button and the driver will be alerted that someone wants to get off. The reason it is important to know this phrase is because if the driver does not see anyone at the bus stop or someone does not push the button they will continue driving. Sometimes they will do stops at bus stops even if they are empty, but it is always better to push the button to ensure that you can get off at the right stop then to hope the bus driver will just stop.

Finally, if on the train or the subway be aware of what seat you are sitting on. In Japan there are certain spots on the seat called the “Priority Seats” on most of the public transportation but especially the trains and subways. These seats are often reserved for the elderly, pregnant women, mothers with young children, or anyone with a medical condition. It is not illegal to sit on these seats, but if you notice any of the following people entering the station it is common courtesy to offer the seat to these people. Otherwise it would be seen as rude and usually there is a big sign on the window above these seats that states this as well. Also you can tell which are the priority seats because they are also a different color from the other seats. So I would recommend keeping in mind of where you sit on public transportation.

As the weeks go on I am slowly starting to see that I am getting the hang of life in Japan. Now I would not say I am an expert or anything along those lines, but I am starting to feel more confident in how I am handling adjusting. Hopefully this means that as time goes on I will become better adjusted and have an easier time communicating more with the local people. Until next time I hope I left behind some insightful and helpful tips in case you find yourself in a situation that I have gone through. Please stay tune for more journals to come from Japan! さようなら!