My Daily Life as a Student in Japan

On April 27, 2017, in English, Life in Japan, School Life, by 01. Hannah
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I have a friend back home, and whenever she calls me there’s excitement in her voice to hear how my life out here is. I always tell her that I’m living here, I’m not on holiday and that I live a fairly normal, mundane life, and every time she reminds me that it’s ‘normal, mundane life in Japan.’ And in a way she’s right, I really do love my life out here. Moving to Tokyo provided me with excitement that I never found back home. But at the same time I do live a fairly normal life, it’s just different to back in Australia. I get a lot of questions from the people back home as to what I’m actually doing, so I thought I would provide some insight into what my everyday life looks like.

My weekdays are very much unchanging, I get up at around 9:00 and get ready in the morning. I usually leave the house between 11:00 and 12:00 and walk to the station where I take the train for Shinjuku before transferring for Shin-Okubo. From Shin-Okubo I walk to school, buying lunch from the convenience store or bento (boxed lunch) store on the way if I don’t have leftovers from the night before. I’ll get to school with an hour or so to spare and eat lunch with friends. Then, we’ll sit and chat or do homework together until class starts at 13:40. (Having afternoon classes is one of my favourite things about my life right now).

During class we will study whatever is scheduled for that set day. Throughout the week we study a combination of kanji, grammar, reading, writing and listening exercises. School runs with regular short breaks until 17:30 when I will usually, unless exceptionally free and/or bored, head straight home.

When I get home I make and eat dinner (unless I’m too lazy or don’t have enough time, in which case I buy dinner). When I lived with a host family I would sit in the living room and study or play with the girls until they went to bed before retreating to my room. Now that I live in a share-house I sit in the shared space with my housemates for a while until I go to my room. From here I do any combination of homework/study, procrastination and spending way too much time on Netflix, YouTube and social media. Essentially, I’m your typical student. I also occasionally do chores when I realise my room looks like a bomb site, that I have no edible food, or clean clothes to wear.

On Fridays after school I usually hang out with friends for dinner or karaoke which is usually one of my favourite times of the week. Such activities can range anywhere from a couple of hours to all night. My best decisions regarding sleep and study schedule do not happen on Fridays but as far as I’m concerned it’s the start of the weekend and I’m allowed to be a little less strict about such things. Being able to do karaoke with friends is certainly one of the things I love most about life in Japan, as silly as that may sound.

Most Saturdays I go to dance lessons for a couple of hours. I often eat lunch out and then go shopping or hang out with friends. Sundays are usually the only day of the week I don’t have set plans. If there’s an event on I may go to that, otherwise I usually just relax with friends. Before I would often spend time with my host family on Sundays and now I do the same with my house-mates when they’re free. Unless I have a lot of study to do, such as before exams, Sunday is usually my no pressure day and I like to keep it that way.

From Monday I start the cycle all over again. This is a brief look into my life as a foreign exchange student in Japan. I really do enjoy my everyday life here, as mundane as it may be. I hope this provided some insight/enjoyment to those of you reading this.

 

Hatsune Miku concert

On April 27, 2017, in Uncategorized, English, Life in Japan, Travel, by 02. Ruben
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Hatsune Miku, You see her all over Tokyo, hear her many places that you go, she stars in commercials and billboards. She is one of the biggest idols and the biggest humanoid in Japan and to some effect has become famous the world over. She has concerts that seem to sell out every time along side her merchandise they offer at said concerts. Fortunately this past month me and my friend were able to obtain tickets to a concert that featured both Hatsune Miku and Kodō, a famous taiko drum band. The concert was at the NHK hall in Shibuya and was my first vocaloid concert.

As we arrived at the hall we noticed the people flooding in, many of whom had plush figures or other merchandise supporting their favourite vocaloids. We immediately tried in vain to purchase merchandise of our own at the stalls outside of the venue unfortunately they were sold out. We then walked in to the arena where they had posters and billboards set up for those who wanted to take pictures. However due to the long Line of people waiting we decided to just find our seats and take pictures later. As we walked towards the seating area we stopped at a table where we would receive a light up wand for the concert that was included with the price of admission. When we found our seats we began to test out our new Wands switching between the three colors while we waited for the concert to start.

When the concert started I was amazed be how most of the crowd was moving in unison as they waved their wands to the beat of the songs. Then the first images of Hatsune Miku came on stage the place erupted with excitement. The atmosphere that her presence created was very surprising and overwhelming at the same time. The part that completely blew me away though was when the taiko drums would begin to play the rhythm for the songs while Miku sang. This combination of traditional Japanese instruments and the modern voice and style of vocaloid was simply incredible. Unfortunately at time you did get the feeling that the drums over powered the rest of the instruments. however all thoughts of this went away as soon as the vocals would begin, for once you heard the combination of the two, you couldn’t help but to be taken away by the sound. The concert lasted a few hours and included not only Hatsune Miku but also other vocaloids. After the concert my friend and I went and she got pictures with the previously mentioned posters and billboards before we were ushered out of the building as it closed.

Over all my experience at the concert was better then I had imagined. Many may say that it was not a concert because a vocaloid/humanoid is not much more then a projection on a screen, I don’t agree. I believe a concert is more about the atmosphere and excitement that the artist brings to the arena as they perform, and by that standard this concert was great in my opinion. If anyone still believes going to see a vocaloid concert is not worth it let us not forget that this event also had a taiko drum group which in all honesty was worth the price of admission all on their own. For anyone that has been debating about weather or not to attend a Hatsune Miku concert, I could not stress enough that it is definitely worth going as I will definitely go again once the opportunity comes around.

 

41st Grand Sumo Tournament

On April 26, 2017, in Uncategorized, English, Life in Japan, Travel, by 02. Ruben
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Sumo is possibly one of the most identifiable things when it comes to Japanese traditions. But what is a tournament really like? How long are they, is it violent, is it expensive earlier this year I went and found out here is a small idea of what it is like.

This past February I went to a sumo tournament for the first time and was blown away. The tournament was held in The Ryōgoku Kokugikan, in Sumida Tokyo. The arena was opened in 1985 and is next to the Edo museum in Ryogoku. This area was beautiful on the inside ad s well organized even with the massive crowd on hand for the tournament. The arena lay out is simple and has maps posted by most of the doors that lead to the seating areas. This simple lay out and maps make for easy navigation around the arena even when it is at it’s 13000 person max capacity. The venue also had plenty of food stalls that offer bentos, regular and sumo themed snacks, and drinks. It is important to note that they do sell out quick though. The stalls are important because once you have passed through the main gates you are not allowed to leave if you do then you will not be allowed re entry. As for the actual event, it started at noon and went on until around 5:30pm and consisted of two separate tournaments. The first tournament was for lower division, nicknamed Juryo, and up and coming sumo wrestlers while the second main tournament was for the top sumo stars in the world.

The first tournament lasted around 2 hours and was interesting with a few hard hitting matches and some matches that only lasted a few seconds. This tournament with me mainly for Juryo and the up-and-coming stars of sumo. However this tournament still provided a lot of entertainment, as well as a look into the fundamentals of sumo. The tournament was set up in a single elimination styleThe events following the Juryo tournament included a match featuring two former champions and a comedy skit on the don’t of sumo. After the side events and a 15 minute break it was time for the main event.

The main event on this day was the 41st annual Grand Sumo tournament. This was a one day single elimination tournament in which the last sumo standing would win. The festivities started with a traditional ceremony which was preformed by a Yokozuna. When the ceremony finished the tournament started and it was time for more sumo greatness. In total 38 sumo wrestlers took part in this tournament that lasted around 3 hours. This rightly made this tournament bigger then the juryo tournament that had 27 participants. In the end of the day Kisenosato, a Yokozuna and very popular figure, won the tournament much to the enjoyment of many. As the trophy was handed over, along with some interesting prizes, I took time to reflect on what was an interesting and exciting experience for me.

Sumo wrestlers as mentioned earlier is a very popular cultural aspect of Japan making this an important event for me to attend. The venue is very easy to get to being just a few minutes away from the Ryogoku station off of the Chuo Sobu line. I was surprised to find out that you are allowed to bring your own snacks and food to the venue as this is almost unheard of where I am from. As for the actual event it was very interesting and exciting. I will admit that at times it does get a little stale with some matches ending in very anticlimactic manners but that is to be expected from a day long tournament. The staleness does not take away from the experience overall however as the excitement soon rises again once the next match begins. Overall for a ticket face value of around 4000¥ I do believe that a sumo tournament must be seen by anyone that has ever thought about seeing one.

 

Fuji Five Lakes and Aokigahara

On April 26, 2017, in English, Travel, by 01. Hannah
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Recently, during spring break, a friend and I made the somewhat hasty decision to visit the lakes surrounding Mt. Fuji in the beautiful Yamanashi Prefecture. It was my third time visiting Yamanashi yet every time I go it takes my breath away. Even if one never climbs Fuji, it is certainly worth viewing from its surrounds. Having never been so close to this iconic symbol of Japan I found my self in awe of its magnificence.

There are five lakes sitting at the base of Mt. Fuji: Kawaguchi, Motosu, Sai, Shōji, and Yamanaka, all of which were formed by eruptions hundreds of years ago. We stayed at the most famous of the five, Lake Kawaguchi. Before arriving at our destination we decided to make a detour by the Chureito Pagoda where we got our first proper glimpse of Fuji from up close.

After having lunch, checking into the ryōkan (traditional-styled Japanese hotel) and buying local bus passes, we took the opportunity to enjoy the nice weather and wander around the lake for a bit. Somehow, despite the warm spring weather, there was still snow on the ground in places. Following this we took the bus around to Iyashi no Sato, a replica of a small, old village that was destroyed in a land slide in the mid 1900s sitting by Lake Saito. The village is a tribute to the time when it existed and now serves as a sort of museum for tourists to the area. All the cute, little cottages contained pieces of history and culture in the form of exhibits and crafts.

Before heading back for the night we decided to eat hōtō udon, a local specialty, for dinner. It was super delicious and definitely worth the try. To end the day we wound down in the hotel’s hot springs. There are few things I can think of that I enjoy more than bathing away my stresses in the crisp mountain air, especially after a long day of exploring. The only thing that could have made it better would be being able to see the mountains had I gone in daylight.

After being greeted by a stunning view of Lake Kawaguchi under the morning sun, we headed out for another busy day. We headed down into some of the caves which even little me struggled to fit into at times. Even in April we found ourselves in chambers decorated floor to ceiling with large ice stalactites. It was certainly a sight to behold. After heading out of the caves we walked through Aokigahara, often called the Sea of Trees, an expansive and beautiful forest at the base of Fuji which is unfortunately better known for its morbid history than its beauty. Despite the horrible things that are known to take place (which I won’t get into here) it did not feel eerie in the slightest but in fact quite serene. Despite the rumours, it’s a place you needn’t fear. Aokigahara is well worth the visit regardless of its dark past.

After reaching the end of the path, we headed back towards Lake Kawaguchi to see the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. The small museum exhibits works of the late Kubota, a man who dedicated his life to the dying art of traditional kimono dyeing. Whilst the entry fee was a little pricey it was well worth the money spent. Being able to see the intricate patterns of such stunning pieces up close was certainly a humbling experience. Unsurprisingly, we were unable to take pictures inside the exhibit, however no picture I could have taken would have done his works justice. It’s much better viewed with ones own eyes.

We continued around to the northern shores to get the stereotypical touristy photo of Fuji over Lake Kawaguchi. By this time clouds had settled in and the mountains were shrouded in mist, yet somehow the brilliance of the view still astounded me (almost as much as the cold winds tried to deter us). Even after a long two days we found ourselves not having done all the things we had planned to do, though it seems that’s just the way things usually go when travelling. Regardless, the things we did do were beyond spectacular and I hope one day to be able to appreciate the wonders of this area with more time to explore. I urge you to do the same should the opportunity ever present itself.

 

Male Grooming in Japan

On April 25, 2017, in Uncategorized, English, Life in Japan, Travel, Fashion, by 02. Ruben
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Hair cuts for men are often an over looked topic. Many guys just go to the cheapest place available and get a simple buzz cut. Others like myself will go and get a style done and wouldn’t mind spending that little extra for a good experience. What does that mean in Japan, what is the difference not only in price but in service?

Like in all other places you get what you pay for. Many of my friends go to places like QB house, a chain in Japan that offers basic cuts for the low price of 1000¥. While this place is inexpensive and quick there have been complaints about it like all places. The main complaint seems to be the fact that many stylists there tend to be new to the industry. While this is good to help develop new talent and to keep prices low, it does affect consistency and quality. There have been a few times when friends have come to class and had a bad hair cut due to the stylist being new. On the opposite side many have come in with great cuts for there and always go back when a new cut is needed.

The other option in Japan is to go to a salon. Hair salons are more expensive with average price in Tokyo being 4000¥. This does however include more for your money. The salon I go to for example cost around 4200¥ for a hair cut. This price includes a shampooing, hair treatment, drink, and even a scalp massage. Above all else this option has the benefit of consistency due to the fact that salon stylists are more experienced knowledgeable. For me this makes the price a bargain as you can not put a price on relaxation and consistency. Unfortunately salons also tend to take longer because of all the added amenities. There for making this an option that should be used when you have around 2hours free.

So the next time you have time and are in need of a hair cut know that there are options when it comes to men’s hair. Depending on what your budget and schedule is like you might be able to experience a few hours of relaxation instead of just rushing in and out for a hair cut. On the flip side of course you could go in for a quick cut and not spend as much for a simple quick cut while you run to get your plans done. Which ever you choose I hope this has at least given you a look at a different option when it comes to male grooming.