Update: my new blog, LEJOG!

I returned back the the UK from Japan last year, and I’ve since moved most of my blog posting onto my new blog – the 1000 mile walk – the1000milewalk.wordpress.com

I still intend to write about Japan on here, although I’m mostly concentrating on my walk which will take me from Land’s End to John o’Groats this summer!

I’ve got 2 hikes planned for the Easter break, one which will be an overnighter round the Bucks area and one which will be a multi-day hike around Dartmoor. Once I’ve done them I’ll post some updates with how they went!

I had a meeting with my doctor the other day just as a catch up and to arrange physiotherapy for my hips, knees and feet, where upon mentioning my LEJOG challenge I got the most incredulous, humorous look I’ve ever seen. He was very supportive however and made sure that the referral included my walk. As a previous long distance walker and cycler he even suggested a GPS called a Satmap which, while expensive, looks absolutely amazing and I’m saving up for it now. So all in all it was a productive appointment, and he even got me motivated to start fitness training.

Another little update is related to everything really; my mental health, my flat feet and is especially relevant to this walk concerning my organisation and navigation. After going to an educational psychologists assessment, I’ve been told that I’m dyspraxic and have auditory and memory processing difficulties, which in hindsight makes sense. Luckily they’re quite mild but affect my structuring, organisation and prioritising quite a lot, which has had a knock on affect of making the planning of this walk quite difficult. I’m not the greatest map reader either, and that with my lackadaisical way of going about this walk is a bit worrying! That’s why after a lot of deliberation I’ve decided to go with a GPS rather than rely solely on paper maps. I think it also affects quite a lot of my gross motor movements as well, especially in rugby which is why I think I get injured so often when playing sports, and why my feet are so flat. This has also brought attention to how clumsy I am, so I’m going to have to be careful about how I’m walking in order to not get hurt while walking/trekking.

I’m hoping soon to get back in contact with my chosen charities to really start publicising everything, can’t wait to see that donation meeter creep up.

Anyways, if you want to donate here are my links –

Samaritans – http://www.justgiving.com/OllieCrook1000

Sustrans – http://www.justgiving.com/Ollie-Crook

Off the Record – text “OTRB13 £(yourdonation)” to 70070 (e.g. a £10 donation: “OTRB13 £10″)

 

Thanks for looking!

New semester, new challenges.

It’s SPRING!

That means –

Ohanami –

Ohanami in Yoyogi park

Ohanami in Yoyogi park

but also the start of university.

It’s a new school year in Japan, but because we’re offset by six months, we’re technically in our second semester. We’ve had lots of exciting new ryuu-gakusei (exhange students) which has been fun getting to know them over a few drinks at Izakaya.

I’ve also chosen my classes for this semester, and signed up for JLPT N3 in July. Study time GO!

I’m surprised just how much I’ve improved over these 6 months though. At the start of this year, it seemed impossible to hear what people were saying, I couldn’t form a sentence and a conversation was impossible. Now, listening is becoming much more natural – I don’t have to hang on to every word in every sentence, I can more or less let things wash over me and listen like I listen to English. It’s still difficult and I don’t catch everything, but I feel like I’ve made a marked improvement, which is encouraging. My sakubun (assignment) today was also marked as my best one yet, which is also good! (I still make a ton of mistakes but I’m happy that I’m actually getting better!) I guess the lesson from this is just keep going! No matter what level you are, every word, every sentence you write, every mistake is you getting better.

As well as this, I’m also planning on walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats next year. (but shhhhhh it’s a secret at the moment) and I’m in the process of setting up charity pages for people to donate at. I’ve started training – twice weekly gym sessions and fortnightly hikes – and I’m loving it.

Because of this, I recently hiked Odake-san. It was an awesome hike, but next time I know to prepare, bring better equipment, sleep better the night before and actually follow the right track. It was a beautiful area though, and I’d like to go back there at some point (and actually follow the right trail this time) to have a better look around and appreciate it more.

Map -  Mitake-san to Odake san

Map –
Mitake-san to Odake san

Mountain selfy!

Mountain selfy!

View from the summit of Odake-san

View from the summit of Odake-san

sacred waterfall on the return leg

sacred waterfall on the return leg

I’m hoping to do some more hikes soon, so I’ll share them with you when I get round to it. I’m thinking either returning to Mitake/Odake san, or doing a two day hike through a National Park in the west of Tokyo.

Until then!

10 annoying things about Japan (and 10 good ones)

After living here for 6 months now, I can say that its sort of feeling like home. Sure, other people have lived here longer and have done more things and blah blah blah. But for now, I’ve gone through most of the stages of culture shock, and here I will give you the 10 things that really get on my tits about Japan. And so as not to seem too harsh, I’ll give you the 10 things that I really, really like!

1) The price of decent food

Food here in general is pretty cheap – rice is very cheap and very filling and very easy. But it’s not particularly nutritional, and if you eat too much too regularly you start loosing weight and feeling pretty crap. Combini food, whist being a little bit more pricy but still cheap, is also terrible for you and will probably make you fat if you eat too much. Anything with any semblance of vegetable or fruit in it will probably set you back half of whatever you’ve got in your wallet or more. Want a side salad? Be prepared for an onion salad. Fancy some cherry tomatoes for lunch? Have a good lunch with the 6 cherry tomatoes in your pack that you just forked out for. Fancy a nice juicy apple? 500 yen (£4) please. It’s just frustrating and difficult, and I can’t wait to be able to buy a bag of apples for a pound. Also – I’m not a veggie, but I don’t want to eat meat in every meal. However, it’s almost impossible to find something without meat in. “Margarita” pizzas have hidden ham, egg sandwiches have hidden bacon, “tomato sauce pasta” has hidden lumps of some kind of meat, etc. It’s never mentioned on the menu, but when it’s brought to you you discover it. I truly feel for the vegetarians here.

2) *snifffff* *SNORT* *cough cough cough* *attttishooo*

No one covers their mouth when they cough or sneeze, or blows their nose. Instead they snort and sniff their way through their 40 minute train journey next to me, even though I KNOW they have a pocket full of tissues because you get them for free everywhere (see number 3 of good things). Or if they do cover their mouths, it’s with their hand, not a tissue, so you’re in danger of touching other people’s sneeze spit everywhere. Funnily enough, I’ve only been ill here once, but others have been ill several times, and I think I know why.

3) Lines for escalators and general people traffic

Got a train to catch? Be prepared for a mario cart worthy speed walk through the station, dodging little old ladies who feel like the middle of the concourse is the perfect place for a leisurely walk. Also, despite more staircases being no more that 10 stairs, everyone feels the need to queue for the escalator. Ok if you’re feeling nimble and sprightly in the morning and can hop up the empty stairs, not so great when you’ve got a huge suitcase and the elevator is full with lazy salary men.

4) BUSY BUSY BUSY

Everything is busy. Always. Everyday. If it’s a holiday don’t even go out. Don’t. Just pass it off as a lazy day and stay in, it’s better, trust me.

5) Everyone assumes you speak english

Yes, I look foreign, and yes, I do speak English. But I don’t want to be reminded that I look different all the time. Sometimes, I do want to feel like I belong here, but it doesn’t happen often. More often then not a group of middle school students will spot you and shout out the three words of English that they feel comfortable saying “Hello!/Thank you!/Good Morning!”. Or servers will insist on speaking English to you despite you answering in Japanese. I feel for the people who don’t actually speak English, it must get so tiring. I’ll admit, sometimes it makes it easier, but most of the time it’s just awkward.

6) Smoking is allowed inside

Sorry smokers, but you make my clothes smell, my nose hurt and all your smoke gives me a headache. People with asthma as well probably don’t appreciate the clouds of smoke that linger about their heads either. Often smoking sections don’t even have a partition, the only different being the signs on the walls and the ashtrays on the tables.

 

7) It’s impossible to leave Tokyo.

This is a sort of Tokyo-centric one, but once you’re in Tokyo, you’re in. You can never leave. Ok, that’s a it dramatic but it feels like that sometimes. It’s just that Tokyo is so big, it’s almost impossible to get out of without a car, bullet train or plane. Even Mt Takao (a mountain about an hour away from central Tokyo) is still surrounded by a built up area. It seems like no matter how far you go out, it’s never far enough, and it’s still always BUSY.

8) The gender gap

It really does feel like Japan is 50 years behind in terms of gender equality sometimes. I (wearing skinny jeans, a t-shirt and a backpack) am always taken for a boy, which is fine with me, but not fine when I have to use the female toilets. Most of the girls I talk to, if asked what they want to do in the future, reply with “teacher” or “preschool teacher” or “get married”. The overwhelming majority of people in the government are men, and most of the office workers I see on the train are men.

9) The lack of general diversity

When I went to back to the UK and then off to New Zealand, the first thing I noticed was the Diversity. That’s Diversity with a capital D Diversity. There are so many different different people in the world, but in Japan, I’m the different one. Whereas in New Zealand, me and Morgan were more often as not taken as residents in NZ, in Japan we’re perpetually tourists. But it’s more than that. You never see open LGBT people in Japan, but in New Zealand every other couple seemed gay. Every nationality, race, ethnicity, country was incorporated into New Zealand, England welcomes all types of people but sometimes in Japan it feels like you’re the only non-Japanese person in the room (and often are)

10) No decent milk

This seems like a trivial matter after the previous few, but for the life of me I cannot find a decent milk to put in my tea. For an English person, tea is life. Not only life, but a hangover cure, a morning pick-me-up, a thank you, a hello, a goodbye … a friend. *gets teary* I just want to have a decent cup of tea dammit.

AND NOW FOR THE GOOD ONES! 😀

1) 100 Yen Shop

If £1 shops were as good as 100 Yen Shops, half of my student loan would be in the banks of Pound Land. As it is, half of this years is probably swimming around in the “Can Do” 100 Yen shop down the road. They’re seriously amazing. Whereas pound shop stuff usually breaks after you touch it, 100 yen stuff holds up and more. They have everything you’ll ever need – you could probably kit your house out with Daiso and then some, as well as feed yourself and your family. They also have tons of junk, but there are some gems! (look out for the weird erasers in Daiso, they’re great little pressies. Just stationary in general)

2) Combinis

Combinis are also great. They’re open most of the time, and also have most anything you could need. Sometimes a little pricey, but great for a lazy student. They’re sort of like a ever-present Tescos express, only more of them. You know the saying that you’re always withing 5 feet of a rat in London (or something like that), it’s a similar story for combinis in Tokyo

3) FREE TISSUES

Free tissues. Free tissues! They’re useful, and free! What’s not to like?

4) Public toilets

Apart from the whole “looking like a boy thing”, public toilets are actually really good in Japan. Ok, some of them are mostly Japanese style (aka squat) toilets, but almost always they have a western style toilet and they’re almost always pretty clean. Subways/train stations always have a toilet, and there are often public toilets around parks as well. If you’re in a shop, the toilets will probably have lots of buttons and light up, this is expected. A much different story from the UK. Some toilets even have toilet paper, but if not you’ve got a pocket full of free tissues!

5) Japanese TV

“WTF” is probably the suitable word here. Japanese telly is crazy, strange, and I’m pretty sure Japanese people have no idea what’s going on half the time as well. One time, I was watching a program about divorced women, and why they were divorced (thrilling, I know). After about 20 minutes, and thought “WTF”, turned it off and watched something on my laptop. Turning the TV back on an hour later, the same program was still on. Japanese game shows are even crazier. Think lots of shouting, people catching balls on their heads, and great reaction shots from the hosts. There was also once a detailed, seemingly never ending program about a spider that lives in water. I loved it.

6) The scenery

Despite living in the middle of a concrete rat run, I have actually seen some beautiful Japanese scenery. Japanese shrines are stunning, and the mountains are lovely. Tokyo has it’s fair share of pretty moats and castle-type-things. The seasons are also pretty accurately over-exaggerated. Having a street full of sakura trees blowing their petals like snow into the wind, just while walking to the train station, is something I’m not likely to forget. Also, the preservation of historical sites and customs in Japan is an extremely important part of Japanese culture, and although sometimes I think it can be restrictive, it gives Japan it’s flavour of being both “now” and “then”.

8) Izakaya nomihoudai (Japanese bar all you can drink)

2 hours of all you can drink for 1000 Yen (£8)? Count me in!! The love-child of a bar booth and a Japanese restaurant, izakayas are awesome. Most nomihoudai include a list of all sorts of drinks, although beer is the best, and also have a menu full of yummy food. Great for a quick night of drinking, a definite must for any students out there.

9) The politeness and diligence to their jobs

For all it’s formalities and coldness, sometimes the politeness of Japanese people is very nice. They respect their jobs, whatever they do, and will go to great lengths to please you. There are exceptions to every rule (like the woman at the post office who, when I asked if she could check where my package was, filled the printer with paper and came back and told me she couldn’t find it), but on the whole it’s nice to feel like you have someone’s full attention, even if it is slightly feigned.

10) The Engrish

As a native English speaker, the Engrish here is great entertainment. You can find it most everywhere, from the map that helpfully labelled “Elevertors” in Shinjuku station, to the hair gel that some Japanese marketer thought to name “Cock Grease: Xtra Hard”. It keeps things from getting too cold, and creates a really good game when you go out.

That’s not all, I could go on about the weirdness of Japan, the great people, the AMAZING food, the fashion, the oh, so reliable train system, the cool regional differences…. there are so many things that I really like about Japan. So yeah, some things may annoy you like a mosquito just as you’re about to go to bed, but there are lots of good things too!

Update: Life’s for the living

Hello again!

I’d be lying if I said I’ve been diligent with this blog. It’s not that I’ve had nothing to talk about; the truth is that so much stuff has happened that I don’t know where to start. Since Christmas things have sort of taken a turn for the better, I’ve finally got my motivation back and I’m actually liking living here again. There was a period between my last blog and the middle of February when I just wanted to go home. There was just too much that I didn’t like about Japan, and the craving for a good cup of tea was overwhelming. I didn’t intend to go home, but when the opportunity presented itself I took it (with a lot of generosity from Morgan’s dad) and the best thing is I feel a lot better now. 

I also ended going on a little adventure through New Zealand with Morgan as a travel buddy, which was probably one of the most amazing experiences of my life. In 2 weeks I did things that I never thought I’d do in my life – I saw glowworms in total darkness, walked up a mountain, saw a ton of Lord of the Rings locations, got to see New Zealand from an open train carriage, and jumped off of something VERY high (the Nevis Bungy). The two things I’ve learned from my trip are: 1) New Zealand is beautiful and I want to move there. Seriously. I want to migrate there, currently planning how to do so. and 2) Jumping off of high things is scary and good luck to Nevis Bungy jumpers!

I really enjoyed spending time outside of Japan as well. I know I’d said that I wanted to spend all of my year in Japan, but what’s the point if I wasn’t enjoying it? At least now I have a new perspective on things, and the things about Japan that get on my tits (that I will write something on shortly) don’t annoy me so much now. 

As for my uni work, I managed to get no less than a B in my courses, with mostly A’s and A+’s. Not sure how I managed that, but it is at least reassuring! I start again in a week or so, and I’m actually really looking forward to getting back into my work (although I know I’ll regret saying that later!)

So all in all, this was a very much needed holiday, but I’m looking forward to getting back into things with this new found motivation. The best thing is it seems to be lasting as well so *crosses fingers* things are looking up!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Sort of.

As I mentioned in my last post, it’s been four months since I packed everything into 2 suitcases and a carry on, boarded the plane and landed jet-lagged and sweating into the heart of Tokyo. Lots of things have happened since then. I’ve settled in, made friends, got drunk, payed bills, been late for classes, got a job, been late for curfew, been unbearably hot and unbearably cold, got a haircut, been to a matsuri, been to lots of parks, been on the Shinkansen… but I’m not finished yet! I’m really looking forward to the next couple of months (excluding the next week or so – 3 presentations, 2 exams and 2 papers) as I’ll be spending lots of it travelling with Morgan and celebrating Christmas and New Year!

Christmas in Japan is an odd thing. Though it’s a relatively new import, it’s gotten a very firm grip on the country. Not as a festival though – as a marketing tool. Everything now is advertised with snow, santa claus or snowman, the constant background noise of Christmas songs is everywhere and you just “have to have” the 2300 yen (£20) Christmas cake (which is actually a sponge with cream and strawberries. Festive I know. ) I really do love it here now, despite my earlier misgivings, but I really do miss the warm, cozy Christmas feeling. I realise now that the routine of putting up Christmas decorations, making a Christmas cake, writing out dozens of cards and making a cute little pile of presents under the tree in anticipation of a day of eating, drinking and being merry with my family, is a vital part of the calendar in my head. Without those little markers, I feel a bit out of sorts. It feels like September, only with Santa everywhere. It’s odd. And because Christmas is a time for couples and New Year is a time for family in Japan (the opposite of the UK) there’s not very much catered to having a good Christmas here. Hell, the “Christmas Menu” at our dorm was on the 13th of December and consisted of spaghetti, a chicken thigh, french onion soup and some sort of tomato-y rice (all delicious I might add, but not what you would call festive!) All in all though, I am genuinely feeling Christmassy, just in a different way. I guess I’m not here to have an English Christmas, am I? I’m here to experience things the Japanese way. However, once Morgan comes down on Christmas Eve, I expect the constant Christmas songs I’ll be blaring (if she lets me) will go a long way to making it feel like a proper Christmas!

And after that, on we look to 2013! Funny thing, time, isn’t it? This time last year I was on my Christmas Holiday from Uni, trying to revise for January exams, essay writing, meeting Morgan’s family for the first time, trying to get used to life at home again after fending for myself for a few months. To look back on it now and to think, I’m here. It’s weird. But onwards, because 2013 will be a time of travelling, having fun, experiencing new things and hopefully learning lots of Japanese!! And then in 7 months I’ll be back. 

Now I’m almost at the end of my first semester, I understand why people say they want to go back for Christmas. I think this is now the longest I’ve ever been away from home. In someways, I’d love to pack a suitcase, get on a plane and be having tea and biscuits in front of the TV in 14 hours. I’d love to just go home to a plate of something which didn’t have rice on the side, and lie in a bed with an actual duvet cover, and have central heating and mince pies. But, as I said, that’s not what I’m here for. I’ve spent too long wanting to be here to waste time wanting to go home. And as much as I like moaning about everything that I miss, and everything in Japan that gets on my nerves, I am really looking forward to having an experience I will never forget. 

Until next time. 

Photo dump time

It’s almost a week until Christmas, and it’s been 4 months since I packed all my stuff up and flew into the land of Nihon. Soon I’ll be leaving behind 2012 all together, and starting 2013! I thought I’d make a post now just as a photo dump and a way of keeping track of everything.

Some of the photos I’m about to upload are a couple of months old, but I thought I’d add them anyway! They might be out of order as well, sorry! (also, I totally stole some of these from Morgan… she won’t mind!) I’ll explain them a little bit, but I’ll probably have a proper thoughty-writey blog after.

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Autumn Fireworks!

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Me in a “12 layer kimono” courtesy of Morgan!Image

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Morgan and Adam dressed up – the Samurai outfit was pretty cool as well!

Quick explanation: A few months ago I went to see Morgan, and she said that that weekend she had something with the English Conversation Group in Akashi (basically a group of old people who like speaking English) about trying on traditional Japanese clothes. I thought I’d tag along to the museum it was being held at, hoping I could slink off, have a look around the museum and basically not get in the way. Well, that plan didn’t work out and I was forced (very nicely) into trying on the Kimono. It also turns out that these things are not even made anymore, are usually reserved for the Emperial family on special celebrations and as such, are basically priceless. I was very, very lucky and thanks to everyone who let me intrude! Pretty cool though, right?

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A shrine in Kamakura

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Kamakura!

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Golden gate at a shrine in Kamakura

So, as you can probably guess, we went to Kamakura! It was a brilliant day out, the weather was beautiful and so were the shrines. It’s definitely a “must see” area if you ever come to Japan!

Autumn into winter

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Statue at Yasukuni Shrine

As winter has worn on I’ve seen a lot of beautiful scenery. On the way to uni one day we took a detour through an amazing park, and the trees were all turning brilliant colours, with this one lone yellow tree in the middle. It’s so hard to capture it all sometimes.

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The next photo I took while on the Shinkansen back from Morgan’s the other day. I fell asleep after Osaka, and woke up just as we’d left Kyoto, and I just had to take a picture! It was snowing, heavily! Despite there being about 2 foot of snow, it had died off by the time we reached Yokohama, and was non-existant in Tokyo.

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SNOW!

And the last few photos I want to share come from the Daikanyama Teens Creative festival a couple of weeks ago. I work there every other weekend to more or less be someone to talk to in English. Not really an English teacher, just a sort of mix between a language exchange and a youth worker. It’s really fun sometimes, and the festival was awesome!(even if we did have to dress up like Japanese housewives) We made a very Japan-ised version of Galette, which is a french dish a bit like a savoury pancake. And we also got to try on yukata!

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So, that’s a brief summary of the main things I’ve done this couple of months, onto 2013!

 

 

 

3 months at Hosei

Apologies for not updating in a while, updating this blog has escaped my thoughts for a little while!

As a quick update, it’s been *almost* 3 months in Japan, and I’ve spent those 3 months in uni, doing a bit of travelling and watching the entirety of the new Doctor Who. Now I’ve finished catching up with the Doctor, I will probably spent the next few months actually doing Japanese. I’ll also write about my travels in another blog post in a bit, but in this post I am going to write about life as a international student at Hosei, just for anyone who’s interested.

First of all, the Dorm.

When I first moved in I wasn’t that impressed to be honest. It’s a bit shabby but now I’ve realised that these dorms (for Tokyo dorms) are really nice. I’m not gonna lie, if you want a true Japanese experience without going to a home stay, this is it. It’s a Japanese style dorm, so you get a dorm mother and father who basically act as your surrogate parents. They are *lovely*! They take care of you if you get ill, and make sure you’re ok. (as an example, I haven’t come down for breakfast for a while because I’m lazy, and while I was microwaving some rice she started telling me I need to eat breakfast, asking if I am ok, ect.) On the down side, the dorm has a curfew of 12am (but if you tell them you’re going out they’ll extend it till 2ish because they’re lovely and they’ll stay up for you to get in) and they like you to tell them if you’re staying out because they start to worry. Like I said, you are basically their surrogate child (sort of) so they want you to be safe.

It’s about 30,000 Yen a month, but because you get utilities and breakfast and dinner every day (apart from Sundays) in with rent you don’t need to buy much food (which can get really expensive in Tokyo). I actually think it’s cheaper than a lot of other places, especially in/around Tokyo. Internet is 3500 Yen a month, which I think is pretty steep, but at least it works. Some people have bought portable wireless devices so they can use their phones on the go and use instead of the wired dorm Internet, but they are about 5000 yen a month (plus the cost of the device). It works out not too bad actually, and it’s something to consider if you do find yourself here.

The food at the dorm is pretty awesome, but if you’re a picky eater it might be a bit difficult. If you happen to be vegetarian or pescatarian however, the cooks will accommodate for you. Because it’s all Japanese food, often you’ll come across things that you haven’t seen before, but I’ve got used to it all quite quickly. Most days for dinner you get a main dish, side dish, salad, dessert, and a few other bits and pieces (like kimchi or pickled vegetables), rice and miso soup. There’s also curry nights and noodle nights where it’s a bit different. Sometimes as well, our dorm mother does okonomiyaki/yakisoba etc parties, which are tasty and delicious nights of awesomeness.

As for the bathrooms – I live in the girl’s dorm, so no smelly boys bathrooms (although apparently the boy’s dorms have pretty good bathrooms anyway). However, there is both a communal bathroom and private showers, but because the communal bathroom is nicer most people use that one. (huge, giant, hot bath with mineral salts in every night? heaven after a long day!!) All the toilets and sinks are shared as well, but to be honest everyone’s in the same boat so you get used to it *very* quickly. All the toilets and sinks have been redone this year as well, so they’re all new and shiny with heated seats and stuff. I’m sorry for the students who came here before though! Also, it’s not just international students, there’s a lot of Japanese students too (more Japanese than international anyway from what I see). It’s nice to have other students that speak English though, your head will explode if you try and speak Japanese all the time!

The Uni is pretty good but maybe a little easy compared to other university’s work load. You’re required to take 9 classes, so you’re only in for 14/15 hours a week. The Japanese classes are pretty good, but there’s only 4 levels. I’m in level 3 which I think is definitely challenging enough for me (however, in some classes they push you quite a bit – in our listening class we are doing N2!) We have a writing, speaking, listening and reading class each week, as well as a lesson on Japanese culture which is taught in Japanese. There’s not *that* much homework, but you do need to do work outside class, and work for the JLPT N3 for Leeds. It’s quite independent-learner oriented, and if you’re like me and need to have lessons to learn, it might be a bit difficult.
The other classes are pretty easy, as long as you turn up and do the homework you’ll pass. Most of them don’t have exams and you get graded on presentations, midterm papers and ongoing assignments, which takes a lot of the pressure off! There’s a good choice of modules, from economics and business to gender and cultural diversity.

The other modules I’m taking are:-

Japanese Thought II – this is all about Japanese folk religion and occult thought. It’s very interesting and I’d recommend it to people who are interested in religion in Japan but are bored of the same old “Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity” that is what is usually taught. Also, you get to learn about Japanese ghost stories and popular culture, and we are being taken on a ghost tour of Tokyo, so it’s fun too!

Cultural Diversity in Japan – this module covers cultural and ethnic minorities in Japan and whether Japan is actually “multicultural”.  Some things you learn are quite surprising, and it covers the main “minorities” like Korean/Japanese people, the Burakumin, Nikkei Japanese, LGBT people and the like.

‘Gender’ in Japanese Society – in this class we look at gender and how it’s shown in various places. So far we’ve looked at the traditional roles of gender, the Takurazuka Review, Japanese feminists, different “gyaru”s (girls who dress in different ways and how they challenge gender in Japan), and Yaoi (Boy’s love) and Shojo manga and anime. I think this is my favourite class, mainly because of the topic, but also because it’s not so fuddy duddy as to only look at traditional gender roles in Japan.

Also, the university is really helpful with getting settled in. They took the people who wanted to go to a bank to set up a bank account much more easily than if you were to go by yourself, and went through things like paying bills and other stuff. They also help you set up language exchanges, and because international students are in quite high demand (there’s only about 30 of us in a university of 40,000 students) you’re guaranteed to get someone. I have 2, both of which are lovely! There’s also an abundance of clubs, but to be honest I’ve found it difficult to really get into one. I wanted to play football, but no-one replied to my text when I tried to get in contact, and I went to the piano club but the language barrier made things quite difficult, despite the lovely people trying to make me feel welcome. I’ll probably try again next year when I’ve improved a bit more!

Getting to uni is easy from the dorm, it’s about 30 minutess on the train but because the trains are so reliable (they’re every 5 minutes more or less) there’s no worrying about train times. Also, the train station is about a 5 min walk away. The university is in Iidabashi which makes it super convenient to get to EVERYWHERE in Tokyo. Seriously. I love the transport system here! Sometimes it’s cramped and very busy but it’s always easy to get anywhere.

Nightlife. It’s Tokyo, so there’s something to do everywhere. I live in Kasai, and we have Karaoke and Izakayas everywhere. The curfew is 12, but you can have a brilliant night doing nomihoudai for an hour or two for cheap and then McDonald’s after to make it back on time! For more serious nights out, there’s the entirety of Tokyo. All night Karaoke, Shinjuku, Roppongi, take your pick! I haven’t gone out out yet, but I know people that have and they say it’s brilliant.

Personally, it’s taken me a while to get used to it here. Tokyo is a huge city, so it’s not just getting used to a new culture, you have to get used to a completely different way of life. I’m not going to lie, it’s busy, smelly and quite expensive, and it takes a while to get used to it all, BUT Tokyo is so convenient, now it’s hard to imagine living anywhere else. Also, there’s always something to do, somewhere to go and things to see! As well as that, no one speaks English, and you can find the most brilliant Engrish everywhere, just so you know.

Also, if you’re worried about money, even though it’s Tokyo, it’s a good place to go. Most of my friends who wanted jobs have got one, (or more than one!) and even me, who hasn’t even looked properly, got offered a small position at a youth centre near Shibyua. There are loads of jobs here teaching English, and they pay pretty well too, so don’t think just because it’s Tokyo you’ll be skint! Also, because travel is so reliable and (relatively) cheap, you can go travelling on the cheap too. A round trip to Kamakura was 1600 Yen, (about £12) making it a really good, cheap, day out. Also, the abundance of 100 yen stores means you get get everything you need for about 80p – food, stationary, clothes hangers, toiletries etc, and there’s a second hand clothes shop in Kasai that has some really good clothes for all weathers for as little as 300 Yen (or some lovely gems that are a bit more expensive if you have expensive tastes too.)

I’d recommend Hosei to people who like the idea of living in a city and aren’t afraid to get stuck in. I’ve met some really lovely people here, especially the other Japanese students, but you have to actually leave your room to meet them! Hosei is also a pretty prestigious university in Japan, which makes it good if those sort of things are important to you. I wouldn’t recommend it to those who really like their independence. Of course, you can look for other accommodation in Tokyo, but it’s more expensive and it’s much easier living in the dorm (I think). Also, it can be quite claustrophobic and while you’ll probably get used to the lack of nature, it can be a bit unnerving sometimes. That doesn’t mean to say Tokyo doesn’t have trees (there are lots, and lovely parks and shrines everywhere too), it’s just that it’s a refined, pruned nature.

So yeah, that’s Hosei so far. Perhaps the people who’ve been here for longer may disagree with somethings, but this is just what I think of it so far. As much as I didn’t like the idea of living in Tokyo at first, it’s growing on me, and I do quite like living here now! I’ll probably add to this later on, but for 3 months, I think I’ve got a reasonably good impression of life at Hosei.