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First Day of Orientation: Morning trains, Campus joy & Shibuya woes

September 10, 2009

First things first this post is gonna get pic heavy – my picture taking finger rebelled against the numerous odd looks from sweepers, flag raisers and extremely well dressed students.

The night before Orientation my brain was racked with paranoia. More so than usual, I mean. Some residual loneliness floated to the surface: what if I didn’t get along with people? I’d be utterly screwed. Alone in a city openly hostile to my gaijin ways, condemned to this fate for a whole year? Looking back on it now, near the end of my third day, it was a tad drama queen. I’ve bucked up a bit, but the evenings are worst for feeling low.

I couldn’t have started the morning better though! Saw sunrise out on my small, concrete balcony overlooking the twisty neighbourhood back streets.

Orientation was scheduled for 10am-12, Mita Campus, Minato-ku – a fair bit from the dorm. Previously having checked out train journey times I thought it would take a mere twenty minutes. How wrong I was.

The first obstacle is a 15-20 minute walk to the nearby station, Shin-Kawasaki. Although, for the purposes of not getting lost it rates a top five stars, seeing as all you do is put one foot in front of the other, in a straight line, until you arrive! So that adds on the time. Then there’s the afterwalk, adding an effective 15 minutes more, and, leaving time for error, gives a ballpark figure of 1 hour. Damn.

Armed with this newly acquired knowledge I headed out at 8:30. Now, you know those youtube videos, of uniformed, hard hat, white glove wearing fellows pushing salarymen into carriages? No lie. No lie at all. I missed the first train when, after quickly checking the map that this was indeed the right train, just as I threw my upper body in the doors began their crushing close. Life with both arms flashed before my eyes. I hitched the following train, more hopeful, but is was just as ridiculously packed. I was quite simply lodged by a circle of salary men, with no room for tumbling about as the train wiggled it’s way to Shinagawa. After the first twenty minutes of awkward hell, I changed trains, taking the Yamanote Line to Tamachi (bolding this for any denizens of the internet who are looking for information about Keio exchange life) – fortuantely it was only one stop along so I didn’t have to stand around long.

Once you leave Tamachi station, you go down a left hand set of stairs, head toward the crossing to your right (your right if you are facing the opposite side of the road), cross it and handily enough there’s agiant archway which reads “KEIO STREET (in kanji mind you)” – you don’t take ANY TURNS. SERIOUSLY. Follow it till the main road, cross the street and either keep going foward till you see the 西口 or take a right instead, follow it until you see a giant red-brick archway (and I mean, giant) for the main gate.

I was overhwhelmed – the sun was out in full, terrible glory. It made everything look gorgeous, but I just felt like a sweaty pig! Mmm. Lahvely. Having arrived a good hour early I took the chance to snoop about take some snaps:

This was a quiet seating area around the back entrance of the campus, it was so beautiful and quiet, I wanted to stay there a while to forget about the morning's madness.

Another student seating area, surrounded by trees!

Another student seating area, surrounded by trees!

Keio and Waseda are known rivals, primarily in sports though it extends to the student bodies too. There's even a special nickname for matches between the two,  早慶戦, or "Soukeisen"

Keio and Waseda are known rivals, primarily in sports though it extends to the student bodies too. There's even a special nickname for matches between the two, 早慶戦, or "Soukeisen"

The above poster was up on one of a series of student billboards, next to the seating leafy seating area, which extended along from one end of the campus, to the other, with a space in the middle acting as a central plaza of sorts.

Actually I’ve decided to make a seperate post later about what we actually received in detail @ Orientation earlier. The suprise for us was, after the staff introduced themselves we were all called up by Unversity title to 自己紹介! To introduce ourselves, on stage. Suffice to say it took a while. Some were cringey,  simply due peoples’ nerves, others played it cool and some took the short n’ sweet route. No Kate Winslet thank you speeches or tears, thank goodness. Afterwhich we went to the side to pick up these brown envelopes.

There was a bunch of stuff of the usual; maps, don't-take-drugs-panflets, a guidebook to EVERYTHING (bank accounts, mobile phones, the whole shebang) in Japanese and English, as well as some forms to fill in. Japan loves forms, a lot.

There was a bunch of stuff of the usual; maps, don't-take-drugs-panflets, a guidebook to EVERYTHING (bank accounts, mobile phones, the whole shebang) in Japanese and English, as well as some forms to fill in. Japan loves forms, a lot.

I was sitting next to some dormies, who’d spotted me, and later on got to meet some more new people from different dorms, which was quite exciting. I really did like seeing all these exchangees – it filled me with a renewed sense of opportunity, and intruige into their lives. There are people from Hawaii, Germany, Venice, Netherlands, Australia, Sweden, China, Korea, all OVER America, and some Brits here and there too! I loved hearing all the different accents, seeing all these new faces. New faces of people who were going through, or getting from Tokyoites, the same reactions me, there was finally a chance for a good rant! As a psuedo grumpy old woman it is my firm belief shared rants are good for the soul. Better than chicken soup, at any rate.

Some folks went to get bank accounts sorted, but I being the numpty I am, didn’t have anything. Instead I shuffled off to Shibuya after chatting to folks, in order to find Tokyuu Hands and Uniqlo. The heat is ridiculous – I need to get some kind of light weight dress. Well, that was the plan but…it was just terrifying. If this had been a city where I was not a dirty minority, it would’ve been fine, but the constant cold observations of my suffering with lack of direction and grace pushed my patience. Instead I fled to a stationary store and bought myself a ridiculously cute Academic Diary & Pear patterned pencil case! -More on that later.

In the spirit of trying new things I also had a wander around Keio just before Shibuya, and bought these two foodstuffs from the supermarket there called “AMPM”. In actuality I was looking for the nearby koen, public park, but came up trumps. The drink on the left I purchase on the walk back from Shin-Kawasaki at the convenience store chain, Lawson.

Calpis "Zero Calorie" Grape Soda, Daifuku mitai Anpan ("Anpan that looks like Daifuku". Anpan is bread with a sweet red bean paste in the middle, daifuku is a large, round doughy kind of sweet made from glutinous rice flour) & Ume Tsukari (basically ume - Japanese plum - and rice).

The soda was…interesting. Like drinking floral fizzy perfume…The anpan ended up being far too much for me, and they’d put cream in the middle of it! I did love the adzuki (red bean paste) – something I’ve missed. And as expected, the Ume Tsukari was salty, with crunchy bits, and generally quite odd. Edible, but won’t be buying it for a while methinks…

And that’s a wrap, folks! It’s been the definition of a rollercoaster day: the morning was stressful, tiring, lunchtime orientation was pretty fun, and then well, it went a bit down hill and back on the level again when I returned to my room to find the air conditioning had cooled the place right down. Lahvely.

Tomorrow sees the second day of our Orientation, “International Students Information Session” about life in Japan, on Campus and IT stuff followed by Housing Orientation, altogether lasting from 10 till half 12. In the meantime there are just so, SO many things to sort out: getting the certificate for my pending alien registration card (apparently I went there to apply for it and all I got was this lousy receipt), then open  bank account sharpish, and finally – FINALLY – sort out getting a mobile phone. Excluding all the internal Keio buerocracy. Seriously Japan, enough with the forms already! Please?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Jenny Bright permalink
    September 11, 2009 5:26 pm

    Japan looks gorgeous!


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