Month: June 2012



Today was a little R&R, shopping, and studying.

I finally made it to Meiji Jingu today.  I only got lost once, but a helpful young man at the gas stand helped me find my way again.  (Hooray for listening & speaking skills!)  It was a perfect day for the shrine, as the weather was clear and sunny (i.e. warm & humid).  I picked up some snacks and drinks at the oh-so-wonderful conbini, then enjoyed just sitting under the shade of a tree in the park, watching families and kids enjoying the nice weather.  When I made my way to the shrine itself, one of the guards was herding people around and I couldn’t understand why until a wedding procession started in.  Last day to be a June bride at Meiji Jingu; I saw two wedding parties in the 30 minutes that I was there.  The brides’ kimono were incredible.

The little leaflet/map at the entrance of the shrine grounds noted that it’s the 100th anniversary of Emperor Meiji’s death on July 30th.  Today they were having a cleansing ceremony in the afternoon (I didn’t stay that long) and will be having several events next month to mark the Emperor’s legacy.  Talk about good timing for a summer in Japan!  I’ll definitely be going to some of these

And then some planned (and some unplanned) shopping at Tokyu Hands.

With the ever present threat of rain, I decided to buy the tiniest umbrella I could (also the least expensive portable one I saw).  That’s my iPod touch on the side for scale purposes. Super 便利な傘でしょうねえ。

And an impulse buy.  Though, in my defense, I did need tape.  Why don’t we get cute stuff like this in the US?

Then off to Waseda to buy my textbooks and find that pond.  And not only did I find the pond, but I saw some white koi.  I wonder if they make sure to have at least one white koi in the pond at all times for geeky tourists like me to get excited about?

Now to figure out my schedule and put it in three different places, so it’ll be easy to find when I forget.  Each of my two classes meets in a different room each day of the week and has a different sensei each time.  (@_@)  I have to wonder if normal Waseda classes are like this, too, or if we’re just getting the special treatment?

Oh, and I finally got an explanation from my host mom as to why so many girls in Tokyo wear leggings under their shorts and skirts/dresses in the summer.  For sweat.  No, not to make more, but to absorb it.  I guess it started as a guys’ trend, but the girls picked it up.  面白い。


Yesterday was class decision day: each class period was split into two for an orientation, so we could see what the class was about and then go check out another potential class.  I sat in on four classes yesterday: conversation through listening and speaking 2-3, Kanji 2-3, and intensive Japanese levels 3 & 4.  By the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted, but my decision was clear: intensive Japanese 3 and conversation.

The intensive Japanese may be a little bit of review at the beginning, but it’s all those tricky grammar bits that I never quite mastered in JSL and certainly don’t feel confident in using right now.  The intensive Japanese 4 felt like someone had thrown me into a different language class.  I was barely keeping up, and sometimes wasn’t.  It was a newer version of the text we used at PSU 4th year (JPN 416); but take the entire book and do it in 6 weeks.  No furigana, and no dictionaries allowed.  If all I wanted to do was sit in my room, study, and make myself miserable, that was the class to take.  I felt the stress and unease in my stomach just in the orientation, and that’s not the experience I want to have this summer.  So I didn’t select it.

Classes were announced this morning, so I’m off to campus today to get my books.  With a stop at Meiji Jinju first for some R&R and photography.  And maybe a stop by Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku, just because.  ^_^  And while I’m on campus today, I’m going to find the pond.  I feel compelled to do so after reading Ibuse’s Carp.

Bits of happy from yesterday:

  • Sitting in the Waseda cafe before classes, listening to jazz and reading Ibuse’s Salamander.
  • Finding the ¥100 vending machine with Afternoon Milk Tea on a little shortcut on the edge of campus.  Woot!
  • Bonding with my host mom as we ate dinner and watched this really interesting and funny Friday night show.  It has 20 in the name.  I want to say G20, but that’s a less interesting sort of entertainment.
  • Having really great people in my classes.  Even though we’re all from different places and backgrounds, we’re coming together through Japanese.  That’s pretty awesome.



Orientation today; full of boring, but necessary instructions and to do lists, thankfully all in print, as I’ve forgotten most of them now.  Then the placement testing… which was Unenjoyable.  I guess JSL (or my many years of anime viewing) did its job though, as my listening & understanding scores were higher than my reading & vocab scores.  Placed lower than I thought, but that’s fine, as I’m happy to get reacquainted with grammar I’ve forgotten.

Tomorrow is class-choosing day: we sit in on the orientation bits of the classes we think we want to take, then select and submit our preferences and start the classes on Monday.  Another boring, but necessary day.  Thankfully there’s lunch.  🙂

Banzai Waseda cafeteria food!  Cheap and tasty!  I’m hoping they have sides of kabocha every day.  Yum.

Oh, and the commutes.  I’m constantly amazed at how quiet trains are.  I take the Sobu, which turns into the Chuo, so it’s packed full coming and going, but there’s not a sound, except for a muffled cough or the rustle of a newspaper.  Which is being read by a salaryman who doesn’t hang on to anything, yet never loses his balance.  Amazing.

Killing time

Yesterday I spent killing time in Tokyo, in between other things I needed to do.  I spend a few hours after breakfast yesterday morning wandering the cemetery in Nippori.  Lots of old, interesting graves, including a section specifically for Christian burial.  And something I didn’t expect to see, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it.

And always the Tokyo Sky Tree looming overhead.  I know that’s point, but I can’t help but feel like I’m in Patlabor 2.  Everywhere I go, there it is.

After scouting the route to Waseda, I still had several hours to kill before meeting my host family, so I decided I’d get to know Shinjuku better.  It’s one of my least favorite areas of Tokyo; too many people and the station complexes are super confusing.  But, after 4 hours of wandering around, I definitely have a better feel for the place.  Found a Kinokuniya, the Tokyu Hands, the Laduree macaron shop and revisited an old friend, Tocho.  Hooray for underground passages all the way from the station.  It’s not that hot yet in Tokyo, but boy it feels like it to this Portland girl.

My host mom is great!  (Host dad is fishing in Hokkaido right now.)  And the neighborhood is nice and quiet.  (What I needed after a day in Shinjuku.)  As hubby predicted, the home stay alone will do wonders for my Japanese, especially when the family doesn’t speak English.  I’m feeling much more confident about my speaking skills than I was 24 hours ago.  As for reading/writing, well, we’ll see.

First impressions


Japan changes every time I visit.  Just arrived a few hours ago and these are my first impressions:

  • The train in from Narita still feels like coming home.
  • The new and improved Keisei Skyliner is!
  • The new and improved Skyliner (side AB) offers some pretty nice views of the Sky Tree
  • The Sky Tree is huge!  I saw it half-built, but… wow.
  • Yanaka Ginza is thriving even more than before.
  • Broken, rusty, stumbling Japanese still gets you a chorus of ‘日本語は上手ですねえ。’
  • The Japanese are still as polite as ever.
  • The Yoshikawas are still serving up okonomiyaki!
  • CC Lemon is better in Japan.  (The free toy did not influence my opinion.)
  • Japan feels different without my hubby.