What’s up?

I am starting to feel that this place is like a home. Our own little crew consists of less than 10 people. We live in the same dormitory and there are also other foreign students (mostly Chinese) but we don’t really know them, and we have two helpful Japanese tutors who live also in the same dormitory. There are people from Indonesia, German, Canada, Italy, Romania, Thailand and Finland. We have a few courses that are only for us but in other courses there are also other students like Japanese.

We started learning Japanese last week which is very nice because my motivation to communicate in Japanese is pretty high. Outside university I haven’t met yet many who can speak English and in university the situation isn’t much better (some students speak well, luckily). So for example to find any information I need to learn some Japanese :-D I have actually managed altready to ask something in Japanese successfully! Yey!

The Japanese writing system includes hiragana, katakana and kanji. Hiragana and katakana both have 46 basic characters and kanji has… I don’t even know how many characters! Now I’ve started learning hiragana and so far I maybe know about half of all the characters… *sigh*
So my advice is to LEARN hiragana and katakana before you come to live in Japan.

I’ve attended to couple of parties which have been really interesting experiences. I haven’t been yet in a club or a bar so I am looking forward to see what’s the nightlife like. Our problem is that if we go to party late we have to either take the train that leaves 0.30am or the next possible train that leaves around 5am. Last Saturday we were at one dorm party and there will be also four more including our dormitory’s party. Ryukoku University’s all five dormitories are organizing a welcoming party, and next party will be on Friday. It is just chitchatting, hanging around and getting to know to new people (with some drinks and food).

Yesterday (yes Sunday!) we participated in “all you can drink” party which might sound notorious. To my “fortunate” they didn’t have almost anything I could drink. As I am not so young anymore and I have sampled quite many different drinks in my life, I know what I should avoid. They are called cocktails with liqueur. To my “fortunate” the whiskey that they had wasn’t really to my taste and beer was always running out when it was my turn to order. Also they didn’t have gin although it was on the drink menu :-D so I just enjoyed the music and watched people getting wasted. There was live music which I really like. Doesn’t even really matter what kind of music if it’s played live.

The weather is still very warm (to me hot). The weather forecast says that during the day it is 25-28 degrees. We should be happy because normally it is a bit colder already. Some people are wearing already autumn clothing! I bet I am still wearing summery clothing when it is November.

One thing that almost makes me flip is that I get mosquito bites but it is impossible to hear the mosquitoes. And when you see them it is almost impossible to kill them because they are so fast!

I’ll end this post with a mosquito-themed haiku:

“All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
killing mosquitoes.”
Kobayashi Issa

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Calf muscle exercise & golden shine

Konnichiwa!

We visited last weekend Fushimi Inari Shrine and the Kinkaku-ji temple (“The Golden Pavilion”). On Friday we conquered the mountain Inari which became also a calf muscle exercise. OMG how much my calf muscles hurt the next day AND also on Sunday. Funny thing about the name Inari is that there is also a town in Finland named Inari and in Japan it is the god of rice. I don’t know why but there was lots of cats in the mountain. I am not a big fan of cats but the kittens were adorable. The entrance to Fushimi Inari Shrine was free but to Kinkaku-ji the entrance fee was 400 yens (less than 3 euros).

We went all the way to the top! It took us around 50 minutes.

On Saturday we visited the Kinkaku-ji temple is also called the Golden Pavilion. Basically there was a small garden, the temple and too many tourists aggressively trying to take a photograph of themselves and the temple (that’s at least how it felt). Of course I joined the others and was able to get a picture of me and the shining temple. We also saw koi fishes (they are so awesome!!) and turtles.

In Kyoto it is very easy to visit the tourist attractions because there are many buses that leave from the Kyoto Station and go straight to the attraction. Funny thing about the buses is that you enter the buses from the middle part of the bus and hop off from the front. You also pay when you are leaving by putting money to a machine that automatically counts whether you put the right amount or not.

Welcome to my home

Hi,

I thought I could tell a bit about my city where I live in and show you my new home. I live in Otsu-shi which is the capital of the Shiga Prefecture. Shiga is located in the east of Kyoto. It takes about 15 minutes to go to Kyoto by local train. There are +300 000 inhabitants in Otsu. First this place seemed like a small village but the figures tell that it is not that small. There are many huge malls but the downtown is quite small though.

Our university, the Ryukoku University, has campuses both in Shiga and in Kyoto. My campus is the Seta campus which is located in Shiga. It takes 20-25 minutes by bicycle to go to the university. I was kind of sad when I left Kuopio because in a twisted way I missed the hill that I had to overcome every time I went home. I should be careful what I wish for because there is also a pretty nice uphill when I go to the Seta campus :-D but it’s nothing compared to the Neulamäki hill.

I live with a Chinese girl, and this is how my home looks like:

I have both a fan and an air conditioner in my room which were very useful when the days were too hot to me. Now the weather is a bit cooler and bearable. :-) During the day I can still wear summery clothes but in the evening I need a jacket or a shirt.

I bought a bike which makes moving here in Otsu easier. To my great surprise it is hard to find a parking place for your bike in the downtown because you can’t just park anywhere you want. There are some places where you can pay for parking. You can also try your luck and leave your bike somewhere where it is not allowed. We tried it once and we got right away red tape on the handlebar. We thought we got a ticket but we heard that it is just warning that next time our bikes will be taken away… When we bought the bikes we had to register them also. And if you buy an used bike you have to register it into your ownership. Also if you ride a bike without the light on in the evening, you can get a ticket.

Happy bike owner!

Snail mail

Hi,

I’d love to get a postcard or a letter from YOU! If you send me something, put your address to the letter :-) I will send you something back!

My address in Japan:
Lumiere Mamiya room 1302B
3-7 4 chome Ogaya
Otsu city, Shiga
Japan 520-2144

Surprise me!

Adaptation and settling down

Hey,

This week has been about adaption and getting some necessary things done like registering my address, ordering a name stamp (which we will use in stead of a signature), paying the rent & deposit and learning the general rules of the dormitory, buying a bike and a data SIM card. Next week we will have our orientation of the university and after that I hope “the normal life” will take over. Now I feel like I am in a blur stage because I don’t feel like I am on a holiday nor that I am at home. Never thought of saying this but I need to have a some sort of a routine :-b

I am overwhelmed about the SIM card options in Japan.. the right SIM card depends on what your needs are. One can have a SIM card that has both the internet and the voice call support or just the voice call support or just the internet. One can get a fixed contract or a prepaid SIM card.. and I think there are also some restrictions for tourists like not be able to purchase whatever SIM card. Also you need to check if the SIM card works with your phone. IPhones should work fine but one could have problems with Samsung phones.. I have a Samsung phone of course. Anyway, we will see during the weekend if my phone will work with the data only SIM card. I will let you know..

The grocery store is at the same time an exciting and a frustrating place. Buying the fresh food like vegetables and fish is quite easy, although I can’t tell what the different fishes are but at least I can recognize if it is fish or not. It gets harder with the packages. I am sweating here like a pig most of the time so I thought I found tissues that I can use for wiping the sweat off my face. The package said in English “powder sheet” which sounds encouraging. Well, they were wet tissues.. I also thought I bought sliced mozzarella cheese. I thought it is mozzarella because I could see the colour of the cheese and the package has Italian flag’s stripes and the package was in the middle of the cheese shelf. Well, still don’t know what that is :-D it doesn’t really taste like mozzarella or cheese and it doesn’t melt in the sandwich grill or in the microwave…

One thing that also surprised me is the recycling. You have to recycle everything and you have separate garbage bags for different types of waste. There are burnable garbage, non-burnable garbage, waste paper, plastic containers with a special recycle mark, cans, bottles, plastic bottles with a special recycle mark (PET), milk cartons & batteries and also door-to-door trash collection with additional fee. You can’t of course take the garbage bags out whenever you want because there are fixed days for the different garbage. And you have to take them out between 5am and 8:30am. This can be challenging!

2014-09-12 11.59.09

Japan’s biggest lake, Biwa, is a 5 minute walk away from our dormitory.

Notes:
◊ Japanese customer servants say multiple times “arigato gozaimasu (thank you a lot)” (which is the only Japanese sentence I understand from what they are saying)
◊ Japanese customer servants seem to talk a lot in Japanese although I don’t understand anything what they are saying, except arigato gozaimasu
◊ It helps a lot to know at least one word in Japanese if you want to find something or check if the product is what you are looking for
◊ The Japanese are starting to wear autumn clothes. It is around 29 degrees during the day. I am still sweating in my summer clothes :-D
◊ The cars drive on the left side
◊ The water is drinkable but the taste is a bit grassy and muddy.
◊ Chocolate is good, and the best beer so far is Asahi with silver label

A slightly awkward tourist

Hi,

I’ve been here almost four days and little by little I am getting used to the idea that I will spend the next five months here. Somehow it has been hard to grasp the thought of me spending next few months here. Maybe it is because the environment is so different from what I am used to. But I really like it here :-) no big culture shocks or irritations so far.

The locals have been really nice! So sweet and helpful although not many have been speaking English (except our super nice tutors). The communication with the Japanese has been a mix of words of English, Japanese and hand signs. 

Other things that I’ve noticed so far: the streets are clean, you can see many people wear Kimonos (the traditional Japanese garment), green tea has been utilized in many products (cake, chocolate, ice cream, and so on), at tourist sites you can taste many products and Japanese queue like the Finns (yey!!). I didn’t expect to see so many people wearing Kimonos because I thought it is a very special garment that is worn rarely. Japanese wear a Kimono when they have special occasion (e.g. a date or a classy party) or when they just feel like dressing up and going for a stroll.

I also found some things where I need some practice. I found that sitting at a low table is extremely difficult and painful for me, haha. Add to that a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup. I got a new meaning for hot. I sweat like a pig.

We went to visit Kiyomisu temple that is one of the oldest temples in Kyoto. On the way to the temple there are many stands for tourists that sell lots of kitsch, souvenirs and sweets. I didn’t try yet but the most fascinating was a cucumber on a stick. Also sweets made of potato was quite strange but actually really tasty.

At the temple one could pray for lots of things in many ways and of course I also tried to pray for a wish. I paid 4 yens (0,03 euros) for that wish. At the temple one can get rid of problems by writing them on a piece of paper and putting it in the water where the paper and the problems will fade away. There was also a Jishu Shrine which is called “the Cupid of Japan”. There young singles can pray for a boyfriend or a girlfriend in many different ways which will bring love to their life. I didn’t try that, yet! :-D

 

 

And I found an adaptor that works, yey :-)

-Jaana

Konnichiwa!

Hi and hello,

Here’s a short update how I am doing. I am pretty OK except I am still dead tired. I couldn’t sleep much during my travel from Finland to Japan and last night I slept 14 hours. So yes I was tired and still am.. Maybe tomorrow I will feel normal already. But I am super excited still :-)

 

Summary of my travel to Japan:

– Bus: I took a bus from my parent’s home city to Helsinki-Vantaa airport. It took 4 hours..

– Flights: I flew first from Helsinki to Milan 3 hours, then I flew to Hong Kong 11 hours and from there 4 hours to Osaka.

– Train: I took a train from Osaka to Kyoto (around 75 minutes) with the help of nice Japanese students of my school and in Kyoto station there was a person waiting for me and we took a taxi to the dormitory.

 

I had a bit misfortune with me. I lost my laptop at the Hong Kong airport 30 minutes prior boarding time. I realized that I left it somewhere near me couple of minutes too late because I couldn’t find it anymore. So I tested right away how nice and helpful Asians were. And luckily the staff was very helpful and we found the laptop. Someone from the staff collected it right away when it was left alone. I was so relieved!! They have lots of announcements that do not leave your luggage alone. So kids, try to sleep before you go travelling..

Another misfortune is that my adaptor is not suitable for the plugs in my dormitory although the package said it should be. So I will write more later and send some pics. I borrowed an adaptor from another exchange student.

 

Here’s what I bought from my first trip to a grocery store:

20140904_175647

I think I bought chocolate, noodles, salad with a dressing, blueberry yogurt, unripened cheese with flavor of black pepper, bananas, bread, soy souce, chips, alcoholic beer (there was loads of 0% beer) and something green staff in the middle.

 

I’ll write more later. Bai Bai (bye-bye)!