Nearly packed

DSC_0118

My time here is coming to an end. It is amazing how time flies so quickly, both when you are having fun and when you’re not. If you ask me, this period of time was perhaps too short to learn a language, yet it is also the longest time ever if you were just doing absolutely nothing.

The last few days have been a whirl of homework, studying, memorising and packing. Between a grammar exam and 2 10 minute presentations to prep for, I was a little flat out. Still, I managed to get the tough bit of my luggage packed – how to squeeze a thousand things into one small lugggage.

Osaka student exchange

However, there were a few regrets, of course. I wished I planned my time and money here better, so I could have enjoyed this a lot better. I wished too that I actually went through with some of my plans here, instead of lounging around, worried about some stuff. As I mentioned before, I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to come. As I started packing my bags, the one thing I was really glad about was that I didn’t have to do this in Australia – pack my bags to go back to Singapore.

Minoh and Osaka has truly grown on me. The people here have been more than helpful and friendly, Osaka people are so warm and friendly that sometimes it borders on the line of craziness! Why would you invite a complete stranger home?!

But can I live here? One of the people I met in my journeys here asked me if I would ever come here to work and live here for the rest of my life. My answer back then and even now, I think, is still largely the same. I love Japan as a whole and it has plenty to offer me and me to her. However, I am not quite sure if I can keep pace with the life here. There are also so many social norms that I stress to remember on a daily basis, and wondered if I had broke any in every single encounter. I can’t imagine doing that for the rest of my life, although perhaps if I stay here longer, my tune might change.

Nerdy shopping

There are a few things that really stand out to me about Japan, especially living here after a short while. The amount of completely conflicting issues really baffles me.

Firstly, the thing about wasting. You see a lot of posters, letters, notes and so on reminding people not to waste, showing them ways to not waste (especially in terms of rubbish) and encouraging people to really work on their rubbish separation to cut down on wastes and makes recycling easier and so on. Tonnes of information and action.

Then you get slapped with a thousand plastic bags where ever you go. Initially I started collecting them to basically reused as in-house trash bags to be letter combined when I used their burnables trash bag. After a while, it just got ridiculous and I threw out nearly a whole burnable bag worth of plastic bags themselves!

Secondly, cleanliness. People often talk about how beautiful Singapore is and how CLEAN. Come to the housing blocks, especially the old ones, you had be wondering where the cleanliness went and where the smell is coming from (hint, it’s not the rubbish area). Coming to Japan, I have seen housewives wipe down balconies with sanitising wipes, bordering nearly on an OCD level. On the roads, it’s usually clean except on trash collection day, then there are neat piles of bags either by the side of the roads or inside the collection area. Furthermore, I have even seen old ladies forcing their dogs to squat into poo bags so they won’t be pooping on the ground.

Go to a public toilet in some outlying area, and the stench just overwhelms you, with overflowing bins and incredibly wet floor – I don’t even want to think why it’s wet.

Field trip to Takayama, 2014

Perhaps, the most infamous and interesting conflicting things of all, is how the modern co-exists with the old, classy side of Japan. It still amazes me how people still live in old, wooden houses, modelled and built in an era long gone by, and they watch plasma TVs in side there. Or, dressed to the hilt in Kimono, and they are tapping furiously away on their mobile phones. More interestingly, how teachers can co-exist in schools that has some of the best robotics programs, and not know how to use computers.

As with anything in this world, Japan has its own good and bad side. Those were not the bad stuff, but the stuff to remember that with everything, there’s something there you might not like. And it just so happens, those are the very thing I will miss about Japan too!

Of course, I will also miss the endless opportunities to visit cultural things. The opportunities to do be a part of this society that is far different from my Australian and Singaporean one.

But, I do miss my home, my bed and my job. It had be nice to be back being all independent and having an INCOME.

EXCHANGE STUDENT Q AND A PART 3

Field trip to Takayama, 2014

Weather

I love and tolerate the cold real well, so take whatever I say with a pinch of salt. E.g. I just walked out this morning, somewhere around 0 degrees, in just my summer t shirt and 3 quarter pants to throw out rubbish.

Firstly, it will get colder between the time you arrive and the time you leave, not warmer. Either get a jacket and come buy your warm gear here (I recommend Uniqlo’s heat tech… They were so warm that I started perspiring in the dead of winter. comes as good under layers, like singlets, leggings etc) or you bring a ton and be proud that you did so.

There are also those body warmer stuff that they sell here. Don’t get all excited when you first see them – You can get stashes of them from the 100 yen shop. Also, be forewarned that they can get pretty hot and you CAN hurt yourself. don’t put it on your skin or on top of a thin shirt. Someone has mildly hurt herself thanks to that idea.

That said, Osaka is still warmer than her more famous relatives further up and around. So if you intend to go travelling elsewhere, you do have to bring warmer clothes anyway.

Nerdy shopping
I want to get my nerd on, but Akihabara is so far away!

I know! So is Comiket, the winter version of which runs while you are IN country! Isn’t that so sad!? haha

Firstly, let me clear any questions about Comiket up – book your accommodation early as they do run out the closer to date you get. The same as flight tickets, as the dates do fall on and around New Year’s. The location is at Big Sight at Odaiba, it’s crappy at the best of times to get around there, and apparently it’s worse during Comiket – so stay further away at your own risk. Also, queues can get huge, so really think about organising this early.

Depending on what you fanboy/girl over, there are different locations for you to go to.

Nerdy shopping

Pokemon center, Rilakkuma shop, a small Studio Ghibli shop and Shonen Jump shop are in Umeda, the “centre” of Osaka.

If you are into manga, but live off poor uni students’ wages, I highly suggest you find and head to a nearby Book Off first. There’s one at the end of one of the bus lines, basically around Minoh station. There’s another one that’s closer to a train station but, of course, costs an extra couple of dollars to get to (Esaka train station). They sell second hand manga, some games, some cds and dvds there (although, other than books, the Esaka store doesn’t have much of everything else). They also have the 100 yen section, E.g I got a nice hardcover Harry Potter book for 100 yen – about 900 yen cheaper than the same book in the non-100 yen section.

Nerdy shopping

The rest of your fandom can probably be satisfied in Nipponbashi. I will tell you first, I accidentally walked into the tail end of Nipponbashi when I got off at the Namba station and decided to eat first before visiting Nipponbashi. While Nipponbashi is way longer than just that section (starting at an appropriately named place known as Otaku Road), I just needed a few shops to find what I want.

There’s sofmap, super potato (both shops containing second hand games, at ridiculously priced games for really rare games, like 500 yen), Kotobukiya, Volks, Animate and various other collectors’ shops for figurines, dvds, VERY SPECIAL MANGA and relevant merchandises. There are also maid cafes nearby, some even with open windows so you can watch them have fun and play games with their goshujin-samas.

Nipponbashi isn’t as crazy, loud and bright as it’s cousin, Akihabara. There are colourful posters here and there, but very sporadic in comparison. Nevertheless, you can still find awesome stuff in there that you are unlikely to find outside of Japan anyway, especially collectors’ limited edition stuff. In volks and a couple of stores, they have got space for collectors to sell their collections. Some of these things are old, some are incredibly rare and, on top of that, it’s an experience just to see people come and sell their stuff. The care they put into looking after their figurines are amazing and you can see some really have a hard time parting with their babies.

No, there’s no used pantsu vending machines here either. stop looking, gosh.

However, if you know what you want and have no interesting in mingling your perspiration with that of others, welcome to the fantastic world of online shopping in Japan. If you think it was amazing already in Australia and America and wherever corner you came from, be prepared to be further amazed.

Untitled

Some of the above shops and more have online presence (even Pokemon shops and tourist souvenirs). This also includes clothings, in case you ran out of clothes to roll around in. People also happily sell their second hand stuff online, so finding rare stuff is also possible. The fun part comes in both the shopping experience, the PAYING experience AND the shipping experience.

1) you can pay COD, in Konbini or via CC on the website. of course the abilities to do so also depends on the seller.

2) Shipping is way faster than what they declare sometimes, at, sometimes, no extra expense. e.g. I got something delivered within 24 hours of me paying, even though it was suggested it will take like 5 days.

3) Things are VERY carefully packed,no matter what those goods are.

4) Their idea of second hand/damaged is crazy – my books had a rip on the PAPER cover. REALLY TINY. but you probably can’t tell the difference if you’re the type to throw the cover away. For that, they deducted 7 dollars off the price. crazy.

This means you can, literally, shop at all times of the day, giving you more time to study or travel and experience other things.

Untitled

Personally, I usually use a mix of Amazon, Rakuten and physically going to the shops. I get plenty of discount on Amazon, Rakuten have some odd stuff that I don’t know the name of and can better find and in physical stores, you get to see the quality of the things before you pay for it :)

Current Mood: (accomplished) accomplished

EXCHANGE STUDENT Q AND A PART 2

DSC_0299

What’s your living circumstances like?

Major question, sort of, so I will try to cover it here.

Housing:

First hint of the day: don’t buy your toiletries at konbinis the moment you land. you get more value-for-money options from the local supermarkets and shops. if you absolutely have to and you arrived a few days early, hunt for Yodobashi first. first floor, beauty section, tonnes of options.

As you can see from a few posts ago, I managed to moved into, what’s lovingly known as, an aparto. If you were thinking you were going to stay on campus, like I did, you’re wrong. Before you arrive, they will ask you a few questions as to what you prefer in terms of housing and so on, and you get put into whatever they can handle (it’s not guaranteed). Some of those apartments come with a wiimax (pocket wifi) that is largely slow and unreliable in these parts (out in the sticks) and others come with ethernet-ed internet. While either circumstances are good, despite the unreliability, i still love my wiimax.

Each room is set up differently, and each room might have have different things. I am staying in Garden Heights Hirata. My room comes with a fridge, a microwave, a vacuum cleaner, a gas stove, a study desk with a desk lamp, an RCAC with it’s own remote, a light remote (coolest thing ever), a bed and bedsheets with like 3 layers worth of blankets and a pillow. The laundry room is communal and in a separate little building. The pillow is tiny, and i am used to contour pillows, so this was a little bit of a pain for me. however, most pillows here, while somewhat contoured, are really awful to use, so i ended up reverting to the original pillow.

The bathroom is like most hotels here minus the, disappointingly, infamous ass-warming bidet seat. you have a switch on the tap to go between basin and shower head. note: there is no toilet brush or any cleaning materials. hint: go find a 100yen shop asap when you arrive. One’s near the Saito Nishi monorail, in the “garden mall” next to the monorail, another is somewhere far away.

As you’re living in a rented apartment, you are also expected to abide by the social rules. no loud noises, separate your rubbish and throw them away accordingly (dates are written down on a piece of paper that you will receive), no late night laundries and greet your neighbours… only because this is a fantastic way to meet people.

DSC_0306

Location:

it’s about a 10-15 mins climb uphill to the uni (all options include a climb uphill to uni, go build you stamina now!), with a takoyaki stand that never opens near me, 2 konbinis that are equidistant from me, 3 supermarkets about 10 minutes away, a bus stop just right outside, a homeware shop nearby, a sushi shop, an italian restaurant and a shokudo just 5 mins or less away.

If you’re a foodie though, there’s plenty of options just 20 mins walk away or a short bus ride’s worth. don’t fret. streets worth of food, make sure you spend your time wisely.

Minoh, the area you’re staying in, is still, largely, a “new town”. most of the families and people living here are under 40, with some young kids and regular jobs. most of them don’t seem to be home before 9, but regardless, the neighborhood is very quiet, clean and peaceful. It’s also interesting to see the stay at home housewives.

There’s a couple of small shrines here but nothing that will suit the tourist in you, particularly for the New Year’s Celebrations.

Further location advice: as mentioned before, about 45 minutes to the station that takes you to kyoto, about an hour and a bit to the JR stations that will take you everywhere else. about 2 hours from kobe, depending on which trains you take.

Also, transportation = expensive.

Food:

Most people ask me if I was cooking here at all. Osaka IS the “kitchen of Japan”, I chose not to cook while I am here this time. 7 weeks here and I want to buy pots and pans and rice cooker and what not? I will be poor before I even start cooking, so no. So, I eat from Konbini, the supermarkets and their half priced bentos, various eateries around and away from here and so on. In this way, I also felt like I met more people, I have learnt new ways of cooking things and “met” new choices of food. The only issue I met is when I didn’t feel like eating until about say, 11pm and also when i start getting… fussy.

In Canberra, I sort of pick a cuisine or whatever, and I just eat. Here, I go on a “nah, I might see something better later” or “I don’t feel like this today” idiotic sort of mood and get real fussy. In either situations, I often find myself starving (In a place full of food, mind you), way over any meal times ¬†and sometimes when everything is either closing or closed.

The nearby Konbinis is poorly stocked, which further limits my choices, and then life gets tough and I cup-noodle it up :(

Current Mood: (tired) tired