My trips in Kyushu: Rena

Hello again! In this blog post, I decided to show you where I’ve been in Kyushu.  I think that a lot of foreigners see Kyushu as only an agricultural region but truthfully, there’s lots of hidden gens in southwestern Japan. From the hot springs resort in Beppu to the ‘Small Europe’ theme park in Nagasaki, Kyushu is brimming with activities to do- here are the places I’ve visited in this stunning region!

Kagoshima prefecture – Kirishima
In September, the coordinators of the WJC programme took us all to Kagoshima for the weekend. It’s about a 7-hour drive one way and I was so touched that they took us this far for a trip. We spent our first day at the Kirishima Open-Air museum where we saw sculptures displayed in the Kirishima woods, meaning it was an outdoor museum and we were allowed to interact with the displays by touching them and sitting on them. The museum exhibits work from artists all over Japan and the world. These different displays all show aspects of nature, history and culture. It was such a unique museum and I had the best experience there.

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 Yayoi Kusama’s stunning work in front of the museum
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Exhibition 8- You Are The Art (2000)

We then spent our night at a traditional Japanese hotel (ryokan) where we were treated to what probably is going to be the fanciest dinner of my life. We also had a karaoke machine and spent our evening singing to Japanese songs, and songs from other cultures performed by my friends.

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There are literally no words to describe how badly I miss this!

We ended our night at the extravagant hot pools (onsen) which would have been relaxing except for the fact among us foreigners, it was our first time experiencing the onsen so for the first 20 minutes, we were embarrassed beyond belief. However, our Japanese friends comforted us and guided us to the different types of onsen. In the end, we loved it so much that we woke up at 5am the next morning to try out the outdoor ones. It’s definitely something I wish I could include in my daily morning routine!

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 The water was actually quite murky so that gave me some modesty as a first-timer- Source: Google images

On the second day, we visited the Kagoshima City Aquarium and watched the impressive dolphin performance. Then, we headed to the Sengan-en Gardens where we enjoyed another delicious lunch (seriously, when will they stop spoiling us?). At the gardens, we found a cat shrine which was too adorable.

After that, it was time to go back to Fukuoka.

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People write their wishes and hang them up here

 

Ōita Prefecture-Yufuin
2 weeks ago, my host family took me to a small town in Ōita called Yufuin. Though this town is small, it was buzzing with the most amazing shops! The shops are built in a European village style, and there were lots to see there! There was an Owl zoo, a cat café and shops for literally everything! (Think Cheesecake shop, Matcha shop, and even a cat goods shop. Not to mention, 3 Studio Ghilbi stores).

We first explored what shops the town offered. Then, we settled ourselves in a traditional Japanese restaurant for lunch. I had the most divine eel on rice lunch set. Then, we went to the Trick eye museum and in the evening, relaxed at a nearby onsen. Ōita prefecture is famous for its onsen spots, so you must stop at one if you’re in the area.

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Even though 1 day is enough to see all of Yufuin, I still want to go back!
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Trick eye museum!

 

Saga Prefecture-Karatsu, Ogi City
In late November, my host family took me to Saga prefecture. We explored Karatsu castle where the characters from ‘Yuri!!!on Ice’ went. There were little elements from the anime sprinkled in the castle which I thought was sweet. Then in the evening, we went to the Bamboo Light Festival (Kiyomizu Take Akari) in Ogi City. The picture in this blog doesn’t do it justice- everything there was honestly so stunning. All of the details on the bamboo canes (10,000 to be exact!) are easy to miss if you don’t stop and examine each and every one. The waterfall at the end was dazzling and complimented the fire in the bamboo canes so perfectly. This event is held annually so be sure to not miss it!

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For those Yuri!!! On Ice fans, this is for you- Left is the sign telling us that the anime was filmed here and the right shows the actual scene in real life
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A night I’ll never forget- even the time I accidentally knocked a bamboo cane over

I just want to take this time to thank my host family for taking me to these places in Kyushu. As if I wasn’t stunned by Fukuoka already, my host family has shown me the many wonders of Kyushu. They always make sure my host sisters and I have the loveliest time and I couldn’t be more grateful. I also want to thank the coordinators of the WJC programme for the special memories I made in Kagoshima. They have time after time, taken care of all of us with their utmost care and concern and I am so lucky to be a part of the WJC family. ありがとうございます!

またね!

Adobe Spark (13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Campus Life: Rena

Well, it’s almost 2 months since I’ve arrived in Japan and I can safely say I’ve settled well here. One of the major difficulties that I experienced during my first month was adjusting to the balance between doing assignments and attending events during the weekend. I went out during most of the weekends, either sightseeing, teaching English to local students, or hanging out with my host family. It was really tough for me in the beginning, but I have definitely challenged myself and gone out of my comfort zone.

Courses:

At Fukuoka Women’s University, I am taking 5 Japanese Contemporary culture courses (JCC for short), 4 Japanese language courses (grammar, integrated grammar, conversation and Kanji course) and an independent research course named ISP. The hardest course for me is definitely Japanese language. We have 4 levels; beginner, elementary, intermediate and advanced. Back in UoA, I’m actually suited for the pre-intermediate level as this my second year of studying Japanese. I had a choice to take either level 2 or level 3. In the end, I chose level 3 because I wanted to challenge myself and since I’m just here for half a year, I didn’t want to learn things that I already knew. This explains why I haven’t tried many of the Fukuoka specialities dishes, I’m too busy to enrich my taste palate!

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 Here’s my timetable for the semester. Each course is one hour and a half long. Compared to the standard 4 courses I take back at home, 10 is a very big change!

Class style:

Except for Japanese, I have one JCC once a week. The courses are not set in a lecture style as they are in UoA, but rather in a tutorial style. The courses are held in a classroom, and the teacher will explain the topic for the first 40-60 minutes, then we will be given worksheets to do in class or topics to discuss on. After that, we will discuss the answers with the teacher.

Presentations:

Before coming to Japan, I already knew that doing presentations is a common thing in Japanese universities. As a matter of fact, I did my first ever individual presentation on vending machine culture in my food and environment course yesterday! Presentations usually go for 5-10 minutes long and are usually done by an individual or 2 people. I have many more presentations coming up in the future so I’m glad yesterday’s one went well. I’m off to a great start!

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My friends presenting on Hakata Dialect in our Linguistics course

Field Trip:

As you can see from my timetable, the Wednesday slot has been left blank. This is because we usually have field trips on Wednesdays. For my first field trip, we went to the Fukuoka City museum and Disaster and Prevention center. We also have a field trip report due the following week and it makes up the coursework for my Hakata history course.Speaking of field trips, I just came back from visiting a shrine called Umi Shrine and watched a live Sumo tournament. It was so much fun!

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One of the main attractions in the Fukuoka City museum is the King of Na gold seal which was found in Fukuoka. It’s 99% pure gold and shows that the oldest Japanese kingdom is actually in Fukuoka

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Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve experienced here

Glover Magazine:

Our university also has a student magazine. I had the the most amazing chance to be interviewed by the reporters and my interview landed on the front page of the magazine!

It made me feel really special to see myself on the cover page. Being the first and only student from UoA was a bit of a struggle for me during the first few weeks here because it seemed like the other exchange students already knew the university life from their former exchange students in their home universities. Seeing the magazine will always remind me of how accepting the people are here and that Fukuoka will always be waiting for me when I come back.

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Hey, that’s me!

Kasumi-sai:

Last weekend, my university hosted their own 2-day festival. Us exchange students had our own booth where we sold Krapow rice from Thailand and Swedish chocolate balls from Sweden. We also performed a song on stage which we practiced for a month.  The turnout on both days was incredible despite the bad weather on the second day. It was such a cool experience and we even made profit! (159,000 yen in total and we got 3500 yen or $44.8nzd each)

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Swedish chocolate balls in cups that we decorated

 

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Campus:

Fukuoka Women’s University’s campus facilities boast a gym, a sports auditorium, an ATM machine, a Café, a convenient store, a library, an infirmary and a cafeteria.

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So in love with this campus!

If you have any other questions concerning campus life at FWU, please do not hesitate to contact me! My email address is: Renachua.room8@gmail.com

またね!

Adobe Spark (13)

Food, Glorious Food: Rena

As you may know already, food culture is huge in every country. However, in Japan, the Japanese take food and food culture to the next level. From ice cream vending machines to fake food in restaurant street displays, Japan has had its head in the game of the food industry probably since forever. Though I would love to cover all aspects of food culture in Japan, I have not had the time to try all the specialty dishes of Fukuoka as I’ve class everyday which means homework and tests every week.  (⌯˃̶᷄ ﹏ ˂̶᷄⌯)゚Because of this, I spend most of my time exploring the kitchen of my unit. This brings me to my first section of this post- Meal prep!

Meal Prep

I tried meal prepping for the first time 2 weeks ago and it was a success!  I made minestrone soup and it actually tasted decent. I even bought some in a food flask which I bought at AEON (a Japanese supermarket) one day and it turned to be the day I didn’t spend a single yen! The minestrone lasted for about 5 days and I had it with rice.

 

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いただきます! I spent roughly 800 yen ($10nzd) on the groceries. I ended up using 3 packs of bacon, half a cabbage and 2 potatoes for the soup.

 

Desserts

Tenijn has many cafes and dessert shops and there’s a myriad of confectionery to enjoy while you’re here. You can either go for traditional Japanese desserts such as mochi or settle yourselves in a quiet but bustling western café and be served slices of cake or pancakes. I decided to go to a café called Ivorish with my friends because I heard really good things about it before I came to Japan. I also went to a small café that only serves pancakes called ‘幸せのパンケーキ’ which literally translates as ‘Happy pancakes’. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth but I honestly enjoyed the desserts at both places. Japanese desserts and sweets aren’t as sweet as Western desserts so if you’re a fan of pancakes, crepes, French toast or cakes, definitely keep that in mind when you’re here!

 

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Even though this café has 2 floors, we still had to line up and wait for 10 minutes. You can easily see why this café is so popular though, the presentation and taste of the food was a solid 10/10!

 

 

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The fluffiest of pancakes! We paid an additional 100 yen ($1.23 NZD) for the scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. So worth it (^▽^)

食堂 ( Cafeteria)

This is where I usually spend my lunchtimes at uni in between classes. We have a convenience store, a café and a cafeteria on campus. The school cafeteria in particular is my favourite place to have lunch because you can mix and match dishes and side dishes every day. We currently have an autumn menu which uses local ingredients that are in season. I usually spend roughly 400 yen ($5 NZD) for lunch and it consists of a main dish and rice.

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The interior of the cafeteria
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A few examples of what the cafeteria offers. You can even get a dinner set during the evenings which costs 400 yen ($5NZD

 

Fast Food:

Like every country, Japan has Western fast food restaurants. So far, I’ve only been to Mc Donalds but I managed to take a picture of the KFC menu here. Besides Western fast food, Japan has a large range of Japanese fast food places. My favourite fast food place is probably Yoshinoya, because their beef bowl is absolutely delicious (and cheap!). Unfortunately, I was so immersed in my food that I completely forgot to take a picture. ごめん!

A fast food restaurant I would highly recommend is ‘くら寿司’( Kula Sushi) It’s a sushi-train style restaurant but it also serves desserts, shaved ice and rice dishes. If you’re a vegetarian, you can indulge in cucumber maki rolls and inari which is made from tofu skin. Each plate of sushi is only 108 yen with tax ($1.35 NZD) and there are plenty of sushi options to choose from! Kula Sushi is different from the other sushi train places because one you’ve had your full, for ever 5 plates that you put in the slot, you have a chance of winning a small prize! Totally not necessary but it adds a touch a fun especially you’re too full to move and just want to stay in the restaurant a bit longer.

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A few fast food places I’ve been so far. The green drink from Mc Donald’s is a green melon float, which is also a popular flavour of soft drink in Japan. Also, shrimp avocado in a sub, anyone?

 

I can’t be the only one who thinks this is low- key gambling(⌒▽⌒)But if it means eating more food to increase your chances of winning an adorable gift, I’m all up for it!

 

Fukuoka Specialty dishes

This sounds terrible and it is but… I haven’t had much of Fukuoka’s gourmet dishes yet. Fukuoka is home to Udon, Tonkotsu Ramen, Mentaiko (salty and slightly spicy fish eggs) and Motsu Nabe. Fukuoka is also famous for its Yatai stalls along the Nakasu River and it home to Asahi Breweries. I will definitely try all of the dishes in the near future so if you would like to see more about Fukuoka’s food culture and its Japanese culture in general, you can follow me on snapchat (chuarenafelice)

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I leave you with this bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen at a small shop 10 minutes away from my dorm. Tonkotsu is made with a pork bone broth and thin noodles. Super cheap and it has lots of flavour!

 

Honourable mentions:

If you’ve made it this far into my post, you will be blown at what vending machines in Japan sell. I’ve seen some selling cigarettes and beer (No age restriction). I honestly think they’re so cool and wish NZ had more of them.

 

 

またね!

Adobe Spark (13)

 

 

 

 

 

Accommodation Awards: Rena

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My home for the next 5 months!

One of the biggest concerns that students have with looking into exchange programmes is finding a place to stay when they’re overseas. Luckily for me, Fukuoka Women’s University has a dormitory for first year, international and exchange students (It’s compulsory for first years to live in the dorm). When you’re accepted into the university as an exchange student, you’re accepted into the dorm as well.  At the International Student Friendship House (Nadeshiko), each student lives in an apartment unit which is described as ‘4DK’ (4 private rooms, shared dining area and kitchen, bathroom and toilet). Each international or exchange student will live with 3 local students. While this may seem to be an inconvenience to both parties because of the language barrier, it’s actually a very good way to utilise your language skills into everyday life. For example, not only are the electronic appliances in the unit incredibly high tech to use, but all the buttons are in Japanese. Thus, I have to pluck up the courage and ask my roommates whenever I’m stuck in the kitchen- which happens quite a lot, to be honest!

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There are 3 buildings at my dorm- A, B and C. A total of 340 girls live here.
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Dining and Kitchen area

Toilet: Let’s face it, a Japanese bidet toilet will probably be one of the most interesting and memorable experiences for a foreigner during their stay in Japan. Unfortunately, I haven’t tried out the functions yet, because there’s always toilet paper to use. However, one thing that stuck out to me was the ‘music’ button. Basically, to maintain maximum privacy of what happens in the toilet, pressing the ‘sound’ button usually plays a recording of a running water sound or music. I just thought it was such an interesting concept to share.

When you flush, water comes out from the tap above the toilet bowl, making it convenient to wash your hands in the toilet.

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The notorious and intimidating bidet toilet!

Rubbish:
Japanese people are very conscious of their ecosystem, and the harmonious relationship they have with nature, which explains why they have such a unique recycling system. While each city has its own rules with the rubbish, they’re all pretty similar in theory.  In my dorm, there are 3 main types: Burnable, non-burnable and PET bottles. Burnable rubbish would usually be food scraps and wrappers, non-burnable would be glass, ceramic ware and cans. Finally, PET bottles would be plastic drink bottles (with the number ‘1’ inside a triangle symbol) that you compress before throwing it in its respective bag.

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Red stands for burnable, yellow for PET bottles and blue for non-burnable rubbish. Make sure you don’t confuse the colours while you’re here!

My room: Each person has their own room at the International Student Friendship House and it comes with a bed, a wardrobe, a desk and chair, a little drawer with wheels on it and a balcony. As you can see from the picture below, we rent a futon and place it on the mattress. So it’s like getting the best of both worlds!

There’s a clothes line in the form of a pole in the balcony in which you can change the height and position of the pole by sliding it through the brackets and moving the brackets. This is great especially on rainy days when you want to hang your laundry outside without getting them wet.

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Welcome to my crib- tidied it just for this photo
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You can see the university’s infirmary from my room

 

またね!

Adobe Spark (13)

 

 

 

 

 

First Impressions: Rena

After a few delayed flights and overnight stays along the way, I finally made it to Fukuoka, Japan! I’ve been here for 5 days now and it’s been hectic with meeting new friends from other countries, trying to communicate with my roommates with the limited Japanese that I have, and generally setting in to the dorm life. Though I arrived at Fukuoka pretty late, everyone has been helping me catch up on the activities that I’ve missed. So far, I’ve got my residence card, opened up a bank account, and settled all my health insurance bills. So far, so good!

Pre-departure: Before coming to Japan, you must apply for a visa. For me, my host university sent me a Certificate of Eligibility along with an application form.  I then had to submit the certificate along with my passport to apply for a Visa at the Consulate-General of Japan (or Japan Embassy) which is in Auckland CBD. The Visa itself took around 3 days to issue, but once that’s done, all I have to do next was to submit a copy of it to FWU, and it was all sorted!

Opening Ceremony:

At the start of a new academic year, Japanese schools hold an Opening Ceremony for new students. This Ceremony marks the start of a new stage in each student’s life. Our Opening Ceremony was held last week and it was to encourage and allow students to feel welcome in Fukuoka, and to motivate them to study harder throughout the next few months.

At our Opening Ceremony, the head of each faculty was present, along with the co-ordinators of the exchange student programme (WJC) and our buddies (JD-mates). The Opening ceremony started with a speech given by Shoji Shinkai, who is the vice president of FWU, and is also in charge of international affairs of the university. His speech was a welcoming and inspiring one, and it truly motivated all of us to challenge ourselves and grow to be better people throughout this course and beyond.

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Vice President Shoji Shinkai welcoming us at the Opening Ceremony
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JD mates and Exchange students at the Opening Ceremony

Reception party:

The university also held a reception party for both international  and exchange students. There was a buffet and was catered by the university’s café staff. It was an amazing opportunity for students to mingle and have dinner together. Before we could eat, the director of the International Center, Rie Kawabe gave a warm message to all of us and raised the toast. It was a night of laughter and we made some great memories.

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Rie Kawabe starting the night off with some heartfelt words

JD mates:

Fukuoka Women’s University has also arranged a buddy programme for us since more than half of us haven’t learned Japanese before or haven’t even been to Japan before. The JD-mates had to go through interviews with teachers from the International Center to prove that they could be responsible and committed to help all of us settle in. They also had to show that they had a good command of English, in order to communicate with us better. They are very helpful and understanding and are always online on LINE. I don’t know where I’d be without them!

またね

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Thank you JD-mates, for everything you’ve done for us so far!

Adobe Spark (13)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bryar: Last Post!

Greetings from Japan!

I’ve just completed my first semester at Sophia University in Tokyo and am nearing the halfway point of my exchange; although my Auckland Abroad experience hasn’t yet come to an end, this will be my last post on the Auckland Abroad Blog. I’m going to write about my exchange so far – how it has differed from what I expected, things I’ve achieved and things I wish I’d done – then I’ll go on to describe my goals and aspirations for the second half of the year. I’ll throw in any helpful tips and advice that I can think of, and a couple of pictures to break up the monotony.

I had three major goals for this year when I started out; to improve my Japanese, to learn to live by myself, and to build on my business connections. Although my exchange is only halfway through, I’ve already made some significant progress on all of them. I recently participated in a Japanese Speech Contest through my university, open to non-native speakers of Japanese. I was placed in the intermediate/advanced category and therefore instructed to give a five-minute speech on a topic of my choice…from memory. I had about a month and a half to prepare, help from my host Mum and friends, and in the end I managed to come in second place within my category. I think if I’d been given the same assignment at the beginning of the year I wouldn’t have completed it with anywhere near as much confidence.

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My Japanese teacher and I, after the Speech Contest

For someone who has never lived outside a family-household environment, living in a dormitory has definitely been a new experience for me. It hasn’t been as sociable as I expected, probably due to the fact that each room is fully equipped with kitchen and bathroom (and that I’m a hermit anyway), but I think I’ve adapted well to the different lifestyle. Almost everything is relatively new to me; cooking and cleaning, paying bills, sorting trash and taking it out on the right day, doing my own washing (hey I know – spoilt only child here). The only thing that I’ve really needed a hand with was figuring out how to unblock my shower drain, but you don’t need to hear the details of that little adventure.

I’ve also made progress on building a business network both here and abroad, by making international friends at university and by developing friendships with teachers. Outside of the university bubble, I’ve also involved myself in the Tokyo chapter of AFS (the student exchange organisation I initially came to Japan with) and through those connections have met people from organisations including Sony Japan and Japan Airlines.

One thing I was not prepared for in coming to Japan was the method of study at Japanese university. While at UoA we’re given assignments, tests and papers that are difficult to complete but only pile on at specific times of the year, in Japan it’s almost the opposite. The work itself is reasonably easy to complete, but the sheer amount that they give you every day – quizzes, tests, homework sheets, short essays, presentations – means that if you don’t have exceptional time management skills, then it’s very likely you’ll simply run out of time to get all of it done. This “study hard not smart” system meant that I often felt like I was literally drowning in work, and the worst part was, I had to struggle through it for the entire semester, rather than being able to look forward to the end of an ‘exam period’ or the like. My ideas of getting a part-time job quickly went out the window, as did my plans for joining a club, hanging out with my friends or sightseeing around Tokyo. So if there’s one piece of advice I can give you for studying at a Japanese university, especially if it’s Sophia, it’s this: consider lightening your course-load (and think very hard before deciding to take Intensive Japanese – ‘intensive’ is an understatement).

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I suppose I wouldn’t have met these amazing people if I hadn’t chosen Intensive Japanese

Now that the first semester is finished with, my plans for the two-month summer vacation basically consist of travelling with my parents (who are coming over from New Zealand) and relaxing. Going into next semester, I plan to learn from my mistakes of the one just passed, namely taking the regular Japanese course as opposed to the intensive one. I also hope to use the extra time gained by this to join a club and hang out with the Japanese friends that I’ll hopefully make there. And of course my goals from the beginning of the year still stand; my method for measuring whether my Japanese has improved as much as I’d like will be to see if I pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, level N2 at the end of the year. I also aim to keep getting used to what it means to live by myself – I could use some practice when it comes to keeping to my budget – and make more business connections.

I can say that it’s been a real honour to be one of the first student writers for the Auckland Abroad blog and I’ve really enjoyed contributing my thoughts and experiences. I hope some of the things I’ve written about will be able to help you guys with your decisions and preparations, and don’t forget that you’re always welcome to send me an email (even after I’m no longer writing) with your own questions.

これからも、頑張りましょう!

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Bryar: Day Trip to Shimokita

When you’re an exchange student in a city like Tokyo it seems like the number of things to do and see are endless. However, once you’ve been to Shibuya, Harajuku and Akihabara multiple times each and checked out other major recommended tourist spots, it takes a little more imagination to find new places to spend a day in. Often these places are little known by the tourist blogs, and It’ll be your Japanese or other exchange student friends who show you the gems that Tokyo has to offer.

Shimokitazawa is Tokyo’s hub of everything vintage, bohemian and/or second-hand, along with a collection of quirky coffee shops. You won’t see many tourist faces here, but it’s still a bustling and lively district popular among the youth of Tokyo. I spent a day here recently with a couple of university friends, and this is what we discovered:

The Food

We started the day off with a late-morning coffee (well, my friends did) at one of the small coffee shops tucked away on the narrow streets. The coffee was served vintage-style in a jar and was, according to my friend, exquisite.

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As we meandered around the streets afterwards we passed a corner store that had multiple layers of customers queueing up outside its doors; the aforementioned friend (and guide) explained to us that it’s a pancake shop, and that he line can sometimes reach up to two hours long (!!). I asked who on earth would wait that long for pancakes, but he said that he’d tried them and apparently they merited the wait.

We took a break mid-afternoon for some lunch; we found a quaint little Italian restaurant that felt (to someone who has admittedly never been to Italy) like stepping right into the real deal – the pizza was delicious, and surprisingly affordable seeing as it came with a salad and drink.

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We ended our day trip with some home-made gelato from a store that had pastel pink walls and a chandelier hanging from the ceiling but still somehow managed to feel vintage. How?

The Shopping

Shimokitazawa is packed full of little stores selling everything that someone riding the bohemian trend could ever wish for. Clothes, accessories, knick knacks – even the stores themselves give a boho vibe with the uneven wooden floors and artistically peeling wall paint.

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This district is also a haven for those who love everything second-hand. Everything from little upcycled boutiques, to entire warehouses with rack upon rack of second hand clothes. We could have been lost these places for the entire day.

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The day that we visited Shimokitazawa, it also featured a small market of hand-made goods set up near the exit off the station. An array of different kinds of jewellery, trinkets, leatherwork and even jackets for handbag dogs were on sale; it made for a lively and up-beat atmosphere and complimented the overall vibe of the district.

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If you ever find yourself in Tokyo as an exchange student or a tourist, I would definitely recommend taking a day out of your schedule to visit this treasure trove and discover everything that it has to offer!

 

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