Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hello from the land of heated toilet seats

It's hard to believe I've only been in Japan two days. It feels like I've been here two months.

Two days in and I've already:

- settled into my apartment
- opened a bank account
- registered at the university
- gone to the municipal office to get an alien registration card (awesome! I'm an alien!)
- enrolled in the national health plan
- visited three bike shops (I have my eyes on a hot purple cruiser)
- bought pots, pans, cutlery, plates, mugs and a knife that has "enjoy your cooking time" written on the blade
- figured out where the grocery store is
- made three friends (Oneika from Jamaica, Nadia from Bosnia and Theo from Toronto)
- scouted out public pools (haven't found any yet)
- mapped out a running route along the riverbank
- took a campus tour (the highlight was when the guy giving the tour stopped beside an impressive looking building and said, "This building has the cleanest toilets on campus." That's all he said about it. Maybe nothing more needed to be said)
- failed a Japanese language placement exam (I can speak Japanese. I can understand Japanese. I can read Japanese. But I can't write Japanese. I never bothered to learn how to write. I never really needed to. Unfortunately, the placement exam was a written exam. I left most of it blank because, apparently, I am functionally illiterate. So I am being placed in a lower level class. I don't know if this is good or bad)

Anyway, classes start tomorrow morning. For the next six months, I'll be studying Japanese Monday to Friday, four to six hours a day, plus homework and assignments. I'm kind of digging this student lifestyle thing. I especially like that I'm getting paid to go to school.

Kyoto University has put me up in their international housing complex, about 4 km north of the university. The apartment complex is a mix of visiting professors, researchers and students. It's not very social. The place is as quiet as a monastery.

Which is weird considering there is a huge sign on the communal bulletin board warning us to be quiet after 10 p.m. and that having the police come to the apartment would bring "great shame" to Kyoto University.

The only way the police would ever be called to this place is because it's so quiet that someone thought we were all dead.

In case you're curious what student apartments look like in Japan, here's a virtual tour of my new place.

The living room.

The kitchen.

The bedroom.

The (world's smallest) bathroom.

The study area.

The balcony. The balcony is enclosed by mesh netting. I'm not sure if this is to prevent birds from flying in or if it is some sort of flimsy suicide prevention measure.

My absolute favourite thing about the entire apartment? The washing machine. On the balcony! I have my own washing machine on the balcony. Who has a washing machine on their balcony? Doing laundry in the great outdoors is awesomeness personified.

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