Author Topic: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.  (Read 269 times)

Offline Quemaqua

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So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« on: Saturday, September 01, 2018, 08:55:05 PM »
Hey guys! I could have sworn that I posted about this somewhere but nothing came up in a search, so at the risk of repeating myself, here's the scoop.

I haven't been around the boards much lately just because I've been unbelievably busy. In addition to tutoring all four semesters of Japanese at my university over the last semester, I also got accepted to the university study abroad program and to my host university in Matsumoto, Japan. 7 or 8 scholarships later, I managed to get it funded as well. I leave in 11 days. I'll be living there until next August.

It's ... I don't know what it is. I'm obviously incredibly excited, as this is an opportunity I've wanted for years now, and one I thought I would only get while having to divide my time between study and teaching English to stay afloat. I'll just be studying Japanese and basically nothing else, which means I'll get what I really need more than anything: practice on all fronts. So that's all super awesome. The weird part is that I've been dating someone since not all that long after I got back from China. We met last September, went on a few dates, and since she lived like an hour and 40 away from me, she started staying over a lot. Then she started staying with me more than at home, and after a while even though it was fairly quick, we decided to move in together. I was very up front about the fact that I was leaving, and even though I'd actually promised myself that I wouldn't be in a relationship when I left, and even though she said she'd never do another long-distance relationship, everything has just worked so well. We get along, daily life has been great, and though she's not my usual type in some ways, it's probably been the best and most functional relationship I've ever been in. And the two of us feel really okay with me leaving. Not happy about having to be apart for so long, but confident that we're going to be fine through it. Time will tell if we're right, but I'm already toying with the idea of proposing.

ANYWAY. All that said, she's now living with me, so will be taking care of the house and my dog while I'm gone. It's been a really lovely time, and it's going to be emotionally difficult to leave her, in addition to my family, who I live about 5 minutes away from now. I'm going through periods of reality versus denial about all this. Some days it feels real and it's emotionally unsettling, and other times it feels like it's still a dream and it couldn't possibly be happening.

But the reality is there's not much time left. Not even two weeks anymore. I've got a billion and a half things left to do, and it's crazy. On the one hand the fact that I'm going seems like a no-brainer, like a completely obvious thing, an inevitability. Of course I'm going. On the other hand, I kind of can't believe it. And I'm 100% unprepared for the whole venture, because I was expecting to have the whole summer to hardcore study and do basically nothing else, and instead I got a girlfriend, moved my girlfriend in, sanded down a ton of wood paneling and repainted our bedroom (which turned out amazing but took a week), helped her parents move out of their cabin, and ran a training for other language tutors at the Student Learning Center where I tutor Japanese. That and a billion other things. I also bought a Pixel 2 and got on Google's Project Fi service, and bought a Macbook Air (I know, what?) which I've been enjoying. Hopefully those should get me through all my international phone and computing needs.

Oh, and I also managed to get accepted to the Gilman blog program. It's one of the scholarships I got, and they pick a couple of people to blog on their site through their semester or year abroad. So hooray, more things to write!

Anyway, it's all bonkers and I don't even know how to talk about it without being all over the place. Either way, I'll still be around, but I'll be around from Japan. Wish me luck! I'll definitely throw some updates and pictures and stuff on here. Google is going to seriously regret allowing me to have a Google Photos account.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline Cobra951

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #1 on: Sunday, September 02, 2018, 06:09:34 AM »
That sounds incredibly stupendously amazing.  Man, congratulations.  Make the best of it.  And yeah, make Google real sorry!  Pics, please.  I'm jealous.

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #2 on: Sunday, September 02, 2018, 12:16:23 PM »
Thanks man! I once spent two weeks in Ireland and took 1600 pictures, so no worries there. I may break the internet.  ;D

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline ender

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday, September 19, 2018, 05:55:51 AM »
Awesome! I just got back from my second trip a couple of days ago. I was there for 2 weeks, in Osaka, Kyoto, Hakone and Tokyo. You're going to have the greatest time ever!

Offline ender

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday, September 19, 2018, 05:57:56 AM »
Damn I just realized that you were probably there the last few days I was. Could've met up!

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #5 on: Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 05:49:45 AM »
Well shit, yeah, we probably could have! Though I did have a set itinerary which was like ... moving pretty fast.

I've been here for just about 2 weeks now, and it feels like a lot longer. I've had some time to get used to things, and I'm all set up in my apartment. It honestly hasn't been a particularly big adjustment, just because I'm pretty familiar with Japanese culture and such, so the culture shock has been close to zero. Much harder has been missing my dog and my girlfriend. THAT has been rough. There's been a little depression about being lonely too, though I've made friends here and there with other foreign students, but I've yet to truly get to know any Japanese people at the school. I did a lot better at the hostels I stayed at the first days. It was a nice mix of foreigners and Japanese natives, and there was a whole lot of drinking and sharing and practicing Japanese and English. I had such a fucking blast. Now I've been in my apartment for a little over a week, and classes start tomorrow. It feels like a whole different thing, and it's been hard getting back into the study vibe after so much travel.

Anyway, you don't care about that, you want pictures! I understand. So here, a brief synopsis of my travels and a boatload of pictures (and a few videos here and there):

Album 1 - Leaving and getting there. Pretty self-explanatory.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/iSk9dYZkyM8Jfb2Z7

Album 2 - Kamakura. Night 1 (after a very long process of getting into the country, getting my bags, figuring out the trains, and finally getting to Kamakura and making the walk to my hostel), day 2, and the morning of day 3 on my way out to Nagoya. I stopped at the Daibutsu after trying to figure out the bus to get there, then walked down to a vegan/vegetarian-friendly restaurant down by the water. On the way back I went to Hasedera, a big and very pretty temple area thatís really more of a tourist thing and with some museumy-type stuff. I donít know whether monks use it for anything anymore, or what. Eiheiji at least has monks walking around doing stuff, and they let people come and sit zazen (Zen-style meditation) several times a day. Spent that night very, very drunk with a lot of good friends I made at the hostel, and then left to Nagoya a bit late and hungover the next day.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/LBfTPf9y2ftWSePA8

Album 3 - Nagoya. This isnít too exciting, and only features a couple of pictures. This is day 3 through the morning f day 4, when I started on my way to Fukui. Nagoya is, I think, Japanís 4th-largest city, so itís a pretty big place. Tokyo-like. I have friends going to Chukyo University there, so I met up with them, but I was so tired and my friend Mattís new compatriots were so typically young, American, and boring, that I decided to head home after we ate (at one of the least vegetarian-friendly restaurants Iíve ever been to) and they wanted to go to a club. This experience very much reinforced why Iím glad Iím in Matsumoto. Matsumoto is a pretty good-sized city as well, and like most urban areas of Japan, pretty modern, but itís also far less so than Nagoya, which felt like it could have been a city more or less anywhere. Iím sure time there would reveal many unique facets, but I wanted something a little more culturally interesting.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/oK2vNumZo7Rowk897

Album 4 - Fukui and Eiheiji. I was burnt out as heck, but I forced myself to stick to my plan to go to Eiheiji despite being a hairís breadth from saying screw it and just moving on. I had less train trouble here, but the busses got me. I finally tracked down the bus, and caught the last one leaving Fukui station for Eiheiji, which is a very mostly-Japanese attraction at this point. I was the only foreigner I saw anywhere near Fukui except for one guy buying something at a 7-11. Eiheiji was an adventure, but one I unfortunately didnít get to fully appreciate because I was so rushed. That was a real bummer. I had to rush through the self-guided tour, and spent most of the time taking pictures rather than really getting to enjoy it properly. The little town around the temple is very quaint and nice, and it would certainly have been a fine long afternoon to wander through there, talk to some old ladies at souvenir shops, and try some local restaurants. Who knows, maybe Iíll find my way back. One of my older male Japanese friends on HelloTalk was really impressed that I went, and clearly was fond of the place himself. After that was all done, I took my sweaty, disgusting self back to the last bus, barely made it in time to buy a ticket and board, and got back to Fukui, where I continued by train to Kanazawa.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/QsXNMuhrHDcKHX4S6

Album 5 - Kanazawa. This was a big one, my last big stop before arriving at my final destination, Matsumoto. Itís a pretty big town, and a big touristy spot, so it was lousy with foreigners. Whereas Iíd met nothing but Chinese tourists at the hostel in Nagoya, and had seen no foreigners at all through Fukui and Eiheiji, in Kanazawa there was a foreigner seemingly every 50 feet. My hostel was a pretty good mix, though, with maybe 6 or 7 Japanese guys and gals, a couple of Americans, an extremely intelligent German girl, and a fun-loving Aussie chick who couldnít speak a word of Japanese, including properly pronouncing ďkonnichiwaĒ. The place was called ďShaq BighouseĒ, and the guy who runs it is a young middle-aged Japanese guy with an adorable daughter who is friendly, personable as all get out, and extremely accommodating. The digs were a little meh, but the people were fantastic. Got pretty amazingly drunk again and spent a lot of time just talking to everyone. Practiced a decent bit of Japanese here and there too.

The next day I, thankfully, felt just dandy despite drinking and it being hot and humid, and the temperature had cooled a little bit and there was a little more cloud cover, so I decided to spend what time I could in Kanazawa. I went to a vegan restaurant called ďLos AngelesĒ where the middle-aged couple who ran it very much appreciated my praise of their food and privately kept gushing about my Japanese to each other, which is always funny because my Japanese is still dog food. Then I walked over to Kanazawaís big castle and toured the grounds, which took a very long time. But it was quite worth it. I unfortunately didnít make it anywhere else because it was so big, including the garden thatís right next door. Oh well! This is what happens when you decide to tour places you could spend a week in over the course of a single day. I headed back to the Bighouse where Shaq had let me stash my bags for the day even though Iíd already checked out, said my goodbyes to he and a few of the remaining Japanese, and walked back to the station. I thought my troubles were over, and then struggled with tickets again. The train system is really a nightmare to navigate if you donít know what youíre doing. As it turns out, friends told me they had way less trouble because they just talked to a ticket agent. Whoops! Serves me right for being antisocial and using the kiosks. The lines were a lot longer at the ticket counters. Anyway, I made it to Nagano eventually, and thought all would be well, but then it got ULTRA confusing because of multiple points of exit and not being sure where the ticket counters were, and not being sure where I was supposed to actually even board the next train. Then I couldnít find my station when I tried to buy a ticket, because at least 3 of the entries appeared to be for the same thing, and ultimately I missed the last limited express out of Nagano Station.

This is the only time Googleís Fi service has failed me. For some reason despite having good signal, I just couldnít get any data to work, so my phone was useless. In the end I did get the right ticket despite the train having left, talked to an agent to get more information, talked to two off-duty train drivers headed home who gave me the right train to take to Matsumoto, and confirmed with a guy on the train that it was headed to the right place. I felt very accomplished, but VERY tired, and the train took a good 40 minutes longer to get there due to so many stops. But it was actually a fun experience in hindsight, and I got to see another side of the train system, and practice being completely effed and all alone in a foreign country. Wee! I had a pretty long walk with a lot of luggage to my hostel in Matsumoto, but it was my favorite of all of them. I met a pair of Israeli backpackers, two more Germans, and a couple other folks. Had some more konbini (convenience store) food and passed right out.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/5uhszVJzqAsoMs828

Album 6 - Matsumoto. I was of course already in Matsumoto in the evening, and didnít have to get to my orientation at the universityís International House until 3. I emailed Ms. Koike, who had been my contact since the start, and turned out to be kind of alarmingly young and cute when I met her later on, and she told me I should catch a cab and get there early, and that I could come back and drop my stuff off before the orientation. I tried that, but couldnít find a cab to save my life, so I walked about a half hour with my bags from the hostel to the International House. I paid for my futon rental, and then a staff member took me and a couple of others back to the Corpo Riverside building where Iím actually staying. The Japanese dorms are nicer than International House, some of which I explain in one of the videos. I talked a bit with the driver, who seemed to think Matsumoto was pretty cool when all was said and done, and I arrived with a frenchman and an actual non-exchange student named Hiromu who is one of the tutors (or ďhelp the foreigners not die their first semesterĒ volunteers). My tutor is still off somewhere else enjoying the last of his summer, though weíve been in contact via phone.

Anyway, we went to the grocery store, bought some food and house goods, came back for orientation, and then got oriented. At least in theory. It was all in Japanese, and probably the majority of the non-Japanese didnít understand more than half of it. Myself, I probably caught about 20%. I got the gist, but Iíve definitely got questions. Paperwork is a nightmare here, and there are always 20 pages of information for everything, and yet somehow you still feel lost. But I digress. We had a BBQ party that night to celebrate the new arrivals, and we ate for free, which did me no good because Ö well, it was a BBQ. It was fun, though, and I started in on the cardinal sin of hanging out with other foreigners. But at that point I was so exhausted, and Japanese felt like so much mental work, I let myself do it. I hung out with them a bit again today while we hunted for a secondhand shop to buy some cheap stuff, but the stuff wasnít all that good or all that cheap. Iím hoping once my tutor and some of the other students I know return, theyíll help me hang out with more Japanese people, but everyone says it takes a good 6 months to start really getting your stuff together. That said, a few of the foreigners are already really good, including some whoíve never been here, so I really feel like a small fish at the moment, especially compared to Chico where Iím a big one. Funny enough, I recall one of my Japanese professors giving that advice to my friend who went to Chukyo. Itís more fun to be a big fish, he said, so go somewhere where youíre bigger. But he also said that Shinshu was the right place for me, and I have no doubt that heís right. This is where I need to be.

So I got moved in, got some stuff, and set the place up. It feels pretty comfortable now, but Iím still sorely lacking things like a garbage can, bath towels, dish towels, and all that. But the place seems to be in working order, despite the fact that itís undergoing renovations that will rather severely inconvenience us for a few more weeks (more on that in the video too). Either way, it feels homey enough, and Iím finally past travel-mode and ready to actually sit down to the task of not sucking at Japanese anymore. I honestly have no idea how well Iíll do over the course of this year, but Iíll try my best and hope it comes out well in the end. At least being here will give me a chance to really focus and keep away from English so much. Anyway, Matsumoto is cool, Iím here, and you can see a little bit of the place in some of these pictures and videos.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/HTAMp81vbrTsyw4f6

I've since gone through several "guidances" or orientations about all kinds of stuff, had a thoroughly demoralizing placement exam which landed me in a class quite a bit lower than I'd have expected before I came here, gone to the City Hall and bank to register with the government and make a bank account, set up everything with the school, buy shit for my apartment, learn how to operate all the little different things in the apartment (gas range, tiny Asian-style washing machine, weird plumbing, manual boiler for when you want hot water, etc.), and try to generally get myself on balance. It's been a challenge. I'm pretty exhausted at the end of every day.

Anyway, classes start tomorrow, and I feel sort of prepared? I guess? It's been a hell of a ride, and despite the difficulties I'm enjoying myself. But those difficulties are definitely taking a toll on my aging old man body. Not to mention drinking and smoking too much with a bunch of people 10 years younger than me. My language skills have improved to a degree, but I've got a long way to go, and a big part of me is realizing just how short a time a year really is, even though parts of it feel long.

Hope you guys are doing well, and sorry I've been so absent. Just too much going on these days.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline ender

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #6 on: Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 06:49:51 AM »
Beautiful photos! Ugh, makes me miss it! Can't wait to hear how things go as you get settled in more. I love Japan.

Offline Cobra951

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #7 on: Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 08:36:54 AM »
Aging old-man body?  Get real, kid.  You have 30 years before you're allowed that excuse.  ;)

Thanks for the details and the great pix.  I think I've learned a few things today.  Get your bearings, have fun, and keep us in touch.

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #8 on: Wednesday, September 26, 2018, 11:55:12 PM »
I'll do my best! I'm so frazzled right now, and just tired. I'm looking forward to this weekend even though we only have two days of classes. haha

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline Quemaqua

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Re: So now I'm going to Japan. For a year.
« Reply #9 on: Sunday, September 30, 2018, 11:24:32 PM »
Well, there isn't too much new to report. I posted a few random videos of me walking around narrating nothing in particular, and we had a typhoon that turned out to be ... not much? At least I guess. Nobody said too much about it today, and I slept through it.

https://photos.app.goo.gl/EDK6fJ94GQATCHfN8

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野