Archive for October, 2007

October 26th Update

Posted in Japan News on October 26, 2007 by joeki2000

It’s been a while since my last update.  I blame the lack of Internet in my room for that. But fortunately the 留学生センター is open until 9 pm today so I can finally do another small update.

First of all you might ask, what is that nerd doing at the center on Friday evening?? Shouldn’t he be drinking or something? Well this morning my bike broke down so I can’t really go anywhere at the moment. The city centre is a good 30 minutes walk and I’m not really up for that.  I’m hoping to have my bike fixed tomorrow morning because I can’t handle a whole weekend of sitting at the apartment. The bike shop is miles away from where I live though, so getting there will be another problem.

But my problems are relatively small compared to my classmate and fellow countrymen Malcolm (see his blog on the right). He broke his arm in an accident caused by a gay Japanese guy, pretty much ruining his chances of having a good snowboarding season here.

On some more positive news : A few weeks ago we did a trip to the town of Ikeba (池場) renowned for it’s beautiful mountain views. It was a very entertaining and cheap day and we met a quite a few new people. There were also parties at my apartment (for foreign students and the teaching staff only)  and we also attended  the COWIS cooking meeting (料理会) were traditional Japanese, Thai, Korean and Mongolian dishes were served. Again we met a great deal of new people. Also each Sunday we attended the COWIS sports meetings. It’s nice to be able to do some sports once in a while.

COWIS by the way is the student circle we were expected to join. It’s a circle comprised of Japanese and foreign (mostly Asian) students who do all sorts of things together.
At first it seemed like a good plan, but some unfortunate events and the fact that they aren’t really my kind of people,  made mr change my mind about that. So I will be on the look out for a better student circle.

Classes have been going well. I did my first presentation (発表) this week and it went pretty well. I did receive some help from a Korean student who has been living here for two years. The weather here has been great (like Spring in Belgium) with the exception of Friday’s. There always seems to be rain on Friday.

Anyway, next week I will be in Tokyo again from Wednesday ’till Sunday. So expect some news from that. Perhaps I will also finaly purchase a decent camera there so I can finaly get some pictures on here.

October 9th Update

Posted in Japan News on October 9, 2007 by joeki2000

First off all here is my cell phone information.
# : 090 9358 3582
Cell phone email : deleted for spamprotection . You are free to email me any time.

I bought this at the Parco (パルコ)mall、the second largest of the city. I also visited a nearby Arcade Hall. A weird experience to say the least.

The weather here the past weekend has been amazing. It was almost like summer in Belgium. I took the opportunity to make a little drive around the area. I went all the way North to the road to Ueda. A lot of forests here. I then headed West of the Setoba river to the area North of the Campus. It’s similar to my burrow with a lot of apartments. But still this is a more traditional area with aggriculture and temples (寺). I also spotted an impressive Torii (鳥居). There was also a rock concert on the campus. I already forgot the bands name but it was still a nice change from all the Hip Hop that is very popular here.

This past weekend, the Edo Clan (江戸豪族) came up from Tokyo to check out the country life here in Matsumoto. We had a nice home-party with good food and some drinks. Many thanks to Sam, Tim, Jonathan and Mayuko, Matthijs and Roos. We plan to return the favor on November 3rd when there is a party at the Belgian embassy in Tokyo.

After my first weekend here I have to write something about the Night life of course. First of all the young people seem to go home here very soon. That or I was at the wrong place last weekend. By 1 a.m. the bars that had students in them were countable on one hand. But from 9 to 1 a lot of places are packed though. My friends introduced me to a number of places but these I think are worth mentioning.
First there is the Elbow Room (エルボルーム). A small bar in an alley in the center South of town next to the Metoba river. It’s a small bar where only about 10 people can fit. It’s very psychedelic with all sorts of gadgets on the wall. The music is somewhat alternative (so no Hip-hop or pop) and there are never that many people in there. All alcoholic beverages are 500円. Be it tequila sunrise or beer. There’s also a lot of good snacks.
The other is a reggae club called ‘Big Up’. There were more young people here late and you can play old Super Sness games there. We also visited a hip hop club on Friday where we were challenged to a dance off by the local youth. We got owned by their break-dance moves of course. There is another club here called ‘Sonic’ but that seems pathetic.

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not all fun and games. Today we had another Oral placement test and a reading exercise. Tomorrow classes will start with Kaiwa (会話, Conversation)and Bunpo (文法, grammar). We will also receive the scores of our placement tests. So it will probably get really busy over the next few weeks.
More from me later.

Greetings from Japan

Posted in Japan News on October 5, 2007 by joeki2000

Here is my first post from Japan. This is a report of my first few days in Japan.
But first let me share with you my address information. This can also be found on the ‘about me’ page.

Shinshu University Matsumoto International House
Motomachi 3-6-7 . Matsumoto , 390 – 0803 ( Nagano Ken )
Room number 109

Report of the First few Days :
1/10/2007 :
After my arrival at Narita Airport,  I didn’t have to do anything. The taxi driver was waiting for me inside and guided me to the right cab. The other people in the cab were elderly Japanese people. I had some nice conversations with them and they bought me food and drinks. Miyajima (宮島)san and Yajima (矢島) san even gave me their cell phone numbers. They will take me on a drive through the mountains whenever I have free time.
An offer I can’t refuse.  We drove through the capital Tokyo (東京) and saw various famous places like the Tokyo Tower  and Shinjuku (新宿). Very unfortunate that I didn’t have a camera yet. The city is very big and impressive. Paris is a village compared to Tokyo.
I arrived late in the afternoon at the “Shinshudaigakumatsumotokokusaikouryuukan” (信州大学松本国際交流会館), or Matsumoto International House if you will. There I was greeted by my Tutor Miyuki Kikuta san (美由紀 菊田). She’s 20 years old and studies English at the Faculty of Arts (jinbungakubu, 人文学部). But studying English and speaking it are two very different things apparently. All the talking was in Japanese. I somehow still managed after a good 24 hours without sleep. I did some shopping and then met the other Belgian students Malcolm, Christophe and Yi’Ang. We went out for food and drinks and I called it a day at around 1 a.m. .  

3/10/2007  :
I had to be at the Campus by 9.00 a.m. the next day. I received a short tour from my tutor. From 10 a.m. till late in the afternoon we had to fulfill a lot of administrative duties . In between we visited the famous Matsumoto Castle (松本城)together with  some Korean exchange students and my tutors friend Natsuki (夏樹) san. We then had a a dish called Soba, which is buckwheat noodles, a local tradition here.  In the evening I attended a meeting at the International House. After that I hung out a bit with a Japanese tutor called Gonda (権田) san and a fellow Korean resident Lee Yooneon. He will probably also be in my Japanese class later. Gonda san was very interested in Belgium because Spa-Francorchamps was his favorite Formula 1 circuit.

3 , 4 , 5 /10/2007 :
The next days were mainly filled with academic related things. I had a Course Guidance were I met the other International students and their Japanese tutors. I had placement tests to determine my level of Japanese and the classes I can follow. And I had another more elaborate tour of the campus. There was also a general info meeting where we learned everything about the city of Matsumoto (松本).  I also bought of a bike for 8000円 and cruised around the City a bit.

Matsumoto and the International House :
As I already said, Matsumoto is in a valley in the middle of the Mountainous Nagano ken (長野県). The mountains in the direct area are not that high (still high enough though) but to the West of town there all already some pretty high peaks.  We passed near Mt. Fuji on the way in but it was to cloudy to see anything. In the spring there will probably be several hikes in the area. 
Matsumoto City takes up the entire valley. The center is in the Southwest of town. It looks like a miniature version of any large Japanese city with loads of tall buildings covered in neon lights. I will take pictures once I have a camera.  The castle is right in the center of town in a more traditional neighbourhood. My Belgian friends live in the South of town, unfortunately pretty far from me. But now that I have a bike I can go and visit more often. 
I live in the very Northeast of town, in the Motomachi (元町) burrow. This is a more quiet part of town, filled up mainly by dormitories, student apartments and senior citizen homes. I live next to the lovely Metoba (女鳥羽) river which runs from the Northeast, past the Castle and leaves town on the West side. It looks like an Alpine river and the water is crystal clear. A hiking path runs next to it.
The campus is just on the other side of the river so on foot it takes just 5 minutes and by bike even less. I will also take pictures from the area. There are a lot of cool places here.
The West side of town has the best mountain views though, but now that I have a bike I will visit there more often.

I’m pretty satisfied with the International House. It has some good accommodations like private shower and toilet,  gas fire, European styled bed etc. Only the lounge and laundry room are shared with other people. Unfortunately only tenants can spend the night, but there is no curfew or anything. The garbage regulations here are extremely strict. But Matsumoto does have the reputation of being one of the cleanest Japanese citys so it is not without reason.  Next to my apartment there is the famous supermarket Apple Land (アペルランド) . 5 minutes to the south is the Japanese equivalent of McDonald’s : Moss Burger (モスバーガー). The bank and post office are also near the campus. City hall is in the Castle Area about 15 minutes away . The other big stores and food chains are in the centre of town. I will visit them later to buy some technical gear (like a LAN cable for my personal Internet).

What’s up in the Future ?
This weekend there is the Soba Matsuri (そば祭り),  a traditional festival held at the Castle each year. Some Belgian students from Tokyo are coming down.
On October 9th there will be another oral test to help determine my level of Japanese  further. The next day classes should begin. Classes will be from 9 a.m. till about 3 p.m. throughout the week. We have 3 exams each semester and a Final Presentation (like a paper we have to defend) in August next year.
On the 23rd of October there is a trip to Takayama (高山)  with all the International students. 
As far as Internet goes : My personal Internet will not be for any time soon. Installation will take at least two weeks and I have other things on my mind right now. There is still a lot of administration to be full-filled.  But next week I will probably buy a cell phone so everyone can reach me through that. 
More from me soon.