Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday 9/14 - First day at Hokusei Gakuen!

We woke up around 5:30 and went to breakfast when it opened at 6:30. There were options for both Japanese and Western style breakfasts, but I didn't notice this until after I had gotten Western style food. At 11 we left for Hokusei Gakuen on a small bus and took a toll road. The toll roads seemed pretty expensive but I'm not sure if there were any reasonable alternatives. Surprisingly, this drive looked very much like a drive down the highway on Pennsylvania does and there were plenty of trees, hills, and wide open spaces on the side.

We arrived at the university and moved into the Kirari retreat house, taking our shoes off at the door and putting them in cubby holes on the way. It's a really nice place, with rooms upstairs and a lounge and eating area downstairs. The rooms have bunk beds with Japanese style futon as mattresses, and as usual the bathrooms have slippers at the door and showers in a separate room from the toilets. Speaking of toilets, they seem to be the most technologically advanced thing in Japan; they have heated seats, adjust the water level when you sit down, have optional deodorizer, some have a fake flushing sound you can use to cover up your bodily noises, and all of them have a built in bidet. And while the toilets are top of the line, Japan seems to not place as high a priority on things like wifi and air conditioning. Luckily the weather is very nice and it only gets particularly hot in some of the buildings.

At noon we met members from HI-C, a club that helps with international students, and went to lunch at the cafeteria where you could choose from a selection of different things, ranging from ramen to curry and vegetable tempura. When ordering something that needs to be prepared, as with ramen, you put a plastic tile marker down next to what you want to order. Once at the table, we chatted with whoever was around, a couple girls from HI-C in my case. It seems that of the other BCA students, there are only one or two others who are at my level of Japanese and a two people have no Japanese experience at all.

After lunch, we split up into smaller groups and took a tour of the campus. I sort of forgot to pay attention and so was lost as soon as we left the door, but I went back out later in the day and figured out the layout a bit more. We went to a computer lab to set up our college email accounts first, then to the school library, peeked into the chapel, which had a cool wooden door that stood out from the other rooms, then to the gymnasium, which had basketball courts upstairs, a weight room, and martial arts in the basement. At the gym, I asked one of our guides, Kentaro, if the college had an ouendan (a sort of male cheerleading group). He wasn't sure but was surprised that I even knew what an ouendan was. I told him I knew it from a DS game and from seeing one at a university in Tokyo. From there we went to the club room building and checked out the HI-C club room on the fourth floor. It was hard to tell what they actually used the room for, but I assume it was for planning things. The club room was pretty small and also had video games (Super Famicon, PS2, N64, Gamecube) and manga for people who just wanted to hang out. We also ventured off campus a short bit to see where the convenience store, grocery store, and subway station was. At that point we had rejoined the rest of the group and I was having a conversation with a Japanese student named Iwao about various video games.

When we got back, I was going to go back to the club room with Iwao to play Super Smash Bros., but then remembered that we were going to go downtown with the resident director. I got his email, but unfortunately discovered that back at the dorm, you can't get online with your own laptop. Also, we met with the resident director and got our cell phones (without any minutes so far) and decided that we weren't going to go downtown after all, but instead would have supper at the Kirari house which we and some Japanese students would make. This gave me about an hour of free time, so I walked back over to the club building with Kaad to see if Iwao was there. He wasn't, but someone else nicknamed Basho was there so we played Smash Bros. (Melee) with him instead. We were pretty evenly matched too.

Back at Kirari, we picked numbers from a box to determine our seating for supper and Kaad, Julia (a Chinese-Canadian BCA student), and I ended up at the end of a table with four or so Japanese students, and one of four Korean students who was also studying abroad here. I was able to talk passably well in Japanese while we had our dinner of... some fried... thing. I believe they said it was a famous food from Osaka but I don't remember what it was. There was also yakisoba, fried noodles and bean sprouts, and a dessert of a cream puff. We all had name tags on but the people I was talking to had theirs either too low or too far to the side so that I couldn't actually read them except for a girl named Alisu who was sitting across and to the left from me. After supper all the students studying abroad introduced themselves in Japanese (the Koreans sounded way better than the rest of us) and then everybody pitched in to help clean up.

After that, a bunch of people were planning on finding a place to go out drinking, since that's what people do in Japan (and since most of the other BCA students are rowdy, obnoxious, and overly outgoing). I wavered between going and not going but eventually decided that I had too much time left in the evening to kill and I'd have to see what the fuss was all about eventually. We walked down to meet a few of the HI-C members from the campus tour at the subway station and made our way to a very Japanese-looking bar. Our group was quite large and we were brought into a back room with a low table and mats to kneel on. Unfortunately, most of us didn't realize that it cost a rather expensive price for all-you-can drink and if you just wanted one drink you had to get some sort of food with it. Since we had just eaten, I'm cheap, and didn't really care that much about going in the first place, I left with a few others after some frustrated discussion (others were frustrated, I was just feeling awkward about leaving without buying anything). In my smaller group was Anna, Dai (Vietnamese-American), Julia, and Allen (half-Japanese). I much preferred being in a smaller group and we opted to go to the convenience store for much more affordable cans of beer. Then we walked down toward the college and found a place to sit and talk. Dai let us know earlier that he's actually very allergic to alcohol and some other things, but is now on medicine so that he at least won't have reactions from being around it. Julia also didn't have any because it makes her sick as well. Anna and I had one can of Asahi beer, though I only managed to finish half of it before deciding once again that I'd rather just drink soda. Anyway, I was glad we split off from the group, since most of the other group was the annoying people and I became better friends with the four I was with. We got back to the dorm around 10 and met another American student named Rachel who was studying here but not through BCA, so we hung out with her for a while and laughed at Allen's tipsy antics.

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