Reflections Abroad: Aug. 30-Sep. 4

Nattou---so out there that even some Japanese people don't like it. Photo courtesy of me.
Nattou—so out there that even some Japanese people don’t like it. Photo courtesy of me.

I would like to do much more than study while I’m in Japan.  I would like to travel, visit some onsen, look at Akihabara again, etc.

But I also have to remember that I am me, and no one else.  I should certainly challenge myself, but not push myself to the point where I barely have the energy to do any sort of challenging.

August 30, 2015: Wake-Up Call

After walking through Kichijoji for hours, walking for quite the distance the day before, walking to get the dorm, and walking/taking the train to get to the hotel, my body finally showed me how tired I was and what “adjustment” in a new country felt like when I woke up.

My bed is about five steps away from my desk.  On it is various junk—headphones, a stapler, portable drive, among other things.  But my cell phone was also there.  The alarm clock app, a pleasant chime, was going off, waking me up.

I did not get a good night’s rest beforehand, nor nights before.  I learned that a Japanese bed and pillow seem harder than Western beds, in that the pillows are thick, and the mattress feels like one big rock.  I am able to sleep on the bed fairly well now that I blast the air conditioning, but because the bed and pillow is, I believe, designed more for sleeping on one’s back, and the humidity is just high enough in Japan to mess with me, my asthma keeps flaring.  I sleep much better on my side where mucus cannot drain down my nose, settle in my throat, cause me to wheeze, and make me wake up in the middle of the night.

Compound that with the fact that I did a lot of walking in Kichijoji and the few days prior, as well as sitting on a plane for ten hours and not being super active of the summer, and you get the following.

As my alarm was going off, my brain seemed awake, but my body wasn’t.  I quickly climbed out of bed, taking my first step toward the desk with my left leg, only to fall forward on my right leg in a lunge position.  My entire left calf seemed numb.  Moments later, after I stood, I felt the tell-tale prickling of appendages having gone to sleep and waking up later.

I’m so out of shape, I thought.

Well… yes, but not completely.  If I were out of shape, I would barely to be able to walk a flight of stairs.  I would have barely been able to keep up with the group after one hour, let alone four.  Yes, I haven’t been exercising lately, but what good would telling myself something so defeating serve?

I’m in Japan, a country of public transportation and walking frequently.

I was on a plane seven days ago for ten hours, siting through most of them and trying to reset my circadian rhythms.

I’ve only been here for a week.  I need to get stronger.  

Yes, but I’d get stronger if I listened to my body when it cries for help, not beat it up.

My mind wants to do everything.  It wants to see Harajuku and Shijuku and go to an onsen.  It wants to turn off the alarm as fast as possible.  It wants to get me up and start the day so that I can be on time to everything.

But my body needs rest just as much as it needs movement.  If I move too much, I won’t have energy.  If I move too little, I won’t have endurance.

This is why Sunday, August 30th, was a day of rest for me.  The only walking I did was to a 7-11 convenience store to get some ready made meals for dinner and breakfast with my roommate, and I’m glad I took it easy.  Going to Harajuku with M and some of the dormmates would have been fun, yes, but it wouldn’t have been fun if I was tired.

And I’ll be here for another three months.  Japan won’t be going anywhere.

August 31, 2015: Orientation

Sadly, I don’t believe this Monday was too eventful.  There was an orientation going over academics and a small brunch involved.  If something did happen, I sadly don’t remember. I don’t remember doing much that day, and that was fine.

September 1, 2015: Matriculation Ceremony

International Christian University, the university I am attending, is a Christian university, founded by Christian missionaries who wished to build a bridge between Japan and other nations.  I don’t mind this.

In fact, I loved the fact that we had our matriculation ceremony in a church.  The pastors blessed us, and the directors and deans for each of the programs read our names one by one, welcoming us into the university.  And at the end of the ceremony, the parents and faculty that came kept clapping for us until the end.

The luncheon they held for us was full of delicious food—sushi, cream puffs, potato croquettes, oolong tea.

I felt really special and honored.  It’s an accomplishment to study abroad, and they made sure I remembered it.

September 2, 2015: Nattou at Sushiro



Or in English, fermented soybeans.

And by “fermented,” I think they mean “something crawled into a dirty sock and peacefully decomposed”.

My god, nattou is the craziest thing I’ve ever eaten.  Its smell, its texture, its flavor—I have to wonder who was the first person to eat it and say, “This is awesome!”

It is truly an acquired taste.  I don’t mean to make it disgusting for people who like it, but I am only giving my experience of it.

I’m glad that one of the people eating with me at the rotating sushi bar (kaiten zushi) told me to only bite a little and to get it as the last dish.  And I was so glad that I had good, hot, bitter matcha to drown the taste and push it down.  It wasn’t spicy.  It was just…

It was an experience I will never forget, and a food I will never try again.  Once was more than enough.

September 3, 2015: The Placement Test

The same day that I tried nattou, I took a Japanese Placement Test early in the morning, and got the results September 3rd.  There are eight levels in the regular track of the Japanese language program

I placed in Japanese 6, and was stoked.  It’s the end of intermediate level.

I needed Japanese 3 or above to have it count for my Japanese minor, and I’m really glad that my Japanese level is so close to advanced.  It’s been a great boost to my confidence in the two weeks that I’ve been here.  It means that I’ll get better, and that I have more than enough help.

September 4, 2015: Academics and Arcades

After registering for classes successfully (English, Japanese language, and sociology on the topic of Japanese society), I had a ton of fun with friends in…


But Kaleiyah-P! you must be thinking.  You just went to Kichijoji last week! Why are you tiring yourself again?

Well, by resting days prior, I was able to enjoy playing at an arcade in Kichijoji with some dorm-mates full of energy and ramen.  Among the games I played were Taiko no Tatsujin, Project Diva Arcade, Pokken Tournament, a racing game, and a Dragonball Z fighter game.

I enjoy Taiko no Tatsujin (Taiko Drum Master) the best.  Here’s what it looks like in an arcade:

Taiko no Tatsujin is like playing Guitar Hero, except a virtual taiko drum is your controller instead of a guitar.

Obviously, I am not as good as this person, playing both the Player 1 and Player 2 drums on the hardest mode available.  Perhaps, with practice, I shall be as good as him one day.

But before that, I have classes to take and Japanese to get better at.  In my down time, I shall hone my Taiko no Tatsujin skills for sure.

And I shall rest in between.

After all, work means nothing without rest and play.


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