Life in Japan, first impressions

All the thoughts that crossed my mind and experiences I had in my first months living in Japan. Some pictures are included.

In front of Yasuda Auditorium

I have been in Japan for almost 2 months now. To be honest it feels like a lifetime has already passed. I arrived on Friday 2nd of April. The whole experience was kind of horrible. Two hours from Thessaloniki to Munich, six hours waiting in Munich, twelve hours from Munich to Tokyo. And if that was not enough when the plane was about to land in Tokyo the pilot called off the approach and took off again due to gusty winds. So we found ourselves in Osaka, Japan’s second biggest city. Then when the weather got better we flew for Tokyo again. That was another 4 hours. So the whole trip lasted 24 hours inside airports and planes only. Not to mention the transportation from and to the airports.

That aside, normally when you come to Japan for the first time you get some sort of cultural shock. For some it feels good, for others uncomfortable. As it was not the first time I came here I did not get any of that. I was just tired and wanted to sleep badly. It took 2-3 hours to reach the dormitory by bus-train and walking since it is located on the opposite side of Tokyo from the airport. After settling down and getting the room key it was time to rest.

The arrival in Japan part aside these last two months have been very busy. All foreign students such as me had to apply for a “Certificate of Alien Registration”, had to get the national health Insurance card, register in the university, get a mobile phone e.t.c. After that of course we had to face the bureaucracy of actually enrolling into the the university and Japanese classes. Fortunately we each had a “tutor” assigned to us so the whole thing went a lot more smooth than it would have been had we been left completely alone. Below you can see a picture of some of the people who went for alien registration the same day I did.

Alien Registration day

In addition to settling down to the dorm some daily life needs such as creating a healthy eating schedule and an overall dailly schedule and … getting an internet connection were things that had to be done as soon as possible. Well guess what was my first priority :p. After getting an internet connection all the other stuff fell into place. About my daily schedule and especially the food part I might analyze it further in another post, since it’s a whole topic all by itself. Food in japan that is ^^. The funny thing about the ISPs here was that instead of us going to them to inquire about their services, they came to the dormitory, set up a bench in the corner of the cafeteria, put up their flags and started advertising their services. That was kind of strange to be honest. The prices were reasonable, and the speeds a lot better than Greece so no complaints there 😛

Tokyo is such a big city or more accurately a metropolis and hence to move around you need to use the transportation system. The transportation system of trains and subway in Tokyo is extreme. Its effectiveness matches the number of people who use it everyday.

Japanese trains

Trains are nice and all of course but as some of you might have heard or even seen in the news or the internet the transportation system has a very bad downside. It’s called rush hour and/or the last train. Here are some pictures to make you understand what I mean.
This is what a train looks like from the inside in rush hour.

Japanese rush hour train interior

And this is what a train looks like from outside in the rush hour.

Rush hour train

So yeah, the Japanese transportation system might be effective and fast but kind of brutal at times.

But if anyone has been reading my blog regularly he would know that I love walking around. Especially in a place that’s new for me and as huge as Tokyo is. I am always walking and walking big distances so I sometimes don’t take the trains and use my feet instead. The exercising part aside this lets you think clearly, relax and clear your head of all thoughts good or bad. And it also allows you to explore and see the city in a whole different light, things you wouldn’t see if you just used the transportation system.

Of course part of my life here, arguably the biggest and most important part is a student of Tokyo university. I have to admit that I really liked the university. It has 3 campuses in the Tokyo area. Unfortunately I have to be going to two of them which are very far from each other and both are very far from my dormitory. My lab is located in one of the campuses (Komaba) and in the other campus (Hongo) all the classes take place.

Hongo campus is the main campus of the university. Compared to the universities I have known in Greece Tokyo university is at a whole different level. I have to admit I really like Hongo campus. It feels very nice and it also has an academic aura. It’s still kind of early to say anything about the level of studying done in the university but I have heard all kinds of opinions. For the moment I personally am satisfied. Here is a picture of me at Yasuda Auditorium one of the landmarks of Tokyo University Hongo campus.

In front of Yasuda Auditorium

Komaba research campus is where most of the research labs including mine are located. Komaba research campus has many laboratories and thus might give out a research-scientific even sci-fi feeling (depending on your lab of course). My first experience at the research campus was just after coming to japan. It was the Sakura season (cherry blossoms season), and it is customary to hold parties called Hanami. It literally means watching the flowers. What you basically do is picnic under the sakura trees and drink and eat a lot. So that’s what we did with the people of my lab 🙂

Hanami at komaba campus

Hanami are very nice. Since you can socialize and eat and drink a lot. I like these kind of customs in any culture especially when you don’t need to pay for either drinking or eating.

At the same time there is a lot of stress and anxiety due to some exams that are coming on 30th of August and due to me not finding enough time to study for them. And if that was not enough I felt the bitter taste of betrayal from the person I used to love more than anything else in the world. It just proved to me that I loved an empty shell of a person which never felt anything for me. A shell full of lies and fake feelings and promises. If she ever understands what I did for her sake,what i was about to do just for her sake…only then will she really comprehend what my feelings and dreams were for us and the extent of my love for her. Not that I even think that will ever happen…
Even though I had some hard hits by fate and even though my daily schedule has become really busy, I move on looking forward and regretting nothing.

In order to make it through daily life in another country especially one filled with responsibilities you have to devote certain parts of the day to yourself. Do what you love doing and continue your old hobbies while of course taking up some new ones too. This way you can live a full life with a balance of resting/recreation and working. Since working/studying all day can only go on for so long … until you just pass out ^^

As for me I am starting to enjoy life in Japan and still trying to get used to the small things. Moreover I am trying to focus on my research while making new friends with similar interests. In Japanese daily life you can see many interesting and weird things ranging from customs to strange products or really strange (read fucked up) people. I plan to be making posts dedicated to most of them when I find the time.

So that was just a small post dedicated to just a few of the things that happened to me in my first 2 months in Japan that I felt were worth mentioning. Many more things happened but i will get into them in more detail in other posts. I will end the post the same way it started. It feels like a whole lifetime has passed. When everything from friends, surroundings, hobbies, way of living … to food,responsibilities and well yeah, every single thing changes so radically and so fast you feel as if this is another life, not your life. I guess my mind just needs to catch up with what is happening to me so that I can fully realize my position! 🙂
Moving forward I guess!
Well then until next time … !

1 thought on “Life in Japan, first impressions”

  1. haha, almost two year you wrote post of your first experience in Japan, and now I have read it. However, I really like to hear any experience of people spending the time in Japan. I love your story. You make me feels more to join Monbukagakusho Scholarship. And few months later, I will take it. I hope God always inside me and support me in every i must fulfill the requirement. For you, i am looking forward to more your post of your experience in Japan. Please, dont stop!! I say Thanks for You.

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