The first week of school is over, and it’s time for a new post!
The week began with a meeting at the EU-Japan Centre on monday, regarding some stuff like mobile phones, opening the bank account, etc, followed by the official welcome reception (some speeches) and dinner party. Gathered around a massive buffet of sushi, spaghetti and fruits, accompanied by beer and sake, were us 30 Vulcanus students, together with the people from the Centre, as well as some representatives from different embassies and companies (though noone from Germany). Probably the most interesting ones were the invited alumni of the “Vulcanus in Europe”, Japanese students who had been in different European countries for a year, just as we are doing in Japan. We had some nice conversations, mixing English, Japanese, and other languages the others had learnt in Europe. Afterwards, we went on with some of them to an Izakaya to drink and talk some more.
Tuesday was SoftBank day. Since we all were eager to get Japanese cellphones, we headed towards the SoftBank shop (one of the three major cellphone carriers) in Shibuya. To make a long story short, we came out of there many questions, lots of decisions, a few refused credit cards and five or six hours later; not everyone with a phone in hand. Since we needed a bank account to get a phone, and a phone to get a bank account, many of us ended using our European credit cards to settle the deal. So now I am a proud owner of a nice little sliding-keyboard, 3D-picture-capable Sharp Galapagos cellphone. I have already been able to browse the internet, use the integrated Japanese-English dictionary and install a flash-card study program to practice my vocabulary and kanji.
And on Wednesday, school started. The Naganuma Language School near Shibuya has about 500 people learning Japanese at any point in time (according to the chariman’s speech). We were split up into five groups of between four and seven people, depending on our previous knowledge. I am in the advanced course together with Enrique (ES), Przemek (PL) and Krisztina (HU), and although some have slightly more experience and kanji reading practice than others, i feel that everyone is in the right class. Our teacher is Ishigawa-Sensei, a kind and energetic man in his late 30’s (Almost all other teachers are women). The pace of the course is really fast: It took me about 3 years to reach chapter 34 of the “Minna no nihongo” book, and we are scheduled to get to lesson 50 within one month!! This is why a study application on the phone is useful, to cram vocab on the train or at home. School starts at 10 AM and ends at 4 PM, with a one hour recess inbetween, in which a woman from a nearby chinese restaurant stands in the school-yard offering well-priced bento boxes. Although, on the long run it will probably be cheaper when I start making my lunchbox at home… On mondays, wednesdays and fridays, the last hour will be used as private lesson time, in which only one or two students of the class stay in school for a personal tutoring, I don’t yet know when my first one will be, though.
One fun highlight of the lessons so far was the first “task” we got (there will apparently be a different task every tuesday and thursday afternoon): To call the information hotline to get the phone number of some attraction in Tokyo, such as Tokyo Tower or the Ueno Zoo, and then to call that establishment and inquire about opening hours, holidays, entry fees and the nearest station. Even though it was relatively simple Japanese, talking on the phone really is a LOT more difficult than a face-to-face conversation!! In the end, each of us got the information just fine.
Saturday meant a trip to the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, one of the biggest and oldest buddhist temples in Tokyo. For lunch we went to an Okonomiyaki place nearby. At each table, you have a hot plate in the middle on which you can prepare your own meal after ordering the ingredients, or have the shop owner do it for you if -as in our case- noone really knows the technique just yet. In the evening we went for a dring with some of the Vulcanus in EU guys, some stayed out after, but I decided to take a train home before service stopped at around 1 o’clock (can you believe it? Even Karlsruhe has trams running all through the night!), tired from the walking and the intense language lessons. Sunday was a stay-at-home day, to finish unpacking, do some food shopping, clean the room… and of course, write this blog!
I apologize in advance for probably not being able to update the blog as frequently in the coming weeks, since school and sightseeing will really keep me busy. I promise to publishe some short comments and pictures every once in a while!
Here are some pictures of a small shinto shrine we found hidden in Shinjuku, and of the great Senso-ji buddhist temple in Asakusa. And click here to see me walking over the famous street crossing in Shibuya!