Musings about Japan and life as a human, a cosplayer, a minority, a music lover, an English teacher.

Category Archives: customs

Using Japanese.

This is a draft from March 1st. I tend to write things and not publish them for some reason…I guess because they feel incomplete and I don’t feel like completing them. I may post a couple of other drafts in the future.


It’s one of the greatest feelings to be able to do things in another country using their language.

I used to get nervous when contacting people and telling them my name, and having them deny me just because they can tell I’m a foreigner. And I would obsessively check online dictionaries to make sure my Japanese was as correct as possible. I would have to sit and ponder about what I would say before making a phone call, and if it was possible to avoid phones altogether, that’s what I did.

The other day I was able to call the post office to cancel a redelivery request, because I decided I would pick up the package right away. Without even hesitating, I found the post office number, dialed it, and even as loud background sounds on the other end almost got me distracted, I managed to get my request across.

I’ve also managed to post messages in BBS (bulletin boards) about two extra concert tickets that I have right now. I was worried I wouldn’t get a response, but within hours two people contacted me. Even if the deals don’t go through, at least I know that people will contact me, even if my name isn’t Japanese and my Japanese isn’t perfect.

Even though I still don’t feel confident about my conversational Japanese speaking ability, I feel confident about being able to carry out everyday tasks (and not-so-everyday tasks) with my current abilities, and that’s what really matters when living in this country.

If you ever come to live in Japan or even just to visit, PLEASE learn the language, or attempt to use as much as you can. (Most) Japanese people are very kind and accommodating, but that’s especially true when they hear you using their language.


Forgetting Your Alien Registration Card (“Gaijin Card”)

This past weekend I went to Hiroshima to enjoy a Saturday night girugamesh concert. I really love the band; I’d have to say that they’re up on the same level as L’Arc~en~Ciel as far as my favorite bands go. Even though the band was performing in the much-closer city of Osaka on Wednesday night, I decided to go for Hiroshima instead because it was on a Saturday, and I’d rather not try to rush right after work and commute 1 1/2 hours to Osaka on a school night.

So I got my stuff packed for the weekend and headed out on Saturday morning. It wasn’t until after the hour-long ride to Shin-Kobe station, and then the 80 minute ride on the Shinkansen to Hiroshima, and then getting to the front desk of the hostel where I’d be staying…

…that I realized I had left my Alien Registration Card at home. -_-;

In most cases while in a foreign country, of course your passport is one of the most important things to carry with you. Of course, once you actually move to that country and receive an alien registration card (外国人登録証明書, gaikokujin touroku shoumeisho), you don’t need to carry your passport with you on a regular basis. During my winter trip to Tokyo, I carried both since I was staying away from home for over a week.

But this would be just a weekend; I’d leave Saturday morning, stay one night, and come back Sunday evening. So I decided not to take my passport.

However, I had forgotten that, a few days before, I had taken my “gaijin card” out of my wallet to scan a copy of it for unrelated reasons. After I was done, I had completely forgotten to take it out of the scanner and put it back in my wallet.

Fortunately, the receptionist had no problem with me not having my card, and just asked if I had any other picture ID. I still had my Maryland state ID, so I just showed her that and she said OK. Whew!

After I got up to my room, I started getting ready for the concert at Namiki Junction. After looking at my ticket, I noticed at the bottom that it said I had to pay an additional 500 yen for a drink ticket when entering. Immediately I started feeling concerned about whether I’d be carded when going into the live house. I started thinking up possible explanations and was prepared to plead for them to let me in, showing them that I was of age AND that I wasn’t here in Japan illegally–I had my Japanese health insurance card with my birthday but no picture; my state ID; and the envelope that contained my ticket with my current address on it.

I was a bit relieved after going to Namiki Junction’s website and reading the venue policies. For late night lives, ID is required. But for the girugamesh concert starting at 6:00pm, the only note written was that children 6 and under weren’t allowed. Obviously I’m of age so they wouldn’t need ID for that.

Long story short, I got into the venue and enjoyed the concert with no problems whatsoever. But there were some things during the weekened that I passed on doing just in case I needed to have my gaijin card for it.

So the moral of the story is: Never leave home without your gaijin card. I know some people out there say, “Meh, I never carry it and I’ve never gotten into trouble,” but I wouldn’t advise that you try it. I’ve been carded randomly before, and besides, you’ll still need it if you plan on doing other things like checking into other hotels/hostels, going to a host club, going to a nightclub, or–if you look really young for your age–being in a game center after certain hours. That last one has happened to me before, mainly because the friend I was with looks like she could be in middle school when she’s actually turning 24 this year.

So yeah…that card is important.

Graduation Day

On Wednesday I attended my first elementary school graduation as an ALT. It was kind of sad that I could only attend one of them, since they were held on the same day. Fortunately it was the school with the 6th graders that I knew and got along better with over the past few months.

The graduation ceremony, as with any other Japanese ceremony, was very formal and systematic. I think most Americans witnessing one of these events would think that it was a very ‘boring’ and ‘tense’ atmosphere.

From the time the graduates started coming in, everyone applauded until the entire class reached their seats. The procession was very precise, from the way they walked in to the way they turned to walk in a different direction and so forth. Once the class came in, the applause stopped and that would be one of the few times you would hear clapping for the rest of the ceremony.

The students–especially the girls–looked so wonderful all dressed up. The cuteness of the girls in their ruffly plaid skirts, dark blazers and cute hairstyles would put AKB48 to shame. One girl, who’s a bit of a tomboy, came in wearing a gray suit with slack shorts down to her knees. Some of the boys were already wearing their junior high school uniforms (I love those high collar jackets!). I had wished that I was graduating with them!

Unlike most ceremonies in the U.S., speeches did not come until after the awarding of the diplomas. I’m used to having to sit through a number of long speeches before getting to them, so I was surprised when the diplomas were the very first thing on the list. While most people in the U.S. would end up applauding after every single name called (unless there was an announcement NOT to do so), here it was simply expected to remain silent as each person stepped up to collect their diploma. After that, there were two speeches, one from the principal and the other from the head of the PTA. After the principal’s speech, there was a video of a congratulations from Japanese baseball player Saito Yuuki. I was pretty impressed that they got him to make a video message, and I wasn’t sure if it was just typical of Japanese elementary school graduations or if it had something to do with the fact that the principal’s son is a sports anchor for Fuji TV in Tokyo.

In addition to the parents, school-related officials, and staff, other attendees included the 4th and 5th graders. They were responsible for helping to set up, as well as singing a song for the students and collectively reciting a farewell speech to them. I realized how important it was for them to be there, because the three grades will be together once more when they all enter middle school. The sempai-kouhai (“upperclassman-lowerclassman”) relationship in school is very important in Japan, from the very beginning all the way through high school. When I was in elementary school, I never really knew any of the students above or below me, except for my brother who was three grades ahead of me and the kids who lived in my neighborhood.

Towards the end was a slideshow of the 6th graders with photos of them from 1st grade all the way up to now. Since teachers rotate schools so often after 3 to 6 years, I was wondering if any of the staff was even here during the graduates’ first two years at the school. As the slideshow went on, each of the students narrated part of a speech about their memories at the school, field trips and the like.

At this small school, where there is only one class per grade (with the exception of the current 4th graders, in which there are two), I realized that this class of 32 graduates had been together every single year, and friendships were probably very tight. Unlike with my school–which was probably four times the size of this one–and even many other schools here in Ono and the rest of Japan, these kids didn’t have to think about who was and wasn’t going to be in their class the next year. It was always them from the beginning. As I watched the slideshow, I sort of envied these kids, but not for long. I ended up going to three different elementary schools, with one friend remaining by the time transferred to my third school in 5th grade. By 6th grade graduation, I felt fortunate that I had made so many friends in such a short time, and that they didn’t treat me like an outsider just because I didn’t know them for as long. Some of these people I met in 5th and 6th grade are still my friends today.

As for that one friend I had left when I moved, she has been my best friend for the past 16 years. I had realized after I moved that I really didn’t feel like I was truly friends with anyone at my first school. I was well-known throughout each grade, but it was only for being somewhat of a teacher’s pet. I ended up not keeping in touch with any of those people, but my best friend had faithfully called me and wrote letters all the way up until internet and then driving became accessible for us.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. The point is that these 32 kids have been exclusively together for so long up to now. This will change when they enter middle school, since they’ll be mingling with the kids from my other school (at least; I’m not sure if there are any other kids going to that middle school).

After the slideshow, the kids sang a song in front of the stage, and then thanked the staff for taking care of them, and that’s when their teacher surprised them by telling them that we the staff were going to sing a song for them in return. As we began the song, I looked at some of the students and some of them looked pretty surprised and were smiling. Then after we were done, the 6th graders sang one more song before the ceremony ended. The very end of the ceremony was probably the most unusual part (‘unusual’ as in different from America): After everything was over, the vice-principal just said  “The graduation ceremony will now come to a close!” and there was absolute silence and stillness, with the exception of the mechanic sound of the stage curtain lowering automatically.

After that, the students proceeded out of the gym as we all applauded once more, which was just like my own graduation. One thing I’m glad I did have was the after-graduation party at school. I think these kids all went home with their parents and then probably had a nice dinner at some restaurant, which is cool too.

President Obama and The Custom of Bowing

If you’ve been up-to-date with recent news about President Obama’s recent tour through Asia, you’re probably aware of the uproar from conservatives in the U.S. about his gesture to the Japanese Emperor Akihito and Mistress Michiko. That is, his deep bow accompanied by a handshake.

According to former Vice President Dick Cheney, Obama’s gesture was unnecessary and represented a “sign of weakness,” as if the President was recognizing some kind of inferiority to the Land of the Rising Sun.

I mean really, that’s not necessarily untrue. The US Dollar-Japanese Yen exchange rate is down the drain for us. Japan makes better electronics, have an overall healthier population, better customer service…I could go on and on.

But that’s not the point.

Anyone who knows anything about Japanese culture would realize that a bow is NOT a sign of weakness. It is a sign of respect and a display of humility. It’s a formal way of greeting someone.

The President was on Japanese soil, in the Emperor’s country. The Emperor is the (supposed) highest authority of Japan. NOT bowing is like walking into someone else’s house with your muddy shoes on and not saying any more than a short ‘hi’.

Anyone who says that bowing is a sign of weakness, just try going to meet the Japanese Emperor and just shaking his hand like he’s your American colleague. Either the Emperor will think you’re rude, or he’ll wave it off as you being an ‘ignorant gaijin.’ No doubt you’ll be sneered at by some Japanese who feel as though you’ve done the equivalent of spitting in their face.

For President Obama’s case, not only was bowing a way of respecting the Emperor and humbling himself, it was a way of respecting another culture. Some Republicans like Cheney have the ignorant mindset that the United States “bows to no one” because we have too much pride to humble ourselves. They might even be stuck on those movies where the subordinates get on their knees, stretch out their arms, and go “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” which is a completely different scenario.

So for all of you who are slamming Obama for simply observing protocol, get a clue and try learning a thing or two about Japanese customs. Just because we are the United States of America does NOT mean we are superior to anyone else. That’s an old conservative mindset that does not belong in the 21st century, a time where the United States is so far from being #1 that we really don’t have any business waving our pride around anyway. Being a “proud American” gives you no incentive to ignore culture and customs while in foreign countries.

I’m back. In the U.S., that is.

I woke up a few hours ago (4 a.m. Eastern Time) with a sore throat. I was in my soft, comfy bed, not realizing how good it would feel after sleeping on a futon for 11 months. I took some ibuprofen and then woke up again around 1 p.m. to eat.

My flight home didn’t feel so long. It was an evening flight, 11 hours to Minneapolis/St. Paul and then about 2 hours to Baltimore. I slept and listened to classical music on the first flight, which I must say was a great idea because classical music is so soothing.

Once I got to Minneapolis, I remembered two things I hated about the United States. One was from looking at the rip-off soda and snack machines. At Narita Airport in Japan, everything is just about the same price. The other thing was that I had forgotten to exchange my money before I left. Currently $1 is about 96 or 97 yen, which is a good thing coming back from Japan. When I find the foreign exchange service in the U.S. airport, I see the rates and I couldn’t believe it. They buy at 108 yen. So if I exchanged 30,000 yen, I’d only be getting about $276. If I exchanged in Japan, I’d have gotten around $310. See that huge difference? U.S. services are rip-offs…

So what did I do? I kept my precious yen. It’s going in a safe place for when I return to Japan, whenever that will be. What an efficient way of saving money, seeing that I can’t use it here. I went to an ATM and pulled out $40 just in case I needed it.

I guess I’m going to keep this blog, and I’m not going to change the name of it. ‘Gaijin,’ if you remember, means ‘outsider’ in Japanese. Even though I’m a U.S. citizen, right now I still feel like a gaijin. For the past 11 months I was surrounded by Japanese people, hearing the Japanese language, using Japanese services, and so on. I got so used to it. Tokyo became my home. Now everything has changed. I feel strange speaking English to people I don’t know, and seeing Americans everywhere. There are no schoolgirls and school boys in uniforms, no Japanese salarymen, old women and men on the train. My yen is completely useless and I have to get used to using American money now. My Japanese cellphone is useless here, and I have to go back to my Nokia, with a battery that can’t even last that long without charging it once a day. Last bus going home from New Carrollton is at 7:15 p.m., and if I miss it, I can’t go to a manga cafe or all-night karaoke, because there are none here. My next two semesters will be about going to school and coming home, just the way it was before I went to Japan.

No host clubs. Even if there were host clubs here, they wouldn’t be filled with Japanese people anyway.

If I’m hungry and want to go to a ‘convenience store’, I’d have to go to the nearby CVS instead, because American convenience stores aren’t nearly as convenient in location as they are in Japan. What’s more, I can’t buy my tuna mayo onigiri, because there are none here.

I feel like a gaijin in my own country. I’ll just have to get used to it. My friends can try and help me, I suppose. I can’t say I ‘miss’ Japan, because right now I don’t know how to feel. I just feel strange. I feel like this past year was just a long dream. But it wasn’t. I have all of the clothes I bought in Harajuku. I have the collection of CDs I bought from BOOK-OFF. I have a stack of business cards from the hosts I met. It all really happened.

Tokyo is my second home now. One day I’ll go back.

White Day/The Great BOOK-OFF Hop

White Day was exhausting. And fun. I’m not going to go into detail, but just give a brief summary.

I spent the morning getting ready and straightening my hair. I expected to go to the host club later in the evening, around 9 or 10 p.m. Unexpectedly, around 1 p.m. my host e-mailed me asking if we could hang out. It was a slight misunderstanding, actually: The day before, he asked what time I could come to the club. I said I wanted to hang out with him before the club opened, but if he was busy then I’d go later. He replied saying that there may not be enough time, blah blah, basically what I understood to be the Japanese way of saying “No,” or, “I can’t.” I said it was fine (as in, “It’s fine, never mind”) and that when I knew what time I could come, I’d let him know.

But I think he interpreted my “It’s fine,” as, “It’s fine if we can only hang out for a little bit.” Oops.

Oh well. We got about an hour in of hanging around, looking at brand name stuff (lol), and talking. Then we went to the club, where I stayed for an hour. One of the hosts I met is Korean and speaks English! But I didn’t find that our until time was almost up…I still had fun though.

After the club, I went back to my dorm to change and get ready for Tokyo Decadence. What is Tokyo Decadence? It’s a dance party held once a month. I tried to look it up, here’s an old site. It’s definitely not something I’m used to, but it was fun. My clothes smelled heavily of smoke afterwards >_< BOOK-OFF hop that Kenisha and I had been talking about doing for some time. BOOK-OFF is a store that sells new and used games, books, DVDs, and CDs. They have a chain of stores all over Japan, and even some overseas. The used items are as low as 105 yen!!!

The night before I was in a CD collecting mood, so I decided the next day I’d visit a few stores along the Yamanote Line to collect Bonnie Pink, L’Arc~en~Ciel, and Ayumi Hamasaki CDs. How fun! We went to about 8 or 9 shops, including Akihabara, Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Nerima. I had the tetsu tote bag I bought from JACK IN THE BOX to carry all of the CDs I bought…a grand total of 21! Kenisha bought 34…crazy.

My goal is to get all of Bonnie Pink’s albums and singles, all of Laruku’s albums, and all of Ayumi Hamasaki’s studio albums and singles. (I’m not even going for her remix albums, that’s way too many!!!) Anything I can’t find, I’ll just order online.

This Sunday is the concert! Yay! I’m going to go to Harajuku tomorrow to look for a new pair of shades and a necktie ^_^

General advice: When moving overseas, it’s a good idea to study up on some culture and customs.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Dear Alice,

Well, I made it through another Valentine’s Day and White Day in Japan without getting divorced. My Japanese husband very nearly committed suicide our first year together because I gave him a valentine card but no chocolate, which he saw as a sure sign that I didn’t love him. Meanwhile, I was ready to pack my bags and get on the first plane back to Los Angeles because he didn’t give me any valentine at all. How the heck was I supposed to know he was waiting a month for an occasion called “White Day?” Please enlighten us about this Japanese holiday.

Susan F., Kawasaki

I don’t see anything wrong with a foreigner who is unaware about Japan’s V-Day and White Day customs, even if she is, in fact, living in Japan and married to a Japanese man.

But…he’s your husband and all you gave him for your first year of marriage was a card…? O_o;

I know not everyone is into all that hype of exchanging gifts, and there’s nothing wrong with that…but somehow I feel this misunderstanding could easily have been avoided.

Now playing: OLIVIA inspi’ REIRA (TRAPNEST) – Starless Night
via FoxyTunes

My Valentine’s Day…or perhaps I should say "His" Valentine’s Day: Part 1

In Japan, Valentine’s Day is not a day of gift exchange between men and women. This is the day where women give chocolate to their boyfriends, husbands, love interests, and even male co-workers. (Of course, on March 14th there’s ‘White Day,’ which is the opposite.)

Did I have plans for that day? Indeed. I went on a “date” with my host and then to the host club.

A week before, I brainstormed a few ideas for a gift. There are so many decorations and materials available that I just had to try my hand at chocolate decorating. I wish there was more emphasis on handmade gifts back home. I didn’t want to make anything too cute or childish, and I also wanted to be original. I’m an artist at heart, so I like to be creative. Because my host plays drums, I was thinking of making a drumset but decided against it since it looked too complicated. He’s also been trying the guitar, so that’s what I decided to make 🙂

I was very pleased with how it came out! Overall it took me about 15 hours to make. Finding wrapping material was difficult because none of the bags or boxes were long enough. I finally decided to leave it in the pan I used to construct the guitar, and add some decorative wrapping paper and ribbon.

My host was VERY happy when he saw it. Absolutely ecstatic! He told me it was the best thing he had ever gotten for Valentine’s Day (not to sound conceited, but I’m sure he was telling the truth :P) When we were at the club, he showed every host that came by our table…actually, he even waved some of them to come over just to show them. I couldn’t help but laugh.

Before the club, we had our little date. Originally we were supposed to meet around noon and hang out until the club opened at 5:00, but since he missed the last train the night before, he didn’t get home until early Valentine’s Day morning and asked if we could meet at 3:00 instead. I didn’t mind, since I ended up staying up until 5 that morning wrapping his gift.

When I got to Shinjuku station (fashionably-yet-unintentionally late), he was pretty easy to spot outside the East exit after he told me he was wearing red pants. (I finally figured out how to describe his appearance–he reminded me of Shou, the vocalist of alice nine.)

We went to go buy some chocolate to present to the club for a discount, and then went to the arcade. I watched him play DrumMania, which looks really difficult. Then, since he hadn’t eaten yet, we went to Mos Burger, and that’s when I let him open his gift 🙂 We hung out there for a while as he looked through my song collection on my iPod. Then we went for crepes (not NEARLY as good as the ones in Harajuku, I was disappointed) and walked towards the club.

I’ll stop here and blog about the second part of the evening later. I’m tired and I need some sleep.

Life and My Day in Ikebukuro

Here are some pictures of my dorm. I know my mom would be interested to see what kind of space I have:

It appears that, although I requested a single room without a roommate, they gave me a double room. Oh well, I’m not complaining.

My desk. Japan doesn’t really use Wi-fi as much as we do, so the dorm doesn’t have Wi-fi. A PC is set up here, but since I have my MacBook (which also uses less power and thus lower bills) I don’t really need it. I unplugged the ethernet cable and plugged it into my MacBook. Internet in a snap.

What about my iPod touch, you say? Well, it’s not all that important, since the only place I can use its Wi-fi is…what? Not my dorm? Oh that’s right, my dorm doesn’t have Wi-fi. But guess what? My MacBook can be used as a wireless router/access point when connected to the Internet. Just enable Internet Sharing and bam–Wi-fi. Of course, I have security options set so no one else around here can steal my connection. So now I can use Wi-fi on my iPod Touch, which is useful for downloading mail in advance before going out the door, Internet capabilities at my bed (though I’d rather use my computer), and the iTunes Remote.

I have a fridge! And it’s bigger than the ones they allow in the dorms at Maryland. The TV has basic channels–cable and satellite isn’t really a regular thing in Japan, though it’s available.

I’m really glad that I have this tiny little kitchenette. Don’t worry Mom, the cookware and dishes came with the room, so I didn’t have to go out to buy any of it. I’m sure they all came from the 100 yen shop anyway. I cook my own breakfast and dinner for the most part, and go out for lunch when I’m not at the dorm. Rikkyo’s cafeteria has GREAT food, and it’s cheap. I’m looking forward to that when school starts.

Tiny little bathroom. American bathrooms are like luxury suites compared to this. I don’t particularly care, it’s made to carry out its purpose and that’s what matters to me.

I really like being on my own. Maybe not so much in the U.S., but out in an unfamiliar place, where I’m free to explore. I don’t always like to go places with other people because there’s always the, “I wanna go there!” “No, let’s go here!” of it all. I can decide where I want to go and not have to think about how my time is spent going where someone else wants to go. Of course, there are times where I do enjoy going places with other people, it’s not like it’s a bad thing.

I took a short walk around Ikebukuro Station and then the area nearby to see what I could find. I had a list of things I wanted to look for, but most of the things I actually bought weren’t on my list ^_^;

Japanese department stores are huge. There are usually at least 7 or 8 floors, give or take a few. They’re also expensive, so generally I don’t shop there and look for cheaper places. I decided to take a look at Tobu and Metropolitan Plaza. I didn’t take any pictures really; nothing all that important to see, except for these statues in the girls’ toys section at Tobu:

If I were rich, I would want this in my mansion.

After Tobu, I went to Metropolitan Plaza because there’s an HMV there, and I wanted to check out their music. I didn’t find much, but I did find a Claire’s right next to HMV. I don’t ever remember there being ear cuffs at the Claire’s stores in the U.S., so I bought three of them. Their earring selection isn’t as big either, which is unfortunate because I need a replacement pair for the third set of holes I have.

The next few photos are of Sunshine 60 Street. I ended up here when I spotted a Sanrio store across the street. There I bought a pink Hello Kitty DS case, some hand towels (they don’t have paper towels in Japanese restrooms, it’s a custom for people to carry a towel with them), and Hello Kitty Mineral Water, which is essentially water in a Hello Kitty bottle. There’s also a small store in the area called jam pixy, which has clothes for low prices. I bought two tops, a hat, and a plaid pleated skirt. I was actually looking for pants, but wasn’t sure what size would fit.

Sunshine City has couple of arcades and pachinko parlors, and of course some other shops. At the end there is the Sunshine 60 Building, which has 60 floors.

Can you spot the Sanrio store? The Sunshine 60 Building is peeking out from behind at the top right corner. I didn’t realize what that was before so I’ll have to go back there later.

Like I mentioned in my last post about Japan having multiples of a particular store near each other, HMV is also located in Metropolitan Plaza at the station.

Yes, the Sega Arcade is here. Oh what a day my brother would have just being here.

On the way back to the station, I spotted…a 100 yen shop. I was so excited. I went down and bought some necessities as well as food and drinks. I love good deals, and I love saving money =)

It is currently 9:01 AM Sunday morning here in Japan, and I’m thinking about going to Harajuku. That’s all for now.

Two of My Concerns.

See? I told you I’d make at least one other post.

I shopped for a few more items and went to the bank today. At the bank I had to deposit a few checks and my mom helped me get some traveler’s checks as well. I’m a little nervous about using them, wondering if I’d get any strange looks from anyone that I give them to.

One of my concerns is that, after Hikaru escorts me to Fujimidai (where my dorm is), the next morning I might have to find the school on my own. In addition, my dorm is located near Fujimidai Station, which is on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line and not part of JR East, which is the dominant rail system. So I have to find a separate map to avoid getting lost.

My other concern is my living environment. I was given two choices for accomodations: J-DREAM Fujimidai (the one I chose) and the Rikkyo University International Dormitory (RUID).

Compared to the United States, dorm rules in Japan are much more strict. A lot of the rules are centered around the Japanese values of respect and consideration. Whereas in a U.S. university the dorms are open all night and you can easily sneak off-campus people in to sleep for the night, Japanese dormitories are different in that there is a curfew and a policy on visitors. J-DREAM has a 10:00pm curfew (“omgz so early!!!111” you say) and visitors must leave by 9:00pm. Personally, I do not care about the 10:00pm rule, because I’m not a party girl. I am allowed to stay out later or even not come back for the night, as long as I notify the dorm manager in advance. Really, am I actually going to want to do that every night? Probably not.

But that’s not my concern. I’m concerned about my choice for accomodation in terms of socializing. I chose J-DREAM because the commute time is slightly shorter and probably (hopefully?) cheaper (15-minute commute on the regular train vs. 20-minutes on an express train). I love to save money wherever and whenever I can, so I can spend the extra money on other things. I chose a single room instead of a double, and skipped out on a meal plan that’s available at RUID.

Both dorms are privately run, but RUID is especially for Rikkyo students. I imagine that most of the international students will be there, and they’ll probably have a lot of fun. Meanwhile, I’m at the *other* dorm, without a roommate, and not sure how many other students are from Rikkyo, and how many of them are from completely different areas (that is, neither Rikkyo students nor international students).

I sincerely hope and pray that my experience will not be like my experience with this certain program I participated in during my first two years at UM. This “living-learning” program was very hard because EVERYONE lived on campus, and I didn’t. After those two years I ended up not making a single friend, just a bunch of mere acquaintances. But since nothing’s happened yet, there’s nothing to be worried about. I’ll just have to wait and see, and then make the most of my experience. I can’t afford for this study abroad experience to be “okay” or “fine” or “whatever.”