Living In Japan, Part II

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The TUJ cafeteria: where I eat, study, hang out with friends, and buy an unhealthy amount of vending machine coffee.

Being A Student Abroad

Of course, being a student in Japan isn’t just a big vacation. It’s also a time to experience new cultures and values, and continue getting an education. One of the hardest things, I’ve found, is trying to balance work and play, so to speak. It’s a little tricky to get myself in the mindset of doing schoolwork, especially at 8 p.m. on Sunday night after a weekend exploring the city or going on a field trip. Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the fact that I still have papers to write, tests to study for, and worksheets to finish.

One method I’ve found to deal with this is to do homework immediately. Staying at TUJ after class to do work in the study lounge or computer labs helps, since it means I can spend the evening shopping or go out with friends and not have to worry about being back in time to churn out an essay for the next morning. Even on Fridays, I’ll often stay after class and try to finish everything up so I don’t have to worry about it over the weekend (this is especially important if there’s an overnight trip planned, which will take up all but Sunday night).

Fortunately, TUJ is a fairly small school, especially in the summer. If I do need help with something, there’s usually someone in one of my classes hanging around as well, which makes things a bit easier.

The Weather

Just recently, monsoon season began in Japan. After a few days of getting soaked on the way to school, I’ve just started bringing an umbrella. It doesn’t matter if the forecast is clear, or if the skies are blue and cloudless when I get up, there is still a chance that the rain will come. The citizens of Tokyo may be the most rain-prepared people I have ever seen. As soon as the first drops of rain appear, the city collectively dons its umbrellas and rain jackets.

The Pace of Life

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It probably takes a long time to adjust to the sheer number of people that live in Tokyo, since crowds like this are just a part of daily life.

Probably the biggest adjustment to make to living in Japan is the pace of life. While I was still recovering from jet lag from the trip over, I would often get up early, sometimes around 4 a.m. Even then, if I looked out the window, I could see businessmen headed to work and students headed to school. In Japan, people are constantly moving.

One little annoyance with that, though, is that despite how orderly everything is, there don’t seem to be clear rules on sidewalks. On escalators, one side is reserved for standing and the other for walking. There’s never jaywalking across intersections. Yet on sidewalks, there is no specific lane for a direction. Walking through a crowded tourist area or trying to make it to class through clumps of businessmen can be quite the ordeal, with a lot of attention needed just to avoid running into people.

A more unexpected difficulty is the lack of benches! Except for public parks, there is almost nowhere to just sit outside. Then I started to realize something. It explained why so many places are so clean and efficient. There’s no idling or hanging out. After picking up dinner at a to-go sushi place, I realized that the options were to either eat there or bring it home to eat. Public benches and tables were something I took for granted, but now realize how much I rely on them.

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