Thursday, October 27, 2005


The Japanese calls school clubs "circles". I went to the Capoeira Circle with Hatim, a fellow exchange student from Chicago. Obviously, I can't do any of those dance moves. Thereafter, I was sitting around, hoping to speak Japanese, but the guy from Brazil (in green pants) kept speaking English to me. At last, I was a mere audience who was trying to learn the different instruments.

There are more interactive clubs in Chiba University, compared to the excessive cultural clubs in Stony Brook. I intend to join the volleyball circle, Japanese instrument circle, and maybe the Soccer circle. Uh... Akido, too? Either way, it's Fun, Fun, Fun (with a capital "F")!

Bills, Bills, Bills

Here's a picture of me, taken by Cori, when I bought my new futon (comforter). For the first month, everyone rented pillows, bed sheets, futons, blankets, pillow cases, and futons cover for about $23 a month each. From then, we all bought our own bedding goods.

Even with my 2 scholarship and overpaid financial aid, it is barely covering my expenses. For the first week, utility was $9. Initial clean-up charge for the room was $160. Luckily, the rent was only $47. My cell phone (with only 60 included minutes) would come out to be about $30. Not to mention, there are no such things as free nights and weekends.

I also bought a new electronic English and Japanese dictionary ($188), and a bicycle ($110). The quality of 99 cent stores here are great. There's a store named, "Kyuu-kyuu," which literally means, 9-9. For only a dollar each, I got a pot, hooks, (really soft) kleenex, instant noodles, picture frames, a fork-spoon duo, instant miso soup, dish detergent, salt, a pole for hanging laundry, hangers, a mini broom, a doormat, a clear umbrella, a rug for the bathroom, a scrub, washing sponges, etc.

It's my 24th day, (excluding my cell phone bill, health insurance, and the possible of water bill) I've spent about $1,300. *sigh* Not to mention, I spent part of my scholarship on my new Fujitsu laptop and outerwear before I came.

P.S. I went to McDonald's and ordered (in direct translation) Ice Cream, Vanilla from the Dollar Menu (100 yen menu). I spotted the ice cream machine, waiting for the cashier to get a waffle cone and proceed to the machine. Instead, she went to the back of the kitchen, opened the fridge, and gave me a vanilla ice cream in an already-made container!

Monday, October 24, 2005


(From Top: Cori, rainbow at the water foutain at the entrance of Odaiba park, inside the ferris wheel, and Japan's biggest ferris wheel )

Yesterday, 6 of my friends and I went to Odaiba. It has the "biggest" ferris wheel in Japan. Despite the height, the entire ride had its sense of comfort and security. Personally, I am not afraid of height, but I am afraid of ferris wheel. This one is one of the few where it did not initiate any fear. The ferris wheel does not stop. People are loaded on and off as it moves, talk about operational management! The ferris wheel moves very slowly and steadily.

The place was like an oriental Central Park. It was a big park, beautiful, and clean. The only difference is the style of landscape, and HUUUUGE spiderwebs!

P.S. The first 2 pictures are Cori's

Monday, October 17, 2005

Rain, Rain, Go Away~

It was raining today (Big surprise, NY!). I decided to simulate myself into the Japanese culture. I took my bicycle to go to class like I normally would. With my left hand, I held my clear umbrella. I now know why clear umbrellas are so popular in Japan. It's so you can see while you put it in front of you to block the wind! Duh! As for my right hand, I had to manage the turns, the breaks, and the bell. On the way, with the conditions that I were given, I am very proud that I rode on this steep hill that not anyone is capable of riding on.

At last, I managed to get only 15% wet. I had to keep the headphones to Rob's i-Pod stationed in my ears along with the strong wind. I managed not to kill anyone or be killed. Then again, a truck sped pass me while I was sharing a narrow road.

P.S. As shown on this entry's picture, I gave in (on the 15th day).

Vocabulary of the Day: 地震 (Ji-Shin)

Jishin is a Japanese word for "earthquake." Why in the world would I need to know? Because I experienced my first earthquake!!!

Don't worry. As you see, I am still alive. It was pretty bad. The wall seemed to be pounding at one point. I thought, "Who the hell is kicking the wall?" A millisecond later, "Wow... pretty strong. That's not possible!" A second later, "Whoa! My calendar and keys hung on the wall, as well as everything in my room, are shaking!" Oh my God! I was talking to Rob, and I said, "Um... earthquake?" At one point, I was pretty excited because I have never been in one before. It was kind of fun, because it seems as if the whole building was vibrating. When it finally stopped, I felt my heart beating. When I calmed down, I wasn't calmed at all.

Girls in my hallways were screaming, "Jishin!!" They continued to laugh nervously, "Jishin..." That is how I learned the new word. I didn't have to question. I walked out to ask if everyone's okay. At the same time, I had to join the excitement.

You'd laugh now at my story, but it doesn't really hit you that it is an earthquake until a quarter of a minute later. I totally forgot that earthquakes happen in Japan. Another story I've heard from a guy from Chicago was, "I know my cell phone doesn't vibrate that much!" Of course, I am excited about anything. A girl from Canada didn't think much of it. Another American didn't notice it at all.

Rob made a funny comment. When he saw me walk out my door, he was expecting, "Oh my God!" in the typical Long Island girls tone. Instead, he tried to make out what we were saying. Because, it wasn't English~

Half an hour later, the entire neighborhood (or perhaps everywhere that was effected) I heard a Japanese announcer speaking about the earthquake. It's interesting. It can easily be heard. I live on the 4th floor, and I heard it clearly. That is one of the many cultural differences that I have encounter thusfar.

This brings an opening to another story. I have been having pidgeon problems in my balcony. They poop, they come back time after time. Once, my calendar that was hung on the wall fell while I was sleeping. Waking up from a sudden sound, I automatically looked to the window, and thought, "Damn, pidgeons!" The pidgeons are now blamed for everything, including the fact that I have to hang my clothes dry inside my room.

At last, of all the words that I will forget, I will never forget "jishin."

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Night at Chiba

1. Shopping Center, "Cone," in Chiba

2. My first puri-kura this time in Japan

3. Okonomiyaki

4. Arcade

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I am such a foreigner!

I just want to start the entry by saying, "I WAS DYING IN THAT PICTURE!" OMG, never, ever, ever make Stephanie kneel or sit, Indian-style, to eat. We may look happy in the picture because we just got there and was delighted at this whole Japanese-style seating. A minute later, we were all in pain.

You'd think I wouldn't stand out when everyone has dark hair and "yellow" skin like me. Guess again. I went to a tourist area, Akihabara (electronic town) in Tokyo. Somehow, the Chinese guy who was giving out flyers spotted me TWICE! He just picked me out from the crowd and asked if I was Chinese in Mandarin. I passed by him for the 2nd time that day, and he found me, AGAIN! This time, I was looking down (unintentionally). They know!! It's because I smell Chinese, lemme tell ya! Lol.

Oh my, my manner is horrible. Once, the banker was returning my passport with 2 hands; because my other hand was looking for my cell phone, I received it with one hand. His eye contact that split second afterwards (literally) gave it away! They are too nice to give you the stare-down, but argh! It was too late when I realized what I had done.

At last, I would like to conclude that I blew my nose 10x in my Japanese class. After my 6th time, I remember that it is rude to blow your nose in public (no matter how discretely you do it).

P.S. Angela would have been damned if she was here.

No More Tampons?

1. Talking on your cell phone is not allowed on subways. It must be off or on vibrate. There is a "manner mode" button on my cell phone. By "not allow," I don't mean the "No Eating" signs you see on New York buses. It is strictly enforced (culturally).

2. In Japan, the drying machines are useless. If you dry a 1/4 filled load 4 times, it will still be damp. This explains why Japanese appliances are not as popular as their electronics in the United States.

3. To my surprise, making calls on your cell phone practically does not exist. As oppose to Hong Kong, everyone holds a cell phone, talking to it (literally). It is quite normal for a person to own 2 or more cell phones. In Japan, Cell phones are used to have 1-minute conversations or to write email and cmail/txt msg. Phone plans are extremely expensive. For example, my plan gives me only 50 free minutes a month. There is no such thing as free night or free weekend minutes. Fortunately, incoming calls are free, so call all you want!

4. In the entire supermarket, I found only one kind and one brand of tampons. This is a nightmare, because they aren't cheap.

5. Apparently, opening your newspaper in a V-angle to read on a subway ride is rude. The correct way is to fold your newspaper.

P.S. My cell phone has a GPS system and it reads barcode. I must test it out soon.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Dorm Party (Japanese Style)

It started out strangely. A guy I only know by name, Soushi, invited everyone to the C Building. Without knowing what is going on, we all showed up. In Japan, you don't question a person's friendliness. I helped out by watching him cook (and later carried the food). I was a good helper, let me tell you.

Momentarily, I found out this party was for Soushi's 24th Birthday. (Soushi is the guy who transformed from a chef to a blonde.) In Japan, a guy can always pull off a feminine act. Lots of things are not questioned, including a guy having his eyebrows shaped, the entire male population holding a pretty clear umbrella, etc.

Because the party invitation was so random and unexpected, I did not know what to expect from a party in the dorms at Japan. At first, I thought it was like the suite party back at home. In the end, the party consisted of people standing around, making friends, and eating at the meeting room.

It was as friendly as a party thrown by a school club. There were drinks, food, and snack. In fact, the only alcohol beverage brought to the room was by an American! Then again, I believe Soushi bought wine. Yep, no tv, not spills, no drunks, etc.

Here I am, not drinking alcohol. In fact, it's getting cold, so I bought a bottle of warm milk tea. Here are Evan, me, Desi, and Suvi (Chicago, NY, Indonesia, Finland). My favorite saying is still, "Hi! Stephanie, USA!"

P.S. Question of the Day: What happens when East meets West?

Beer Pong is introduced.
(with clear cups)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Let's back track...

On the last day, I was at the city with Rob. After we got our caramel macchiato from Starbucks, my flip flop broke (again!). I tried to pinch the thong part of the flip flop with my toes to keep it together, I tried to "skate" with the flip flops, and they all failed.

Rob, of course, offered me his shoes, but I didn't want to be Big Foot. He gave me his socks, so I wore them to go to Durane Reade hoping to find flip flops there. In the end, all we found was socks. Thereafter, I double-layered them, and wore them to take the subway back home. (See Picture)

Despite the mishap, I still looked pretty happy. In fact, it was quite fun. =)

Contact Info

011-81-80-6557-7386 (email address for my cell phone)

D-415 6-33-7 Konakadai
Inage-Ku, Chiba-shi, 263-0043

You Know You Are in Japan When...

1. You do the fob sign

2. When she is not a street performer or a beggar, AND she poses for free willingly

3. When you see a group of freaks not going to a Kiss concert

4. When Naruto says "Bye Bye" to you after a picture

5. When this person is not a child molester

6. When everyone has a umbrella that costs $1-$3

7. When you order your meal from a machine

8. When Mont Blanc is a cake

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Week 1

For the 1st week, all I have done is fill out forms. They are all in Japanese, but we get by it. We had to apply for utility, our dorm room, national health insurance, cell phone, alien registration card, student ID, bank account, bicycle parking permit, library's internet access card, and library card. It isn't as simple as one id where it is utilize for everything on campus. I had to use my broken Japanese to apply for various things on campus.

To my surprise, the level of proficiency of the other foreign exchange students is much higher than mine. I live in the international housing in Inage, 20 minutes walk away from the campus (a subway stop away). We are more diverse than New York. The numbers seem to be very proportional. We have people from Hungary, Canada, Russia, Finland, Austria, Australia, America, Indonesia, Taiwan, etc. We also have people from Korean and Mainland China. The last two groups are, of course, segregated into their own group. Mostly, it is due to the fact that everyone else's common language is English but them. There seems to be a "rivalry" for years between the Chinese or Korean and the rest of the group. The two groups interests are too different. For example, they would make complaints towards the others about the noises.

My room is small, but everything is space efficient. I have everything I need and more. I have a shower, a toilet, a sink, a desk, a book shelf, a closet, drawers under the bed, a shoe cabinet, an air conditioner, a BALCONY, and clothes line (because drying machine is expensive here). I live on the 4th floor, and the building does not have an elevator. Therefore, I get quite an exercise. Then again, I got used to it after the first time I climbed those stairs because (since I don't have a bike yet) I have been walking a lot.

Everything is nearby. There is a parking lot for bicycles outside of our building, as well as mailboxes. Across my dormitory, there is a convenience store. (Imagine going to a Japanese snack shop; it's fun.) Within 4 minutes, I have access to dozens of restaurants, 99 yen stores (equivalent of 99 cents), more convenience stores, cell phone stores, etc. Within 6 minutes, there is a train station, McDonald's, coffee shops, a mall, supermarkets, and such. Everything is right where I need them even though I am an hour away from Tokyo.

The Japanese are extremely nice. First day, they carried my 2 EXTREMELY HEAVY luggages 4 flights of stairs. Also, we got a welcome package which included a cup, plates, a knife, and a pair of chopsticks. My most memorable experience is when the cell phone store clerks stayed an hour after the entire mall closed (meaning, all the employees had left besides security guards) to set up our accounts. I remember, lights were going off slowly, one by one. At one point, ALL the lights were closed beside emergency exits. At last, they escorted us outside the building. The story does not end yet. The next day, a new store clerk for that shift was waiting for all of us with our bags of cell phone. I feel as important as a CEO of a company.

We have been eating various Japanese food. I ate ramen noodles, takoyaki, yakiniku (not so sure if I spelled them right), etc. Once, the restaurant clerks must have thought that we were having a business dinner (most people look matured, and we are foreigners). They gave us 1000 yen off of a 18,800 yen bill. I didn't think I would get shocked in the food topic after the birth of "Fear Factor" and stories throughout my whole life about dogs and whatnot. Boy was I wrong. 2 days ago, a group of people ate RAW HORSE MEAT and pregnant fish. The most unusual thing I have eaten is raw tofu. Heh. On a side note, the coffee here is so weak. Ugh!

I have been having various problems setting up a cell phone account. First off, international students don't receive the student discount (which gives you 50% off of your bill). Secondly, I AM A MINOR HERE. Then again, I get buy alcohol legally in December (not that I would). Anyway, each cellular phone stores have been extremely patient. They look like I had just dropped $1,000 everytime I leave the store and wasted half an hour of their time filling out forms. So, I don't really feel badly for lots of things that I normally would in New York. It's their job.

I have a tutor, which is simply a student advisor. Her name is Haru. I feel like a giant when I am around her. I feel normal when I am with the international students. However, when I am alone with another Japanese girl, I feel like a giant. Mostly, it is because their bone structure is so small. She is extremely nice. Every now and then, she would invite me to lunch. Then again, I was heartbroken 2 days ago when I found out that she gets paid by the school. Now, I don't feel so badly to ask her for help.

As for my language skill... Throughout the summer, I have been asked what my proficiency is. I always answered, "I can get around." Speaking Japanese is harder than I thought. Although I have been "getting around," it is not until a day or two ago did I get used to it. It takes some skill to ask for a mosquito anti-itchy ointment and to apply for a cell phone in Japanese all by myself. I have been more willing to speak Japanese. At the same time, I speak English a lot (which is not a good thing).

I thought it was hard for me to go "hee" or "kawaii" or other typical "words" that we recognize in New York from a native Japanese. Then again, I realize how easy it is to become "fobby". Within a few days, I have been saying "Bye-Bye" with a Japanese accent. It's inevitable. It's like if everyone starts saying, "sup?", you would, too.

It takes a lot for me to be "shocked," because I have experienced lots of things previously in Japan. Moreover, I was well-prepared for them by learning about it and such.

Oh, the yen system sucks!! With all the different measurement (temperature, currency, etc.), it will take some time to get used to. There are way too many coins in Japanese currency. If coins are dropped in a puddle of dirty water in NY subway, you leave it. If you drop yens, you pick them up!!! You never know how much money there are in those coins you dropped because there are 500 yen coins ($5).

As for the last topic, I would like to talk about how I am always reminded of Japanese horror films. First of all, every place in Japanese reminds me of one or another Japanese horror film. Mostly, it is because I saw a handful of them in the past year. For example, the lights in my hallway and stairwell is censored. It reminds me of the "Grudge." It is quite frightening to walk up the stairs in the pitch dark for 2 seconds before the lights automatically flicks on. My balcony definitely reminds me of "The Ring" (1 or 2). Fortunately, I don't get frightened; I simply recall movie scenes every now and then.

Bye now, I must go buy myself a new bicycle. I never knew how skillful I must have to be to ride a bicycle. People are every where, and streets are narrow. Moreover, I haven't figured out if I am supposed to stay on the left or the right, because the bicycles are every where.

P.S. There are 2 pidgeons that visit my balcony every morning. I believe they are a couple~