April 8, 2006

End of first week

Day 4 - went with a group to Okazaki City Hall, a great big block of beaurocracy, to apply for my alien registration card and National health insurance. The trip highlighted for me the ubiquitous use of cartoon characters in this country, which are used abundantly in everything from public service announcements and warnings to advertising billboards. For example, City Hall was full of posters featuring cute cartoon characters reminding you of the importance of health insurance, instructing you about beaurocratic procedures, etc.

Whilst there, I tried my first canned coffee (pre-heated coffee in cans or cartons that is bought from vending machines). They tend to be pretty nasty - lukewarm and pre-loaded with cream and sugar - and thus are quite addictive.

Day 5 - welcoming ceremony in the morning, followed by orientation seminar, which cleared up a few points. It also brought into focus just how intense the course will be - the usual weekday
will consist of 6 50-minute lessons, running from 9am to 3:30pm, with 10-min breaks in between and 40 minutes for lunch. On top of this one is typically expected to do about 3 hrs of self-study a night. 3 hours!!!!! I didn't do that much a week during my degree!! This will be my last homework-free weekend. Oh yes, and the classes are conducted entirely in Japanese.

We were also given the lowdown on Okazaki's mind-meltingly complex garbage management system. Allegedly Okazaki was the last big Japanese city to implement a recycling program, so to save face the mayor evidently came up with the most thorough system he could devise, which requires residents to sort trash into no less than 6 seperate categories (paper, PET bottles, burnable, non-burnable etc.). All recyclable bottles, food containers etc must be rinsed clean; labels and caps must be removed from bottles and placed into the appropriate category; and a whole host of other incredibly anal rules. While this is of course admirable from an ecological standpoint and I'm happy to do it, from a practical standpoint it is completely insane. We have been issued with a 24-page brochure (replete with more cartoon characters) that explains everything, I shall spend tomorrow poring it over.

Sakura (cherry blossom) season is in full swing here - the TV news is full of reports about it, and the drunken parties that typically accompany it.

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A party for new arrivals was held in the evening, and involved eating and drinking outside under the campus sakura trees, followed by rather too many pints of Guinness (well, for me anyway) in the campus bar. There are about 30 English speakers amongst the new intake so it was good to speak and hear some English after 5 days of Nihongo. Great to get to know some of my fellow students, and a good time was had by all, especially it seems by the Swedish contingent who drank even more than I did.

Day 6 - not much to do, really. My neighbor and I walked alllll the way out to Yamada Denki (electrical store) to hunt for plug adapters. Naturally they didn't have any. We found a little shrine on the way home. Could've been considered very tranquil if it weren't for the adjacent main road.

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A group of us are going to attempt to go for dinner somewhere tonight, which should be interesting...


Phil T,  April 13, 2006 5:03 AM  

Eeek. I may have accidentaly reported one of your images of big stones as 'offensive/adult content'. Sorry. I need a new mouse/hand/clicking finger!

Dave,  April 13, 2006 7:13 PM  

Canned Nescafe is the shit.

Please furnish us with scans of the crazy recyling leaflet :)

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