We’re Not Through Orientating Yet!

 Japan, Japanese Language  Comments Off on We’re Not Through Orientating Yet!
Oct 062011

More orientation today, and the 入学式 (nyuugakushiki, or school entrance ceremony.)

We got a lot of info about various things, what to do, what not to do, and we introduced ourselves in Japanese.

What I said before about this being the UN of Japanese Language Education? I’m serious. We have a bunch of different countries represented here. It’s very cool.

And of course everyone has to speak Japanese. Unlike most of the rest of the world, instead of English, Japanese is the lingua franca here, which is awesome for me, because I really need to get better at speaking it. Even if I’m just stumbling and fumbling trying to do aimless chit-chat with my classmates, even if they’re my Fellow Americans, I need to do it in Japanese.

How cool is that? (Okay, you may not think it’s cool, but I do.) I’m totally getting my money’s worth!

Then we had all of the formal introductions and attendant ceremonies that go along with a Japanese school entrance ceremony from the faculty and staff. It was educational. The folks here are really nice, and go out of their way to make you feel welcome.

When we were done, we could go to the main building (Yamasa II) and check the board to see what classes we were in. I’m in class 201, which means I’m somewhere in Yamasa’s intermediate level. That’s about right. My abilities are all over the place, so in the intermediate level classes, I can polish the stuff I’m weak at, and reinforce the stuff I already know.

It won’t be easy by any stretch.

I also had to pay a large amount of money for my rent for the next three months. That was painful, but still pretty cheap compared to living in other places… okay, none of them are really coming to mind.

Then again, I requested a single apartment with a bed, and those are the most expensive apartments. But I can’t do futons at all. They kill my back. There’s no way I could sleep on a futon for 3 months. So I consider part of my rent as “bed rental” and a “being left alone from an annoying roommate fee.” I’m totally okay with that.

If you want to go to Yamasa to study and you don’t mind communal living, and you can handle futons, you can save a fair amount of cash by staying in the dorms or in the older shared apartments.

JBPP or not JBPP?

I had an interview exam for the Japanese for Business and Professional Purposes program (JBPP) as well. One of the main reasons I wanted to study here was because I really want to work on my professional/business Japanese. I want to be able to roll those long, complicated sonkeigo and kenjogo phrases off of my tongue with no hesitation whatsoever.

And I want to make sure I don’t make an idiot out of myself in business situations.

So when I found out that Yamasa had a business-oriented program as well, I was stoked.

The interview test was kind of nerve-wracking, because I’ve already had an interview with S-sensei, who gave me the interview exam for the overall placement test. He knows how rough my spoken Japanese is at times. But he’s a good teacher, and a really nice guy.

He said that they’re going to let me participate in the JBPP. I’m relieved. It’s one of the main reasons I came here. If I couldn’t participate, I don’t know what I would have done.

I also got to meet my future JBPP classmates. There are only four of us, but everyone is nice, and way better at speaking than I am.

After all of that, I headed home.

Class starts tomorrow. Can’t wait!

Back in Okazaki!

 Japan, Japanese Language, Travel  Comments Off on Back in Okazaki!
Sep 292011

Today I made it back to Okazaki and Yamasa again.

I got up early, and grabbed a shinkansen, the Nozomi from Tokyo to Nagoya.

I could have grabbed it in Shinagawa, which would have made more sense, but I know the way to Tokyo Station better, and I didn’t want to get lost and miss my train.

For those of you who don’t know, there are 3 kinds of shinkansen (what we Americans call “bullet trains”) that run on the Tokaido Line from Tokyo to Nagoya, and on to Osaka and points further West.

First, there’s the Kodama. It stops just about everywhere. It’s fast in that it’s faster than an ordinary train, but it’s slow, because it stops a lot. It’s handy if you live in a biggish small town, but it’s not the way to get anywhere really big in a hurry.

Next there’s the Hikari, which stops at fewer places, and is a lot faster. (And more expensive.) This is the train you take if you’re using a JR pass, or if you’re on a budget.

Then there’s the Nozomi, which is just a rocket on rails. It barely stops for anything, and I think it goes around 270-300 Km/h or so. I know that I got from Tokyo to Nagoya in about a little less than 2 hours. The downside is that it’s not cheap.

Another downside: you can’t use it for free if you’re on a JR pass.

Arriving in Nagoya, With Just Enough Time to Change Trains

I grabbed a Nozomi to Nagoya, and got there in a jiffy, then grabbed a variant of a limited express to Okazaki. That bit took about 30 minutes or so.

I was feeling adventurous, so I rode in the front of the train and watched out the front of the car. I don’t know why, but I like to do that.

It’s interesting to watch all of the hand gestures that the engineers, conductors, and construction workers use. I saw something about that on TV a while back. Apparently, it improves safety if you force your employees to confirm each action they’re supposed to take with a specific hand gesture. As long as I get there safely, I’m all for it. It doesn’t look silly if it saves lives.

I got to Okazaki at around 11:50, and got picked up with my 2 monstrous suitcases and was whisked over to the school. It’s a pretty short walk from the station if you’re not carrying 100 lbs of luggage, but add the luggage, and the distance suddenly seems much bigger.

Since everyone was at lunch, I had to wait a while. Bad timing on my part. Fortunately, there were a few people hanging around in the Customer Service department who could take care of me and get me processed. We got my room sorted out (Villa 5, yay!), and then I got a ride to my new digs.

I Get to Stay Here? Really?

As far as temporary apartments go, this one is very nice. It’s a studio-style apartment that’s been very recently built. It’s Japanese-style, but with a bed. (Thank God.) I love Japan, but I can’t handle futons. Last time I was here, I had excruciating futon-induced back spasms. Thankfully, there are some apartments here with western-style beds.

It was also built to take a magnitude 8.5 earthquake. That’s reassuring.

After a few minutes to unload and freshen up, it was back to campus for my first private lesson at 1:40, followed by a CALL seminar at 2:40. It was challenging and a fun to get back in the saddle, as it were.

By then, I was pretty much starving. I staggered over to the Mini Stop to get some food, then spent the rest of the day figuring out the apartment.

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