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How To Get Internet in Japan: An Illustrated Guide for Exchange Students Living in Miyano

This is how I get my internet in Japan. To get the ethernet cable up and over the balcony, I was up at 7am one morning, in my pajamas, trying to lasso the thing over the railing while some Japanese schoolchildren watched as it invariably came back down and hit me on the head several times before it successfully lodged itself between the rails. Win.

I ‘ve asked around, and this strange method is apparently the same in all six houses like mine that house the exchange students. I don’t know why no one has gotten a cheap wireless router. I’m sure it’d only cost the equivalent of $40 or so. I’m going to investigate later.

Grocery Shopping in Japan

From what I’ve seen during my two days of shopping for groceries here, I’ve come to realize that fruit in Japan is a tad pricey. However, this melon really takes the cake (ha ha). This is just a plain ol’ canteloupe. Back home in Canada it would probably cost me $5. In Japan, this plain little ol’ melon costs $30. And I’ve been told that’s a ‘good price’.  If someone brings you a melon, you better do like five hundred bows to them. I love the little melon rings they sit in. It’s like they’re on tiny podiums.

Other than the fruit, shopping at your local grocery store is largely the same. One thing I noticed is that there is more unwrapped fish and seafood here are all laid out for you to touch and take, whereas in Nova Scotia all our unwrapped seafood is usually behind a counter, and you have to ask someone to give you what you want.

I like brown rice tea (genmaicha), so I was unsurprised to learn I like brown rice bread (genmaipan). What we think of as multigrain or whole wheat bread is non-existant in Japan (unless you go to fancy European-style bakeries), so I’ve been eating this brown rice bread in its place, and it’s so good. If you know the ‘toasty’ taste that genmaicha has, it’s kind of like that… in bread form. Mmm.

The only milk available is usually full-fat milk. I’ve been told that skimmed milk, as well as other percentages are very unusual here in Japan. You might find them in a larger city, but certainly not in little Miyano’s grocery store.

Bizarre uses of English

There are of course many funny uses of English that would never make it to market in English. Seachicken, Creap, and Sand Rolls. I’ve actually seen ‘sand’ used as an abbreviation for sandwich a few times on different product, so heads-up if you’re in Japan and looking for food, ‘sand’ doesn’t necessarily mean grainy rock particles found at the beach.

So much fun food here. Looking forward to discovering even more!

Orange Egg Yolks

Orange egg yolks. Oh, Japan…you and your little quirks.

According to this chef on Yahoo Answers, it’s because of the different diet/breeds of chickens in Japan; and also because they don’t use any antibiotics while raising their poultry… he seemed to know what he was talking about, so I’ll buy it.

I made it to Yamaguchi! With power!

This is the clever system of plugs I’m using to run power to my laptop in my new home in Japan. 

Conveniently (unlike Cuba) the voltage in Japan is actually lower than in Canada, so if you plug something in you don’t have to worry about it blowing up without a power converter. On the downside, things like laptops and cell phone take a little bit longer to charge, and your hairdryer probably won’t get as hot as it would in Canada. Japanese plug sizes are juuuuuust different enough to make plugging thing in a bit tricky. In this case, my mac laptop’s cable has a grounding prong that Japanese outlets aren’t built for (Japanese outlets are just two small, straight rectangles, which would fit most small-sized Canadian plugs without grounders).

My solution was to sort of squeeze my two prongs into a thin outlet adaptor that lets my grounding prong hang outside the actual outlet. Convenient? You betcha. Safe? … yet to be seen. Let’s just say I won’t be leaving my mac plugged in during any electrical storms.  Tetris skill level: master.

I’ve arrived in the city of Yamaguchi after taking the JR train line from Tokyo Station.

The neighbourhood that I’m staying in is called Miyano, and my school (Yamaguchi Prefectural University) is just around the corner, about a five-minute walk.  Yamaguchi is a relatively small city with about 197,000 inhabitants.  Miyano is on the northeastern outskirts and was actually its own village until it amalgamated with the city of Yamaguchi in 1941.  It’s nice to be in a more rural area – much different than busy Tokyo! My neighbour grows radishes. Here’s the room I’ll be staying in, and the view from my deck.

I’m happy to report that cherry blossoms have already begun to bloom, despite the fact that it’s still pretty chilly at night.

First Night in Tokyo

 

20+ hours of travel later, touchdown in my hostel bed! Tokyo before 22! Life goal: satisfied.

After feeling super claustrophobic during the last two hours of the 14-hour flight I somehow got directions from a nice security person at the airport and made my way into downtown Tokyo.

After that I got into a taxi and sacrificed a lot of Google Maps data while trying to find HI Tokyo Central Youth Hostel near Iidabashi where I had booked a room for the night.

Even though the hostel was super close to the underground station, I wandered around for about half an hour trying to find it. Due to tired-ness (and Canadian-ness) it never occurred to me that maybe I should look… up.

It turned out I walked past my hostelfour or five times. It was on the 18th floor and I had been looking for it at ground level. Welcome to Tokyo.

A kind taxi driver helped me figure this out. With his white gloves he took the address I wrote down and the Google Maps on my iPhone. With no real English (and me no Japanese) he managed to drive me to the right building and tell me to go up. Communication is an amazing thing.

Even better? He didn’t charge me a cent. Super nice guy.

After checking in to my hostel, that’s when the real excitement started.

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My first night in Japan and I already got to try one of these. The best feature of which is by far the heated seat option. I was too nervous to try the butt spray.

My hostel also didn’t have any western-style private showers, so I got to experience full-on public bathing the first night. Wow. Hi Japan, I’m Mel. Um… I guess you’ve seen me now? “Try and act casual,” said my brain, to which my other brain responded, “I’m not casually naked in public much. I think we’re going to have to practice this a few times.”

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