It’s funny how at the beginning of the week I was really scared I wouldn’t have much to write about. I spend most of my time either in class or on trains that 5 out of the 7 days of the week are pretty uneventful actually. But I was proven wrong!
Last Sunday I met up with an old friend from high school and went to a Shouwa Jidai (Shōwa Period) themed Izakaya for a light dinner. Not only was one of the featured food items frog legs (which really do taste just like chicken by the way) but I ended up making a huge mistake on one of the food items: raw chicken. Torisashi is a legitimate food item.
It’s kind of like sashimi but chicken…and on a stick. My friend told me it was safe to eat, and it probably is for most people. But I was so sick this week with food poisoning, it was horrible!
I ended up getting a taste of how going to the doctor in Japan works. I went to the doctor in Kyoto last year, but with the Japanese National Health Insurance it’s much different. It was actually a quick in-and-out visit and I got the medicine I needed. Not exactly a happy part of my week, but at least I can now brag to people and say that I ate frog legs and Torisashi all in one night!
Another thing about being sick is that if people see you and you’re sick, they treat you like you’re the plague itself! That’s why I was stuck wearing a face mask on public transit for a week. In America, that would just be creepy. In Japan, people wear face masks for all sorts of reasons. There are even fancy facemasks for women who wear makeup, amongst other things. Some are even sold in Harajuku as a fashion statement.
Speaking of food, not all food in Japan is strange. A lot of it is different, but not as strange as raw chicken. In fact, my favorite part of Japan has always been the sweets. Cake shops and ice cream shops are the best. Japanese cakes are light and fluffy, so when you eat them you don’t feel like you just ate a stick of butter. I found the best ice cream store in Shinjuku station when I got lost there (I always get lost there).
They have a specific selection of pricy ice cream dishes that are worth every penny. When it’s in stock, I will get the rose ice cream when I am waiting around Shinjuku station for a friend.
Another thing I ate in Shinjuku was omurice. Another thing I love about Japan is that they will take western foods and make them even better! I love omurice as it is and I have had it before coming to Japan. But I was really happy to have found this shop near Shinjuku station (I hang around Shinjuku station a lot if you haven’t noticed). I will go to Takadanobaba, a college town, to try the Shirokuma Cafe menu. I will also be going to Tokyo Game Show next weekend, so I will have even more to say about stuff like that in the next blog!
So about life, outside of my food choices. I have recalculated the time of my morning commute and it’s about 2 hours including walking. Sometimes I may end up taking up to 4 trains, if I am going the normal route. I one time ended up taking 6 trains home because of where I tried to go home from.
My train station is actually pretty cool. There is an indoor ice skating rink, game center, florist, Mr. Donut (the best donuts in the world), Karaoke, a million vending machines, and much, much more. Many of the train stations have their own little things there actually.
Shinjuku station has at least two department stores, Ikebukuro station has coffee shops, Shibuya station has restaurants and other things, etc. Train stations are a pretty big deal here and will actually determine the price of most housing.
Another interesting thing is how anal Japan is about their trash. Most trash bins have multiple openings for different types of trash. Cans, plastic (non-burnables), burnables, “pet-bottles” (plastic bottles), normal trash, and sometimes even a separate place to put bottle caps. I always thought of Tokyo as a clean version of Manhattan if Manhattan included all the suburbs and rest of New York City in one place, and it really is. You do not eat or drink in public or on trains. Really, you don’t want to…because even though you have these nicely organized trash bins, it’s incredibly difficult to actually find them!
In terms of classes, I don’t think anything is really different or new. TUJ is an international school; however, I’d like to point out one thing. Even though the classes I take are fully taught in English, it’s so strange how everything is always brought back to Japan as an example. It’s difficult to explain, but when topics are neutral (in terms of culture), main examples and ways of explaining things always have something to do with Japan and Japanese culture. Luckily I am no stranger to Japanese culture, but I can imagine it being difficult for someone who does not know much to understand the references.
Anyways, this weekend and the rest of the week should pick up a bit. I have papers coming up and some personal adventures to embark on.