I'm getting way behind on these blog things. I don't know if I'll really try to do them "daily" the whole semester, but I would certainly like for each day to be adventurous enough!
Anyway, I'll start where I left off last time, having planned to go to the ward office on Wednesday. Emil and I were planning to get drinks from the vending machine near the entry hall, to eat with a quick meal before trekking off to the ward office, when we ran into Joanna. Turns out she was headed to the ward office right then, since it wouldn't be open for too long. That sounded like a great plan, so we all went together. Thank God, really, because she was much better prepared than us, having the address and phone number for the dorm written down and everything. We probably would have been in huge trouble without her!
Anyway, we found the train and made it to the station, and were wandering around not quite sure if we were going the right direction before asking for help. Turns out all we had to do was turn around (literally) and it was there. So, having finally found the place, we got that taken care of and grabbed dinner at a little restaurant nearby. I got "chinese style ramen (chuuka raamen) with gyoza" for very cheap (maybe $5) and it was basically amazing.
Okay, moving on! The next day (Thursday), I woke up around 6 without an alarm (yay jetlag?), and went walking around Hiyoshi in the rain to find a violin shop I'd seen on the internet. Long story short, I couldn't find it. Google maps gave me several locations for the address (I had a couple different versions from different websites talking about the same shop, and used both japanese and english google), but I didn't see the place in any. Disappointed but not discouraged, I returned to the dorm. Emil and I ate a quick breakfast of leftover sandwiches (Mrs. Kikuoka packed them up for us!) and some Meiji chocolate covered almonds (which they also gave us). Super healthy, right? Yeah, well....
Emil and I met up with Joanna again for our commute to Keio. The directions said it would take 40-50 minutes, so we gave ourselves an hour. Of course, we managed to get semi-lost, trying to figure out where we needed to transfer (turns out that we actually didn't, because the express train continues where the local train end-of-lines, who would of thought?), and arrived 30 minutes late. Fortunately, they were doing introductions, having people come up by college and give their name, dorm, and so on, so we hadn't missed anything. After that, we went on "tour" that failed because there were more people than they were used to. Basically we got herded around like sheep while the tour guides tried desperately to speak above the hum. I don't think I heard more than one in every five things they tried to tell us. (Apparently they decided to cut parts of the tour half-way in because there of the too many people problem). The tour left us in the cafeteria, where Joanna and I ordered "katsu karee," which is curry, rice, and a piece of tonkatsu, or fried pork.
It was yum. Yes.
I'll give you some time to process that. A school cafeteria with tasty food. CHEAP, tasty food. Go ahead and take your time processing that, I can wait!
Okay, so at lunch we met lots of people, all of whose names I could never hope to remember (I'm so bad with names, sorry!), but I will mention Nick Tan because he joined up with us (in the next paragraph) and basically saved our lives.
After lunch, we decided to open up our bank accounts, which they require to pay for housing, so we went to the SMBC (Sumitomo Mitsui... something something. Shhh.). We found several other Keio exchange students and formed a big group trying to open accounts. It was fun times. Nick sort of became the leader, being our spokesperson and helping to translate for those in our group who spoke less Japanese. This was great, because even if I can understand quite a bit, I'm awful at Kanji, and there was lots of that on the forms! Apparently banks close super early in Japan (3PM-- what the heck?) so we didn't have time to pick up our bank books (Except for Joanna. I guess she's special.), and decided to do that before orientation the next day.
After we got that done, went into Shibuya (Nick was a big help here, as well; he seems to "get" the train system) to get cell phones. We heard that the Softbank there was the best deal, and being poor college students, we were all for the inexpensive option. At Shibuya, I had my first real "Woah, I'm in Japan" moment, when crossing the big intersection there-- I think this is "the" big intersection that people talk about (when talking about such things). All the people rushing by as we fought our own way through, the tall buildings with flashy signs, the many snatches of Japanese conversation-- Yes, I realized, I am actually in Japan.
So anyway, after what was literally 3 or 4 hours, we got our phones. That sounds awful, but my only real complaint was a headache (though it was pretty bad). First of all, because of this special student deal, the phone was free. Also, part of the fee for the plan was waved. Also, calls from Softbank to Softbank are free from 1AM to 9PM. Also, texts/mails between Softbank are always free. Also, the phone is amazing (8.1 megapixel camera, TV, etc. etc. etc.). Also, Nick got a black Wii and a digital photo frame basically free.
The catch on that last one is that he'll have to pay an additional 9000yen ($90, roughly) cancellation fee (above the $90 cancellation fee for the phone itself). Still, $90 for a Wii? Not a bad deal at all! The trick here is that they originally offered us a Wii and a PSP if all four of us got that photo frame (It's an additional 4$ per month because it has a SIM card and you can mail photos to it from your phone, but they gave it free). Not the "and," not "or." Also, note that it's the actual system, not just games or something. We were about to do that, when she explained about the additional cancellation fee, so we backed out. But, they seemed to be really interested in pushing that frame, so they said they'd give us the Wii if just some of us got it. Nick wanted it, but the rest of us weren't interested (Emil and I, at least, have a Wii already). Finally, they agreed to give it if just Nick got it. I don't get it, but none of us complained.
There was actually quite a wide variety of phones, and though not all were as amazing as mine, few were "cheap-o" as you'd expect for free. Actually, there was another that we might have preferred (it had GPS navigation!), but they were out of stock-- not surprising, considering it was free. We all got the same phone, but with different colors, and we picked phone numbers that matched except for the last digit. Fun times!
All in all, I left having paid only 1120 yen, for the phone charger. The monthly fee is 315yen (somewhere between $3 and $4 I guess), plus some charges if you use internet on the phone, for a max of about $45. Oh yeah, and they gave us an extra gift of some folders and note paper and the like. Isn't that just the most amazing thing ever?
Anyway, though Nick doesn't live in Shimoda with us, he lives at Hiyoshi International House, which is also near the Hiyoshi Station, so he went home with us. Let me tell you, this train was CROWDED. I don't know that any of the infamous packers were involved, but it felt like it. I got shoved into a really awkward position where I felt like I was doing some sort of Michael Jackson pose so I wouldn't fall over into the person sitting down in front of me. It was nuts.
Safely back at Hiyoshi, we went to a really small place along the way to Shimoda called (I think) Gasuto, which is maybe supposed to mean Gusto. You order from vending machine and get a ticket which you hand to the workers. The place is basically just a bar with stools, and the kitchen behind. It was super fast (I'm talking, it could compete with McDonalds), and it was delicious and filling. I ordered something like "karubi teishoku", which came with thin sliced beef grilled with onions (Think bulgogi), rice, miso soup, and this salad thing-- all for 490yen.
To top off this wonderful red letter day, my luggage was waiting when I got back to the dorm.
Alright. I think I'll post about today in a new post, because this one has gone on for long enough.