Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kogakuin Daigaku

Study Abroad in Japan can be so difficult because we are in, well, Japan! 
A Japan-Dance Party!

It seems more like a vacation, but we are, in fact, here to work. Nothing said that more to me than a trip upstairs in the building where we hold classes.

I stumbled upon faculty offices and labs, and since they were in Romanji, I decided to share a sampling of some of the departments they have at Kogakuin University.

I’m going to let these pictures tell the story of academics here at KU, which is famous for its architecture, science, and engineering programs. J
Social Science Research Laboratory

Makino Mathematics Laboratory

Sunday, October 26, 2014


I see things this year. Different things. Not dead people. That would be too interesting, by far! But I am seeing Japan with new eyes, and I wasn’t really expecting that to happen in such a fun way. I decided to make a list:

·      Joggers—last year, I was jogging in the US before I came to Japan, so Icontemplated jogging in my spare time, but since I didn’t have any spare time, it was a short contemplation. I did look for joggers in my Nikonokami-machi neighborhood to see if, on the off chance I ever did decide to jog, I’d b the only one. I would have been, almost. I saw maybe three joggers in the eleven weeks I was there, and they looked like jogging pained them in cruel and unusual ways. All three of them, whom I saw on different occasions, drug their feet, sweated profusely, and panted as though they’d never catch their breath.

This is not my photo. I snagged it from

This year, I see real joggers in my Inume-machi neighborhood. They are dressed the part in sweats and jogging shoes, and they really move! It’s so different, that I wonder if I’m in the same town. Well, I am, but a different neighborhood, and that, my dear Watson, makes all the difference.

·      Romanji, which is writing in English alphabet and something I was  constantly looking for, last year. I did see it on the buses and trains, but hardly ever in the grocery store, but this year, I see Romanji everywhere on signs and packaging, and I wonder how I missed it last. Granted, last year everything was brand new, and I was too busy trying not to by fabric softener instead of laundry detergent! (This happened to some students, and they were not happy campers!)

·      Babies and toddlers—I saw them last year, but this year’s crop really takes the kuwaii-cute cake! The babies are strapped to mom’s everywhere we go, and they are all so happy, well most of the time. The little toddlers get to do what their parents want to do but don’t because they (the parents) are too polite, namely—stare. When I catch a cute-pie toddler staring, I say, konnichiwa and wave. They sometimes wave back, but the parent’s always smile in appreciation. I mean heck, they know their kids are frickin’ adorable! 

·      Shinjuku Station—the largest train station in the world, the one in which I found myself separated from my group but found my destination, in spite of being a Shinjuku-dyslexic. I left last year without ever really feeling comfortable with my navigation skills in the nine-underground levels.

This year, I can find my way out of the Keio Line, West Gate entrance, to Kinokuniya, my fave bookstore, Isetan and Odakyu (fabulous department stores where I can afford to drool but not shop) and back again! Not only that, I can create a route using the subways from Shinjuku and really get lost, I mean have an adventure and get myself back home. J

There are other things besides this short list that I feel like I missed last year, like folding bikes, great clothes and shoe stores with reasonable prices.

            Next year I’ll probably be aware of a whole new set of things. (Yes, I’m coming back in 2015!) I’m starting to recognize hiragana characters, and hopefully by next year, I’ll be able to read those darned laundry detergent bottles and make sure I’ve got suds instead of softener. J

Friday, October 24, 2014

Care Packages

What’s better than a letter? A package! Especially one from my daughter filled with birthday goodies. You know, the kind of things you don’t really need, but you want.

So the adventure begins with a note in your mailbox. Last year the note had no Romanji, only Japanese characters. This year’s package was sent FedEx (That’s right, son. Your sister is loyal!), and they include English on their forms for those of us who are staying abroad! 

I was able to call and reschedule delivery all by myself, without involving the entire post office, like last year. J

Then the box is delivered, and it’s a sight to behold! What’s inside? To get the answer required a pair of scissors and a modicum of patience, but I was rewarded!

I’ve wanted a bar of soap that doesn’t make my armpits itchy! The lavender bar my daughter sent just might clear up that issue. J

I’ve wanted scented candles, and I finally found some at Daiso, but wow. Fruity and flowery is not really my thing. I like lavender and that’s what my daughter sent me. J

Salmon jerky was not on my list, but it was in the box. LOL! I’ll give it a try. J

Bath salts were on my list, and for that “Tusan tak! (Norwegian for a thousand thanks!) After our field trip days that are ten and twelve hours long sometimes, I love to soak in the tub, wishing I had salts to help ease the aches away. So, arigato gozaimasu!

There were little chocolates and little mints and little bottles of lotion and little tins of chocolate nibs, all the lovely things that make a birthday special.

I love the care package, and I love the spirit in which it was sent, and oh yes, I did find the card several hours after I’d eaten the chocolate, lit the candle, and soaked in a wonderfully scented bath.

Thanks, Sine! I love you. J

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Letters from Japan

I brought a list of address that I hastily threw together in a word doc just before I departed for Japan this year. Last year I wrote to my sister and my daughter, and that only because I asked them for addresses electronically!

Most of my messages travel electronically, not air mail, but I love to sit and ponder things I’d like to put in a letter or on a post card to my friends and family so far away.

It wasn’t too long ago that letter writing or a postcard was the only way to communicate while traveling, but with wifi prevalent where ever you go, all you need is a remote router and you’re in business.

My students are all in business, wifi business I should say, while I’m still writing post cards! I have wifi, but only if I’m on campus. Every one of the student apartments has pitched in to rent a remote router. I will have that little enterprise figured out in the next week or two, but next year, I’ll have a remote router by the time I leave Narita Airport!

I will still bring my list of addresses, though, and next year, the list will be even longer. It’s week four, and I’ve already written to everyone, and some people twice!

It’s not like I don’t have anything to do over here, but in the evenings when the crickets are chirping and the sun is setting, I like to think of my family and friends in the US. I imagine what they’ll think when they get the post card, and if they’ll notice how beautiful the stamp is this year?

Is letter writing a dying art? I hope not!

Here’s a haiku that I wrote to end a couple of the post cards with (yes, I reuse my haiku!).

The golden sun rose,
blue sky peeking through soft, white
clouds, as I ambled.