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Becoming a Student

2008 June 13

Yesterday was a pretty great day. I slept in a little late (until 10), then woke up and checked my email to find a message from Prof. Miura, my supervisor here on campus. I got a good scolding for not contacting her immediately when I moved in, but she mentioned a class at 10:30 that I was welcome to attend, so I thought I’d run to that and apologize to her in person. I was the first one there, and she was pleased to see me, so at least that went well. The class was an advanced reading study for non-native students; in addition to the fellow W&M student I meet there, there were three Chinese girls, one from Holland, one from Vietnam, one from Thailand, and a guy from Rwanda. The first half of the class is devoted to studying a news article, so we read a piece on the Akiba incident; then we started on a novel called Kitchen which is written in a fairly simple style. The news portion of the class makes use of a site called Reading Tutor which seems really useful; unfortunately, it looks like it’s going to be pretty tough for me to get an internet access ID for campus lab computers, since I’m not pulling credits at the school, but Ben from W&M seems perfectly willing to let me look on with him. Ben explained a lot of useful campus info to me, including how the cafeteria works. The school has set blocks of class time, but everyone has the same hour blocked off for lunch, so the cafeteria is only open during that time. It’s apparently pretty crowded, so a lot of people wait and go later on in the period.

After class I had a couple hours to myself, and then I went to meet with Prof. Okazawa about my project. Unfortunately, his English is not as good as I had hoped; he hadn’t read the project summary I sent him over and over last month, so I had to try a mixture of Japanese and simple English to explain the idea, and then I had to explain again when Prof. Miura joined us. I’m a little disappointed that it took me this long to find out he didn’t read the English-language document Miura asked me to send him; I think he got three copies total of it from me and Prof. Kato at W&M and never responded to any of them to at least say, “I don’t understand; could you translate this?” My written Japanese is much better than my speaking skills, and I could have gotten Kato to help me translate. At any rate, we came up with a basic plan of attack, which is for me to view as much Japanese art as possible and then figure out what will be most useful for my analysis. My first assignment is visiting the modern art museum and checking out some local pottery shops – both things I’m okay with, especially the modern art museum, since there’s a Ron Mueck exhibit there that I’d love to see. I walked by with Mrs. Hashiba a couple times, but she wasn’t so interested in modern art; I think I probably saw half of what Okazawa would like me to be exposed to with her, but he’s got a couple artist contacts that I can meet with, so that should be cool. After that there’s apparently a book about the use of color in the Tale of Genji that should be very interesting, although it might only be available in Japanese, and I’ll also look at the ancient Japanese five-element classification of the world and what associations the colors involved in that pick up.

Pictures from yesterday night are up on my Flickr page; you can see some here on the sidebar. Asami is a senior here whom I met in March when Prof. Miura brought a few of her students to W&M for a week; she’s super-nice and organized a group of her friends, including several exchange students, to go for okonomiyaki last night. お好み焼き basically means “whatever you choose, fried” (好 is the character for “like” – it’s a woman and a child, because women love their children, see! – and 焼き I guess is fried or baked, as anyone whose watched the hilarious anime series Yakitate!! Japan, about bread-baking, should know.)

Asami told me we were meeting at 6:30 so that some people could catch the bus and some would drive, and she called me at 6:20 to confirm which bus station I was supposed to go to. I was running late, though, and spaced out a little bit as she gave me directions, so I went to the bus station in the middle of campus and hopped on the first bus I saw. She called while I was on it and told me to get off at the next station, so I ended up in Asahimachi waiting in front of a Family Mart, but she and her roommate Nita drove over and picked me up, and I apologized profusely. At any rate, we made it to the okonomiyaki restaurant (very cool; booths with hot tables and floor mats, although there’s space below the table for your legs so you don’t have to kneel) and had a great time. Okonomiyaki is fun to cook as well as totally delicious.

After okonomiyaki, Asami decided I had to see Jusco, so we ducked over there for ice cream. She describes it as like Target; it’s a two floor supermarket with clothing, a grocery, a food court – the works. I’ve been taking it easy today, but I think I’m going to head over there to pick up some supplies this evening and just do some browsing. It’s easy enough to get to from the school – you can ride the bus to any of the nearby districts for 100 yen, although no buses run after 10 PM.

So that’s the news from Japan for now – I’m not sure when I’ll be seeing Asami next, but at least I know a couple of people next door in the International House (where I wanted to live; the hotel atmosphere of the Guest House is getting somewhat annoying). Later!

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