Monday, April 15, 2013

A Biohazard Birthday

So it’s official. I’m 23 now, which means I’m old. Just kidding. This past weekend was a whole lot of fun as a result.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a MAJOR fan of the Resident Evil VIDEO GAME series. This series is known as Biohazard just about everywhere, except the U.S.A. Note that I said video game, not movies. Two different stories in my opinion. Anyways, so, being a giant fan of the series I headed to the Biohazard Café in Shibuya with a couple of friends.

This place is pretty much my ultimate nerdy-restaurant-café-dream-I-never-knew-I-had realized. They were running a lot of promotional stuff for the new game set to be released in May, but there was all the classic stuff there as well. Also, the staff are dressed in costume. Well, one of two costumes. The ladies who work outside the main café area where you pay where officer’s uniforms and the ladies inside wear something similar to what Jill wore in one of the last Resident Evil movies. Photography of staff was not allowed however.

The staff were super nice and let us use the (not real) guns in the café to take some pictures in front of nemesis.

Posing in front of Nemesis in the Biohazard Cafe in Shibuya.
Posing in front of Nemesis in the Biohazard Cafe in Shibuya.
First boss encounter complete. Anyone have an ink ribbon? 

Props in the Biohazard Cafe.
If the food isn’t enough to get your health up, try some herbs! Yellow and red on display here. Don't forget! Greens are more potent when mixed with a red!

Props in the Biohazard Cafe.

And the food and drinks, of course, was also Biohazard themed. Some of the special limited edition meals for the new game came with pins. Here are our meals. First up, me:

The Jill Valentine - Non-alcoholic cocktail at Biohazard cafe. Grapefruit flavored. Yum.
You eat what you kill. This was actually really good. Word of warning to the faint of heart, this dish includes cow organs. No idea which ones.

The button that came with my meal.


Escape to Ecstasy.
Egg and rice.


Saint Michael's Clock Tower.


Kasane on the left with the Chris Redfield.

As we finished up eating we asked for my desert to be brought out since I was the only one who ordered any and as we were waiting the lights in the restaurant suddenly cut out. We were worried for all of half a second before a happy birthday song come on and out comes two zombies (a surgeon and normal old zombie) carrying my Raccoon City style Desert complete with candles. Some dancing ensued as they brought it to the table and I blew out the candles. Completely took us by surprised as they had overheard us talking about it being my birthday and decided to be awesome. Best. Birthday. Ever.

Just as were about to head out we were advised by one of the waiters that we should wait just a few minutes as an event was about to start. So, naturally, we waited. After a few minutes the lights shut off and the staff came around urging everyone to hurry and stand up along with something like the monster’s woken up or arrived or something while one of the staff frantically pulled weapons off the wall and handed them to the nearest customers, myself included. They then urged us to the middle of the floor to take part in a killing nemesis event. The guns made gun noises and we had to “reload” and we took down nemesis and saved everyone in the café. Gotta admit, I felt pretty boss doing it. (I hate you for giving me that phrase Briana.) We received sheriff-y shaped stickers in Biohazard style for saving the day. 

I fought Nemesis... and won!!
Fake gun used to kill Nemesis.

As we exited the staff called out “Good luck.” I then checked out their Biohazard café gear and Biohazard art books and purchased a book and a pasmo (like a pre-paid card for the trains). Note to anyone wanting to go to the best café ever, they close their doors on June 31st, 2013. Just a heads up. As we paid they gave us all stickers (I got the whole set because it was my birthday) and everyone else got one. 

Good luck!
Overall, amazing. Best. Birthday. Ever. Can’t say that enough. After splitting up (if we had been in a horror game that would have been the worst decision we could have made), Chelsea and I headed for the Sky Tree. Unfortunately, due to strong winds the tower was closed for the day. Oh well. Took my memento picture with plans toreturn another day and headed to a sweets shop where I picked up a box of sweets to bring back and share with everyone. While waiting in line for the counter I could hear the employees (and see them gesturing) them saying how cute I looked. Flattered I made my way up to the counter to pay and one of the employees came over behind the one helping me and told me that I looked cute before running off to stand with the other employees where I heard her say “She looks like a princess.” How many girls get legitimately told by a stranger that they look like a princess on their birthday!?! I was sooo happy. Cloud 9 is right about where I was sitting. 

This is my princess dress! (Even if I'm still missing a blouse and petticoat!)

Just when I thought my day had ended I came home and was sitting in my room working on some kanji stuff when a knock from Kasane came at my door. She told me she made some food, but she couldn’t eat it all so she wanted to give it to me. Having not eaten, I accepted and we walked out to the blackened common room. Okay, not unusual. Happens a few times a week. Open the door and lots of popping of those streamer things startled the living daylights out of me followed by my sushi cake. Yes. Sushi cake. The rice was shaped like a cake with the fish on top. Best. Birthday cake. Ever.  

 As it turns out, all the girls on my floor had chipped in and made up a big meal. We had sushi cake, okonomiyaki, sashimi, Japanese style eggs that love, crab and some other things. It was amazing. Really, truly amazing. I love these girls. And seriously, 23 = the best birthday ever. I can’t say that enough. 

いろーら (Illaura) is written on the sushi cake in hand-cut nori!!!
Our feast!
So here’s a shout out to the 4F Senshin girls! You rock! Thanks for making my birthday the best ever!! 

4F Senshin Dormitory girls 2013!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

First Week of School - 終わり

Happy Saturday. Well, erm, Sunday now for me! What a week has it been! Classes started on Monday as did clubs so I’ve been super busy! Foots almost better (just a few more days) so I’ll be able to get out and about more again soon!!

My class schedule isn’t set in stone yet and since there was a misunderstanding with a couple of the Japanese classes (of which there are only 7 of us exchange students) I’ll be late in registering for a couple of my Japanese classes. For those of you who didn’t read or forgot about it, Japan Women’s University class registration system works something like this. You choose classes from one of seemingly a dozen books with help from people you live with. You find their times in another book and then you attend the classes for a week. On Monday of week 2 you register for your classes and take only the ones you like after having been introduced to the classes. I’ll tell you more about the second part of this process later.

Also, classes at Japan Women’s University work on a period system. Remember high school and middle school? Yeah, just like that. Classes always start at the same time and there are 5 periods per day. Per day being Monday – Saturday, though I’m not taking any Saturday courses.

On Monday I have a Japanese Grammar class, Tuesday 2-3 Japanese classes (the third is yet to be decided), Wednesday is a Japanese Listening class, Thursday is Japanese class (still undecided) and an American comparative literature class. Friday I have the best classes ever and I’m really looking forward to it. On Friday I have my American Culture and a 2 period (periods 3 & 4) Japanese clothing making class (which as 4 teachers to help out) where I will get to make and bring home a Yukata. I bought my material for that class today.

One thing I want to mention is that I’ve found a lot of classes include fees which you must pay directly to the class after tuition is paid. For example, I was considering a cooking class, but you have to pay 700 (about $7) per lesson. Not bad, but I was startled. On top of that some classes require you buy and bring certain things. In the case of my Japanese clothing making class I had to buy my own fabric for the class.

The first day of my classes were all very normal. In comparison to classes in the U.S. I’d call them identical except that there’s less syllabus coverage as those seem to be non-existent here. However in my Japanese clothing class we did start doing some hand sewing for practice on making a little robe thing for newborn babies which they wear to a special event. At this point there is nothing more I really want to say about my classes since it was, all told, identical to first days back home. With the exception of I understood less of it.

Next we have clubs. As I’ve said, or maybe I haven’t, I’m joining 4 clubs; volleyball, field archery, tea ceremony and ikebana. When you want to join a club here there is an even in April which clubs try to recruit. After that there are a few club meetings where you can go and see what the club is like before you decide to join. Upon joining many clubs have fees to help pay for club stuff. My club schedule looks like this: Monday – Volleyball 6-8 pm, Tuesday – Tea Ceremony 5-8 pm, Wednesday – Ikebana 4:30-5:30 (2 times a month) and Volleyball 5-8 pm (except on Ikebana days when it is 6-8 pm), Thursday – Field Archery 12:30 – 4:00 pm, Friday – Volleyball 5-8 pm, Saturday – N/A, Sunday – Field Archery 12:30 – 4:00. So that’s the basic rundown.

Volleyball was as you’d expect (only I couldn’t actually do anything thanks to my foot). Everyone was really awesome and you could really see everyone wanting to be there and doing their best. Not to mention they were all a VERY good at what they do. I’m almost a little hesitant joining with my rusty skills. Positive note though, I’m the tallest girl in the club.

Tea ceremony had a very different feeling than volleyball. Everyone was very dedicated and focused upon arriving and until they were finished. They explained the club calendar and showed me and the other “Just-looking” first years a few of the basic how to’s. Seems like it will be difficult as there is so much to remember, not to mention sitting on the knees. Honestly, I’m not 100% sure about joining, but I’ve wanted to learn tea ceremony for forever so I’m going to join it while I have the chance to learn cheap. Fee for this club is 5,000 ($50) for 4 months and I have to buy some of my own things to use (about 6,000).

I haven’t yet done Ikebana, but the first meeting is this week, so I’ll update you.

Field archery was super awesome. I’ve always wanted to do archery, but I’ve only ever actually used a bow a couple of times. So I went to the first meeting, learned how to put on the stuff and how to use the bow and got to practice for an hour or so before other people showed up and we began to rotate. Amazingly awesome and if I really could only choose one club I think it would be this one (over my lifelong love of volleyball). This club is also a joint club between Japan Women’s University and Keio University. What this means is that there are both girls AND guys in this club. Also, the location of this club is about 25 minutes from JWU using the train and walking. I’m not quite sure about the fees for this club, but they said it ends up being about 10,000 ($100) for the entire year, so not too bad. But I also have to buy my own bow and other equipment before the end of May which will run me about 15,000 ($150). So we’ll see how this works out sending things home in a few months.

So yeah, that’s the basic run down of what went down this week.

Also, today is now officially my birthday in Japan! Last night (it’s 2 am as I’m writing this) I went to an Izakaya with a couple of my new friends and Briana! It was a blast. Saw a performing monkey in Ueno Park with Eri. 

Performing Monkey in Ueno Park.
Afterwards we had my first 飲み放題 (all you can drink) with Kasane and Briana and walked home. Today it’s off to the Biohazard Café (Resident Evil Café) in Shibuya and then the Sky Tree. I also have a sneaking suspicion the girls on my floor are up to something for when I get home tomorrow though.
On the way home!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Busy as a bee

For those of you who didn’t already know, I hurt my foot somehow on the second day of my Osaka trip. Being as I was travelling, I couldn’t quite make it to the doctor and when I got back packing, etc. kept me from going. After about 4 hours in three separate offices to change my resident card and national health insurance addresses and receive my new card. So waiting and waiting later, I left with necessities only to find that the clock had struck six meaning the doctor’s office had already closed for the day.

しょうがなかった (there was nothing I could do), as they say so I headed over for a brief stop at a game center on the way back to the station. I won a box from one of the machines. Totally happy to actually win one of those things. Even if it was a One Piece figurine. The fun for me was in winning it and one of the girls on my floor is a big time fan, so I gifted the Nami One Piece figurine to her. I also won a couple small stuffed animals. There was a panda holding his unattached head like he was about to put it on (gifted to Briana) and a red bear thing with its head upside down that went to Chelsea. Mind, I didn’t realize they were weird bears until after I won them.

That finished I headed home and the next day made my way over to the local clinic. I’m going to say, I was fairly proud of myself. While the paperwork ended up being in English, I was able to communicate well enough without hitting a “I don’t understand you at all” point. Of course, that was probably mostly due to the fact that the staff was being super nice!

Overall my trip to the doctor included an exam on my foot, an x-ray and a trip over to their physical therapy room where they taped my foot and gave me the proper type of insole to help my foot get better. Any ideas on how much it cost me? Guesses even? I’ll tell you at the end.

On to today, today was this big club event day at the school. Basically they take all the clubs and circles (pretty much clubs) and everyone is assigned rooms and they try to recruit first years to their clubs. While Japan Women’s University probably wasn’t as crowded as some bigger schools like Waseda probably get, it was still the most crowded I had seen the place. There were many people with arm bands that said their club’s name (yes, just like in the animes, only made of paper) who were passing out flyers and directing people to their club’s room for the day. If you go to the room you’ll sit down with one of the club members who will run down the who, what, where and whens with you and answer any questions you might have. They also all seemed to provide refreshments.

Oh, and I was a bit surprised walking into the campus event and club rooms today. Japan Women’s University is, well, a Women’s University after all. So naturally I assumed the clubs would be the same. As it turns out, most of the clubs have members from other universities which include male members. I was definitely startled upon discovering this, but it doesn’t really matter much either way to me.

Since I had picked up a club book (picture to come) a bit before the event I had time to sit down and look and see what Japan Women’s University offers. There are a range of clubs from movie club, to an international club, to soccer and koto clubs. Being as I like to be the man with the plan so to speak I sat down with my book and felt out what I had an interest in so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed at the event. As of next week I will be joining the volleyball, field archery, tea ceremony and ikebana (flower arrangement) clubs. Oh boy, I should definitely keep busy this year.

I feel like now is also a good time to mention that when you join a club in Japan it seems that more often than not there are fees associated with joining the club. I think it’s to pay for stuff like materials and in general to pay to keep the club going and buy what it needs to buy. My volleyball club has no fees, while the tea ceremony club has a 5,000 fee for spring term and 6,000for fall. Ikebana is free for the first two meetings and, since it’s a go as much or little as you want club which also requires non-storable materials (i.e. flowers) it costs 2,000 per meeting. I plan on doing that one once or twice a month. I’m not sure about the archery club, I’ll let you know when I know, but they said a year will probably be around 10,000 or $100. So not too expensive.

Last thing I want to touch on is class registration. Back home we look up classes and register online, generally around a month or so before term starts. Here, we are two days before the start of classes and nobody is registered. Why you might ask? On top of it being ridiculous (you need like 10 different books to be able to look up and find the information on the classes offered here) you also go to your first week of classes, see if you like or don’t like the classes and then register the Monday of week 2. Since Japan works on a semester system and not a trimester system like the UO, I guess it works out. In any case, classes start Monday. Advice to those studying abroad at JWU, utilize your tutor or floor mates. Ask for help, otherwise you’ll get lost in this.

Speaking of floor mates, I guess I lied. This is the last thing. I’ve mentioned before (I think) that my floor mates are really great, really. I don’t think I’ve mentioned however that this is my first time living in a dormitory. So far all the rules haven’t really been a problem. I’ll keep you updated on that. But, seeing as they haven’t been a problem I just want to mention that I’m absolutely loving the dormitories so far. Seriously. The girls on my floor are amazingly awesome and friendly. I feel like the second years have made me a part of their group to some extent and the first years are starting to come out of their shells and not be so shy. I’ll be taking a couple classes (American literature and American Culture) with a couple of the girls in the spring and an apparel making class (jackets) in the fall with another. I also happen to be joining the ikebana club the later is already a member of.

Moral of the story, I think I’m really going to like it here in the dorms.

And here it is, I didn’t forget! My trip to the doctor cost a grand total of approximately $15 or 1,500. I’m in love with the Japanese national health insurance system thus far.