Category: Culture


Well, here it is, a comprehensive list of all of the lessons Japan and in particular APU has as of now taught me. Some (not many) are serious, most were fun to learn, and all are things that made me scratch my head, laugh out loud, or boggle over. Enjoy~

1. Sometimes, it’s better not to ask.

Seriously, what were they thinking when they made this an official sign? These are dug into the pavement all around Taito-ku.

2. English grammar has more of what we call ‘guidelines’ rather than actual rules.

I have to wonder if Koreans and Chinese people, too, have to put up with grammar like this in Japan…

3. Just because something calls itself “American” does not make it American.

This was… disgusting, by the way. Dry cake, banana filling that was so sweet it made my teeth ache, and some sort of pebbles masquerading as chocolate chips on top of said banana filling.

4. Japan’s college students are worse at world geography than America’s… which I hadn’t previously thought possible…

I want to know what kind of atlas they were using for reference and why, suddenly, Africa is an island. 😛 Not to mention the fact that many countries (like Iceland and several parts of Indonesia) simply Were Not Included on the World Festival map.

5. The entire nation of Japan is pulling the most massive prank ever on the world and its name is natto cake.

Natto is, for those unaware, fermented soybeans (yes that’s the same thing as rotten). I just wish I could find a picture of the way it actually retains its stringiness even AFTER baking… but that might cause sickness in the masses, ne. xD

6. Fastest way to freak out domestic Japanese students (besides pretending that the Health Check is actually unimaginable torture)? Eat grapes… WITH THE SKIN STILL ON!

“K-kore… NANDE?!!! Majide!” (That’s… WHY! No way!) And you thought that only spoiled brats wanted the skin peeled off of grapes. No, apparently, in Japan, eating grapes with the skin on is equivalent to nomming tomatoes on your front porch in the early nineteenth century (don’t know the reference? Shaaame). We literally got looks like we might drop dead at any second.

7. Explosives are cool and we sell them in dollar stores, but open flames are not allowed anywhere within the city. So you’re in no danger, because no one will be able to LIGHT the explosives. See, see? It’s only logical!

I do not own the awesomeness that is Spock.

8. Apparently. Every single time a cloud passes over the fair city that is Beppu, a warning must be issued, and it sounds like this: “Attention. A Thunderstorm Warning. Has been. Issued. Please come inside of buildings. Immediately. Classes will operate as. Scheduled. Bus services will operate as. Scheduled.”

Of course it’s not mine. But, sadly, this is never what the weather was like when one of these warnings came on (though you’d certainly think it by the urgency of the warning). Half the time it was hardly even raining. I kept wondering to myself how I was supposed to get to my regularly scheduled classes while staying inside of buildings…

9. And speaking of warnings:

Every. Single. Night. EVERY NIGHT. At 9:50 PM exactly. Yeah. We got to a point where we’d be running around the kitchen yelling along with both the English AND Japanese versions of the announcement. Oh, and of course, the guy sounded so cheerful when he said “Punished” that it was just so creepy.

10. Soda can be so green that it looks like the toxic sludge from some bad cartoon. This is melon soda, and it is very popular.

This is not edited. Yes, it even TASTES that green.

11. Anything can be made adorable through the magic of cartoons. Even horrible and deadly STDs.

This is from a booklet we got at the “Student Health Assessment” lecture entitled “Safe Sex Guide” by one of Japan’s leading condom producers. I… have no words to describe it, still… it is just too awesome not to post again, here.

12. The bad habit of native speakers, that of talk-ing slow-ly and LOUD-LY and expecting to be understood, is not merely an American universal.

Sadly, this has happened to me so often. Me: “Wakarimasen…” (I don’t understand you.) Them: “DAH… RE… GA… IH… KEH… RU…” Me: “*mutters* Yeah, still don’t understand the words.” I will never again do this to anyone who doesn’t speak English. It’s infuriating.

13. Fun must be scheduled, recorded, and organized. If you don’t have fifteen sheets of paperwork by the end, you’re not having fun.

This is the preliminary paperwork for renting the kitchen for a span of two hours… 😛 No, but in all honesty, I have had this happen to me on multiple occasions. “Fill out this form, we’ll stamp it, give you THIS form, and you keep it. Then on the day of the event, exchange it for two more forms, write down the names and ID numbers of everyone who attends, and hand in the forms at the end. Oh, and make a copy for yourself.” How no one in Japan drowns in paperwork is a real mystery…

14. Ketchup makes anything edible~

 

I could not have survived Japan without Heinz. Thaaank you, imports. Don’t get me wrong; I love Japanese food and find most of it delicious just the way it is. But… some things… especially my floormates’ cooking… 😛

15. People on scooters are either insane, suicidal, or both.

I honestly would not have been surprised to have seen an APU student riding this down the mountain. They randomly added entire extensions to their scooters for bookbags; they had friends without helmets clutching their backs and not attached to the seat in any other way; they swerved in and out of traffic and around cars… as my karate sensei said, If I had some money for every time I saw a student pull some stupid stunt on a scooter, I would be very, very rich.

16. There are awesome people from all over this planet, just as there are morons and bigots from all over this planet. Me, personally? I found the awesome ones!

Picture Credits: Kurozone Photography, 2012.

Thank you, APU. I know that I’ve had my share of quarrels with your nonsensical policies, frustratingly stubborn adherence to the guidebook, and your long and boring orientations, but without you, I’d never have met all of these people and done so many incredible things. I know that I will keep the memories of the last four months in my heart forever, no matter how much time passes.

Thank you, also, to the nation of Japan. For being so awesome. For always giving the lost American directions, even going out of your way to make sure I got to the right place. For your never-ending patience with my stumbling, stuttering, stilted Japanese (getting better now, but at first… I’m sure you wanted to slam your head into a brick wall repeatedly when I spoke ve-ry …………slow-ly………….. and in sim-ple… … … phrase-es). And finally, for being delighted that I am fascinated with your culture. And a final thank you to my parents and to everyone who has supported me, for providing me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I’ll end with a quote. Mom, you’ll know this one: “Never in my life did I think I would end up in such a beautiful place, doing so many incredible things… And it’s truly been my pleasure to meet you all.”

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So APU is well-known for its international events and community… you know, our student base comes from 89 countries! Amazing. Anyway. To honor this love of international culture and exchange, APU hosts a full month of International Weeks every semester. During these weeks, special foods, shows, and events all take place based around whatever culture is being showcased for that week.

The first was Chinese Week. People wandered around in special shirts, made from imitation silk, that look just like traditional Chinese shirts. There were shows in front of the fountain and special foods sold in the cafeteria. And, best of all, at the end of the week there was the Chinese Grand Show in Millennium Hall.

You can watch the show here:

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/23324880

Yes, this was a big deal. Skip ahead to 4:30 for the actual start of the show.

The basic plot is a Chinese myth, where two people meet and fall in love. But their marriage is forbidden, so they elope. They are then killed for their ‘treachery’ and their son barely escapes, unable to find anyone to take him in. He sees many interesting and strange things in the city he finds, and eventually takes up swordsmanship with a prestigious teacher. He grows up to be a great fighter and vows to take vengeance on the one who killed his parents. He finds out that his mother is waiting for him on the other side of the Underworld and then vows to free her as well. Sound familiar? Well, China did this plot first. This myth goes back even farther than their writing system does, and that’s at least eight hundred years old…

It’s a very interesting show, because this myth is interspersed with all sorts of fun little extras. Namely the dances and the fashion show. Altogether it was a very interesting show and I greatly recommend watching it. (if you absolutely need a translation, I can make one, just comment and ask)

 

I’ve been practically wiped off my feet by a nasty bout of acute rhinovirus, bronchitis, and ear infections. Note to all: Don’t use the hand towel hung in each bathroom. Those things are germ sponges.

Anyway. If you get sick at APU, you go to the Health Clinic and Guidance Center. This is a tiny place tucked into the wall on the right side of the Career Office (in building A–the one under the right-hand clock tower [fountain-side]). If you’re not confident in your Japanese, you can speak English, but it’s polite to ask first. The VERY first thing they’ll have you do is take your own temperature. As you’re doing this, the nurse will ask you a bunch of questions and help you fill out some forms (this is JAPAN, people, they have forms FOR their forms).

If your temperature is above 37 degrees Celsius, you will be told to go to the hospital. This is normal–“hospital” really refers to a large, general-health clinic in downtown Beppu. From there you will be directed to the proper place. I was sent to an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat Specialist).

The experience was highly interesting. You’re given a ‘walk in slip’ when you get to the specialist (DO bring your dictionary, the nurses don’t speak much English even though the doctor does), that gives you a range for your appointment. Mine was 14:15-14:30. You had better be in the clinic by 14:15, if that’s what your slip says. If you are not there, they move on to the next person.

Now, at this place, I got my sinuses irrigated and a three-minute session with some sort of extremely powerful decongestant inhaler. Also, the doctor showed me the bacteria in my snot via electron microscope. Rather… different from American doctors. If you have health care insurance, you pay only a fraction of the cost of medicine and treatment–there is no copay for appointments and the city controls all health care–so, for mine, I paid 500 JPY for four types of drugs and 1600 for the two treatments I received. Very reasonable. Once a year, you pay a fee for your insurance that is based on how much money you make, but past that, almost 90% of costs are covered.

All in all, not a fun experience, but certainly educational. I have never been subjected to the horrors of government-run healthcare before. It didn’t seem like a vast, anarchist hellscape of misery and despair. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough. 😛

No pictures today. I’m about ready to fall over.

 

In Japan, clubs are known as “maru,” or “circles.” The circle is a symbol of correct, whole things, and so carries one of the most positive connotations of any Japanese symbol. It is also the perfect illustrator of wa (benevolent harmony) in Zen Buddhism:

Clubs in Japanese colleges are not like those in American colleges. The ones at APU meet during class periods (Periods 1, 6, and 7 are very popular for club meetings) and are more organized than most clubs in Rutgers at least. I am a part of Nihongo Netto, or Japanese Net. The name comes from the idea of a “safety net” and the club acts as just that–a way for international students to get support from domestic students. Mostly, you talk to each other. The club leaders are very patient and help correct your speech (Over. And over. And over.) and also teach you new words. Many of them don’t speak much English, and want to learn from you as they’re teaching.

Mm… so today I learned about how to number months. Seems simple, but in Japan, there are over 500 counter-suffixes, each one used to classify a different type of object (i.e. sanmai = three flat, thin objects: think stamps or pieces of paper). So, for months, you say ___kagetsu. 1ヶ月前、日本に来ました。 Ichikagetsu mae nihon ni kimashita: One month ago, I came to Japan.

Clubs often meet in classrooms, but they can also meet in rooms like this:

Your club is literally like your family. I cannot stress this enough. Don’t neglect your club or you’ll regret it. Attend every meeting you can, and if you miss one, immediately e-mail your leader to explain why and to apologize. Networking is a very, very important part of Japanese society, and most professional relationships begin in clubs or through members of clubs (your former club member introduces you to his friend, Mr. CEO).

I don’t… recommend… joining more than one club. You can if you like, but make sure that you can balance. Most clubs meet 2-4 times per week, and even though the meetings last only technically one period, everyone stays after the time to chat, chill, maybe get dinner if it’s early enough. In the first two months of college, it is expected that you will be club hopping, but after a time, settle for one. Maaaybe two if you’re an overachiever. Just be careful–sometimes joining two clubs (especially if one is a sports team) makes it look as if you aren’t giving your all to either–so keep that in mind.

Good luck! Ganbatte! Have fun with your club membership and don’t be too stressed over doing everything right. Just show up to the meetings, be polite and respectful, and contribute to your club’s discussions and events. In time, you’ll wonder how you lived without these great friends~.

I was talking with a friend today about people’s amazing tendency to judge other people based solely on incorrect information… and it occurred to me that the average American and the average Japanese both have views of the other which are based in pure fiction. I’ve been asked what it’s like to eat hamburgers every day. Similarly, Americans have asked me questions about Japanese people that make me confused.

So, let’s list out some common myths about Japanese people and then debunk them:

1) Japanese people do not like sweet things and rich foods.

In fact, Japanese people love sweet foods; however, there’s a set idea of when these foods are good to eat. Usually Japanese people are very health-conscious, so “junk” foods are considered good occasional snacks. You’ll also find that their portion sizes are a lot smaller than what we serve in America. So they like sweet and rich just fine–but in moderation.

2) Japanese people are perverts.

I’ve heard this so many times… let’s see. Japanese people are no more or less perverse than any of us, they’ve just decided to market it. Rather successfully, too, despite the attempts of the government to censor sexual content (and we all know that just makes people get -creative-). Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, they openly accept it and manage to make money from it.

3) Japanese people are sexist.

Mostly, people think this because of Japan’s “gentlemen clubs,” where guys go to get flirted with by pretty waitresses. What they often don’t realize is that there are ALSO “lady clubs,” which are the exact opposite. In fact, there are many more types of clubs dedicated to giving women attention, with all sorts of themes. You’ll never see THIS on a Japanese clothes tag:

4) Japanese people are really, really good at math.

What list of myths would be complete without the “Asians = math geniuses” one? In fact, my roommate and most of my floormates HATE math and are not good at it. This myth stems from all of the Japanese students studying abroad who are in fact the best and brightest and therefore set a good paradigm that most Japanese students can’t be arsed to live up to:

5) In Japan, anime plays on TV all day long and you see cosplayers everywhere.

Wanna know how many episodes of anime I’ve seen since I got here? What about cosplayers? I’ll give you a hint; the number’s less than one. Japanese TV in fact hardly ever shows anime. They don’t have an anime channel unless you buy an extra packet of stations. And though I’ve seen two people with dyed hair, I haven’t seen a single cosplayer. Maybe in Tokyo you get this, I dunno, but not here. So, to repeat. This is not my class:

Annnd now for some about Americans:

1) Americans eat hamburgers every day.

Just thinking about trying to eat a hamburger every day even for a week makes my stomach churn. I tried explaining this to my floormates and they sort of eyed me disbelievingly. Apparently seeing me live off of broccoli, carrots, rice, and tofu hasn’t convinced them yet. -sigh- Damn Windows-sponsored Burger King commercials…

2) Each American has four significant others and is easy.

I’ve actually been asked how many boyfriends I have! When I answered “Imasen. (I don’t have any)” They looked stunned. “Did you break up before coming here?” “…No.” As per the usual, I blame television. Japan gets (and loves) all of our action movies, and those movies perpetuate this incredibly sexual and promiscuous belief. Of course, our celebrities may also be to blame:

3) Americans are all fundamentalist Christian and homophobic.

I can… sort of see where this one comes from… with the Tea Party on TV every day raving about some new nonexistent injustice or another, and our incredibly ridiculous aversion to anything “gay.” In Japan, masculinity is less defined along the lines of being “macho,” so most Japanese are either ambivalent or accepting of homosexuality. To be fair, homosexual marriage is still illegal in Japan as well, but at least you don’t see this at military funerals:

4) Americans all drive expensive sports cars.

Again, I blame television. All those action movies with the cool cars usually blowing up in impossible ways… it’s no wonder Japanese think that all Americans own four cars and at least one cherry-red convertible among those.

5) Americans don’t know anything about the world.

Oookay, this one may NOT be too much of a myth… but it’s less that we don’t know and more that we don’t CARE, per say. Apathy is a new sport among American youths–is it any surprise that the world sees us as ignorant? I mean, honestly, one of my classmates in history pointed to Britain and said it was Thailand… Luckily, not ALL of us think like this:

Any of these sounding familiar? My goal is to hopefully dispel some of these myths, as they’re just plain stereotyping. Maybe you’ll disagree with me, but in my opinion, stereotyping = bad.

All pictures belong to their respective owners… I mean no copyright infringement, I make no money off of this, and this is all for fun.

…This post was much longer, but for some unfathomable reason, it decided to vanish on me once I clicked Publish.

So. Bathhouses. I realize that I did not cover everything I wanted to in my “getting clean” post. Since nothing else happened today (I stayed in to do homework), I figure today’s a good day to get to it.

This is a Japanese public bathhouse:

This one is of a similar size to the APU bathhouse. Obviously I’m not allowed my camera in APU’s, so we’ll have to use our imaginations. The one in APU also has windows; however, there are fifteen-foot (five meter) walls surrounding them. Their only purpose is to let in sunlight. ‘Sides, they’re usually all fogged up due to steam.

You trade your room key for a bathhouse key at the AP House Office. Bring your towel, change of clothes, shampoo, soap, et cetera. When you walk into the APU bathhouse, you’ll see a tatami floored changing room with a shoe box to one side. Obviously, do not set shoes on the tatami. Stow your shoes and key (and glasses if you wear them) in this shoe box before rounding the corner to the next room. This one is lined with shelves and baskets. Put your towel and clothes in one of these baskets. All of your clothes. Don’t think about it.

When you get into the room pictured above, the actual bathing room, find a large plastic bucket and turn it over by one of the showers. Clean yourself extremely thoroughly before entering the water. I know I’ve said this before but it’s very, very important. Getting dirt in the bath is WORSE than stepping on tatami with shoes. Okay? Get the picture? It’s reallllly bad.

Some quick rules/tips: Don’t look at anyone who didn’t come in with you; it’s rude to stare at strangers. Don’t bring your towel into the bathing room–though it’s rude to stare, you -will- get some odd glances if you cover yourself up. Don’t feel so awkward. You’ll survive. Honest. And lastly and possibly most importantly, please, PLEASE be careful not to get heat stroke. These baths run anywhere from 105 F to 113 F. There are little jets that constantly pump what feels like lava into the water to keep it hot. So just… know yourself, only stay in for fifteen minutes and see how you fare with that. If you feel fine, you can always go back in.

To end, how about a funny picture for all us dumb foreigners visiting Japanese hotels?

Boys & Girls

We were made to attend a Boys/Girls Understanding Orientation thing today. Thankfully, it is the. Last. One. What happens is, they show you videos of two people from different cultures interacting and you get to sit in circles and discuss what you would do.

It was as boring and pointless as it sounds.

And… that’s literally all that happened today. Tomorrow is the first day of classes, so expect a long post. Until then, have a picture:

This is the Pacific Ocean. I’m not sure whose ship that is, but my guess is that it’s some sort of government vessel.

How To Get Clean in Japan

Cleanliness is literally next to godliness in Japan. They say that if your corpse isn’t clean when you’re cremated, the gods won’t accept you into the next life. So, naturally, it’s very important to shower most days and at least keep a clean face and hands at all other times.

But how to do this in AP House?? The RAs can help but often don’t, and you’re left to figure everything out yourself. It can be extremely frustrating to be left in the dark like this. So… I will help you. Aren’t I nice? -rolls eyes-

AP House 1 has four floors–all of which are dorms (though some rooms on the first floor are study or meeting rooms). Floor one is only for men and floor two is only for women. Men can visit the women’s floor and vice versa, but they’re not allowed to use the opposite gender’s shower rooms or bathrooms. There is a public bath as well, which changes its allowed gender week by week. To find it, head directly left from the lobby:

And go down the hallway. Take the first right and look to the right to find the door:

Remember to ask the guard for the key. Also, VERY IMPORTANT: Make sure that you shower THOROUGHLY before using the public bath. Especially your feet. It’s considered the height of rudeness to get dirt in the public bath, as it is a place for relaxation and meditation. Now then. You may be curious what the shower rooms are like. Here are the front curtains that mark a shower room:

It’s polite but not necessary to lift up the bottom left or right corner of the flap (whichever is on the outside) instead of just barging through the middle. When you get inside, you’ll see four doors with little signs that say “Please take off your shoes.” This is because Japanese people never bring their shoes into any place where cleanliness is important. Just leave them outside of the door–no one will take them, I promise. The rooms themselves have two sections and look like this:

The doors swing outward. The door you see there, with the pink sign, locks. The shower door does not (it says it does, it liiiies). Each shower room has a basket you can put your clothes in while you shower. The “do not leave your hair” sign does not refer to the little strands you lose while showering; those are fine to leave. No, apparently, they had a problem a few years ago with girls cutting their hair in the shower stall and then leaving all of that yuck behind. If you forget your shampoo, though, they may send it down to security, so make sure that you take everything with you.

They also have a problem that you will probably scoff at but that I’d like you to take note of anyway. Every few months someone accidentally presses one of the EMERGENCY ONLY buttons scattered pretty much everywhere. Remember, folks, this is Japan, so you’d better not press that button unless someone’s bleeding or collapsed. Seriously. You get in mondo trouble. Like house arrest and no kitchen privileges trouble. The Japanese National Security Council and Fire Department and Police Department drop literally everything to show up when you press this thing, and they do not want to hear “Uh. Um. I didn’t mean to press it…?” For future reference, here is a picture:

I REPEAT: DO NOT PRESS THIS UNLESS SOMEONE IS BLEEDING, SOMETHING IS ON FIRE, OR YOU ARE DYING. It is NOT a light switch! (yes this is what the girl who pressed this two weeks ago said: “I thought it was the light switch.”) This is a light switch:

The top one controls the lights. I don’t know what the bottom one does but it isn’t anything important and if I ever find out I shall let you know. General rule: don’t touch the bottom switch. You won’t get in trouble but it really doesn’t seem to do anything.

So now that you know how to be able to SEE while showering, have a look at the actual shower stall:

Slick, right? So here’s what you need to know. The bottom part that looks like a faucet IS a faucet–for cleaning your feet. To make it turn on, just turn the right handle down. The left handle controls water temperature. Obviously, it’s in C. If you turn this dial all the way up as it is in this picture, you. Will. Burn. That’s what the little red button is for, actually. If the water gets nuclear hot on you, hold down the red button and that will cool the water to bearable temperatures (about 105 F). Or just turn the dial down and try to avoid the lava spraying from the nozzle. Quick tip about Japanese showers: the water pressure is much higher than most Western showers. If you crank the right dial all the way up, the water might actually physically hurt you. It’s nice once you’re used to it, but at first, maybe turn the dial two-thirds up. There is another clip for the shower head higher up, for us tall people, but the shower head tends to twist to one or the other side of the stall when it’s placed in the holder while running. I’d recommend just holding the darn thing, as the clips aren’t that effective.

So now you’re clean, wet, and you discover that you have no more clean clothes! Oh no.

You can buy detergent at the Co-Op, but be sure to buy the combination detergent powder that has ブルースター written on it. It’s too complicated to work out all the ratios for the other two types. If you don’t buy the combination, you have to buy two other types of soap to compensate for this, and it’s a massive pain in the rear. Here is the *one* laundry machine on my half of the floor:

The machines are much smaller than American models, and hold maybe four days’ worth of clothes. There are detailed instructions on the wall to the right of the machines, so I won’t repeat what’s written there. Just, do take note of the fact that the washer takes 20-60 minutes and the dryer takes 2-3 HOURS. I would recommend running the light cycle on the dryer and then hanging up your damp clothes in your room to dry. You’re supposed to watch the machines with your clothes in them, no one does, but do please keep track of when you put your clothes in and promptly move them. Other people live on your floor too. Leaving them in the machine for hours and hours is just plain rude (SHORI. Grrr.). As an extra incentive, if the clothes sit in a turned off machine for more than an hour, the other residents are permitted to do whatever they like with them. The nicer residents just send them to Security. The meaner ones… well… delicates on the flagpole, anyone? Naaah, I’m kidding. But they will either throw them on the floor or lay them out on the dining tables. And that’s really not something anyone wishes to see, I’m sure.

So, you’re washed, dried, and in clean clothes. You are now presentable in Japanese society!

So okay. This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. TO ALL TRANSFER STUDENTS: Don’t go to Ohanami. Take the bus to Beppu Park and take pictures yourself. Seriously, it is not worth the aggravation.

Here’s how it went: we descended en masse on the bus stop, took the buses to Beppu Station, walked to Beppu Park, and spent four hours playing stupid icebreaker games in groups decided for us at random. I only managed to actually get pictures of cherry blossoms once I broke away from the group and wandered around with Jayna and Alex and Kazuma and Martha. I mean… Ohanami literally translates to “honored flower sighting” so… why weren’t we doing any flower sighting?! It’s just more of APU trying to force us to make friends.

Granted. I want to make friends. But I prefer to do it on my schedule and in my way, not by playing incredibly awkward and stupid games (Link arms and everybody jump in! Then out! Then left!). In fact the friend I made today, Kazuma, we ended up meeting each other in the line before the groups were even sorted. He’s a L’Arc~en~Ciel freak like me. For those readers going, “L’Arc~en~Ciel, what?” Just. Watch this. Right now.

This. This is L’Arc~en~Ciel. Unfortunately Youtube’s taken down most of their music videos, but this is still a really good live.

Ahem. Anyway. Sorry, got sidetracked… it’s L’Arc~en~Ciel, what can I do? Have a gallery of the Ohanami ‘party’ (we managed to have a good time in BETWEEN all of the boring games):

 

So, afterwards, since I certainly wasn’t going home without any pictures of cherry blossoms, I decided to grab my photographer friends and hit the rest of the park, which is b-e-a-utiful. I mean, really, just gorgeous. Here, have another gallery:

So anyway, that’s Beppu Park. Once we’d taken six million pictures each (every time you turned around there was something else you just HAD to photograph), we headed back from whence we came and (you guessed it) dropped by You Me to check out whether or not international students could buy cell phones (you can’t. By the by. Not until you get your Alien Registration Card). But juust before we left, I snapped a bunch of pictures of this adorable child:

It didn’t really fit the theme of the rest of the gallery, but for some reason I love the way this picture came out. Anyway. That’s it for the long, long, Ohanami post I promised. See you tomorrow~.

So I took a ride into Beppu today and thought, “I wonder what I should write about on my blog. Hey I know! What about this CRAZY bus system?!” And here we are.

The Japanese public transit system actually makes a great deal of sense once you understand it. But before you know all about it, you can be very lost and confused and end up getting yelled at by the driver. So let’s not do that. First of all, you need to find a bus stop. Look for these in front of public buildings like government offices, schools, or department stores. They look like this:


Look for the little round signs. You’ll notice that most bus stops have “バスのリ” or “バス停” somewhere on them (usually on the alcove). The first is read “Basu nori” and the second is read “Basutei.” Both mean the same thing: wait here and a bus will get you. Most bus stops in Japan have absurdly logical names, like “Ekiushiro” (Behind Station) or “AP HOUSE Mae” (In front of AP House). Now, there are many different kinds of buses in Japan, but when you’re at APU, the bus you need will almost always be an Oita Kotsu bus:

Buses in Japan ALWAYS leave on time. To this end, bus drivers will actually sit at the first stop for ten to fifteen minutes, waiting for their scheduled departure times. If the bus is late or breaks down, and thus makes you late for work or school, you must get a note from the company or your teacher/boss will not believe you. Yes. This is how accurate the public transit normally is. Now, when you get on the bus, you walk right past the driver (don’t pay your fare until you get off the bus, you’ll see why in a moment). Find a seat preferably not near the front as those first rows are priority seating for disabled, elderly, or pregnant riders.

When you look up at the front of the bus, you’ll see this:

This is the “fare board.” This is the most important device on the bus, as it decides how much you pay. Before your bus pulls out of the stop, be sure to look for the highest lit number, as this is your stop number. Do you see how 270 is written under the number 1? Well, if you got on the bus at APU (the first stop) and got off the bus at stop 5, you would pay 270 JPY in fares. Or, alternatively, you could have bought tickets from the Co-op and use those–just be warned that each ticket purchased from the Co-Op costs 330 JPY (Great deal for going to the last stop as that one costs 540 JPY), so if your stop is earlier, you may want to just pay with coins. When you get off the bus, nod respectfully to the driver and drop your fare into the slot. You are now a Japanese bus rider!

Of course, I took the bus to You Me, since I needed a potato masher and some groceries. You Me does have its own stop, but it isn’t on the same line as the one heading to APU, so be careful about that. It’s easy to find though–go to Beppu Station (the last stop), walk up the road directly to the left of the giant Coca Cola sign until you get to the underpass, take the left and then the right turns in the underpass, and keep going until you see this:

(if you still don’t think you can find it, just beg your Japanese floormate to “Isshou ni Yuumeetaun e ikimashou ka?” (Can we go to You Me together?” or “Yuumeetaun wa doko?” (Where is You Me?)) Ganbatte!

I highly recommend the Hyaku-en store DAISO on the third floor of You Me. Head on up the escalators and go to the back left corner of You Me to find it. Quick note about Japanese malls–they don’t typically have many walls. The Japanese retail system runs on a customer-trust basis, though you will see some security guards around. They are very nice people and will  help you find stores if you ask politely. Just be careful not to wander into another store with your basket!

Anyway, once you’ve bought all you can carry (remember it’s a fair distance to the bus stop, so don’t buy too much!), head on back to the underpass you came from and exit to your right, so that you end up on the side of the street that has the bus stops heading back to APU on it. It’s about twenty minutes back to APU.Over the river and through the woods. ‘Ere, have a look-see at the ride home:

Now you’re back! Return to the dorm and find out that your frying pan has been stolen from the kitchen. -___- Ah, college life!