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When I Studied in Japan

Study In Japan

Recently I’ve read not just one but two awesome posts about people who studied abroad – the first from the wonderful Rhyme and Ribbons, and the other by the lovely Darling Magazine. Both posts have great insights and advice for those studying abroad – but I thought I’d throw my experience into the mix as well, as I studied in Japan.

I’d been studying Japanese since I was 16 – because I really REALLY wanted Japanese friends. I had this amazing idea of going to live there, when everyone would want to be my friend and that I would live in this heaven of happiness. This was fueled as well by the month-long trip I took when I was 17 with my Japanese class, where it really was everything I had dreamt of – everyone was happy to see us, the food was amazing and it was just so much fun.

I got to study in Japan in my third year (out of four) at uni. The UK uni I went to was Liverpool John Moores and we had sister schools all over Japan. I really wanted to go to Fukuoka or Kurume to be near the classmate I was dating at the time but I ended up being sent to Kinjo Gakuin University in Nagoya. I REALLY didn’t want to go there – it was a GIRLS university (which don’t exist in the UK) and what’s more, it’s a Christian university (which also doesn’t exist in the UK). As the only girl in my Liverpool class, I was obliged to go.

I needn’t have worried – I had THE BEST YEAR and I still consider to be one of the best years I’ve lived so far. [Read more…]

A Japanese Retro Gaming Shop

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When I was in Osaka, a friend of mine took me to a really cool retro video games shop there. It was like all my nostalgic dreams rolled into one small shop.

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Please say I’m not the only one who remembers this game? There is a guy, stood on blocks, and there are more blocks rolling towards him, and you have to highlight the blocks to get rid of them to clear a path. If you don’t, the man gets crushed. Confused? Here’s a video.

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These were surprisingly expensive; maybe £20-£30.

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Also known as the SNES – this was my second console ever. I had a Sega Master System first, then upgraded to this. However, I had about 4 games for it, so I didn’t use it get often. I had many more for the Master System.

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Check out them beauties!

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There’s a game called Nuts and Milk, apparently! I wonder what it’s about… (Do I even want to know??)

Gaming was a huge part of my childhood and teenage years. I learnt to read and count on a Commadore 64, on which I also spent hours playing Hugo’s House of Horrors. That was a great game.

I don’t know why I was so into gaming – it wasn’t as if it was an escapist thing for me. It was more of a social thing – we’d swap games with friends, and it’d be something to bond with my brother over. When I had a Playstation, I’d spend hours with Kate playing Abe’s Oddesey and Tomb Rader (we’d go over our friend’s house, whose dad would always have the latest games. He would let us watch him play Tomb Raider more often than he’d let us play it…)

I feel a sadness when I think that kids don’t play games as much as we used to as kids – is that a weird thing to say? I think they are an art form, and from working on the inside at Nintendo I know how much effort people go to, to make a wonderful experience for the player. Those £40 price tags aren’t there for nothing.

What games are nostalgic for you? Did you play a lot as a child?

Things I Ate in Japan

What I ate in Japan

Surprisingly, even though I had a LOOONG list of things I wanted to eat in Japan, we didn’t eat a whole lot this time. The reasons were that it was ridiculously hot and also my buddy had a habit of forgetting to eat, so I ended up not eating as much either.

Here are the things that I did eat, however.

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The first day we were TIRED AF after the flight and so we had a shower and then went out for my favourite – cheap sushi. At places like this a plate of sushi costs about 100 yen. If you’re in the UK, that’s about 60p right now. Yeah, go cry into your Yo Sushi.

This was at a place called Genki Sushi, which was cute because you order your plates on a screen then they come to you on these little trains. It was ADORABLE.

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As soon as we got to my Japanese hometown of Ise, it was time for akafuku. These are the purple sweets you see above – pounded rice (mochi) covered in smooth adzuki beans. They are the speciality there, you see, and people come from all over to sit with some green tea and enjoy the cakes. The family-owned business is so important they pretty much control everything in the town, which is kinda pants because they have said some pretty racist things in the past. I should boycot them but if you boycotted everything that is racist in Japan you’d be sat in a corner doing nothing all week.

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I had the icecream in one hand and my DSLR in the other so dammit I couldn’t get the light right here. BUT this is my FAVOURITE icecream, also from my Japanese hometown. It’s tofu icecream. No, really.

It’s creamy, but not in a diary way like with milky icecream. Instead it has such a subtle taste that’s absolutely amazing. It’s pretty rare though so grab it if you see it!

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I guess it makes sense that I ate the most in my hometown. There was so much that I missed. The above curry is one that I used to go to when I felt homesick, because British people feel that curry is a huge part of our identity. However, when I went back home I had some other curry and it wasn’t nearly as good as this stuff. It really is the best in the world. They make the naan fresh – my choice is always the butter naan.

It was so good meeting up with all my friends in Ise. I miss them so much. I think although I have a habit of feeling very lonely at times, I understated how loved I am back there. I got very teary when it was time to say goodbye.

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Over in Osaka we met up with another friend of mine who gave us a great walking tour. Grabbing something quick before parting ways, we found this restaurant that specialised in fried stuff.

People think Japanese food is all healthy but actually they LOVE to deep fry stuff. The above fried things are a massive prawn, and two Japanese croquettes (I think they were minced beef and prawn). That dollop of Japanese potato salad was my favourite though <3

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Here’s a secret – I actually dislike Kyoto. Too many people. Too many cars. They’ve not protected their sacred city well enough to make it enjoyable. So, after an unsuccessfull bike ride in the city, we made ourselves feel happy again with Japanese McDonalds. I had the prawn burger (Japan limited).

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My friend went for the Big Mac, to see how it compared. He said it was around the same as a British one, but the fries “sucked” as they were too salty. In the UK they don’t salt them any more, apparently. The last time I had Maccy D’s was in Germany so I have no idea.

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Green tea icecream. Because it was just too damned hot.

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In Kyoto we stayed in this really cool Airbnb and the girls there pointed us in the direction of this SUPER cheap restaurant. A set menu cost 1000 yen (if you’re in the UK that’s around £6). Above is the one I got on my first night. It was the most amazing kara-age fried chicken I’ve ever tasted.

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…followed by some yuzu icecream!

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These are the best cream puffs in Japan – I can say that with confidence! You can find them on the hill going towards Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. They come in cinamon-vanilla or green tea. The perfect snack!

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Cold udon noodles are perfect on a hot day. Watch out for that raw yolk in there – can make some people feel ill!

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On out last night I had Korean food instead of Japanese – bibimbap. Rice and veg and kimchi… AHHH it’s one of my favourite foods.

So are you hungry now?

What’s your favourite Japanese food?

I am Not Following Japanese Rules

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Recently, I have become quite hooked onto Reddit. I find it amazing that I can go there and find people who are into the same very niche things as me, and can discuss things that I rarely find people up for discussing in real life.

One of the subs I follow is the Japan travel one, and time after time I see people asking about how to go around Japan and not offend anyone. Like, how to follow Japanese customs and not seem to be impolite.

There are so many little things to remember in Japan; little rules that Japanese people follow that restrict their daily life. Things like not eating while stood up in public (like grabbing a sandwich and eating it as you walk along the street because you’ve got no time to stop). Or waiting for the green man before you cross – even if it’s late at night and there are no cars and no one is watching. One time, when I was living in Japan and it was around 37c, I went into work wearing a dress with capped sleeves. It covered my shoulders, but stopped shortly afterwards. The nurse in the school came to me alarmed; “Charlotte-sensei, aren’t you cold?!” “No. It’s 37c and I am sweating like a pig.” “But… your arms! You must be so cold!!” What she meant was that I was not covering enough of my arms and this was offensive somehow.

Japan is a very safe and largely nice country, and it is all these little rules and the social pressure put on people to act a certain way (even when common sense says otherwise) that make it this way. Without all the funny little differences it would not worth travelling 12 hours to come here.

A lot of people put Japanese people on pedestals. Say they are much better people, they are superior because they are nicer, kinder, cleaner. But let me tell you a secret:

Japanese people are human.

Yes, they are. Japanese people can be really awesome, but they can also be absolute knobs. They can push in front of you in a queue. They can purposefully ignore you when you are walking towards them to ask a question. They can see non-Japanese around and start saying racist things loudly. In the Japanese population, there are people just like the ones you sneer at back home.

There was a time when I was here and I was obliged to follow rules. When I was working I had to make sure I was in line with how society expected me to be, so that if my students saw me, I was setting a good example. But this time it’s different.

There’s a thing called “gaijin smash” where “gaijin” means non-Japanese and the whole where means “doing something you know is wrong but getting away with it because you are not Japanese”. This time, in Japan, I am gaijin-smashing to the max.

I am eating food while walking down the street, because I ain’t got no time to sit and eat. I am crossing the road when I can see no cars around. And you know what? MY SHOULDERS ARE BARE. Yes, people. You can see the skin on ALL MY SHOULDERS. Cover the eyes of your young.

For those coming to visit Japan, I’d recommend reading up on regular social rules like when to take off shoes and stuff like that, but honestly, don’t go crazy over it. When you come to Japan you’ll meet all kinds of people, and people who go to Japan are all kinds of people. As long as people try to be nice to each other, then that’s OK.

Can we all just calm the fuck down now please?

 

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