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Learning for the sake of learning

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We were finally able to meet everyone on our course, just in time for the orientation at the university. We were able to experience first hand, the horrors of overcrowding on the Tokyo subway during the morning rush hour – an experience we will now have to endure every single day! The journey from Shimotakaido to Ichigaya takes about 45-60 minutes. The novelty factor meant that we were still reasonably cheerful, but I suspect that the jokes about ‘getting close to each other’ will soon wear thin as time goes on. Like sumo wrestling, there is only so much that we can take. The subway trains are well air-conditioned and very clean, so it is generally quite a pleasant experience (minus the overcrowding).

When we arrived at the university, we were given a talk by one of the course coordinators about the housing contract and general rules and regulations. She alternated between English and Japanese and I tried my best to look like I could understand the gist of both (with well-timed nods!). We filled in a bunch of forms and questionnaires about our level of Japanese proficiency and the courses that we would like to take. The different classes [class A to class E] roughly follow the different levels of the international Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Fortunately, we were told that those who had not studied Japanese before did not need to attempt the listening and writing placement tests and were only required for an interview. It seems like most of Cambridge as well as the Finns will be in the beginner’s class (class A), which is good since we have been hanging out together a lot anyway. [“A is for awesome!”]

The coordinator remarked about how the programme was quite strict, but only 60% attendance of the classes is required. This seems to me to be a very lax figure – I could effectively skip class for an entire month and still pass! There are also a ridiculous amount of public holidays [almost one day per week] where we don’t have classes, and so I don’t except there to be too much pressure. Since I have already graduated, the transfer credits are inconsequential to me and I am effectively learning Japanese only for the sake of learning Japanese. This represents a refreshing change to my time at Cambridge where I felt pressured to try and maximise exam performance at the sake of learning about things I was interested in.

We got a first taste of the Nihon cafeteria and I found the food to be very good quality and generous in portion size. For about 600 JPY we were able to get a set meal of miso soup, salad, rice, and fried pork cutlet. We bought the commuter pass that allows us to travel freely between Shimotakaido and Ichigaya, and it cost about a whopping 30,000 JPY (just over £230) for three months. To contrast, a one-month ‘zone 1 only’ travelcard in London costs £99.10 and so the commuter pass in Tokyo is relatively good value. However, it only provides free travel for one particular route and so we will still need to pay for tickets when we go outside it.

The Finns received a significant monetary grant from the university and so we decided to go back to Harajuku to spend some of their money and kit out in Tokyo fashion! The Brits were unfortunately feeling a bit poor after paying for the commuter pass, but I was still able to find some cool flip-flops and invest in a 100-yen umbrella. Today was the first day it rained in Tokyo since we arrived, and I perhaps even prefer it to the sunshine. The air was much cooler and the streets were less busy – a touch of London nostalgia perhaps? I thought I wouldn’t miss the UK at all (particularly the weather) but it seems there is still a soft spot for it in me somewhere…

Category: JLSP | Tags: , , , , ,