Getting oriented

So things are starting to pick up in terms of school-related activities and orientation sessions. On Monday I met up with Rachel – another girl from Mount Allison who’s here on an exchange at Waseda – and I took her for a little tour around campus. She had only just arrived the day before, so she was still adjusting to everything. After that, we headed back to her new apartment which is located on just about the sweetest little back road I’ve ever seen.

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Rachel mentioned that she wanted to get a SIM card for her phone, so we headed over to the Ikebukuro shopping district to find a tech store. With the assistance of a very helpful employee at Bic Camera, Rachel had her phone completely set up in under 20 minutes.

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We decided to wander around the area for a while, and ended up finding ourselves in one of the many enormous department stores that Tokyo is famous for. We browsed around several floors, including a packaged foods and sweets section, a floor which seemed to be devoted to a Barbie brand of adult clothing, a section of ridiculously expensive homewares, and also a “food court” where every restaurant had a lineup around the corner. After that, we both were feeling a little worn out so we decided to each go home and relax for the rest of the evening.

Today the university held an orientation for all of the new international exchange students. They took us through pages and pages of information about living in Japan, and the many clubs and organizations that exist on campus specifically for international students. I must say I’m still feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of papers and pamphlets that now sit on my desk…

After the orientation, we were led across campus over to the university cafeteria for a free lunch. Suddenly overcome by a wave of shyness, I found myself sitting alone at a table at the back of the room with my bowl of noodles. But lucky for me, a group of other students who I had met on the bus ride from the airport spotted me and invited me over to sit with them. We chatted for a while and then they invited me to join them as they went in search of a Daiso – a very cheap story which stocks everything from electronics to blenders to candy. I was happy to be able to buy several items which I had been in need of since arriving, such as a mug, a bowl, utensils and dish detergent.

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I also purchased a small personal towel (with the cutest little sheep embroidery) which is something many people in Japan carry with them, since most public bathrooms do not provide a method to dry your hands with.

After adventuring around for about an hour, we all decided to go our separate ways. I headed home and decided to try to find Yoyogi park (which is a couple subway stops away from my residence) and go for a jog there.

In a way, I did end up going for a jog around the park, but I mean literally around it – as in I couldn’t find the entrance so I just ran along the wall separating it from the street. Nonetheless, I still  managed to have a decent run, and see some nice cityscape.

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However, I gradually found that I was having to dodge more and more people as I made my way along the sidewalk until I finally had to abandon all attempts to run through the growing crowds. Just as I was coming to the conclusion that my run had come to an end, I stumbled across an extremely packed side road.

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Curious, and resigned to my slowed pace, I decided to take a look at what was causing all the attraction.

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I quickly discovered it to be a funky shopping street, lined with clothing stores, bars and restaurants. For a while I allowed myself to be carried down the street by the eager crowds, and had some fun window shopping at the many strange shops.

Eventually I turned and headed back out onto the main street, and found a nearby subway station to take me home. I realized while looking at the subway map that I had actually come very close to Shibuya – one of Tokyo’s largest shopping and entertainment districts, often nicknamed “the Times Square of Tokyo” – which helped to explain for the larger crowds.

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Even though I didn’t quite get the quiet and relaxing jog that I had been hoping for, I’m pretty happy to have discovered such a cool little area and I hope to return there eventually when I’m a little more prepared for some fun shopping.

Tomorrow morning a group of students from Waseda are taking us to the Shinjuku office to register our new addresses with the city, and also enrol in Japan’s national health insurance. After that I’m thinking about heading over to the Imperial Palace for the afternoon to enjoy the sunny weather while it lasts.

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