The very first thing I noticed after I landed in Japan was the respectful nature of the staff at the KIX (Kansai International Airport). This respectful nature followed through to almost every Japanese person I have seen/interacted with in Japan. Especially if you go in to any sort of store like a restaurant or convenience (Konbini) store. Everything in Japan, I have learned, is designed in a way that makes things more efficient and accessible for the consumer, but in turn the society is such that the consumer is also made to be more efficient for the the environment and for society at large.
The night we landed we went straight to Hirakati Shi (Shi = City) to the Seminar Houses. My room is quite nice, with traditional Tatami mats and a Futon on the floor for bedding. The whole first week was orientation week, which meant waking up for 9:30am lectures! The KGU campus was breathtaking with their huge buildings and open air concept.
R U L E S. There a LOT of them here in Japan. In our orientation week we literally had 4 straight days of just rules, what to do/not do. Some of these rules make absolutely NO SENSE but the people here follow them religiously and expect you to do the same, and if you question one of them the answer you get is "It's the rules." No one here really wants trouble with foreigners, and like I mentioned they are super respectful, so if you do happen to break some of the cultural norms the worst that will happen is you get some weird looks. This will definitely add to the preconceived notions some Japanese people have about gaijin, the idea that all foreigners here are bad and make trouble in Japan...so just follow the rules haha! Some of them are simple things like not talking on your phone when on the train, considered very rude here. Eating and walking is a big no no here as well, but between you and me I eat and walk almost everyday :P. It's the only way to get breakfast in before a long day of classes! In all honesty it is not bad at all and most of the rules make a lot of sense: The famous example is the trash separation here in Japan. Some of my friends warned me about it, that it can get quite difficult to sort trash, and that there are practically no trash cans on the streets (Excluding can bins). I listened to them but took these points for granted, and just assumed it wouldn't be a big deal here....BUT there are around 8 different classifications for your garbage and serious fines if you get caught putting garbage in the wrong bin. I will post about that more in detail on the "cool stuff" page of my website with the detailed trash sorting handout we got.
Another concept I found interestingly peculiar here was the way bicycles are treated. A bicycle in Japan is treated exactly the same way as a motor vehicle. You know what that means? yup more rules. There were several registration and security measures I had to go through in order actually use my bike....legally. The first thing you need is a police crime prevention sticker from the Bike shop (AKA a license plate) so that the police know if the bike you are riding is your own or stolen. (This means if your biying the bike second hand or from a friend you need to make sure all the original paperwork is there) Oh and yeah the police are allowed to stop you and check for your bike or Residence Card at any time with no reason at all. If the bike is not yours they will arrest you on the spot and if you do not have a good justification or you can not get into contact with the owner of the bike, letting the police know you had permission to use it, you will be taken to the police office. This is such a different concept different than back home in Canada where bike thefts happen on a daily occurrence. Police investigations that involve stolen bikes here are taken seriously as well. I got lucky and on my second day I made friends with a local Japanese student who is going to America for his study abroad. He said he wanted me to have a great time in his country and gave me his bike for free!
I travelled around Hirakata a bit and found some cool chill out places. Hirakata Station, where all the major train stations are, is basically the centre of the city and the main downtown. Located here is the T-site, one of the biggest book stores in Japan. Think chapters on a lot of steriods. Different floors have different items, for example one floor is all audio and albums/headphones, with cool hi tech chairs to listen to music etc. On the 4th floor there is a huge Starbucks with many places to sit, perfect spot to study! Major cities like Osaka or Kyoto are only about a 30-35minute train ride away, perfect for weekend get aways.
I have met so many people here from all around the world. Some of my good friends here, excluding the Japanese ones of course, are from Morocco, Turkey, Netherlands, Somalia, Finland, and the list goes on. Everyone has such interesting perspectives and stories to tell. I always considered myself very high in terms of cultural intelligence and thought of myself as an international individual because of the amount of travelling I have done, but after interacting on a daily basis and especially taking classes with all these students, I have learned and expanded my horizon like never before.
Tried some new food here as well: Mcdonalds Fish Fillet was my saving grace for the first week or so until I learned how to say No Pork/Meat, No Alcohol. I really wanted to try some Ramen but most Ramen is made with a pork broth so I gave up on it....but just then I got assigned a Japanese speaking partner, and we all went out to a great Ramen place where I got a miso based broth instead. A M A Z I N G *Heart Eyes Emoji*. Some foods however were a total disaster for me. I tried something called Okonomiyaki, which is basically a cabbage based "Japanese pancake" of sorts... to me it tasted like Fish Food sooo yeah. Not trying that again.
All in all a solid start to my trip! Classes have started for 2 weeks now and tests/assignments are starting to come up so will be busy with that. I have a few videos all edited and ready to go, so at least for the next week or so I will have daily content, after that lets hope I stay on track and at the minimum post every few days! Let me know if you want to know something specific about Japan and I will try and make a video about it. Excited for the future.