Japan Life Update

It has gotten a little quieter around here since I went to Japan. In the beginning I thought that I would post more frequently once I am in Japan, but of course university happened and above all of that I found a new hobby.
It still has something to do with blogging, but in the form of videos. Since my friends want to stay updated about my life here and about all the things I experience, I told them that I would try filming it. Back then I was not sure whether I would manage to edit a proper video. So I tried to upload a short video about my flight to Japan and I found out that I really enjoy filming and editing. So I began vlogging and posting on my YouTube channel every week since the second day I am in this country.
However this doesn’t mean that I will give up on this blog. It is just difficult to edit videos, write blog posts and do stuff for university at the same time. If you have watched my videos, you might have noticed that I mostly vlog while being out with friends, meaning that I don’t really talk about my university life in my videos that much. As I mentioned in a former blog post already, I am really bad at talking and telling stories, especially on camera. I uploaded two videos of me talking about my first experiences in Japan and it just feels awkward, because I look really emotionless. After filming several videos, I think I have gotten more used to the camera and I also tried to improve my expressions, but I don’t think that I will upload another video of me just talking to the camera again in the near future. I enjoy vlogging outside more, because there are many interesting things I can show and I feel more comfortable being with another person while vlogging. This was just an update concerning my blogging activities.
My original intention of writing this blog post, was to tell you a little bit about my daily life. I have been thinking about vlogging a morning and my way to university, but I am really lazy in the morning, so I am not sure whether I will do that. That is why I decided to take some pictures on my way to university to show you for the time being. This way you can read my story while accompanying me to university.
Of course it took a little bit of time to get used to the new environment, the new culture and the new schedules.

I think that I can consider myself as settled in now. However, I’m still not used to commuting every single day, especially during rush hour. I think Düsseldorf really spoilt me. It takes me one hour from my dormitory to my university and that is really long, compared to the 15 minutes it took me from my dormitory to university in Germany.

Since I am living in Kawasaki, I have to go to the train station by foot every time I want to go somewhere. That takes about 15 minutes.

After that I have to change trains at Shinagawa station in order to get to Tamachi station, where I have to get off to walk to campus another 10 minutes. Shinagawa station is one of the more busier stations in Tokyo, because many people change trains at this station.

Especially this part of the station is packed with people during rush hour. It is just  one stream of people moving forward. If you want to go in the other direction you have to fight your way trough, because salarymen can be ruthless sometimes. During rush hour you don’t enter the train, you get pushed into the train. I really feel bad for the people who are already standing inside the train, who then get squashed either between the people or between the people and the door.

These gates were set up at the bigger stations, to prevent accidents, I think. It’s not a good idea to run to the train, when the doors of the gate and the train are about to close. The doors don’t have a laser, detecting, whether someone is in between, so it can get dangerous if you run in between closing doors.

Once I get to Tamachi station, I have to make my way through all the people, go down one flight of stairs, pass several restaurants, cross the street several times until I finally arrive at university.

The streets on my way are full of restaurants. You can see a McDonald’s in this picture, but there are a lot of smaller stores around this area that sell Japanese dishes.

My university has several campuses. Luckily I just study at one campus, otherwise it would be really stressfull if I had to travel to another campus everyday.

I can see the Tokyo Tower on my way to university every morning. It’s a really beautiful scenery when the sky is clear and blue. Since I am in a rush every morning, I can’t always enjoy the view as much as I would like to.

I can’t allow myself to sleep in, because I would be late for classes for sure. In Germany I could sleep for 5 or 10 more minutes and I would still make it in time.
I have to leave early on days when I have morning classes, since everything slows down during rush hour because of the amount of people traveling. It is just impossible to walk at a fast pace. There are just too many people and it is frustrating, because everyone is in a rush, but there is just not enough space to walk.

In Germany you wouldn’t enter a train, if you see that there are too many people inside already. Whereas in Japan, the people use every single millimeter of the train. You always think that that amount of people would never fit in the train, but they will do whatever it takes to make everyone fit in, even if it means that you will be squeezed in between everyone until it’s hard to breath. Nevertheless, you will get used to it eventually, you just have to accept it. I was lucky on the day I took the photos, because it was a public holiday, so the trains were empty during rush hour.

I noticed that there are a lot of stairs in Japan and they are usually high and steep and Japanese people walk a lot. You can save money by walking instead of taking the train, because you basically have to pay for every single train ride, if you don’t have a student commuter pass. One good thing I can tell you about riding the train in Japan is the Suica/Pasmo card. Those are really convenient, since you don’t have to think about which ticket you have to buy every time you want to take the train. Sometimes it is really complicated, because the ticket prices depend on which line you take, whether you change trains and on how long your train ride is. So I really recommend buying a Pasmo or a Suica card. You can get them at many stations.

In order to buy one, you just go to one of the machines that issues those cards, put a certain amount of money on them by inserting some bills into the machine and then you just have to let the gates at the station scan your card when you travel. If you have any problems, the station staff will always be happy to help you out. You can recharge your card at almost every station at the same machines. Not only can you pay your traveling fees with those cards, but many supermarkets and conbinis also have an option where you can pay with a Suica or a Pasmo, too and that is really convenient, if you don’t have any cash with you. Just make sure that there is enough money on your card. Before coming to Japan I did some research on whether to buy the Suica or the Pasmo. Now I have both of them and there isn’t really a difference, except that they are issued by two different companies. If I remember correctly, there are some locations or cities where you can’t use the Suica or Pasmo. I got the Pasmo first when I got off at Haneda airport in order to ride the train to my hotel. After getting my student ID I got a student commuter pass at my station which just happens to be a Suica card.

When you want to get the student commuter pass, you have to fill out a form, write down the station that is closest to where you live and the station that is closest to your university.

Then you show them your student ID card and pay an amount of money, for 3, 6 or 12 months. It is up to you to choose which one you want. You can travel in between these two stations as often as you like, so it is cheaper in the long run. Since then I only use the Suica card to get around Tokyo. Of course you still have to make sure that you have money on your card if you want to travel somewhere else. Another aspect I really like about Japanese trains is their punctuality. If there is a delay, they will tell you. The trains at the main stations also come every 3 to 5 minutes. So you don’t have to wait a long time for the next train. That is something I will certainly miss, when I am back in Germany, because the trains there are always late, sometimes they don’t even come and they don’t even bother to tell you.
I told this story in one of my videos already, so those who watched it know, that I got lost on my way to my dormitory on the move-in day. I arrived in Japan 3 days before the first move-in day and I stayed in a hotel in Kawasaki. When I got off the train to walk to my dormitory, I went into the wrong direction. It’s hard to find addresses in Japan because there aren’t many street signs.

So I dragged my two suitcases behind me on a bumpy road under the unforgiving sun, looking aimlessly for my dormitory. In the end I asked a nice old lady for directions and that was the moment I learnt that I had to go all the way back and then cross the long bridge to the other side of the town. I was stressed out, because I registered a certain time to move in and I didn’t want to be late. Japanese streets aren’t made for suitcases, it was a real pain to keep them rolling in a straight line.

I was sweating like crazy, drops of sweat were falling of my face as if it was raining. The only thing I wanted then was to take a shower.

I don’t know how I did it, but I arrived on time, even though drenched in sweat and completely exhausted. However, the resident manager wasn’t there because he was in the middle of showing someone else their room. So I had to wait.
When he finally came down and after he finished all his explanations concerning the dormitory and the rooms, I could move into my room. If you are interested in what it looks like,you can watch my room tour on YouTube.
Of course, I didn’t have anything in this room. I didn’t have shower gel, I didn’t have toilet paper, I didn’t have soap. So I had to go out again to get everything at the conbini around the corner. It felt good when I finally could take a shower and after that I slept until night. It took me a while to find my daily routine. There were a lot of necessities that I took for granted in Germany that I didn’t have here in my room. Like pots, pans, cutleries, things that you need for a functioning household. I could get some cooking utensils from lounge, the common room of the dormitory, but I was too late and almost everything was taken by other residents already. So until now I have been getting by with one frying pan I bought myself, one small pot with a lid and a large one without a lid. Luckily there are conbinis and bentos. However my room is bigger than the one I had in Düsseldorf, so that’s not too bad. The following day, our resident assistant, who is a Japanese university student, took us to the ward office of Kanagawa to register ourselves. After that he took us a to a Japanese bank to open a Japanese bank account. I heard that the resident assistants of the other dormitories didn’t help the international students with those, so I really appreciate it, that our resident assistant helped us with that.
It has gotten a lot colder now and that it relieving because the summer in Japan is too humid to endure. I think that the weather in Japan is really unpredictable. One day it can be really hot and then the next it can be freezing cold and rainy. I also noticed that Japanese people will open their umbrellas with the slightest drops of rain. In Germany a light rainfall is usually not a big deal and people don’t bother opening an umbrella even if they have one with them.
After two months I have a daily and weekly routine and of course a lot of things are easier, now that I am more used to life in Japan. This was just a small update concerning my arrival in Japan. I intend to write more about my actual university life. I just have find the time to do it. Maybe I will write a post to show you my university next time.

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