Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas!!

It’s been a long time since I did a post. To summarise the events after June, it was reports and exams for the Spring semester, then summer hols till September, preparation for the November school fest and now here we are… Looking back, this year passed really fast, much faster than last year I feel… I kinda miss the times at Osaka Uni where you could see everyone everyday, but now in a new uni with everyone having different schedules, you rarely meet up with the others unless you make plans with them… I guess that’s the sad part about moving to the second year in the MEXT programme, but of course, can’t forget about the interesting new stuff you can do as a uni student (baito, circles, internships, camps and so on! but of course there's gonna be some boring lessons but well, that's uni for you) I’m really thankful for the opportunities this year has given me, and grateful to have met people who I feel I can clique with (though it took me half a year to really settle in to my circles…) There were times where I really felt alone and stressed, especially during the examination periods, but I’m glad I pushed through (though maybe I might’ve binged eat (karaage don is especially delicious on exam days oops) and stuff (ok, make that stuffing myself with chocolates oops) on the way, but oh well there’s always light after the storm right?). Although I do still have some problems in trying to communicate with the Japanese people, be it teachers, classmates, circle mates, I’ll try to stay positive and speak up more next year (3 more years to go and gonna make the best out of it no matter what!!)

Positive thoughts!! So here’s some illuminations to light up your day :D

Roppongi Hills

 I forgot where this was but somewhere near Shinbashi?

Pageant of Lights at Takasaki, Gunma

Got together with some of the CJLC people from last year and made a chocolate cake yesterday!! (we  really should have a reunion next year or something…)

Have a Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Start of Rainy Season

Hi Guys, it's been two months since I've arrived in Tokyo and I think I can finally say that I've gotten used to life here (hopefully). May was quite the busy month with school festival preparations, the actual running of booths (All year 1 classes have to set up a food booth and our class sold karaage!), presentations and reports... though I suppose there'll be more to come in June and July, and oh no... end of semester exams in end July ._. but oh well!

Recently, I'm beginning to enjoy cycling to the station, even in the early mornings. BUT! From next week onwards, it's gonna be the start of the rainy season (*cue dramatic music*)... Was thinking of getting through the month with raincoats and plastic bags over my bag when cycling, but I doubt that'll be safe in heavy rains... sigh... but waiting for the bus with long queues in the rain doesn't sound that appealing either (and that means getting a bus pass ._. which is around 7k yen for a month D:) Oh well... if only I knew how heavy the rain's gonna be for the whole month...

On the bright side, hydrangeas are starting to bloom!!

There's a row of them along the Keio Inogashira railway track and they really make my day especially when squeezing on crowded trains. (I need to take a photo of them somehow ._.)

And one last thing! I recently tried this delicious giant karaage rice bowl with tartar sauce near Kichijoji station (the park exit)! It was so large that the shop owner provided a bowl to scoop some out in case it topples when eating. For 690 yen, definitely a recommendation! (A warning though, I felt quite bloated when I finished it, so perhaps you could take-out or share with a friend!)

Delicious Karaage owo

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Moving + New Life Admin

Hi Guys! I think I've settled down quite a bit (kinda need a little more time to get used to 105-min lessons but oh well!)! Today I'm gonna summarise the stuff I can remember about moving before lessons and whatnot replace it!

Before you move:
You have to submit a 転出届 (Moving-out Notice) to the city office and return the National Health Insurance card + settle any outstanding payments! This can be done anytime from 2 weeks before the day you move. Don't forget to bring your 在留 Residence card!

There's also a 転居届 (Change of address notice) to submit to the post office so that they can send any mail to your new address if there's some addressed to the old one!

When you move in:
This time, you have to submit a 転入届(Moving-in Notice) to the city office and do the procedures for getting a National Health Insurance card there! This has to be done anytime until 2 weeks from when you move in!

If you've turned 20, you'll be required to pay for the National Pension System, BUT!! as a student, you can apply for an exemption at the city office! (It'll require the student pass from the new university though)

For Tokyo University, the admission procedures require a copy of the 住民票 (Certificate of Residence) which can be obtained from the city office with a processing fee of about 300 yen. As the procedures are quite early (29th Mar in my case, the same day the dorms started allowing students to move in), you can let the university staff know and submit this document at a later date in April!

Mitaka Dorms:
For those who plan to get a bicycle, you have to register the bicycle (after you bought it) with the Dorm Office! You'll get a sticker which allows you to park your bicycle round the premises!
(Got mine at the Mitaka ドンキホーテ Don Quijote, a discount store for around 11,000 yen + 500 yen for insurance excluding tax)

Tokyo University:
There's a 学生諸団体会費 which is not compulsory! I paid and kinda regret it now...perhaps I won't regret it if I find some use out of it! (will update if I do!)

There's this support organisation called 生協Co-op which manages the bookstore, travel counter and cafeteria on campus! Joining it allows you to get a 10% discount on books, and use the 学食パス system where you add money to your Suica or PASMO card for cashless dining! (the money can only be used for cafeteria food if I'm not wrong!) There's something like a deposit when you join though. It costs 16,000 yen but it'll be returned to you when you graduate.

Do apply for the 定期券 student's commuter pass to save up on transport! The uni will give you a student's proof card needed when purchasing one! (From Mitaka Dorms: You can apply for it at Kichijoji Station, 3 months for 7330 yen!)

If you're planning on commuting to the station by bicycle, register for the 定期 bicycle parking at Kichijoji as soon as possible! I registered at the start of April and the wait is 4 months long for the roof parking, 10 months for the second floor .__. The registered parking for the roof is 800 yen per month, way cheaper than the 100 yen I'm paying per day D:

So that's about it for now! (My memory's kinda fuzzy these days...) Random note: Make you save enough for the move, start up costs of getting furniture + appliances, orientation camp (was around 2万), class bonding activities (round 2000-3000 yen for each), joining the Uni Co-op, bicycle and what not! I think 100, 000 yen is a safe amount, but you might wanna save more if you're gonna rent an apartment especially with the extra costs of 礼金・敷金 gratitude money + key money!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Moved - New Dorm, New Place!

Hi Guys, it's been quite the hectic move, but I've finally moved into the Mitaka Dorms today! (Kinda forgot about this, but I'll be entering Tokyo University!) The dorm is about an hour away from the Komaba Campus, but it's a really cheap place considering that it's Tokyo! The rent is 11500 yen, excluding electricity and water and what not, nearly half of the Minoo Dorms! (It's even bigger than the Dorm 2 rooms yay owo)

Here's some pictures!

So much space owo
(but there's no curtains and mattress (at first) you can get them at the nearby home center)

There's a mini kitchen inside! Have to make sure pots and pans are suited for electrical heating!

Toilet + Shower! Sink's movable owo so space-efficient owo

All the documents and fliers from admin .___. Went with an empty bag, came back with 3 full bags .__.

Cool river with Nanohana and ducks! On the way from the bus stop to the dorms!

Shall do a post about the moving admin next time! There'll be orientation events + admin the next few days so look out for a post around end next week!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Moving Day - Sending Stuff

Today I've finally packed finished and sent my luggage + boxes of stuff! Was supposed to send them earlier but oops .__. (If you're moving in March, do try to pack and send them early as it's the peak period!)

Sent a total of 4 boxes + a big suitcase for around 7,600 yen via Yu-Packゆうパック, a postal service by Japan Post. It's cheaper than using a moving company and renting a truck/van which can cost around 20,000 ~ 30,000 yen or more depending on the distance. The cost of using Yu-Pack depends on the distance and size of the package (Length + Breadth + Height).

Displaying DSC_0485.JPG
The cost shown here is from Kinki Region to the rest of Japan

The dorm sells cardboard boxes at 320 yen for the large size (140cm) and at 220 yen for the small size (around 110cm *since it's over 100cm, it's charged at the 120cm size price). The large size boxes sold out during this week, so yup, do buy them early. Or, you can get free cardboard boxes from the Supermarket but they're are mostly within 100cm... Or, you can use a giant plastic bag to hold a small box, and add on to it! Then at the end, you wrap it up with other plastic bags (or a rice sack which I'd say is thicker) The downside is the end package isn't very sturdy, so pack only non-fragile stuff there (shoes, books, clothes, etc.).

Desperate times call for desperate measures

NOTE: Don't pack in aerosols, batteries, lighters, stuff that don't go into your luggage when you check in for flights! The Post Office won't accept parcels with those and it'll get sent back to your old address... 

On a side note, two more days left in Osaka and 5 more till uni entrance administration starts .__.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Getting Essentials in Osaka

I remember my first week in Osaka, gathering essentials: toilet paper (pack one roll along first cause there wasn't any in the room! You can get them subsequently from the Dorm Manager actually, don't need to buy them!), food supplies, cooking tools and appliances.

On our 2nd day here, after admin stuff, my friend and I went to the nearby Garden Mall (15min walk away).
There's a path next to Dorm 2 along a tennis court. Walk on that path out of the campus and go to the end until a zebra crossing. Cross that and walk along the path with apartments to your right. You'll see a bridge. Cross the bridge and turn right at the end of it. Walk straight and you'll pass a post office, Rikuro Ojisan (nice Japanese fluffy cheese egg cake). Then you'll see the Family Mart Signboard and head towards that direction! There's a fancy but pricey furniture shop called Francfranc and walk pass it to reach Saitonishi Monorail Station. Garden Mall is a little further from there!

Garden Mall mainly has a supermarket called Friend Mart, a Seria (a 100 yen store) and a drugstore, to stock up. While Seria and the drugstore are quite decent, the supermarket is on the pricey side.
BUT on Tuesdays and Wednesday, Friend Mart has a sale on vegetables(mainly carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onions) and meat in general, and you can check out the offers here
Only then, do I find it worth buying from there! And whenever you need something immediately.

There are cheaper options at Apro and Maruyasu down the hill 25min away, but the vegetables are more expensive than Friend Mart on its sale day. The uphill climb back is tiring/good exercise depending on how you see it.

I'd say the cheapest is Gyomu Supermarket, but it's nearly an hour away on foot. Usually I'd go there once a month and stock up with friends (having someone to talk to makes the journey feel shorter). You can also check out the food along the walk there! There's delicious stuff which I'll cover in some other post! Though some vegetables can't beat Friend Mart on sale day, nearly everything is cheaper there. Especially fruits!! Look out for 見切り品 too! They're priced cheaper as they're nearing expiry dates. If I remember correctly, I got those peaches for around 400 yen or even lesser!

                                            Peach Stock in June                               Mikan Stock in December

The downside is: food is packed in bulk; the least amount of meat you can get is around 1kg. With usually 2 hand carry bags and 1 backpack full, going back by bus is a must! (the bus fare is 220 yen, but the discounts make up for that).

For appliances, I remember the time my friend and I went to Umeda to get our electronics. It wasn’t the smartest move, lugging a rice cooker back, with an electric kettle each and what not back on a 1h+ journey. Neither was it the cheapest.
The nearer, cheaper option would be Recycle Shops, like 2nd Street and Peace. I've been to 2nd Street (got a bento box for around 500yen and a ceramic bowl for 200yen) but not Peace though but Recycle Shops usually sell a variety of things from appliances, pots and pans (there was a takoyaki pan for 200 yen), to used clothing, toys, and even yukatas at some shops, so I'm supposing Peace would have them too! Do check them out!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

U-Program in Handai - Looking Back

It has nearly been a year since I came to Osaka University (Handai) for a year of language preparation under MEXT. There were ups and downs, fun lessons and boring ones, and times where I wondered whether this was the right choice for me. But I'd have to say, this year was a very memorable one and overall, it was a great year!

I don't want to forget the times I've had here, so I've decided to start a blog to look back and to record future stuff. Hopefully, it'll be helpful for the future batches! (Before I came here, I was stalking Eustacia's blog about her experience and thought it was a really informative and interesting read! I always looked forward to new posts. But there was not much information about Osaka's side, so I kinda got inspired, but never got to it until now oops...)

So, first things first, let me introduce a post by my current floormate, Devangi! She wrote a really detailed post about the Undergraduate Program and Dorms here in Osaka! Do check it out!

Next, I'm not sure if this is in time for the deadline, but around this period of time, if you're going to Osaka's U-Program, there's an option to sign up for the Host Family Program. I signed up and was paired with a nice grandma who invited me over for dinner around once every 2 months. During some public holidays or weekends, we would travel around Osaka and Kyoto to sight-see! I'm really grateful for this program because you get to interact with the locals and learn about Japanese culture directly from them! Though I heard some friends didn't manage to meet up with their host family much, I'd recommend signing up!

Moving on to the recap! On the first day we reached Osaka, there was a bus to pick us up from the airport to Handai. If I remember correctly, it was about a 2h? drive, with a stop at a convenience store for a toilet break.
**You might want to get some food at the convenience store! The cafeteria wasn't open and the nearest food place is a 20min walk away (not sure if it was open too cause I went to the conbini 15min away for dinner)

When we reached, it was around 3.30pm? (my memory's a bit fuzzy) and we had a briefing about the dorms. 2 months of rent and a cleaning fee was to be paid upfront (total 53,800 yen). After putting our suitcases in our rooms, there was another briefing about administrative things like applying for a bank account, student ID, insurance and schedules. Everything ended around 6pm+. For the following days we went in small groups to settle the bank account and insurance, and went on orientations regarding the university and its facilities. There were also placement tests for Japanese and English for all. The following week, Japanese lessons started and there were placement tests for Economics + Politics and History for the Humanities Students, Chemistry and Biology/Physics for the Science Students.

The placement test for Japanese decides your class and for English, whether you'll take an additional class after lessons. I'm not too sure about the Science students, but the "placement tests" for Econs+Politics and History felt more like surveys; the classes were based on your Japanese language class.

So that's about it for the first two weeks! I'll cover more after our last exam on Monday!