The First Days of Japan: More Torture- I Mean Orientation

September 16th was another nauseating day of orientation. The first bit wasn’t so bad, we met a former CSU IP program participant who gave us some advice, she is currently working through the JET program. Got information on housing, transportation, and banking. After which we got our student IDs.

After that it was lunch with the Waseda students. I was taken to an udon place and had a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) rice bowl with udon. It was quite good. During lunch I talked to the a couple of the Japanese students, told them I was an actor, for the most part made small talk. This Japanese girl I ate with finish her whole meal, hers had as much food as mine, but I could only eat about half. I’ve never been a huge eater, but maybe I’ll start eating more as well once I settle in a bit more.

She ate it all, she put my eating skillz to shame.

After lunch, the true torture of Orientation began, 2 and 1/2 hours of boring slides and information. The horror, the mayhem (Or in this case, the lack thereof)! There was one small glimmer of entertainment. When the librarian from the Waseda Library spoke, in the most awesome voice, he stated “I am a Librarian!” and said he would make things short. And it was short, almost too short, it was somewhat saddening to see him go.

After surviving the dribble of orientation, the Waseda students were to take us on a tour of Shinjuku. There was a lot of walking around, not really paying attention to where I was or going, and for the most part I was just talking with one of the Waseda students. At that point I don’t think it really helped me learn my way around Shinjuku. After showing us some places, we headed back to Takadanobaba Rotary for the next bit-o-fun, but that is for the next post…

The First Days of Japan: Ginger Ale Master

After a long day, it was time for me, the CSU students, resident director, program associate, and of course Greedy to kick back and have a real party to celebrate our arrival in Japan. Dinner at Shakey’s pizza the night before was just a prelude to the dinner this night at the Kin-no-Kura. Kin-no-Kura is a type of restaurant referred to as an Izakaya, which is a drinking establishment that serves food in addition to its drinks, it is typically a nomihodai (All you can drink). For these events, usually you’re there for a specific period of time, and during that time is when it is all you can drink. For most people, this means to drink as much alcohol as they can within that time period, but nomihodai can also refers to non-alcoholic drinks as well. Thus I created a CSU legend as the Ginger Ale Master.

Thus the Ginger Ale Master takes another glass…

Chug! Chug! Chug!

In addition to downing more Ginger Ale than any mere mortal can handle, I also partook in the drinking of some Sake. Sake is of course Japanese rice wine. This event was also one of epic proportions, because it was the first time I had ever drunk Sake, and of all places, my first time to drink Sake was in Japan itself! The Sake wasn’t half-bad, better than a lot of alcohol I’ve had in the past.

Drink in place, you have permission to engage.

We have Sake launch! Drinking Sake for the first time ever in Japan, Epic.

We talked, joked, and even sang a little (Ok, only I sang). I had the reputation of being the wildest sober guy to establish after all. All in all it was a good time, Greedy of course drank alcohol like a beast and was hitting on all the women. We went through quite a few drinks as the time was ticking down.

A lively evening at the Kin-no-Kura.

Chatting at the Kin-no-Kura.

Got all sorts of stuff going on at the table at the Kin-no-Kura.

Remnants of food at the Kin-no-Kura.

Another picture angle at the Kin-no-Kura.

Empty bottles and glasses at the Kin-no-Kura.

Insert caption here ending with Kin-no-Kura.

It twas an enjoyable evening. Though it wasn’t done yet, some of us went to the Hub: The British Pub. The Hub is a common hang-out for a lot of Waseda students. Here I actually did have a couple more drinks, my friend bought me a Gin and Tonic, then he said I owed him a drink now. Thus I bought another round of Gin and Tonic for both him and myself. After chatting with the Waseda students there for a bit, we decided to head back and call it a night.

The First Days of Japan: Start of Orientation

September 15th had come around and my first full day in Japan had begun. This day was filled with new things as I continued to learn the ropes. First we had breakfast at the hotel in the morning. I tried some of the different food there, got some practice with hashi (Chopsticks for the layman), and chatted with some of the other CSU students there. After that it was time to make the walk to campus. Unlike the US, where you have to drive to reasonably get around anywhere, walking and using the transportation system is quite the norm in Japan. In the case of this day, our hotel was in walking distance of the Waseda campus, thus we hoofed it. I got to see some of the sights on the way to the campus, took about 25 minutes to get there.

From there we had orientation, we got a bit of an overview of what is up with the program. This particular orientation was for us CSU students given by the resident director and the program associate. This orientation gave various information such as some basic info on Waseda, like that it was established in 1882, that there is about 59,500 student (Quite a large amount I know), and the various schools at Waseda. Further detail was given on the school we would be attending, SILS, the School of International Liberal Studies, such as it starting as an international division in 1965, being called the Center for International Education or CIE. It has now been known as SILS since 2004 with about 30% foreign faculty. The types of students were also discussed, in my case I am a SP3, a one-year international student. We were given the basic contact information we needed, the rules and regulations, some information on the CSU group activities, and info to consider about Japanese culture and society.

There was then a knock at the door, it was some of the Waseda students. It was time for the campus tour. We wandered around a bit. They showed us a few of the buildings, told us some little facts and tidbits. At this point though, it was a little much to take in all at once, so I still hadn’t gotten my bearings around the campus yet. This would wane in time though. From there we had to go to the welcome lunch, this was basically another orientation information session, this time hosted by Waseda itself. Lunch consisted of little sandwich pack with a variety of different types in a single box and a box of juice. We then got a lot more information and forms to fill out, all the papers we got was a little overwhelming. After surviving through it, I had to go to a homestay interview, which had me filling out a questionnaire and then being interviewed by the program associate to help her decide which host family to place me with. The results would come another day however.

After that I met with more Japanese friends, talked with them a bit, then the gave us another little tour. I busted out my portable speakers and did some dancing. I was quite the hit, the Japanese students enjoyed it immensely. This would be the first of many times and likely the start of my imminent legend at Waseda, bwahahahaha!

*Cough*

That covers my day for the most part. From there we were to have dinner with just the CSU students, the resident director, and program associate. That shall be saved for the next post though…

Arrival in Japan – Late Night Escapades

So we had arrived at the hotel.  We ate at Shakey’s Pizza in Japan to celebrate our arrival after we dropped off our bags at our hotel rooms, then afterward many of the other students were completely beat and decided to go straight to bed. But me and some other brave souls thought we would go explore a bit, the night was still young after all. It was about 7:00 pm Japan time, and one of the students who had been in Japan before knew of a cool place in Shibuya to check out. To get to Shibuya, we had to take the train, in this case the JR Yamanote Line. Thus I was taught how to use the train system. I purchased a Pasmo card, and what this does is you put credit onto it, and then when you ride a train or other transportation, you scan the card and when you reach your destination, you scan it again and the amount of your trip is deducted from your credit on the card. Very useful stuff, and the scanner is strong enough that you don’t need to take it out of your wallet to scan, you can just swipe your whole wallet over the scanner.

http://www.pasmo.co.jp/

From there we headed to Shibuya, which is only two stops away from Takadanobaba. We walked around a bit, took in some of the sights and then headed for our intended destination, a place called “The Lockup”. The Lockup is basically a place to drink that has a dungeon/prison theme going for it.

OOOoooooo, the Lockup is Scary!

Caution: Toxic Waste

Trapped, like a rat!

She looks better and better with each drink.

Making the most of my time Locked Up Abroad.

Although you can’t tell from the pictures, the lights in the room were actually flashing on and off. Once you enter, an employee handcuffs you and leads you and your party to their cell, where you will order various drink concoctions. All these drinks are served in various beakers and measuring cups. Although I only had water, some of the others had some of the crazy drinks, one had Jello mix in it, yet another had cotton candy and poprocks, and you pour something else on top of it to make it dissolve into the drink.

What are these strange concoctions?

What are you doing?! You know both those elements are volatile!

Oooh the humanity!

…You know, that actually looks quite delicious.

Supposedly every half hour or so, the lights are supposed to go completely off. Then someone pops out from a hole in the wall in the cell and grabs people’s hair and arms to freak them out. Unfortunately, we were there for an hour and it never happened. We were somewhat disappointed, but it the lockup was a cool place to see. An awesome crazy place to start my year at Japan right! After this we returned to the hotel and retired for the night.

Arrival in Japan – Journey to the Hotel

The long flight was finally over. The other four students and me disembarked from the plane. From there we followed the path through our passport validation, picking up our suitcases, and going through customs. We all knew we were finally in Japan when there were announcements at the airport in Engrish. After getting through customs we were met by Waseda students from the international clubs Niji no Kai (Also known as the Rainbow Club) and WIC (Waseda International Club) and the resident director and program associate director of the CSU Japan program. Greedy and me introduced ourselves, and it was here Greedy found out the meaning of the term “Carnivorous Women”.

Greedy thinks Japanese girls are so nice.

Wait… Danger… Sense… is… Tingling…

Fresh Breath! Wait…

This is bad… but at the same time so good, Greedy loves it.

We still had other students to wait for on other flights, so I went about my business of getting my currency exchanged. I had to write down my name, where I was staying (A hotel at this point) and how much cash I was planning to exchange. Then using a magical formula, AKA the exchange rate plus a little extra for themselves, I received my first influx of Japanese funds, the Yen. The exchange rate was pretty crappy when I arrived, but what can you do in this current economic environment. With our main tasks at the moment complete, it was just a matter of waiting for whatever other CSU students to trickle here from other flights, Greedy and me kicked back for a bit and talked to the resident director for a while.

Just chilling.

Finally, almost everyone had arrived that was going to arrive, and it was time to head to the hotel. We were going to be staying three days at a place called Hotel Sunroute Takadanobaba. To get there was about an hour bus trip into the heart of Tokyo! We got our luggage together and headed to the chartered bus. After some walking and talking, we loaded our stuff and hopped on the bus to our intended destination.

Dun, dun, dun, another one rides the bus!

The CSU students were chatting with the Waseda students while being driven to the hotel. We were introducing ourselves and getting to know each other. Greedy and I decided to sit in the back of the bus and chat with some of the girls there. With the good conversation and the various sights out the window, time went by pretty quickly. It was on the bus that there was another indicator that I was finally in Japan. The bus was driving on the left side of the road rather than the right side like in the US. A small novelty to be sure, but nice none the less. Finally as we were nearing the hotel, our room arrangements were announced, so I had a temporary roommate for the next three days. With that we arrived, hauled our luggage inside, and checked into our rooms. We ate at Shakey’s Pizza in Japan to celebrate our arrival after we dropped off our bags at our hotel rooms. After we ate we went back to the hotel, for many that was the end of their day. But for me and some others, the night had just begun…

Flying off to Japan and Beyond!

It was September 13th, I had a rather sleepless night at my brother’s, thinking of all the things I needed to do and my imminent journey to Japan. After chatting with my brother a bit on the way to the airport, he dropped me and my stuff off and I was on my own to check my bags, get through security, and get on the plane to Japan! This was my first time flying by myself, as well as my first flight internationally. I found out that international flights can’t have their baggage checked at the curb and was directed to wait in line for the usual baggage check-in. I waited, checked both my main suitcases in, then head towards security. At security one of my bags had to be searched because I was bringing my portable speakers, so I can of course spontaneously burst into song and dance at any moment. After a little extra scanning they found it was fine and let me be on my way. From there it was a matter of getting to my terminal and waiting to board.

Greedy watching my bags

I arrived at the terminal and then kicked back and relaxed a bit. I went and got some McDonalds while Greedy guarded my bags. After that I sat back and waited with Greedy for some of the other CSU students to come around. By the time it was time to board there were 5 of us, well, I guess 6 if you include Greedy (Greedy, you can stop giving me that look).

Waiting at the Terminal with Greedy

From there we were off! It was quite a long flight. Lasted 10 and ½ hours. Listened to some music, chatted with one of the other of the students who sat next to me, watched one of the movies, Iron Man 2.

Flying the Greedy Skies

Finally, after hanging with Greedy for a bit, Japan came in sight and I had arrived. Ready to begin my Japan Odyssey!

Land ho! Japan is within my grasp!

GAHHHHHH!!! LET ME OFF THIS PLANE!!!

The landing of the plane marked the beginning of things to come…

Japan Spotlight: Greedy, The Venture Capitalist

Before I begin to regale you all with my various escapades and adventures in Japan, I thought it proper to introduce my traveling companion first. We’ve known each other for over 15 years and he has been very successful in his life. He thought it would be fun to tag along with me and experience what Japan has to offer, in the ways of money and women. Without further ado, meet Greedy, the Venture Capitalist!

Meet Greedy, The Venture Capitalist!

You’ll be seeing a lot of him around here, and perhaps he may post some things himself. He’ll be my partner here in Japan and hopefully his insight and antics will both inform and entertain. Greedy is known famously for his toothy grin. In a way you could call him my mascot character, though not to his face.

If you have any questions you want to ask Greedy, ask away, I’m sure he’s lurking around the website and may post a reply.

Japan Prologue: Preparations Complete

So the time is approaching. The time of reckoning, the time of destiny, the time to which to begin my journey, my odyssey, my Japan Odyssey. The preparations have been made, the J-CAT taken, and my bags packed with precision. With items of which to cloth myself with, an offering to my host family, and the various items I will use to operate while abroad such as this very laptop I’m typing on now for this post.

http://www.j-cat.org/en/

I shall set off out of town on the morn of Sunday, Sept. 12th and drive down to LA. From there I will meet up with my brother whose place of residence is located in LA and my mother will say her goodbyes and drop me off. I’ll stay the night over at my brother’s and then finally, Monday morning he will drop me off at the LAX airport. I’ll check my bags, and make my way to the plane that will take me to Japan. Others in the program are taking this same flight, so I’ll meet up with them and we’ll set off together, each beginning their own journey.

With every end, there is a new beginning.

Waseda University – Background Information

My intended destination abroad is the prestigious private university called “Waseda University”. It would not be an understatement to compare Waseda University’s prestige in Japan to Harvard’s, Stanford’s, and Yale’s prestige in the US. Waseda is considered the 148th best school in the world and 25th in Asia and the Middle east (As of 2009).

US News and World Report’s “World’s Best Universities”

US News and World Report’s “World’s Best Universities: Asian and Middle Eastern”

Waseda University is located in the northern part of Shinjuku in Tokyo. The university’s motto is “Independence of Learning”. It is a motto that resonates with me since I was homeschooled for so many years, it instilled in me the value of learning on my own. Between all undergraduates and graduate students, the university has almost 50,000 students and it receives 136,000 applications each year. Of those applications, just under 10% are accepted.

Top Universities – Waseda (Click the “Statistics” tab on the website for more information.)

If you didn’t know, baseball is quite popular in Japan and Waseda University is no exception. One of the most exciting events is considered one of the most important competitions of the year by the student body, and that is when Waseda’s baseball team faces off against their rivals at Keio University. The match between Waseda and Kieo is called the Sokeisen, and when the match occurs it causes classes at both universities to be canceled. Sounds like an event that shouldn’t be missed, I’ll be sure to write about it here after I attend the event myself.

Now, I’m not attending classes that normal Japanese students take. I will be attending classes at the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS). SILS has around 2,400 students, of those students about 1,500 are native Japanese and around 700 are degree seeking international students mostly from countries like Korea, China, and Taiwan. Lastly there are around 200 students who are one-year exchange students (Which is what I am). The special thing about SILS is that all classes (Except Japanese language acquisition classes) are taught in English. So basically all the courses related to business that I’m taking will be taught in English!

School of International Liberal Studies Website

If you want to learn more about the history and background of the university in more depth, I would suggest reading more about it on their “About Waseda” page.

Waseda University Website – About Page

General IP Information & Evolution at CSUB

The IP (International Programs) is offered through the California State University system. It has been operating since 1963 and is headquartered in Long Beach. Students from all the different California State Universities can apply to the program, just as I have from Cal State Bakersfield. They strive to keep the programs costs abroad similar to costs of going to school here and is focused towards a full academic year abroad studying. To qualify for admission you have to be upper division by the time you depart. Another qualification is students interested in applying must maintain a GPA of at least 2.75 or 3.00, depending on what country a student decides on. There are also other possible criteria depending on the individual country and university abroad. The IP program is partnered with many other universities all over the world.

http://www.calstate.edu/ip/

Now there are varying sizes of California State Universities, each with their own variety of classes and majors. In my case Cal State Bakersfield is one of the smaller universities with about 8,000 undergraduate and graduate students. From what I have heard, there hasn’t been much activity with students at Cal State Bakersfield looking to study abroad in past years, likely a combination of lack of available information and the preconception students have that studying abroad is out of reach for them. During the last barrage of students going abroad through the program only one student went abroad from Cal State Bakersfield.

http://www.csub.edu/

However, this past year Cal State Bakersfield obtained a new International Programs Director. This new director, herself from another country, set about educating the campus about the programs and garnering interest. I mentioned in my previous post that she approached me about the possibility of studying in Japan. Certainly she brought the opportunity up to the right student. I’m the first student from Cal State Bakersfield to be accepted into the Japan program ever. I’m not the only person who applied for a program and got accepted. Seven other students applied for various programs and all were accepted, three for the Spain program, two for France (Though one person had to drop due to financial issues), one for the UK, and one for Ghana. This is in addition to my going to Japan. This just shows how powerful accessible information is and getting the word out, dispelling the misconceptions. A huge difference from the year before.