Monday, May 24, 2010

Unspoken Nightlife & the Misadventure of Counting

As the clock ticks and the tumbling of clothes in the dryer slowly begins to dry, days turn into weeks and our spring term at Senshu University quickly comes to an end.
We’ve talked about our outings and random adventures, our searches for bars and places to drink, video game centers visited and games played and even karaoke places which stripped us of our voices. Now, I think it’s finally time to talk about the other side of the TORA 2010 Nightlife experience. When it comes down to it, we came to Senshu to study Japanese language and culture. This is the part of the Senshu experience that is usually left unspoken; the part we leave behind the scenes. It’s the part where we miscalculate the amount of time we have left before the pile up of assignments, kanji quizzes and presentations encompass us and take us over.  So what we present to you this week is a documentary of a typical night at Kokusai Kenshukan. Let us take this opportunity to also capture and remember the hard work we all put in, not just the fun and games we’ve played.

The problem lies here: Japan simply has too many places within reach in need of exploring. One step into Shibuya, Shinkjuku, Harajuku, Odaiba, or any other place we’ve visited in the past two weeks, reveals the need to revisit them a countless number of times in order to ensure that we’ve done all that we wanted to do. The difficult thing is that time is ticking; the trip is coming to an end. In less than two weeks, this program will be over, and we’ll all be doing separate things. From the get-go we all knew we had to do well academically while making the most of our time while we’re in Japan.

It seems to be common practice for most of us to quickly eat lunch and then head to Kokusai Kenshukan to study for a few hours before going out to explore or to meet at Kokusai-Kenshukan immediately after lunch to head out for some sort of activity. Regardless of which way it happens, one thing’s for sure… we’re always short on time. It’s as if Japan has this weird affect on us, like we’re so immersed in the activities that are presented to us that we can no longer grasp time, it just slips through our fingers.  Perhaps our difficulty of time actually stems from the unbelievably confusing and difficult counting system Japan demands on having. Just joking! But you have to agree that’s it’s so much harder than in English. Why can’t be as simple as in English 1..2…3… counting people, paper, age, etc, it’s all the same… isn’t it? Well apparently not.  The following is not only an example of one of the activities available during the stay at Kenshukan but also an example of how difficult communicating is in Japanese really is, especially when numbers are thrown into the mix.
One lovely random evening, I decided to, wait no thats a lie, the evening of the Odaiba trip was a memorable night that I am happy to keep on a folder in my laptop to show how weak my Japanese really is.
Right off the drop into Odaiba, our group was geared for exploration, our first stop was what I assumed was a big playground thing... then our group split and I was left with Alex and Ken. Instead of going to the onsen like the rest, we decided to take in the Odaiba skyline with the picaresque backdrop of a sunset in the distance. As a joke, from the Simpsons, a plan on the list for Japan was to find America town, and Odaiba was the closest thing to it. There was a Statue of Liberty, and a bridge that was reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge, and even towers that reminded me of the ones in New York.

From the views, we went towards the created island, where it had a huge mall, and Ferris wheel, and cars that drove themselves… by the way, that mall was amazing!  But everything seemed so high class, so moved onward to the Ferris wheel and game center. Like a fool that couldn’t read, I changed a 500 yen coin for five 100 yen coins, usually a fair trade… until it said on the machine, a 200 yen coin is one play, and 500 yen coins are 3 plays. You can tell what I was thinking at that moment... Anyways, this was where we spent the last bit of the trip before we headed back to the dorm. 

So on the way back to the dorm, I was super tired, and I wanted something fast and easy to eat, so what’s fast and easy to eat and pretty cheap? McDonalds! So I took this time to have a practical practice session of Japanese by ordering in Japanese. I felt kind of hungry so I determined that three Shaka Shakas and six nuggets would suffice, so I got up to the counter and said, “シャカシャカチケンをみっつとナゲットをむっつおねがいします。” When the price ringed to almost 1900 yen, and the server brought out a bigger bag with handles I should have had some suspicion about what I had done, but I just thought the nuggets were huge, and that they were 300 yen each.. .but no, I was sorely mistaken, and instead of getting the six nuggets that I wanted became 6 orders of nuggets. The end result was 30 nuggets and a whole lot of pain. 
By the time 11:00 pm hits, the computer/ study room is a buzz with activity. People have finally come back from their explorations and adventures, and are finally settled in enough to begin their never-ending pile of homework. The chattering of people in English and Japanese in the attempts to explain and understand concepts can now be heard, along with the frantic running of footsteps throughout the main floor in the attempt to track down the nearest RA. In extreme cases, I’ve even seen RAs offered coffee to ensure that the RAs can stay up and help longer. But the most familiar sound of all is the clicking of keys heard throughout the night. This is truly the time that Kokusai Kenshukan is most lively. A step outside of the computer room reveals people studying in the kitchen since there just isn’t enough room. It’s at these hours that the most work is accomplished and furthermore, it seems to be a Senshu experience that has been passed on from people who previously took the program and will be continued to be passed on for as long as it can be. The reason for it is quite simple and anyone can see it.
The late nights, the countless yen spent buying coffee from the machines, to catching the first train home. It’s all worth it, to get a tiny glimpse of what Japan has to offer.
As a side note the following are essentials that should not go over looked during the late night study sessions at Kenshukan: 

  • \Change for the vending machines
  •  Snacks to get you through the late hours of the night
  • COFFEE!!! Even if you're not fond of caffeine, we highly recommend your stay in Japan to be your exception, caffeine is essential to exploring Japan while maintaining your school work 

Abby and Roman

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