Saturday, April 28, 2007

Chemical Brothers

I went clubbing with some friends last night to a club called Womb in Shibuya It was my first time going to an actually dance club in Japan, so I was expecting to be surprised. I was, both positively and negatively.

Although it wasn't a surprise the door charge wasn't pleasant, 3500yen, it was worth it. The dance floor was brilliant, with lazy light show and an almost 2m diameter disco ball. The music wasn't bad either, but will be better this week, they have the chemical brothers coming.

Me and pretty much every other international student from the hostel will be going (most of the Japanese people we've mentioned it to have no idea who they are). Only costs about $40 to get in tonight, so isn't even to expensive. Oh and I got membership last week which means I get a $10 discount.

Membership is one of those strange Japanese things, nearly every bar, restaurant, shop or Internet cafe has a membership program. They normally cost nothing to join, and get some pretty good discounts and special offers, just takes a few minutes.

Unlike all the other membership programs I've seen though, the one at the club didn't give a membership card. Instead they take a digital thumbprint scan! Not only does it mean I don't need a membership card, but also I don't need to carry ID to get into the club, just a scan at the door.

As to the negatives, there were a few, the worst being the gender ratio. It seem liked there were at least twice as many guys as girls! Tonight may be better

Friday, April 27, 2007

L and R

There are so many examples of bad English being used in Japan, so its not normally something worth mentioning. Occasionally though you come across a case that is particularly funny or ironic, and those can be worth sharing.

To be fair I probably make similar mistakes when speaking Japanese, so I don't normally find mistakes when people speak funny (Except for the Japanese guy who was talking about "the big election", but always confused L and R). However lots of Japanese companies use English in advertising campaigns and you would kind of expect them to have someone check it first.

Last time I was here I worked for a company which on their website offered "professional transration services" which fits the ironic category. One I saw last week might beat it though, an advertisement for a talking electronic dictionary that helps people learn English. The picture in the ad of course had a speech bubble, and what was it saying? "Lets Listening!"

The best Ive come across so far this time was when I went to karaoke last night. Lots of the songs are western and of course have the words in English, though not always the words you would expect. For example missing a space turned "I want you to hold me at night" into "I want you to hold meat ..." and a slight confusion between "you" and "your" gave "I want you baby" a whole new meaning.

Friday, April 20, 2007

WTF?!? level four?

Well last week I had a japanese language placement test and interview. The test went ok and the interview went well and they told me I would probably in course 3. There are five courses, from beginner 1 to advanced 5, and to be honest I was quite pleased with myself for getting into level 3, its what I was aiming for.

Yesterday though I found out what class they actually put me in, level 4, I am so buggered. I just finished my first class and in 2 hours there was a grand total of 3 words of English. I can survive the explanations in Japanese, my speaking/listening isn't to bad, but the problem is the writing.

I've only ever studied Japanese on my own, so I always skipped over the boring bits, ie how to read, and just concentrated on speaking. So of the thousands of Chinese characters hat are used in Japanese I know about 100, most of which refer to different types of food.

In class however Im supposed to know 600+, so it looks like im going to have a fun few weeks trying to catch up. Hmm maybe I should stop complaining, its just after months of complete laziness I have to actually do some work.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

11mm Cell Phone

Living in Japan without a cell phone is difficult, well actually not difficult, just bloody boring. When you have a city of 12million people you don't often run into friends by accident.

Of course like everything else here it take a fair amount of paperwork to get one, but annoyingly you also need to have an alien registration card before they will let you get one. I waited until I had mine then went shopping, which involved about 4 hours talking in Japanese with sales people that had to constantly keep checking what rules applied for foreigners to buy one.

Following that I decided to get a phone from softbank (they used to be vodafone and so my phone will work in NZ when I come back). I got a 2 year contract, at $15 a month, for which I get a free phone, free txt/pic/video messaging to all other softbank users, and free calling before 9pm to softbank users. Other messages cost 4 cents, and calls are 40 cents a minute.

The free calling is great, I convinced all the other foreigners I know to sign up for the same contract and so apart from my Japanese friends all my calls are free. The actually phone is pretty cool, much like a RAZR (but thinner I think, 11mm), has a 2 mega pixel camera, blue tooth, Internet, micro SD etc. Ok its not the wonderful compared to what you get here, but you've all seen what sort of phone I use in NZ, and this one was free!

Monday, April 16, 2007

$115 Bike

My rent here is cheap, but thats only because I'm a student staying at the on campus hostel, but some things in Japan are cheap regardless of who you are. Tokyo is flat, and even though it is quite large most of the interesting bits are close together, its perfect for biking.

I've been thinking about buying a second hand bike since I got here, but hadn't seen any second hand store. Well it turns out that its not much of a problem, because brand new bikes are ridiculously cheap anyway. I'm not sure what I'm going to buy yet, but this one is only 10 400 yen, which is about $115. Japan isn't really that expensive.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

First Months Rent

I thought I should probably say something about what my accommodation is like in Japan, it is small, cramped and somewhat tiny, that is to say it is Japanese. I didn't really have any problems with that, but the kitchen is completely unusable.

I have a mini-fridge that could probably store 12 cans of coke, no freezer, no microwave, a single cupboard, no drawers and a one element stove. I was thinking about buying a microwave, but then I realised there are also no power points. Umm I haven't been doing all that much cooking since I got here.

The bathroom is similarly minimal, it has a toilet and a shower, though not both at the same time. You slide the sink to one side an there is a toilet, to the other side and there is a shower head.

On the plus side the location aint bad, its walking distance from Shibuya which means there is lots to do nearby. Have been going there most nights for dinner, but have been having a hard time convincing any of the other international students to do karaoke with me.

I was planning to move out and find somewhere closer to the university to live, but then I got the bill for the rent. Only $130, including expenses, and being japan thats per month, not per week! Unfortunately Ill only be able to stay there for my first year, but at that price, i should be able to save a bit, or more likely do some traveling.

Friday, April 13, 2007

USB Missile Launcher

I was walking through Akihabara last week looking for a new cell phone when I found the coolest USB device I have ever seen, a USB Missile Launcher!!

It cost 1000yen, so about $14, and fires three foam darts. Using the arrow keys you can rotate it through 360 degrees, up and down and then fire using the space bar. Bloody powerful too, can easily fire from one side of my lab to the other which is about the same width as Memphis.

Here's a photo of it, and I'll try and get a video up later.

Yes I'll go back and see if they have any more, Memphis needs one of these. Also if anyone else would be interested add your name to the discussion page and I'll see if I can send some back (Postage might be expensive).

Thursday, April 12, 2007

We want 10yen back

I'm in Japan on a scholarship, and quite a nice one. I get 170000yen a month, my airfares paid for, tuition and subsidised accommodation. The only thing I have to do for this is some research, and a lot of paperwork.

Last week I was looking at the list of things I needed to take to the international office at the university, lots of official documents about enrolling, a copy of my passport, some photos, and 10 yen. 10 yen is nothing, sort of like 10 cents in NZ, but it was one of the things on the list.

When I got to the office I found out why. Everyone needs to open a savings account, so you need an initial deposit, thats what the 10 yen was for. I ended up waiting in line, for about 10 minutes while a lady asked everyone in front of me if they had their 10 yen or not. I shouldn't complain, after all they are giving me plenty of cash, just so strange the lengths they had to goto to get 10yen of it back...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

30000yen Taxi

Before I came to Japan I had almost no idea as to what I was going to be doing once I got here. I was under the impression that I would be told once I got here, though apparently that wasn't what was planned.

I got off the plain with one very dead sunflower, cleared customs and was met by a guy from the Japan Student Association. He seemed to be quite disorganised, and initially didn't seem to want to believe that I had come from New Zealand.

Having convinced him I was not in fact Renald from Australia I was taken via 5 other people, each of whom wanted me to sign my name and fill in some part of a form. After this I was told to wait, still having not been told anything, but having received an envelope with 25000 yen. I waited.

An hour or so later I was told that my ride was there, and still not knowing anything I was thrown into a cab with the single other NZ student and a cab driver who spoke no English. I asked how long it was going to take, and found out that it would be a few hours. I spent the next 2 hours watching the fare go up, and up and up. I had no idea who was going to be paying for it, which made me slightly nervous when it hit 300 000 (about $400).

Oh it was about that point where the Taxi driver got lost. I knew he was lost not only because we had gone past the same intersection 3 times, but also because he turned round and asked me if I knew how to get there. We did make it eventually, after stopping and asking pedestrians, and I discovered that the bill wasn't for me.

To this day I still haven't been told anything much, but apparently I have a Japanese test on Thursday and might have classes at some point after that. I'll let you know.

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