Frustrations and Explorations

Well, It’s been just about a week since I got here and, though a lot has happened, it feels like I’ve been here for a long time.(Whether that’s good or bad though, remains to be seen…)

All this week, we had to go to (endure?) various orientation presentations and such. It’s been quite exhausting though the worst part of it was the Japanese placement test… (Feel free to skip this part as it’s probably going to get kind of “Rant-y”

Words can not really describe how hard this test was. I mean, I went into it not expecting to do very well but after the first 20 questions or so, I was wondering how the hell I was able to get into this country at all. The three hour (yes three hour) test was split into three sections-A comprehensive part, a reading/writing/vocab part, and an aural/listening part. The “comprehensive” test basically consisted of about forty or so questions about Japanese particles (<–link for the sadists curious), another 10 with pure walls of text, and another 5 graph/sign/short readings that I actually understood and would maybe have some real world value. Part 2’s “Reading/Writing/Vocab” part might as well have been called “NAME THAT KANJI” because thats all you did for the 90 (!) questions in this part- (I was able to answer 16….yeah). And Part 3 was some pre-recorded lines of dialog that were only played once (along with the questions and answer choices themselves).

Needless to say, I was fuming by the end of that exam. I was incredibly frustrated with not only the language itself, but also (completely unjustifiably) with the people who spoke it fluently. I proceeded to be somewhat of a jackass foreigner for the rest of the day cutting down on the bowing, not apologizing when I almost ran over people on my bike, laying down on the bench in McDonald’s and giving all the people who looked over at me the evil eye- etc. Thankfully though, I had a friend to talk to about it (In English) and I got over it pretty quickly. I found out today that I got into J2 (the level I should be at) though I’ll have to do some remedial work with the kanji. Still, I hope this doesn’t set a scary precedent for the inevitable frustrations I’ll face later on…

On a more positive note though, I finally got a chance to actually go to the city- and it was pretty sweet. I got a taste of the rail system and all it’s craziness (and efficaciousness) though I didn’t need to be pushed into the train which was disappointing (next time hopefully). My friend Rebecca and I decided to visit the only station whose Kanji we could actually read on the subway map- Tokyo (東京).

(Short lesson time- what we refer to usually as Tokyo is actually made up of 23 different wards, who although they all have their own mayor and such, make up Tokyo prefecture- And that’s just what makes up the main/most populous part of Tokyo. This doesn’t include the 26 cities (including Musashino- Where I live) that make up “Western Tokyo”. Confusing, right?)

Anyway, Tokyo’s station was pretty crazy- I think almost all of the train lines go through the station though it doesn’t feel crowded like I later found Shinjuku station to be. Sadly though, the area outside the station is a predominantly business district. We wandered along a line of small shops and Japanese restaurants before deciding to be completely unadventurous and instead eating pizza at an Italian restaurant. Next we went to Shibuya on a whim since it was still early and we felt like wandering a bit more. As we stumbled into Shibuya crossing,  I had another one of those “Holy crap, I’m in Japan” moments. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people all moving in different directions all at once and in such an ordered and nonchalant fasion- It was surreal.

Although all the neon lights and huge buildings of Shibuya were fascinating,  it was the sheer noise of Shibuya that struck me the most. There is music playing everywhere- in front of the storefronts and from giant screens playing music videos, to trucks driving around whose sole purpose is to drive around and make you go deaf.  On top of this you have people standing around yelling at you (politely) to go to their stores, check out certain clubs, parties etc. Know how they entice you to listen? They give you packs of tissues- Yes, tissues. People are always in need of tissues in this age of swine flu infestation so it makes a lot of sense I suppose…

My first real “free” weekend in Japan starts tomorrow so I wonder what will happen. The only plan at the moment is to go to Shinjuku to finally buy a keitai (cell phone) but the rest of the weekend is fair game. Clubbing? A trip to a Shinto shrine, perhaps? More pointing the sky and cursing ‘WHY AM I HEEEERE!?!? (As my brother would say)

Ahh, the choices…

(More pictures coming soon…)

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~ by evokerhythm on September 4, 2009.

6 Responses to “Frustrations and Explorations”

  1. Clubbing? Haha, that’s funny from you.

  2. Lovely. Now, write about the washing machine. 🙂

  3. So after all your moaning and groaning, you’re where you thought you would be-J2. As per usual, you are WAY too hard on yourself. Next time, please don’t take it out on the poor local folks.
    God Chris, you’re in Tokyo!!! Go clubbing for Christ sake! Yeah, and I wanna know about the washer too.

  4. About the test – I had the same experience in college after six years of French. The French placement test was high-level for the very fluent, and the pathetic percentage of stuff I was able to get right put me somewhere between basic and intermediate, which is exactly where I belonged. Just remember the test had to cover everyone, it wasn’t geared to Christopher Level 🙂

    Keep writing about your experiences in the city(ies), it’s fascinating!

    ~aunt mudge

  5. ooooohh!!!! im soooo excited for you!!! i know what you are feeling and it makes me feel like it again!!!! thank you soooo much for writing these!!! (though i admittedly kinda forgot til now, sry buffalo’s been keeping me busy)

    btw your fears of sounding boring are completely unfounded. i totally laughed out loud (for reals) a few times.

    i went to shibuya crossing!! have you had sushi in japan yet? what kind of foods been your favorite? whats your host family like? and classes!? agh i want to know ALL!

    I know youve got a lot on your plate right now though, so ill take what i can get. just know there are people back home who care about whats up!!

    oh and crazy b**** (not crazy mean b****) is in my AS101. good thing its only once a week!! oh nooo!!!

    Hang in there dude! do everything i did and more!!!!

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