down to the final four days

weill in japan: day 41

There are just four days of classes left, and enough work to keep me busy through all of them. That's not enough to stop me from a night out on a Monday.

Today was our loathed second midterm, based almost entirely on material from the previous unit. Because we only had four days' notice, I think I did poorly on the first section which centered around memorizing characters and vocabulary. I need at least two or three days of solid study to get those memorized, and I only had one -- yesterday. The essay and short speech sections were much better, since we had the freedom to choose any topics. We spent the final 20 minutes discussing our environment-related projects, which will be presented on Wednesday with a written report to be due the next day.

I was also the lucky 13th person to sacrifice a Monday afternoon to watch portions of the drama "Beautiful Life." My assignment is to summarize the roughly twelve minutes that I watched and explain it to a group of people before we watch it on Thursday. Everyone else in the class had done it once, and one particularly bitter classmate was chosen to do the assignment again despite having done it just one week earlier. (The reason he was chosen: he laughed to himself after a call for volunteers was put out.)

Two people did not show up today for the second midterm, and they will likely be joined by at least two more who plan not to do a project later this week. This means that out of 13 people, no more than nine will actually make it to the end of the course. That's about a 30% attrition rate.

money in short supply

I have about 4,900 yen ($40.80) to last me for these final four days, plus an extra 3,000 yen ($25.00) to bring with me to Narita Airport on Saturday. That seems like a good amount of money, but my lunch every day costs about ¥500 and I end up spending about that much for breakfast-like foods and drinks throughout the day. To eliminate the temptation to spend money, I've decided to bring just ¥1200 ($10.00) with me to campus every day, carrying the leftover amount to the next day. Since I can't use a credit card to buy small items like snacks or coffee, this should eliminate temptations to buy stupid things or waste money. I've already done too much of that, and it's time to spend money only on the daily essentials like coffee and donuts.

I'm not out of money overall: there is still my ATM card to get cash, but most ATMs only dispense ¥10,000 ($83.30) notes. It shouldn't be too hard to last these final few days on limited cash.

a monday special

Today, 41 days into my trip to Japan, I finally got to meet Noriko. She's an office worker in Suidobashi, near the Tokyo Dome, and was introduced to me by a friend's father. We met up for coffee, talking at length in English about life in Tokyo and New York. She wasn't too surprised to hear my comments about things like insanely overcrowded trains and near-ubiquitous mobile phones, but we still got along just fine. Unfortunately, her busy schedule and my imminent departure make future plans virtually impossible.


I made a mistake last Thursday when I said that the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 8, 1945. It was actually August 9, 1945, and a ceremony marked the sad anniversary on Friday.

Starbucks, like many foreign food companies, has incorporated the flavor of powdered green tea (matcha) into its repertoire. A tiny Matcha Frappucino, while overpriced at ¥400 ($3.30), is delicious.

Today over lunch, some friends and I compared our unusual Japanese cultural findings. I located a pornography vending machine a couple of weeks ago, while Justin trumped us all by finding a used schoolgirl uniform store this past weekend. These stores sell school uniforms previously worn by girls, with uniforms from prestigious schools selling for higher prices. Don't ask what people do with these uniforms.

Everyone has projects to do. Even as late as 5:00 PM, the library computers were filled with people working on their project reports.

The second midterm is over, but the final week is just beginning.