weill in japan: day 17
The second week of classes is over, and yesterday some friends and I
commemorated that fact with a trip to the bustling commercial district of
Shinjuku. Getting to Friday was quite a challenge, though.
Classes are still very boring, and a chore to get through. Several students
have started to talk about skipping classes because of their whole pointless
nature. Of course, that would prevent students from receiving the five to
ten handouts we receive each day, many of them in annoying large-format A3
size. I have been keeping up on homework assignments, but I don't know
how much longer I can hold up. There's still four full weeks to go, after
Another annoyance: teachers are supposed to give three breaks each day,
from 9:20 to 9:30, 10:20 to 10:40, and 11:30 to 11:40. Every day, one of these
breaks is given more than 10 minutes behind schedule or not at all. Result:
planning activities with friends in other classes is very difficult. I tried
to give my home number to a friend of mine during the 11:30 break, but we
spent that time walking to the computer lab as a class. That effectively
shot down my plans this weekend, although I will probably still go out solo
Saturday and Sunday.
go for a ride
Today, I met up with three other Carnegie Mellon students to visit
Shinjuku, Tokyo's booming business and shopping district. We spent much of the
first hour there getting hopelessly lost in and around the mammoth Shinjuku
train station. This station spans about four city blocks, and has connections
to virtually every train and bus system imaginable. Like most big stations,
this one has acres of shopping located just steps away. I went to a sporting
goods store, but still couldn't find any affordable Japan soccer team
merchandise, or any professional Japanese baseball merchandise at all.
We did, however, find an arcade across the street.
Milestone: Today was the first time that I played Dance Dance Revolution
while in Japan.
The game was DDRMax2 (Dance Dance Revolution 7th Mix), which was one that
I had never played before. I was also about two months out of practice when
I stepped up, struggled through one song, and failed a second. My friends got
some good laughs and photos, though. Three "Light Mode" songs later, I was
satisfied but not exactly willing to walk. The DDR machine, along with many
other crowd-drawing games like Guitar Freaks, Beatmania, and Drummania, was
located in a semi-enclosed ground floor with no air conditioning. Physically
intensive games shouldn't be played in 90-degree heat and high humidity.
Because of the large crowds in Shinjuku, we happened to cross paths with a
large anti-war protest with hundreds of people gathered to speak on a
megaphone. We must have been offered flyers by about 20 different people.
This was one of the events that American students were specifically warned
about at the pre-departure orientation, and so we made our way through the
proceedings as quickly as possible.
While in Shinjuku, we met up with another CMU student, a graduate student
in Chemical Engineering. He was very familiar with the area, and showed us
to the Tochu Tower (aka the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Tower). Like the
Tokyo Tower, a famous tourist trap, the Tochu Tower allows visitors to see
beautiful panoramic views of Tokyo. Unlike the Tokyo Tower, the Tochu Tower
is free of charge and didn't have as many people visiting when we went.
A vending machine, a small cafe, a (closed) souvenir stand and a Print Club
photo sticker machine were the only ways to spend money while at the 45th floor
The view of Tokyo from this tower was breathtaking. At 7:30 PM on a Friday
night, the city was alive. Because of the city's proximity to
Haneda International Airport, all of the buildings had bright red beacons on
their roofs. Offices and apartment buildings were lit up, and the shopping
district glowed brighter than anything else I've seen. In the clear evening
sky, Mount Fuji was visible in the distance. I took a ton of pictures, but
the quality won't be the best because it was night time. Maybe I'll go back
during the day some time.
Dinner was at yet another small noodle place, this time in the basement of
one of the department stores. The food was very good -- even though we
only had noodles, soup, seasonings, and some gyoza dumplings, it was
Shinjuku has a lot of shopping, but I didn't get to check that out too
much. Maybe another time. Our grad student friend pointed out that at the
end of the day, a lot of food places in department stores and stations will
deeply discount prices to avoid having stock left at closing time. This is
true: as we made our way back to our respective homes, a lot of stores were
practically disposing of goods, reducing prices by 60% to 80%.
Milestone: My train home was the most crowded I've ever been on, and the
first one in Japan to close its doors on me.
Even though my evening ended fairly early, I was exhausted from dragging
my full backpack through city streets for hours. I got some ice cream from
the station, walked home, and did some laundry.
Like any day, Friday means that a lot of homework is assigned to be done
over the weekend. I'll get it done, but I won't let it stop me from
pursuing fun in nearby places like Kichijoji.