Hoping to save myself some money, I chose to fly alone (for my first time leaving the country, by the way) on a flight had two layovers including a 15 hour stop in Shanghai. During my stay in China, I was lucky enough to have a friend from Pitt who currently lives in Shanghai pick me up at the airport so we could get some authentic Chinese food and stay in a hotel. I absolutely fell in love with the city and am planning to return to Shanghai for a few days after my trip in Japan!
After 36 bewildering hours of traveling from Pittsburgh to Osaka, I finally made it. Some students from Konan University, the campus where I will be taking classes during my stay, picked me up at the airport and took me to Dormy Ibaraki, all the PIJ female students’ new home for the next 6 weeks. My dorm is located in a small town near Osaka called Sojiji, about 45 minutes away from Konan University by train. The building is tangled between peaceful little streets that are mostly vacant except for the punctual surge of locals arriving at the Sojiji Train Station. The balcony attached to my room allows me to peer out over the bakeries, restaurants, and temples lining the Sojiji streets.
Transferring between three train stations and three different rail-lines for my commute to and from class was no picnic. It took the rest of the other female students and I a couple tries, and lots of asking help from locals, before we got it down; that’s the price I pay for my tranquil Sojiji retreat. Although it may be a pain to wake up early in the morning to get to class by 9:30 every morning, I would do it again just to be able to escape to my quaint little town every night.
I recently saw a quote from a Japanese anime that said “Just act like a foreigner in trouble, and those Japanese folk’ll treat you right”, and this is now something I would recommend to anyone visiting in Japan. Japan is unique in that the locals are more willing to talk to and help foreigners than they would be with their own neighbors. Their eagerness to help is overwhelming and made me feel so welcome and appreciated as a guest in their home. The students at school are so excited to talk with us to improve their English skills and learn more about what the culture is half-way around the world. I am so grateful to the students and locals who have shown us nothing but compassion since we arrived.
I learned from the two meals a day prepared by our dorm-mother that it’s not uncommon to eat miso soup every. single. day. This, and changing into house slippers every time I enter the house or go into the bathroom, are some of the many quirks I have observed during my first week in Japan. It may take some getting used to, but I feel more comfortable here than I would have ever imagined.
The upcoming days should be filled with more visits to big cities and densya (train) adventures, so check in soon.