Another week living in Japan went by. So much has been happening, it feels like a mini lifetime since I’ve arrived!
The weather has finally become pleasant – no more sweaty humidity; it’s chilly enough to wear a light jacket. Soon the tree leaves will start turning red and yellow, I can’t wait to go to Kyoto for this season. I saw beautiful autumn all the time in Russia, but I think because it doesn’t get cold enough in Britain, the leaves don’t change colours in the same way.
This weekend I’m enjoying some peace and quiet, especially as last weekend was full of new experiences. For example, we went to karaoke to celebrate Frank’s birthday. Initially I got overly into it despite my terrible singing, but halfway through I managed to fall asleep on the sofa! I guess the busy life in Japan is catching up to me. We also went to Osaka on Monday since it was a national holiday, and I loved seeing the bustling city, reminiscent of New York with its skyscrapers, but full of unique charm. I tried gyoza for the first time, but wasn’t really a fan, because there was only a meat option available. However, wondering around the centre and the Japanese answer to Chinatown – the “American Village”, or “amemura”, was lots of fun. We also visited the Pokemon centre, and I got some souvenirs for myself and my family, but it was a bit less exciting than I hoped.
After the long weekend it was hard to get back into waking up at 7 am. I have chronic fatigue syndrome as it is, so it’s already a struggle staying awake through classes and lectures. The academic side of things so far is sadly not very exciting. I keep struggling between the extremes of either finding things too challenging or too slow. My kanji remains terrible and I must put extra effort into it, but grammar classes are much slower than in Oxford (a lesson per week rather than 3-4 lessons we had back home). Similarly, the lectures in Japanese seem fascinating, such as a Geography one about the rise and fall of Detroit, but I can’t understand a word, and I’m worried about the end of semester report I will need to write. On the other hand, the lectures in English are a bit slow and I’m actually finding myself missing Oxford essays, even though they take lots of time. It’s really difficult for all of us right now, and every day my classmates and I grumble about how we want to sleep as soon as we get back to our dorm at 4-7pm, without any energy to explore Japan. Hopefully we will figure out a balance soon and perhaps use this year for learning through interacting with the locals more than through academics. Previous Oxford Japanologists advise this very thing anyway.
On that note, we had our first International Hour on Wednesday, and despite hearing that it’s supposed to be boring, I actually enjoyed it. It’s yet another chance to meet a variety of people, especially helpful to someone as shy and socially anxious as me. For example, I immediately signed up to be a judge for some speech competition in the English learning circle for Japanese people. As I get older I find parties more stressful than fun, so I’m grateful for alternative options.
This week I’ve been feeling very homesick for Oxford, but my mum wisely reminds me to concentrate on enjoying Japan instead, so that’s my aim for the upcoming week.