Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trip through our neighbourhood

This time we want to take you on our trip through the part of Tokyo where we are living. We live in a quiet neighbourhood, with lots of small streets and all different kinds of Japanese houses. There are some small stores located in this area, mostly food or dry-cleaning.

These are some pictures we took of our daily views.

The last street car of Tokyo, the Toden Arakawa Line, actually runs through our neighbourhood. As the last remaining street car, this is in itself a tourist attraction. In service since 1911 and now a good opportunity to see the area while travelling.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cycling Tokyo

Time for a new blog update. In our first week after settling in we had a lot of things to take care of.

First of all we needed to get our alien registration for a long term stay in Japan. This isn't difficult to do but unfortunately it took (a lot) more time than anticipated.

       Secondly, we wanted to buy bicycles to make our travel in Tokyo easier, and cheaper. Public transportation is very efficient in Tokyo but also expensive. So, after school we walked the whole way (about 4 km) to the bike shop, only to discover that the store was actually closed that day. A friendly lady helped us and showed the way to another super big bike store. The day was saved! After choosing two bikes we liked we went to the counter to register them. Registration is mandatory to prevent theft and "bike pollution". Imagine that all commuters who'd travel to/from Shinjuku station each day (almost 4 million!!), would travel by bike to the station. That would certainly create a madness of randomly parked bikes. Therefore, you can only park your bike at designated areas or else it will be removed by the police within few hours, and they need your registration number to inform you where you can get your beloved bicycle back.     

Meanwhile our school started as well. We enrolled in the 'Yoshida institute of Japanese language' and it's quite different from Keio University, where we studied Japanese before. The students are mostly pre-college/post-high school people, so suddenly we're the oldies among our classmates!
       Each day we cycle to school through the narrow streets of Tokyo where it is easy to get lost because of all the 'hey,-I-think-I-found-a-shortcut!' alleys. We still get lost everyday but hopefully next week will be better... We did get to see parts of Tokyo that we would never have seen otherwise. Another thing that became very, very clear to us now that be have our bikes, is that Tokyo has lots, and lots of hills. We expect to be thoroughly trained for the Tour the France after get back next year. The rules for cycling are somewhat confusing in Japan. Sometimes you are supposed to cycle on the road, sometimes on the sidewalk. In practice, we feel that the Japanese are just as confused as we are and just cycle where there is enough space, whether this is the left, right or middle of the road. This leads to lots of evasive maneuvers around pedestrians or other cyclists.
       We have also cycled (and found the way) to hombu dojo. We were very much looking forward to training there again. It was very nice to be back, and to meet all our aikido-friends. It will be great to train here for another year!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Back in Japan

Good morning from Tokyo!

After a long long journey with heavy bags and a broken suit case, we finally arrived in Japan again. We have been planning our second stay since the moment we got back to Holland almost 1,5 years ago, so we're very happy to be here.

Our journey started on January 2 at 03:45 am in Delft. Daphne's parents took us to Schiphol Airport where we said goodbye to our families and friends and from where we would fly to Heathrow to change flights for Narita Airport. Fortunately everything went very well: no delays or other incidents. As always the flight to Tokyo takes a long time but the onboard videosystem allowed us to watch some movies and play videogames. After we landed things went smoothly as well. We picked up our bags, proceeded through customs and headed to the trains. We took the Keisei line and were very surprised to actually see a Dutch Windmill (!!) on our way to Tokyo. Imagine flying halfway around the world and one of the first things you see is a windmill. Amazing!
Because of the Japanese new year holiday season Sakura House, our housing association, was closed. So we stayed at an inn in the Asakusa area. Therefore, the next day we had to take our suitcases through the crowded Tokyo public transportation again. To make matters worse, one of the suitcases broke a wheel.... You can imagine how happy we were when we finally arrived in our new home in Sugamo, a nice and quiet neighborhood in the northern part of Tokyo.

We were welcomed by the landlady, a very friendly Japanese elderly lady who lives next door. She gave us a welcome present with Japanese sweets and extra blankets against the cold. All roommates are either working or studying so it's a quiet house where we expect to be able to study hard. We have now settled in and are very happy to live in this house. It still takes some time to get used to the small doors, where we need to bend to enter the rooms. We showed some pictures of our room in the previous post, now we will post some photo's we made of the common area.

In this first week we also had our first visits to Yoshida, our Language School. We had our orientation meetings, and had to do a placement-test. We are both content with the classes we were placed in. Next week our classes start, and we will have to study hard. The teachers are friendly but seem very strict too. We'll keep you posted on our progress.