The People of I-House.

Minami's Party

Here I will answer the oft asked question “have I made any friends at I-House and who are they?”. First I will preface this by saying I have met and often hang out with a lot of different people in I-House; far too many to properly list them all here. So instead I am going to list the three main groups of people I suspect will be hanging out with the most during my stay.

The first people I started talking too once I arrived was Alexx, Zane, Joe, Eric and David; who are a group of American students primarily from New Mexico all studying Japanese Language here at NUFS. I more or less immediately started hanging out with them as they were playing magic when I arrived and I love me my card games. They are also, except for Eric, all in their second semester here; so they are all immensely helpful and know a lot more about Japan/this area than I do. I pretty much immediately took a trip to Sakae and made a deck so I could play magic with them and will probably spend a lot of nights chilling out and tapping lands with these guys.

Another person I have befriended is Brittney. Brittney is one of the Australian students who arrived on the same plane I did; she is from Tasmania and studies Journalism and English. Brittney is probably the person I have spend the most time with; as we arrived together and just sort of ended up going most places together. She is also a lot quieter than most of the people in I-House; which I’ve come to appreciate amongst all the busyness that is life here. Brittney is also a lot better at Japanese than I am, which I know is a bit of a low bar, so it is nice to have someone around who can decipher things as well. I suspect as my studies start and I want a person I can study around or just generally go places with Brittney will likely be that person.

The last pair of people I actually have not actually talked to a lot, but I suspect I will end up spending a fair bit of time with is Amelia and Scott. Amelia is from the UK and studies Drama and English literature; but plans to be a foreign aid worker and has a keen interest in international politics. Scott is from the US and is an International Relations major who also, naturally, has an interest in international politics. Anyone who has spent any amount of time around me knows how much I love talking about politics and can probably guess why I suspect I will spend a fair bit of time talking to these two. Thus far I have only really had one, rather short, political conversation with these two but it was a blast and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Again there are a lot of other people I spend time with at I-House and they are all super awesome, nice people; but those listed above are the main people I see myself spending lots of time with during the semester.


I-House Tour!

Howdy people!

With all the language students off to their first classes I though I would take a moment to show you guys I-House. This post will contain a bunch of pictures of I-House along with commentary about I-house and life here more generally.

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[My room!]

This picture was taken from the inside door of my room; behind me is my wardrobe, door to my bathroom, mini fridge/food storage shelf and the main door leading to the common areas. As you can see in the picture the room is not especially huge; but, like everything in Japan, comes with a lot of stuff packed into the space. There is so much storage space in this room that after unloading all of my luggage I barely filled 1/8 of the available space and had to go on a minor shopping spree to fill up some of the space and make it look less empty; as you can see by the goodies displayed on the right hand side of my room. The room also has air conditioning, which I suspect will be used a lot in the coming summer months, a desk, which has been mostly abandoned in favor of studying from bed, and a little balcony; which I use primarily for drying clothes. Overall I am a huge fan of the room; it is well organized and has pretty much everything I could ask for.

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[My Area’s kitchen!]

I-House has around 8ish kitchens each with its own set of stuff; including rice cookers, portable elements and jugs. Sharing kitchens can be busy at times but overall is pretty good; particularly as I seem to eat earlier than everyone else currently due to my diet. The only annoying thing about the kitchens is that the drying towel is about the size of a flannel and needs time to dry out between people, which it seldom has, or it is entirely useless at drying dishes.

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[The main entrance!]

Rather simple area used for general I-House meetings, parties and just general hanging out. The boxed cabinets you can see inside are for shoes; the area inside the two sets of doors contain mailboxes, umbrellas and a keypad for gaining entry to the house. From this picture you can also see the second level; which is much the same as the bottom level just for the upstairs residents.

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[The gaming/TV room!]

As the name implies; this is pretty much to social gathering point of the house; containing a big TV for watching hilarious Japanese TV, various board/card games and a comp suite in the back there behind the green barrier. On the right there is also a smaller video gaming setup with a N64, Gamecube and Wii U; used primarily for playing smash. The room is almost constantly occupied and seems to be generally accepted as the place to go and relax, and often get drunk, in I-House.

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[Tatami room!]

A simple, quieter room away from other rooms where people go to chill and warm up at the kotatsu table.

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Recycling and washing rooms!

Less exciting, but one thing you learn very, very quickly in Japan is that they are big on recycling. Each kitchen has a set of 6 bins; for burnables, non-burnables, plastics, plastic bottles, bottle caps and cans. Also, a washroom!

And that is pretty much the gist of it. I really like it here thus far and the people are awesome; particularly the students left over from last semester who are super helpful. The house is very social; but you still have places to escape to if you want some quiet time. Another awesome thing about I-House is that it is very centrally located; with the university, electronics store, groceries store and tonnes of restaurants within about 5 mins walk. So overall, I-House is just awesome!

Exploring the Area Around I-House.

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[Photo looking toward the main shops across the road from I-House]

Howdy People! This post will describe my first experiences shopping in the area around I-House and describe the type of stores which are in the immediate area.

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The days following our arrival in Japan we spent pretty much no time at home; going from shop to shop and picking up all sorts of necessary and unnecessary goods. The first port of call was, again, the supermarket. The supermarket was a similar size to the stores in Palmerston North and set out in a similar manner; but the food was, naturally, quite different. Bread was split into two sections; one for normal, packed bread items and an actually bakery style fresh baked bread section and was way smaller than our sections but essentially the same. Bread however comes in 10 slice packs, for sandwich slice, instead of loaves and was significantly more expensive than in New Zealand at around $1.50 per pack. Rice on the other hand, as one might expect, has an entire isle and has pictures explaining where in Japan the rice was grown. One section that was massively bigger than in New Zealand was instant noodles/ramen; which consisted of two isles with a massive selection of flavors, including Chilli which is what I stocked up on. The meat and veg sections were very similar to our supermarkets as well, but prices vary wildly depending on what you buy. Mince was a little more pricy than New Zealand, steak and chops were far more expensive but chicken and fish are much, much cheaper; with a 350g chicken breast costing as little as $2. Another interesting section is pre-cooked/prepared food; with a large selection of bento boxes, karaage (fried chicken balls) and onigiri. The most significant difference between New Zealand supermarkets and Japanese ones was more flavors then it is actual stuff; lots more seafood, green tea and wasabi flavor stuff as well as strange combinations such as chocolate potato chips. In the end I nabbed a few carrots, spring onions, bean sprouts, chicken breasts and ramen. Our senpais, the students who had been in I-House from last semester, were extremely helpful in helping us find stuff and explain what they each liked from the supermarket.

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Our second stop was Edion; an electronics store. Most of us nabbed power converters and general electrical conversion stuff from here; though I had prepared it all before I came, so I opted to check out other parts of the store. Towards the back of the store was a door leading into a video game, anime and statue shop; which I spent a good hour checking out and ended up buying an entire box of Monster Hunter figurines to decorate my barren looking room as well as picking up a Japanese 3DS charger. A few things that immediately stuck out was the there are tonnes of games I had never seen before; in particular there was a number of RPG looking games and rhythm games. Handheld consoles were also super, super cheap; costing around 13,000 Yen, which is roughly $170 New Zealand for both the Vita and 3DS systems. Also, there were almost no Xbox games in the entire store, with the PlayStation and Nintendo sections dominating almost the entire game section. I will probably do a more detailed breakdown of a Japanese video game store later in my blog.

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Our third port of call was Daiso; the Japanese equivalent of a $2 shop on steroids. The vast majority of the store had no prices and was all priced at 100 yen. This included a surprising number of things; such as batteries, towels, candy, drinks etc. Many of us ended up picking up most of the things we needed for our rooms, such as towels, clothes baskets, cleaning sprays etc, really cheap. There are actually two Daisos within 30 min walk from I-House and tonnes more pretty much everywhere you go.

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The last stop, which only a few of us ended up going to, was Treasure Bomb; a secondhand/hobby store. The store dedicated half the store to models, figurines and collectables and the other half to clothes, jewelery and general items. There were quite a few awesome looking statues and collectables I would have liked; but I ended up grabbing a couple of Monster Hunter figurines, similar to the ones I got and Edion, and settling for that; as I didn’t want to destroy my wallet too much on the first day. There are  number of other places around I-House, particularly restaurants which will be another post, I have visited since I got here; but these are the major ones.

Arriving In Japan.

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[Photo from the balcony of my room the morning after my arrival]

Howdy people!

Sorry about the delay, net was shaky for a few days and has just become stable enough to write. This post will outline my experience getting to Japan and what my first night in Japan consisted of.

I ended up leaving Palmerston North around 6:45pm for Auckland and then, after a few hours of wondering around Auckland airport, left on what would be an 11ish hour flight to Hong Kong overnight. The flight was pretty awful; lots of turbulence and the dude in-front of me reclined his chair all the way back resulting in me getting no sleep at all. The people sitting beside me were nice though; a chatty old couple going on holiday all over the show with their combined savings. After arriving at Hong Kong airport I had a minor scare when my flight was not on the flight schedule at the time it was supposed to be; but after downloading the Hong Kong airport app I found out the flight had been mildly delayed and the gate changed and proceeded to nab a bite to eat and wait. I ended up getting on the flight no problem; but was very very tired at this stage. Fortunately, the person sitting next to me on the place was a former politics major now teaching economics in Nagoya; so the last 4 hour flight was filled with questions about Nagoya, Living in Japan, Japanese culture and political pondering which quickly woke me back up. Once I landed I proceeded to customs in Japan, which I expected to be a pain, which was actually pretty quick; I let a couple of customs officers rustle through my bag, told them why I was there and then got through fine. At last I had arrived!

I was meet just outside the entrance gate by a gaggle of Japanese students waving a sign with my name on it and followed them to meet up with another group of Australian students who were on the same plane as me. We were quickly filed onto a bus and spent the next hour and a bit checking out Japan as we drove by and getting to know each other. During the bus ride, to our surprise, it began to snow; which was pretty awesome. Once we got off the bus we headed off into town, following the Japanese students, and eventually got individual cabs which ferried us to I-House. We had all hoped to immediately crash upon arrival; but unfortunately the Residential Assistants, the students who had lead us this far, insisted upon showing us around and laying out the rules of the house before we did anything else. During that process we met some of the students already at I-House; who offered to take us to the supermarket to nab some food for the morning, which we all decided was a good idea. We wandered literally across the road to the supermarket and attempted to find familiar food at the Japanese supermarket. Surprisingly; finding food we recognized was not terribly hard at all; with most of us nabbing cereal, bread or Ramen for the following morning. Upon arriving home we then crashed after unpacking our stuff.

All in all the trip was long, tiring but super exciting; the snow was a pretty huge plus, as it is not something we commonly experience in my corner of New Zealand. The supermarket was fun to explore too and was filled with interesting looking food; such as chocolate potato chips, Japanese sauces and vegetables I had never even seen before. No doubt one of the many interesting things I would get to do in the following weeks.

Converting Power in Japan.

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So it turns out that converting power for New Zealand gadgets in Japan is going to be a lot trickier than I suspected; as it turns out that Japan is different in pretty much every way possible when it comes to power generation than NZ. First, Japanese power sockets run of 120v rather than 240v like they do here. This is actually a bit of a plus; as at very least I know my devices are more likely to not charge if I make a mistake than they are to explode and die. Secondly, Japan’s power frequency changes based on where in Japan you are. In New Zealand we run on 50hz which is the same as East Japan (Tokyo, Kawasaki etc); however I will be primarily staying in West Japan (Nagoya, Osaka etc) where the power frequency is 60hz rather than 50hz. From what I understand charging with the wrong frequency again does not necessarily ruin your devices; but certainly causes them to charge incorrectly and can ruin batteries. Lastly, Japan uses a different socket to us, as one might expect, and does not support ‘earthed’ socket conversion. Basically what this means is that any device I have which has a three pronged socket can not be converted easily for use in Japan. So this is a not insignificant list of issues for converting power for NZ based gadgets.

But the problems do not stop there, oh no! I expected that I would be able to buy some kind of all-in-one converter to convert voltage, frequency and socket configuration in NZ; but it seems I was mistaken. All I could find at any electronics store in Palmerston North was adapters such as the one in the picture above; which merely changes the plug type and nothing else. I did manage to find one converter at dick smith but the thing was huge, cost $300 and weighed a good 4-5kgs; not exactly suited for international travel bag limits. Needless to say this lack of available methods of conversion concerned me quite a bit at first; but then I took stock of what I am actually bringing to Japan and realized it actually is not that big of a deal at all. I only really plan to bring my phone and 3DS. If you look closely at my phone charger in the picture above, assuming it is readable, the charger actually converts 100-240v and 50-60hz; meaning it will be fine regardless of where I am. After reading up more on how other people have traveled with their 3DS consoles I also found that, apparently, if you buy a 3DS charger in the country you are staying in it should work; as the charger will convert whatever the local power is into the correct kind/amount of power needed to charge any 3DS. So, assuming this is correct, I should be able to just buy a Japanese 3DS charger and everything should work fine.

So long story short, despite the big differences between Japanese and NZ power systems powering my gadgets in Japan does not seem like it is going to be all that hard; however someone who wanted to bring a number of electrical appliances would probably be screwed. Of course I could always be wrong and I will update this post with how it all works out after I attempt to charge my stuff in Japan.

5 days to go! 😀

All the Yen!

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So I went to the bank to pick up my Japanese cash the other day and changing Dollars to Yen makes you feel crazy rich; 262,000 Yen! I then came to the inevitable realization that buying a chocolate bar in Japan costs 300 Yen; but it is still pretty awesome.

Howdy People.

My name is Adam and this blog is primarily for posting updates about my exchange to Nagoya University of Foreign Studies in Japan; which starts in about a week. This blog will also have a separate page which will serve as a guide of sorts for any other students considering an exchange to Japan. While I suspect this will be read by primarily my friends and family who know me, potential exchange students and random internet people may well end up reading it and have no idea who I am or what I am about. As such, this post will kick the blog off by explaining a bit about who I am, where I am in life and how this exchange has been immensely important to me even before it has officially begun.

I am currently a third year Bachelor of Arts student majoring in Politics and Philosophy at Massey University (Palmerston North, New Zealand). I am very passionate about my areas of study and spend a great deal of time, including my spare time, studying them; usually by reading articles, watching formal debates and discussing interesting topics with anyone in my immediate surroundings. My general areas of focus are Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Gender Politics, Middle Eastern Politics and International Politics; though I dip into Political Theory a bit as well. At the end of my degree I plan to apply for a number of graduate programs and should those applications fail study a Masters degree in Politics next year; with my thesis likely focusing on the Middle East, probably ISIS. My current career goal is to work in foreign affairs, but I am keeping an open mind about where I might end up; as I may find something that suits me better along the way.

When I first began contemplating my exchange I looked at the process primarily as a means to enhance my CV; after all it would be extremely difficult to get a job in foreign affairs with no overseas experience. I considered exchanging to the US but was put off by the cost, I then considered Australia as a cheaper alternative but wanted to go a little further outside my comport zone. After doing some more research I ended up settling on Japan; as it was a country I had an interest in, offered multiple scholarships to help with costs, was diplomatically important to New Zealand and was entirely different than anything I had ever encountered.

As I began the application process for my exchange however, I identified a pretty sizable problem; at my current weight I was going to have to pay for two seats on the flights. It was at this point I set two main goals to achieve before I left for Japan: Maintain at least a B+ average, to gain entry to the Masters and exchange programs, and reach 160kg; down from 217.8kg at the time. A year later the process of pursuing my exchange has literally changed my life. I now weigh in at 148.8kg (which is a loss of 69kg) and have managed to achieve an A-/A average; removing the need for a second seat on my flight and easily surpassing the threshold for both programs. On top of this, I also managed to receive three scholarships: The Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia, The [Massey] Social Science and Humanities Study Award and JASSO; effectively paying for all the costs associated with my exchange and enhancing my CV. I even managed to get my name in the local paper:

But while I do enjoy looking back over the last year and patting myself on the back, I received a lot of support; from my friends and family with my weight loss and study; as well as support from Massey and the PMSA staff in planning and financing my exchange. I am planning on posting my main posts about my experiences in Japan on this page; along with photos and videos of my day to day goings on. If you are curious about exchanges or just want some general advice regarding exchanging to Japan; check the top bar for the “Exchange Student Guide” section of the blog. Also, if anyone has any questions feel free to leave them as comments on this post and I shall do my best to answer them.

Cheers everyone.