It’s been almost two months since I arrived to Japan. Yes, TWO MONTHS. This is stressing me out. How can time go by so quickly?!
The first few weeks I arrived in Tokyo were full of excitement. I went to Disney Land, went shopping in Harajuku, Shibuya, Asakusa, Shinjuku – you know, all those names big place names you’ve heard here and there, visited the huge Ueno Zoo… So yeah, basically did all the wacky and wonderful tourist-y things in Tokyo.
And then, things started to settle down as semester began.
I’ve been busily planning exciting weekend trips but in the meantime, during my quiet weekdays, I’ve really started to enjoy the little “mundane” things in life. So here they are!
Experiencing dorm life in Japan
I’m from Canberra and live at home, so I’ve actually I’ve never lived in a dorm for an extended period of time. It’s been very exciting for me!
The dorms in Japan are a bit different from in Australia and there are many different types. I’m living in a nice, cosy dorm in Inokashira for other fellow uTokyo students. It’s an old building which is two stories high with about 20 or so girls living here. We eat our breakfast and dinner in our small cafeteria which feels like a homey dining room. We also have a ‘dorm mum’ and ‘dorm dad’ who are absolutely lovely! The bath/shower area is also quite different – basically it’s like what you’d find at hot springs; a bunch of showers together and one big bath (hello culture shock).
The first few days were something I wasn’t used to. It was so unfamiliar yet so exciting!
I’m happy to say I’m 100% used to this wonderful dorm life. It’s great to have your friends living only a few rooms away from you so you can casually pop into their room, ice creams and snacks in hand and just enjoy a nice deep and meaningful conversation session (this is very important).
Relaxing in cosy cafes
Amidst the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, it can sometimes be difficult to find a place to study or just relax and read, so when you finally find those quiet cafes with nice desserts and drinks, it’s really feels like an accomplishment.
I’ve visited so many cafés while here. There are so many ‘おしゃれな’ (fashionable) cafes in Tokyo and that’s basically where all my money is going. Please click here to donate to my Go Fund Me page to support my café visiting endeavours. I’m kidding, there is no page, but honestly there really should be (for my survival).
One day while at school after class, I went for a small walk outside the campus in search for a post office. After visiting the post office, I found this small, very old café just next to Komaba campus. The atmosphere is so calming and their tea and coffee is great. Not to mention, they have my all-time favourite food in the world – strawberry shortcake.
Quiet with good ambience – check! Delicious hot beverages – check! Cake – check!
There is also another quiet café I’m quite in love with. It’s called Aoyama Flower Market, and for those of you who know about it might be thinking “Dude that’s a tourist spot, there’s no way it’s quiet!”, but let me specify – Aoyama Flower Market in Kichijoji any day that is not a Sunday or public holiday – it’s great!
This café is actually a florist and a café in one and many of the desserts have some kind of ‘flower-y twist’. The two things I love – flowers and desserts. Of course I’d fall in love with this place!
Speaking of flowers, there are so many florists near my dormitory! I’ve basically become a regular customer at one called ‘オランド屋’(Orando-ya). After a couple visits and purchases of pot plants and flowers, the shop keeper started to recognise me and now we have nice chats which is just great because any chance to practice my Japanese is a chance I’ll take! (Check out this nerd over here, am’I’right…)
Anyway, back to room decorating – it really is a small thing which I love. I hate the thought of coming home to a plain, boring, dull room so adding colour and warmth is really important!
Blending in like a local and being a pro at catching trains
Long gone are the days of relying of Google Maps! Okay not really, but I can at least easily hop on and off trains to places where I need to visit frequently.
My sense of direction is already tragic and I’ve gotten lost while driving even in Canberra many times. So just imagine me in Tokyo.
When I first got here, place names meant nothing to me. Meguro? Where’s that? Oh? Near Ebisu? Great… So where is that?
What seemed like a train system which made absolutely no sense and was just a big giant scribble in my head has now turned into something that, well, kind of makes sense… The train maps are still just a giant scribble in my head though.
Even getting used to being a part of the classic Japanese train rush where people relentlessly try to shove themselves in an already packed train feels like a real achievement.
“Wow, I’m being squished into the wall and can’t move my arms… Hmm yeah this is fine. Tokyo, what else you got?”
The walk home
There’s something very nice about walking home through the scenic Inokashira Park after a long day. Although I don’t live on campus so commuting every week day can be a pain, I feel very privileged to live near Inokashira Park and Kichijoji. The everyday scenes of happy people strolling around the park or riding the swan boats with the sunset reflecting on the lake as I walk across the bridge is something that I will really miss when my exchange is over.
So far this exchange has been more than amazing; I’ve made some awesome friends, ate A LOT of food, visited many places, etc.
Tokyo is such a vibrant city and there’s always something new and exciting to do, but at the same time, I think it’s also important to sometimes stop, relax, and enjoy the little things.
Oh, and also, Happy Halloween!