Sunday, 15 November 2009

Memory jog.

Aaaaah it really has been a long time since the last time I updated. So sorry!! Things have been a bit up and down busy so I'm having to look at some pictures to jog my memory about that I've been up to!!

Right Japan. Reason I came to Japan? Uni I guess. So I'm actually over half way through this ehh....trimester is it called? In Scotland we have semesters so I get really confused about whether the year is in two or three parts. Well, it feels like I've been here a veeeery long time, and to quote one of the Edinburgh girls I had okonomiyaki with a while back, "I feel like I'm getting to the point where I'm like, yeah I'm done here." It's true, although I think I would argue I've been feeling that way for a little while now. It's difficult yeah? One minute I'm on skype to my mum bawling my eyes out uncontrollably and the next I'm feeling exhilarated because I used my japanese to  make friends who don't speak English. That's life I guess!! It's pretty tiring swinging my moods around so much every day!

So, I've managed to do a few things over the past few weeks. Namely losing my wallet, busting my leg falling down a mountain and climbing said mountain! (Shoulda probably switched those two around, woops!) I've also been to my first nomikai, finished the autumn term in uni, and finished my exams. I'm so excited about next week because bestest best Felicity is coming over for two whole weeks! We're going to explore Tokyo and also spend a few days in Kyoto.

I'm going to pick a few things to write about here, not everything. It's just been too long since me last update to have any point in recounting absolutely everything, sorry!

Mount Takao: I've been here twice now. After losing my wallet on the bus I had to cancel a trip to see my friend Aaren in Nagoya. I was so desperate to get out of the city, settling into life in Tokyo was so emotionally tiring for me that I really just wanted a break from over-crowded trains language barrier. Then I went and lost my wallet. All my cards, ID, money, photos, everything gone. So Aaren decided to come to Tokyo! What did we do? We climbed a mountain!

(This is actually the middle of Takaosan! But it has the best views)

I had already been here by myself, I do like to do a little adventuring and promised Joani, my dorm mate, and Aaren some spectacular views and beautiful buildings. So we began from the bottom and walked/climbed/moaned our way to the top! When I went the first time I actually took the cable car to the middle of the mountain and just walked around so climbing the mountain was a first for all of us.

Takaosan (Mt. Takao) is the very last stop on the Keio line. We were actually able to get a train straight there westward out of Tokyo from our own train station. The train goes straight to the base of the mountain and no further. It's wonderful to see the mountains covered in forest, even Scotland I don't remember seeing such beautiful tall, thin trees and thick foliage.

We chose the Inari path. Inari is (taken from wikipedia) the shinto kami / god of foxes, fertility and rice. Over one third of all Shinto shrines in Japan are dedicated to Inari and her kitsune, pure white foxes which act as her messengers.

(Choosing the trail)

(Inari kitsune)

The trail was so long, and it was quite difficult for me and Joani. We're just not used to climbing mountains! Aaren was in his element, he loves getting lost in the forest! Occasionally, much to me and Joani's relief, there were stairs to climb.

But more often than not, we just simply had to rough it!
(This is one of the tamer parts of the walk)

We suffered and sweated (well, at least I did) all the way up the mountain. That's not to say it wasn't a great experience! Our paths crossed with many other people also battling with the mount who shouted to us greetings and other words of encouragement as we passed. It must have been a surprise to see three foreigners so far out side of the centre of Tokyo.

We passed so many interesting things on our ascent. Because this mountain has a large Buddhist temple complex at the top of the mountain, we passed all sorts of interesting little statues. These little guys are guardians and maintain and clean the temple.

 At the top, we were greeted by a fabulous temple complex. It was massive. By the time it took us to get to the top everything had closed for the day. A real shame, I like to get little shrine charms, and I would have loved to buy another Buddhist amulet, Another day though!


Pretty cool no? I wish I had more pictures, but my camera battery started to die :(

I'm going to close the Takao chapter there. nothing more to report on the way down apart from we decided to take a "short cut" down the side of mountain in pitch black! Not good idea, very Blair Witch Project. Was rescued by a kind Japanese trailblazer. I don't even know what a trailblazer is, but I'm sure she was one of them! Along the way I managed to twist my leg somehow, leaving me incapacitated for almost two weeks! Well, not so much incapacited, just very grumpy and sore.

I'm going to leave it here and update more this week. I have the week off and nothing to do so this will be my big priority!

Ja! Bye!

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Push yourself and you will be rewarded.

Okay Sunday. Sunday was hard, but proved fruitful in many other ways.

I woke up pretty early, my body has some sort of alarm clock setting that kicks in at 5.30 in the morning. Why didn't this happen to me when I was at high school or in uni in Edinburgh!! I could have made it in on time!! Hell nooo, Sunday I wanted to spend as much time as I could in bed but 5.30 came and my body was ready to go.

I couldn't get back to sleep and I couldn't ignore this great feeling of dread that coming. I had a whole day to do something, but I had to do it by myself. My mood was pretty low and the idea of going sight seeing by my self stepped on it a little more. The idea of going sight seeing alone did not appeal to me, but I knew that unless I wanted to risk some sort of mental break down, I needed to get a grip and push myself on out there. So I did just that.

Zach had shown me the day before that even though Tokyo was a huge and terrifying place, if you take it just a piece at a time and keep a level head, sight seeing and exploring will become much easier and much more enjoyable. So I chose to go to one place I knew I would enjoy: Harajuku.

Sunday is without a doubt the best day to visit Harajuku. Apparently it's known as the underdog in shopping centre league in Tokyo, and if you go any time of the week you are sure to find some cute little outfit or something totally outrageous. But if you want a real treat, hit it on a beautiful sunny Sunday and watch the cos-players come out for some fun. When the Japanese decide to do something, they do it well, but I'll tell you more about that in a minute.

(Harajuku, busy street of organised hell. )
It was about half twelve when I left my dormitory. I had actually been hoping to accost some people in the dorm in a search for company but no one was to be seen. I assumed they all had their own plans. On the train I planned my day, figuring it would pass quicker if I had a schedule to keep. My plan was food, Harajuku Take-something Street (forgot the name oops) for some observation of current Japanese fashions, the bridge to see the cosplayers and then on to the Meiji Jingu shrine, a shinto shrine erected for the Emperor Meiji when he died. If I'm right, I think this was to honour him because he was quite a favourite of the general population. I might be wrong though.

I was glad to leave the freezing air conditioned train, but then I hit the outside. I've never been so hot in all my life! I literally ran to the street across from the exit of the station just to find some shelter from the sun! Big mistake. I was instantly swept down an alley by a turbulent wave of hungry shoppers. Things in Japan, no matter how weird they are, are always well ordered if that makes any sense,  like an organised chaos I like to think. Anyway, Squeezed into this alley were hundreds of goths, emos, gothic lolitas, little bo peeps.  sweaty tourists,  all peppered with a slight smattering of chavs. Yes, Japanese chavs, but chavs all the same. Maybe I'm being a little harsh, but I'm just judging them on the clothes they were wearing, oops. Either way, no matter how weird the mix, it was all split into two very orderly lines, one for entering the street and one for leaving. I don;t know how they managed that but it stayed like that all down the street.
(Man do I feel sorry for the person in that suit. It was sooo hot!!)
I purchased a few things like lace socks, thigh high socks (totally Japanese) and a totally cool patchwork bag, loving it. Then, I moved onto the bridge. A warning to you all, Japan is one very expensive city right now so shopping can be shocking when you work out the exchange rate. On the bridge I saw many strange things. I love it when the Japanese dress up, they just put their whole body and soul into it and become someone else. It's such a skill, I'm sure some of them could be actors when they impersonate the character they have adopted. Actually, I saw very few cosplayers, and the ones I did see, I didn't actually know who they were dressing up as.

(These guys were sooo cool, the make up and everything was awesome. It's also cool because they are used to being photographed, so I didn't feel awkward when I took a few sneaky snaps.)
I also saw some pretty funny things on the bridge too, like foreigners dressing up. To me it looked like the tourists had decided to join in on the festive vibe, but their costumes just looked nothing compared to the clearly well experienced Japanese. Also, being from Glasgow, I'm used to seeing emos on a saturday afternoon walking around with free hugs signs. It's also very popular in Japan. Then I saw this:
That's right, it's an old, bald, sweaty man wearing what I thought at first was a bath robe. Free hugs from you?! Not a chance mate! I laughed and moved on. So mean.

Okay, the final thing for my list on that day was the Meiji Jingu shrine, and I was not disappointed. In Tokyo it's so much rarer than I thought it would be to find a wee garden or park to chill out in. In Scotland and especially in Edinburgh, there's never very far to walk to find your nearest garden, and I love to get a take away coffee and relax in them. To chill out I write in a diary or draw or make up songs or stories, and I figured I could really be doing with some relaxation after my terrifying week. So yeah, finding a garden or park in Tokyo is difficult, but when you find one, it is so worth it!!!

(Meiji Jingu. It's beautiful, the run up to it is a proper green tunnel of trees, you feel so far from everything!)
The walk to the shrine was beautiful. Basically, it's a long and curvy path up to the shrine. The path itself is really wide, so you don't feel like you are being mobbed by tourists. One of the things I loved was the fact that the walk to the shrine was completely sheltered by dense forest on either side. The trees were so full of the noises of the cicadas that it was impossible to hear the busy outside world. Also, because the trees completely stretched over the wide path, the walk was illuminated by a strange golden dappled light. It totally did feel magical, and not in a sentimental way. I think because people obviously treated this place with so much respect, it seemed to have a definite spiritual presence. God I sound like Mystic Meg!
A funny thing happened to me as I was walking towards the shrine. I started to hear drums when I was a few meters away from the gate. As I started to walk closer, the drum beats got faster and they were so loud they kind of gave me a fright everytime they banged. The drums came to some sort of a climax and then completely ceased, just when I crossed the threshold of the shrine. Weird eh? You know me, I love stuff like that!!!
Here's when things got interesting, and also why I named my post a certain way. I arrived at the temple just as a traditional Shinto wedding was happening. I mean really, they coolest thing about that was that I will probably never get the chance to see a shinto wedding in person, and here I pushed myself up out my bed and got through a difficult day. This seemed to be a reward for me and I felt so proud of myself for going out and being allowed the experience of witnessing a special occasion like this.
I honestly felt very priveledged. And sitting in the shrine watching the procession passing filled me with a sense of happiness. It was nice to find a bench in the courtyard shaded by some huge trees to take a moment to myself and write somethings down in my diary.
I finished up after exploring the shrine by saying a prayer and doing some souvenire shopping.  It was then that I felt down. It's true that one important part of being  a human is learning to be by yourself. It's so difficult for me. I'm not always surrounded by people, but I usually always have someone to turn around to and share a smile with. And without a phone, I couldn't even phone someone to tell them about the exciting Shinto wedding. It waited though until I got home and then I spent all night telling my nearest and dearest on Skype.

Skype is a lifesaver, I couldn't have gotten myself through the first week without it. But there you go, the first week felt like it would never and and here I was on Sunday night not quite believing that my first week was over.

Finally, some thoughts. It's okay to struggle when you are alone, because think about it, how many times in your life are you actually alone and there's no one you can turn to and speak to. I mean sometimes you can feel so alone for a very long time when infact there are always people you are there to talk to. But really, when you are a sole unit, sometimes the loneliness you feel is so overpowering it can really  really damage yourself. I'm so proud of myself that I managed to pull myself out of my terrible mood and go out and experience some of Tokyo. I did so much in one day and was rewarded for my efforts by seeing the wedding which is probably something I'll never see again. I know some of the girls in the dorm (after speaking to them this week) that were so sad and terrified of going out and seeing things by themselves that they actually spent the entire day in the dormitory and in their comfort zone. 
It really did prove to me that you can step out and it's so easy to do, even though it seems like an immense task to overcome. It gave me a confidence and power and proved to me I could be self reliant. I also think it filled me with really good positive energy which has helped me so much in my second week.
We started classes and I've made lots of new friends, some really nice ones that I really enjoy spending time with. Today we all went to a discount book store that sold manga for only 105 yen!! That's only 70p a book! Heaven!

I'm in a really good mood today, for the first time in ages. I spoke to my boyfriend for about an hour on the phone and I heard him laugh for the first time in what has seemed like months. God that makes me so happy!

More sight seeing this weekend to come!! I'm so excited.
Lots of love, Alison x

Monday, 7 September 2009

I am a sweaty red tourist, but look at what I've seen!

Number 2, here we go!

Let's start with the title. It's 30 degrees in Tokyo right now plus retina frying sunlight too. I told almost everyone in my family today that even though I had drank about 4 vending machine drinks more than  usual, I'd been sweating so much today that I didn't need to pee! Strange thought, and rather minging, but at the same time I just had to share.

Okay. I'm writing this on Monday, exactly one week after arriving in Japan. I'm going to be honest because lots of people have said they like my honest approach so I'm going to keep it that way! Truth be told, this week was one of the most difficult in my life. Melodramatic, yes, over reaction, no.

Main issues this week: Finding my way around campus, finding friends, finding my way around Tokyo, the elusive Alien card (My first thoughts when they told me I needed to get an Alien card was "WTF?!"), mobile phone, bank account and most importantly, the cruel and icy cold (yes, even in this weather) realisation that I am stranded on the other side of the world completely alone and in desperate need of a cuddle from that special someone. It all got a bit too much for me, very very quickly. But on with the news!

To get to uni it takes me about an hour. That means wake up time is 6.30 am. Thank you jet lag, it was because of you I actually managed to make it to uni on time.

(In the vast city that is Tokyo, ICU campus is like a small oasis of green.)
So I've been able to make it to uni, but the most exhausting thing about this week was reaching out to people and making friends. This will always be difficult thing to do, no matter who you are. All you can do is be open minded, and be yourself. I'm lucky that I have met some really lovely people, it's so nice to have a familiar face when you are starting something new like a job or something.
Matriculation was a strange and daunting experience. In all the stress about going to ICU over summer, I forgot that it is an International Christian University and freaked out a little when we had to start singing hymns and praying. Either way, I gave the songs a good go and paid my respects.
So during the day I've been going to university, spending a little time exploring the area and visiting the shops. I am a retard and forgot to bring a towel or hairdryer, so they were first on my list.

In this first week though, upon returning to my dormitory at night, I began to suffer. To be honest, I was suffering hugely from the minute I got on the plane to Japan, not to forget the weeks of stress and fear leading up to it. But it wasn't being in Japan that was stressing me out, it was the realisation that perhaps over the course of my life my priorities have changed and Japan wa no longer no.1. There were people more important to me that I had left behind.

Today I recalled a conversation I had with a girl from uni in Edinburgh in 2nd year. To be short, it was mainly about Love vs. Education. Briefly it went, "I'll never let my boyfriend or anyone come in the way of my education." Rightfully so, a powerful statement with alot of energy packed behind it. I think she was shocked when I replied with "I would do anything for the person I love, and if he meant that much to me and I had to choose between the two, I think I would choose him." I said this when I was single. And now, I agree more than ever.
So there you go, major guilt and regret about getting on the plane. I'm sure you can guess what happened next. That's right, "culture shock". Culture shock is what they call the feeling when you get to Japan that is a mixture of homesickness, loneliness, confusion and frustration with the culture's language and people. Without any shame I can safely say I got contaminated the minute I left the plane. Smack bang in the middle of the airport. and then it got worse all week. I couldn't sleep without crying, the feelings I've been feeling I really think I couldn't have prepared myself for. I'm not going to go any further into it because most of you have been on the other end of the webcam listening to me sob!

Moving on, I decided on Friday that I wanted to go home and started emailing around both universities. I really am so grateful to my new Director of Studies in Edinburgh as his words were very sympathetic and kind. The main emphasis on all the advice I have received back from everyone was just to stick it out a little longer and see how it goes, and that's what I'm doing.
The weekend I was dreading. At the moment I've been trying to fill in all my spare possible time with things to take my mind off how excruciatingly slowly the time is going by. But the weekend, well, I didn't know anyone or anywhere or any Japanese. What was I supposed to do!?

And Zach, ex president of the Japanese Society in Edinburgh came to my rescue. What a legend he is in good west coast scots tongue! Currently residing in Japan, his Japanese is really impressive, as is his over all knowledge about Japan and the culture. We arranged to meet in Shinjuku so that he could show me around and get to know the area.

Shinjuku station is the busiest in the world. I concur whole heartedly. It's positively dizzy with people and trains and shops and everything. I arrived 2 hours before I was due to meet Zach in order to get a feel for the area so that I wasn't completely lost. And then after I found my way out the station, I was greeted with this:

(Shinjuku. Oh. My. God.)
Not even the three weeks I had in Mexico city could prepare me for this. I was lost the minute I got off the train, never mind the minute I left the train station! The vast array of colours felt brutal agains my eyes. I hadn't prepared myself for the monstrosity that is Shinjuku, one of the biggest shopping capitals in the world. I wanted to wander about and look at things, but I suddenly felt a terrifying wave of anguish when I realised that I could dissapear here and no one would know. I had only to walk but a couple of meters into the crowds and would be able to vanish regardless of startlingly different looks from the rest of the Japanese.

I started to walk around a bit but I only made it to the end of the street before I had to sit down. I felt like my eyes couldn't open big enough to fit in all the tall buildings. The heat was getting to me, I was red, sweaty and having palpitions (maybe I'm hitting the menopause!) so I decided it was time for lunch. After lunch I recognised the sign for my new favourite shop: Tower Records AKA goodbye money! I love this shop, I love to just go in a wander around the japanese music listening to the cds. My favourite bit is the magazines, I bought two. I can't read them fluently but my trusty electronic dictionary (A MUST! Well, at least for me. I thoroughly recomment the Casio Data plus 4 or whatever mine is. It has saved my life.) is the perfect companion on trains when I have most time to read.

Two o'clock hit and I was ready and waiting. Zach arrived straight away, much to my relief  as I was beginning to hit panic stations with the immensity that is Shinjuku. I am so thankful, he's the perfect guide: enthusiastic, knows his way about, speaks English and Japanese. First thing on the list was hitting the skyscaper district. We decided to climb this building, the government offices:
(*Gulps* Doesn't even fit into my camera!)

 (45 floors later and this is what we saw. Also note the Tower Records bag, nice and yellow mmmm.)

I loved it, it was completely spectacular. Such a fantastic day to see the view. Then onto another building. This one was quite special as it had a huge open atrium in the center of it, as shown below:

(The ceiling of the NS building. I have no idea what NS means!)

( Jaw well and truly hitting the floor)
The day was flying by quickly, and some of my excitement about Japan was coming back. I could control my turbulent emotions because I didn't have to panic about getting lost and had a sympathetic ear to talk to. No sooner had we seen the skyscrapers and had lunch than it was to move onto the next target: The Kinokuniya bookstore. It was impressive, it had a floor dedicated to books translated into English and textbooks for Japanese learners, an invaluable source for me in the future I think if I manage to stick out my time in Japan.

Afterthat it was off to the doughnut shop to recharge out batteries. Hello gluten, hello suger induced high. Oh man it was worth the gluten to taste that sweet sweet mermaid peach doughtnut! Lastly, It was time to shop. We hit one of the department stores and found some rather interesting  objects. Hint? the Japanese love to dress up!

               (I am Mt.Fuji!!!)                         (That is a poo on his head and under his arm. Hahaha!)

I swear you could find anything in that store, anything you have ever dreamed of!! They were selling this huge pyramid made up of little square box lights for over 6 million yen!!!

Soon it was time to say goodbye, so we asked a passing tourist to get a photo of us and Shinjuku:

Without even realising it, one day had passed so quickly, and I realised it was another day closer to coming home. When I'm coming home I actually don't know yet. My body is here in Tokyo physically, but my mind is off somewhere resting between the sheets of a bed where there should be two people and not one.
Sentimental eh?! Hahahah, get a grip Alison. Nut serisously, I can't physically describe all the feelings I have right now. I'm a pisces, that's my excuse! And also a retired Emo!!

Sundays adventures will be written soon, I just have to sleep now. Well actually, I think those 4 extra bottles of juice I had today are ready to make a comeback. Too much info, I know!!!
Love from Alison! x

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

I have arrived in Japan. Man this is going to be a long post!!

Lets start from the beginning, and the beginning is when I got on the plane to Japan. I'm 20 years old and ever since I can remember before I read my first manga or watched my first anime, I was facinated with Japan. IT was something alot of people didn't understand, kids when they are growing up love sport or relationships or music (actually I love music and had boyfriends growing up too) but I was known around school as having a slightly weird yearning to go to Japan. I dyed my hair blue, watched anime religiously (getting up at 6.30 am for a while just to watch Sailor moon before school) and was always seen with "one of those japanese comic books".

Quite a few years later after dying my hair black and then purple, some piercings and tattoos and getting into uni, suddenly I found myself in Edinburgh airport tearing myself away from my boyfriend, best friend and family. One of the most difficult things I have personally had to go through.

The flight was painfully long. Sitting between a window and an aisle seat, it took pretty much all the energy I had not to break down into tears. The flight was amusing though, because I was flying Airfrance all the announcements were in English, Japanese and French and I spent my journey saying a mixture of "Woops! sorry!", "Ah, sumimasen/ doozo" and "Tea au lait s'il vous plait" Good practice for them all I thought!

At Narita Airport I was greeted by a dear friend, Aaren who is also doing a year abroad in Japan (Nagoya) and a close classmate. Seeing a friendly face at the other end was such a relief.

(Me arrived safely @ Narita, Tokyo)
Straight away he started to teach me important tips about Japan. We had to get the train in to the hostel I would be staying at for a night so he thoroughly explained what I needed to know by showing me the ticket machine.

I had had no sleep for well over 24 hours but watching the Japanese countryside fly buy as we were on the train really amazed me. I have never seen fields as green as that ever in my life. The most vivid green I've ever seen, it totally energised me. If you've ever seen My Neighbour Totoro (studio ghibli film) you'll understand what I mean when I say the countryside was just like a scene out of it. The fields and traditional style houses with the beautiful dark backdrop of the forest. It's not something I've seen in Scotland that's for sure!!

Arriving in the outskirts of Tokyo, I noticed the scene had changed completely. Suddenly there were houses jammed together right up to the side of the train and hundreds of people milling about going about their daily business. Everything was grey and I began to have a strong sence of dread. I was scared. Aaren was leaving the next day for Nagoya and I had to move into my dormitory on the other side of Tokyo by myself. I had no one in Tokyo, I was third to arrive there from my class  and had left my family and friends behind on the other side of the world. Not to mention the fact that I was (and still am) pining after the boy and had zero confidence in my language ability. But all that aside, we made it to the hostel safe and sound and after a quick shower, went on an adventure to find my dormitory.

This is where Aaren's knowledge really came in helpful. He managed to navigate us through the vast network of trains all the way to the west side of Tokyo and straight to the front door of my dorm. I really couldn't have done it without him! On the way back he took me to Akibahara, or more commonly known as the Electric Town. Coming out of the station we were immediately greeted with what seemed like one of the biggest buildings I have ever seen, the mega storey building called Akiba, filled completely to the brim (and almost onto the street) with colourful signs and everything electronic you could ever have dreamed of. We browsed the huge array of mobiles, electric dictionaries (although I love mine to pieces), mp3 players and headphones, Tower Records and the book shop before finally settling down to enjoy my first bowl of ramen. Yum! The scariest thing about the shops in Japan isn't the bombardment of colours and choice, but the strange tradition of staff screaming "Irashaimaseeeee" (welcome) at you as you enter the door. In Akiba, every single member of staff from every single department yelled it in your face giving you a small heart attack at the same time. strangely enough, it's amazing how quickly you get used to it though and you barely even hear it (kind of like your ears censoring it or something.)

That night I had an abysmal 3 hours of sleep. 1:00 am and I was up and panicking about Japan. 4 o'clock and I still wasn't sleeping. I figured someone would be on msn so I got my laptop and had a wee cry to myself when I was talking to friends. Aaren (who also couldn't sleep and was on his laptop) asked me if I wanted to go for a walk since we both couldn't sleep. So, up I got, showered (I had forgotten to pack a towel with me so I had to use Aaren's spare towel, oops!) got dressed and we left at 5 o'clock in the morning to go for a wander.

The day before Tokyo had caught the tail end of a typhoon so it peed with rain on us all day. However, at 5 oclock in the morning there was no rain and it was already getting pretty humid. Little did I know we would then be in for an absolute scorcher of a day. We headed for the 24 shop and bought some snacks. I photo copied my passport and visa in one of the photocopy machines. Then we walked around the area clearing our heads before heading back to the hostel and then onto Narita airport to wave Aaren off goodbye as he flew to meet his host family in Nagoya. The walk had done us both good, we were refreshed and ready to tackle the day.

After saying bye to him I headed back to the hostel and hauled my luggage across Tokyo to my new room in the dormitory. I made it there safe and sound, very tired and very damp from sweat (ew. It was really hot and my bags were heavyyy). The dormitory manager was very nice and whizzed me around the dormitory explaining everything (EVERYTHING) in Japanese as he didn't speak a word of English. Astounding myself I realised that I could understand him rather well and felt confident in asking him questions in Japanese too.

That night I slept a little better and signed my contract for staying at the dorm. And realised I had lots my passport. Oh my god. Panic.

Okay! Today! Onto the last part of this story so far!! (sore fingers!!!) The day before I had managed to get through to Lucas at work and had spoken to him for a good half hour. I was teary but at the same time he encouraged me to keep going as it was only early days and gave me a huge lot of support. I felt calm knowing that I had managed to get through to him (I had tried to call all day but failed miserably, I got through on maybe the 8th try or something!). I also managed to speak to my mum and dad so I felt better as they also gave me alot of encouragement.

I got up at half 6, spoke to the boy again, showered, had breakfast and then left for my first day of uni!! Today was matriculation day and I was told DO NOT BE LATE OR YOU'LL BE SENT BACK TO SCOTLAND. What happened? Well I made it in before the matriculation ceremony, but I was an hour late for the reception before it. Damn trains and buses. Getting the bus was rather scary, I felt quite confident on the trains (which are much more confusing) but that had been because I had a reliable source of help. This was my first time getting the bus and I didn't know what to do. I luckily had a very nice bus driver who told me when I was outside ICU and ran upthe tree lined road to the chapel justt in time to get a seat before the ceremony.

The ceremony itself was...strange? There was lots of singing hymns and praying (I had conveniently forgetten it was called the International Christian University) but I managed to find my class mate from Edinburgh and we had a lovely chat. That day we were only in till lunch time so afterwards I got the train back to Asakusabashi (where the hostel was on the quest to find my passport) making a stop at one of the train stations to buy a towel, haidryer and book. ICU is between Chofu and Mitaka. Now,if you look at that on google maps you'll see it is at one end of Tokyo. Then, if you look at the other side of Tokyo, you'll find Asakusabashi. A looooong way away. But I made it back, only to be told my Passport hadn't been handed in. Panic stations and tears.

Then it dawned on me. I had photocopied it at the 24hour shop. So I ran (like lightning, no joke) to the shop and said to the staff (in japanese!!!) I lost my passport a few days ago, have you found it?" They beamed at my and pulled it out from under the desk. I had left it in there after all!! I wasn't going to be deported!! WOOO!!! Score!!!!

Feeling really excited I decided that instead of heading to the dorm, I was going to do a bit of sight seeing to treat myself. I went a few stops on the train to Asakusa to see a buddhist shrine. I was not dissapointed!
(on the wall in Asakusa station as you exit)

I left the station and suddenly got accosted by a huge stream of colourful banners and lights coming from all directions. I followed some tourist because I figured that they would be heading to the shrine. I was right.

(The opening gate of the shrine)

(Some sort of strange bell thingy, I think it was called SenshouJo maybe.)
The rows and rows of stalls leading up to the grand shrine (which I wasn't allowed to take pictures of :(  )

(Lucky charms at the stalls!! They sold all sorts of stuff, food, sweets, accessories, kimono, shoes, lucky charms, you name it.)

 (Samurai swords!! For your birthday Lucas, if I win the lottery hahahah)

 (Remember these Fliss? Harvey Nick's? Now I have them in abundance!!!)

(Pocari Sweat, apparently very popular, in possibly every single street corner vending machine ever. Haven't quite had the guts to try it yet. Can't really get over the idea of drinking something with "sweat" in the name..hahha...hooo)

Well, I think that is far more than enough for today. I shall report back soon enough!!!

Alison x