Friday, April 29, 2011

Classes and Golden Week Plans

I'm currently taking eleven 'classes' where each class is an hour-fifteen minute period. Unlike at NCSU, classes are arranged in periods, with five class periods each day. This has its benefits and its drawbacks.

中級日本語 - This class is pretty easy for me and more of a review. It meets four days a week, everyday except Tuesday and each day we have a different teacher and different focus, such as listening on Monday and speech on Wednesday.

異文化 - This class is probably really tough for me, mainly because of the way the professor speaks. He tends to speak really fast and incomprehensibly, generally starting out the sentence in a normal comprehensible tone, then dropping his voice down low and practically grumbling out the sentence, until the end where he raises his voice really loud. He's very energetic and likes to make a lot of jokes (I only know this because everyone else laughs). Its a shame because the class itself seems interesting from the syllabus, but by the end of every class I simultaneously want to drop-kick him in the chest and feel extremely frustrated with my own inability to understand what is going on.

The class itself is supposed to be an analysis of differences between Japanese and international releases of manga. I'm not really certain, but I think what we are suppose to be learning are all differences that I was already readily aware of and seem fairly obvious (at least from a foreigner's perspective): sound effects being kept in the original language to maintain the artwork, etc.

平和論 - Study of post-wartime Japan, in particular the role that the military serves in a nation that has, atleast in theory, forsworn all acts of aggression. I really like this class as it is interesting, the professor is extremely nice (to the extent that he goes out of the way to put English on the handouts for me and the other American student in the course), and I can follow it fairly well despite the high amount of course-specific language. Although, this course does highlight something that is common to all of my courses so far, Japanese students don't seem near as studious or even respectful of the professors during class, which is odd given the stereotype of Japanese people as extremely obedient and diligent; students are constantly talking during class and the professor often has to quiet them down, although its never completely silent. The professor for this course, who also teaches my next course, pointed this out to us and said there was concern about the quality of higher education in Japan.

日本文化 - A very basic course taught in English about Japanese culture.

アメリカ文化 - American History. I'm taking this to fulfill a credit and to have an easy course that I don't have to worry about too much. There may also be an opportunity to help teach the course later on in the semester. The professor is a nice Canadian man who teaches in English and all of the students I've talked to speak highly of.

総合日本語 - Comprehensive Japanese. I have this class for two periods back to back and its very exhausting, but possibly the most rewarding of the courses I'm taking. All of the other students in the course are Chinese and most have already or are planning on passing/taking the level 1 JLPT, so I often feel very out of my league. However, the professor's Japanese is very clear and it feels nice to at least be able to understand most of what is going on. So far we have been studying 機能語, words used to fulfill a role in grammar and their usages, i.e. にとって、について, etc.

日本事情 - Another Japanese cultural course, but much more advanced and taught in Japanese by a young Korean woman. This course is probably the second hardest to follow and gives me the most work as, unlike the 異文化 course, there are a lot of handouts written in what is probably high school or college level Japanese that I always wind up having to translate because the professor speaks extremely quickly. The course so far has focused on different regional aspects of Japan, i.e. West coast Japanese man walks like this, but East coast Japanese man walks like this. Again, most of the students in this class are Chinese and for some reason I feel like even more of an outsider as usually speak Chinese to one another and I have no clue what they are saying.

I also help out with an English conversation course on Friday mornings.

Today was the first day of Golden Week!
I'll be going to Tokyo tomorrow, if anyone has any suggestions for places to visit while I'm there, please let me know!
I'll also hopefully be seeing Akihito again!

Monday, April 4, 2011

4-4-11 Campus Tours and Olympic Athletes

Today we did 外国人 registration with a few Japanese guides.

Afterwards, there were tours of both the main campus of Chukyou in Nagoya and the one specializing in sports in Toyota city. The main campus was interesting as there was a small shrine within it and a large graveyard adjacent. Actually, there are a few places that sell headstones in between my apartment and campus. The buildings themselves were a lot more spacious, ornate, and otherwise impressive compared to NCSU.

Chukyou is famous in Japan for its athletes and producing several Olympic athletes. We saw a few people practicing Kendo and ping-pong. We actually even happened to run into the gold medalist in the Hammer Throw event from the Greek Olympics, Koji Murofushi. He was extremely kind to us and took the time to talk with us and talk photos with him. Sadly, all of the pictures that I took of him turned out poorly due to the lighting and not knowing how to force the flash on my camera, I will try to get some pictures from the other exchange students. We also watched the silver medalist in figure skating, Mao Asada, warm-up.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Pictures from 4-1-11


The flight from NC to Detroit was on a really narrow plane and I couldn't really do anything except for listen to music and make a few cranes.
The airport in Detroit was a lot nicer than one would imagine. The section I was in must deal with a lot of traffic to Japan, as everything was also written in Japanese in addition to English.

The flight that I was on to Japan was also going to Manilla afterwards, and I think that about %70+ of the people there were Filipino, as hardly anyone exited through customs in Japan. I wonder why.

The flight itself was pretty terrible. The guy sitting next to me was damn near catatonic and slept practically the whole way there. I was stuck in a window seat, adjacent the wing, so not only could I not see anything, I had to climb over two people to get out. I ultimately just sat there, not wanting to interrupt to others' sleep and paid for it, as my stomach continued to do barrel rolls and the guys in front of me smelt as if they hadn't bathed in days and then proceeded to roll around in a mound curry. There were times that I felt like my limbs were going to atrophy off and I would become the token Dharumaさん of the flight. I couldn't get to my bag, so I all could do was read, make cranes (which I stopped as it seemed to make the feeling worse), and listen to music. I wouldn't have been able to do much else anyway, they kept the cabin in a state of perpetual night.

The one thing that I noticed most prominently upon getting here was the abduance of people wearing surgery masks. I was aware that this occurred in Japan, but was still shocked at the frequency; about one out of every eight people I saw wore masks and it wasn't restricted to just to older people.
I have to wonder if they are even worth wearing, as my understanding of it was that it was more for the benefit of patients during surgery to prevent damage to the more vulnerable interior of the human body by disease. Even if it does reduce the chance of airborn infection, there still other ways to be infected that seem at least just as likely, if not more so. Regardless of the reason, in one night, I saw more masks last night than Wakemed probably goes through in a week.
*Edit: I asked one of the Japanese students about this today and they said it was due to allergies. Although, there isn't really any noticeable amount of pollen, especially compared to North Carolina, which I'm sure is probably looking like a vast expanse of yellow.

The apartment is nice, (thank god there is an a/c!). I'll post pictures once I clean up a bit, I don't want people to realize what a slob I am.
I did manage to lose 2千円 already somehow and that really sucks. Although, I did just get back 4百円 in change after putting in 150円.

Please let me know if I'm writing too much or if there is anything in particular you want to know more about. I want this to be something that isn't tedious to read.

I already miss everyone in Raleigh and wish the best for you all!