School: Sophia University
Why choose/Application process
I chose Sophia University because of its prime location as well as its prestige; it is one of the top universities in Japan. It is also one of the few universities in Japan that integrate an international education system which is helpful for transferring credits and works quite effectively as a buffer for my dismal Japanese!
The classes were great! Teachers were engaging and topic matter was interesting. The intensive Japanese program lives up to its name, my less than perfect Japanese soon became only subpar Japanese! The campus was quite large taking into account Japan’s notoriety for miniaturizing everything from buildings, homes, food portions, and men. Kidding about the last one, they grew quite a bit since the last time I was here.
I stayed off campus in an apartment for female university students. It was in a very safe location, I would say it was comparable as the Beverly Hills of Tokyo. No men were allowed entry; it was exceptionally clean, and even came well equipped with a menacing old grandpa doorman. It was
tiny. Very tiny. I jumped up and down with glee when I first saw the spacious walk-in closet…until I realized it was my room.
Not my room, but my friend’s.
Food is phenomenal. I cannot go on enough about the heavenly gustatory delights lying in wait for you in Tokyo. A good meal in a fancy restaurant may set you back around a 100 US dollars but there are cheap good eats that can be had for around 10 dollars as well! Well, cheap in the Japanese sense. My financial estimations have gone haywire since coming to live in this money vacuum. Watch out for the exorbitant rates of taxis. I think you might cry. Actually, go into any restaurant and you will be sure to be treated to a good meal.
Forgot where this was…but it was yummy!
I recommend Midorizushi in Ginza for extremely good sushi at very decent prices. Check out Tsukiji fish market for very fresh and affordable sushi. T hey generally have lunch set options that give you good value for your money. Also, if the budget is willing, check out Gonpachi at Minami Azabu. Kill Bill was filmed there and apparently all the visiting American Presidents (including our ever popular current president who I’m sure felt it was “awesome” ) have been there. Try Tempura at Tenichi in Imperial Hotel in Ginza or Shabu Shabu at Zakuro in Ginza next to the Matsuya shopping center. Also, please go to this restaurant called Ukai Toriyama situated an hour away in Hachioji. Its traditional kaiseki Japanese food but the kicker is the surroundings—think Japanese style gardens, Koi ponds, private thatched roof cottages, and Japanese maple tree foliage. Go in late June and you will get the chance to view fireflies released nightly. Warning—pretty much all the different cuisines are Japanized. They are mixed and messed around with, till the final product is a shadow of its formal self. Have you ever tried a burrito with Japanese eggplant? What about pizza with mochi with mayo and mentaiko or fish roe sauce drizzled on the top? It’s pure genius.
And of course McDonald’s and other things you can get at the mall.
A curry place where you order from a machine.
Drinks don’t come cheap! Although there are Western bars that give you a good run for your buck. Check out “the hub” with its one liter beer served in tall flask. I would advise you check out some of the nomiyas or tiny drinking houses for the true Japanese experience. Go to Golden Gai in Shinjuku. It will take the definition of small to another level.
Yep, definitely inevitable. But after a while one gets used to the sight of people carrying around umbrellas on sunny days, businessmen flipping through porn magazines on the train, bowing until your neck falls off, being squeezed into the trains like a pack of sardines, and realizing that the people wearing masks are actually sick not doctors or potential terrorists. Oh, the toilets are cool, very advanced.
But some things never change.
There are English signs galore, some extremely hilarious—a good chance to capture those “Engrish” moments. I saw the very epitome of young love at the Shibuya station one time. A girl was clinging on to a guy’s arm, sighing and cooing at his every word. Then the idealistic picture is ruined when she turns around and I see plastered on the back of her shirt, “It’s your lucky day boys! I’m single!” You should have some sort of elementary Japanese skills, or just lug around some dictionary or common Japanese phrases book. “Wakarimasen!” means I don’t know what you’re saying. So in times of need, just keep grinning and repeating that phrase.
Other “Engrish” shirts
People are generally friendly but harder to get to know and approach. As we all know, the Japanese are known to be very reserved, however the international students at Sophia are like any other American college student.
Some business people getting riled up for work.
Karaoke is the only thing that’s cheap. Make full use of it. Go to a matsuri or festival. Don your summer kimonos and go see fireworks. Check out DisneySea, they don’t have that anywhere else in the world!
Osaka is the center of all food. Homeland of takoyaki! Try Hokkaido for seafood, white chocolate and winter sports. While Hakone is great for a hot springs retreat. And try out Okinawa for its clear blue waves and white sand.
Here is the Edo Castle right in Toyko.
And some other place I forgot, sorry!
Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Harajuku. Daikanyama for girls; Ginza and Ommetesando for the more upscale boutiques. My advice is if you just go to any old department store such as Isetan, you’ll find everything you need there. But watch out for the prices as you might as well buy the imported stuff back in the States.
Shopping mall outside
Inside a random snack store
Sweltering hot in the summer. You’ll sweat in places you never sweat before.