Friday, 11 May 2012

7 week review.

Time is absolutely flying here. Yesterday was 7 weeks since I arrived. That's more or less a third of the way through, and that is quite terrifying. When I first got here I thought I was doing so much - almost too much - each day and that I would run dry of things to do. Things couldn't be further from the truth ^_^ 

So far I have travelled solely within Saitama and Tokyo. I've been to Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Asakusa, Ueno and Harajuku. I still want to go to other places within Tokyo, such as Shibuya and Shinjuku, and go back to places I have already been. Living just 30-45 minutes away on the train is so, so convenient. I also want to go to Kyoto if nowhere else outside of Kanto. We also want to go to the Ghibli Museum ^o^ 

Studying has been pretty intense. We have three 1.5 hour lessons a day, between 9 and 2.45. After that, I go home and study for most of the evening -_- There really is always something I could be doing work-wise, so I can never feel totally relaxed. I'm sure my Japanese is improving, especially kanji recognition, so I guess I should just get my head down and deal with it for the next 2 months... 

Lifestyle-wise, I'm surprised how easily I have adapted. It feels a lot more natural than I expected. The timetable of eating and waking and sleeping and lessons is more similar to the UK than Spain, which I think helps. Yes, there are lots of oddities, and it never stops being annoying getting stared at for being a foreigner, amongst other small things, but I'm still enjoying it. 

I was planning to do a post on food here later, but generally speaking fruit and vegetables are somewhat scarce. They're expensive in supermarkets and practically non-existent in most dishes in the cafeteria and in restaurants. It says something that having a glass of juice or a bowl of salad feels like somewhat of a luxury. Next time I go shopping I am planning to splash out on having a proper supply of fruits and veggies. It's just not worth the money saved not having them -_- 

Finally, the people here are generally very friendly. Younger people tend to either be very very shy, or quite uh, mad and confident enough to approach you around campus and ask you about yourself. They're also big on giving compliments, genuine or not, and that is wonderful for the ego ^_^ 

The next few weeks are going to be filled with tests, a presentation, various visits and a birthday. I'm slightly concerned that May will disappear before I realise it...

Curry house.

Today, after being somewhat nostalgic for non-Japanese style curry, we went to an 'Indian' curry house a short cycle ride from the university. I think it was actually Nepalese judging from the artwork and posters on the walls, but I couldn't be certain... ^_^ 

We had the cheapest lunch set menu, which meant we got a curry, a naan, rice, a small side salad and a glass of lassi for 700 yen, which is ~£5.50. The portions of rice and curry were on the smaller side, but the naan was monstrous and about half a metre long, so the meal was satisfyingly filling. 

The waiter/cook was on his own in the restaurant, so he had to bring out our curries in three batches as there were 8 of us. We also could see him making the naans from scratch in the kitchen, which was cool.

Curry is a very popular dish here, but the Japanese style curry is the same flavour pretty much anywhere, save for a slight difference in spiciness. And spice in Japan is not really that spicy, they tend to prefer the sweeter curry. Supermarkets usually have a whole aisle dedicated to curry roux blocks and sauce packets, and about half the dishes you can buy in the student cafeteria involve curry in some form. I'm not complaining ^_^ 

Golden Week/Asakusa.

Last week there were a group of bank holidays that are all very close together. It is known as 'Golden Week'. Some businesses close on the days in between the bank holidays so people get a full week off. We still had lessons on Monday and Tuesday, but then had the 'rest' of the week off. 

On Friday I went to Asakusa with Nozomi. I've been to Asakusa before; it's in Northern Tokyo so one of the closer cities and convenient to get to. It's famous for Kaminarimon, a large entrance gate and Sensou-ji, the Buddhist temple which Kaminarimon leads to. 

For lunch we had okonomiyaki and monjayaki, the Kanto region equivalent. Okonomiyaki is a type of savoury pancake that can have pretty much any ingredients. The particular place we went to was cook-it-yourself, so you sit either side of a hot plate, they just give you the raw ingredients in a bowl and you fry it and flip it yourself. Monjayaki is more liquidy, and you scrape bits off the hot plate and eat them rather than chopping it up into bits. 

After that we headed to Sensou-ji. Being Golden Week, it was packed with a mix of Japanese people and tourists. It was also heavily raining, so just walking up to the temple was a bit of an umbrella-dodging nightmare. The temple is very impressive and definitely worth it, however. We got fortunes for 100 yen and went inside the temple, where people throw money into a grate and pray. As it was so busy, people were throwing money from several metres back; all the money flying through the air was an interesting experience ^_^ 

We went and had a look in some of the kimono shops, got a bit frightened by the prices, and bought some of the local sweet treats, ningyouyaki. They are pastry/caky casings filled with red bean paste, which is a common ingredient in sweets here. It is sort of a savoury sweetness, and very tasty.

After that we went over towards the bank of the river and looked at the Tokyo Sky Tree. It's a new building due to open later this month which is now the second tallest in the world. It's about twice as tall as Tokyo Tower. 

So I had a good Golden Week, even if most of it was spent studying. The weather on the Saturday was also wonderful, which put me in a very good mood ^_^

(Photo is from the first time we went to Asakusa, so there were a lot less people. Still raining, though :p)

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Mos Burger.

Yesterday there was disappointingly miserable weather, however Laura and I decided to walk to Soka station to get lunch at Mos Burger. Mos Burger is a chain of fast food restaurants, akin to McDonalds or Burger King. The experience was very different, however.

I ordered the curry chicken burger, which is limited edition. Laura had the eponymous Mos Burger. After ordering, you go and sit down and they bring the order to your table once it is ready.

It came in a dinky little basket, with our sides of onion rings and fries, and free water even though we didn't ask for it. Perhaps the most impressive thing was that the burger actually looked like the photo on the menu board o_o.

It was very tasty, and the fries weren't drowned in salt which made a nice change. My burger and fries/onion rings side came to 490 yen, ~£3.75. Definitely worth it.