A Couple of Notes for the Incoming Students, Part 3: Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better

This is part three of my guide to JOY-sei ryuugaku life, concerning the navigation of the city of Yokohama (and travel outside). Here’s a copy-and-paste of the table of contents quickjump:

Part 1 (The Dorms, The Neighborhood, Commuter Passes)
Part 2 (Getting to School, Getting Comfy in Your New Place, Resident Registration, Cell Phones, Money)
Part 3 (Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better)

Disclaimers: this is not an official guide; things are current at the time I wrote this post and may change; you can probably use this as a guide for non-YNU study abroad but a good chunk of things won’t apply to you; this is based on my experience and things may be different when you get here. If a website has an English page, I’ve linked to it, but most of the links will be in Japanese-0nly.

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Endgame: On Returning Back

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Hey, everyone: it’s been a while. Just like every other blog I’d checked out before coming here, I ended up becoming a bit too busy to update my own journal. Funny how that works, right?

But yeah, just like that, I’m back in California. The reverse homesickness hasn’t hit me fully yet, but reverse cultural shock has reared its head several times:

  • At most pedestrian crosswalks, you have to push the button to let it know you’re there
    (In Japan, they’re automatic; buttons are provided, but presumably to lengthen the amount of time needed for the disabled and the elderly.)
  • Food portions are bigger here
    Japanese sizes, I’m sorry for giving you grief. Please come back. (Though having more than 6oz a time for a drink is most welcome.)
  • Dang, our streets are huge!
    As in, the suburbs have plenty of room to breathe (and parallel park). In Japan — not so much. Heck, some of the roads around YNU are practically one-way.

I’m sure there are a couple more examples, but no more come to mind right now.

Classes have already started up in earnest here, leaving me with not that big of a summer vacation; just a week to recover from jet lag. Part of me still hasn’t: I’m writing this post at 4 in the morning with a class coming up in about six hours, which totally can’t be good for my body. Still, the beginning means less work than later on, so I hope to get that very overdue part 3 of the guide to living in the dorms up as soon as I can for people who might be beginning their next year at YNU.

To those of you who will: you’re gonna have one hell of a good time. Relax, soak in the culture, learn the language, make yourself at home. Japan ain’t a bad place to live, and it’s most certainly a fun place to explore.

Jiro Strikes Back

I'm BackA bit of a break from the whole serious-business welcome to YNU guide: let me talk a bit about Jiro again. As in, Ramen Jiro.

So a friend from California came to visit last month — in the two weeks before he did, while he was planning out itineraries, I think even before he asked me about specific plans to meet up, there it was: hang out with Mattie in Yokohama, “…destroy a garlic ramen place.” I giggled. I was cool with that, actually; I’d not returned back to Jiro ever since that fateful first time — I was pretty ready to give it another go. He was ready to pay his respects to the garlic king, and a chat over Skype confirmed his hype.

Meeting up with him and a couple of other people — mutual friends — at Kannai station at about 1 PM, we proceeded to walk right down the street to the line already 15 people strong. I describe to them once more how the ramen is, and tell them, based on the one prior experience that I had, to get a small. They didn’t believe me — after all, all of us had been busy enough in the morning to skip a decent breakfast. I looked up and showed them pictures. They were flabbergasted. My dear friend continued to waffle for a while wondering if he should just go for it, destroy a huge amount of food, like any stereotypical American could and would.

“No,” I discouraged empathically. “You are going to die.”

“Dude, don’t worry about it, I can hella finish that off,” came the response. One by one, we entered the store and ordered Jiro’s ramen.

OK, GoIn the end, we all went for the standard small bowls. As I’d planned earlier, I dropped the garlic level down to chotto dake. The ramen became a bit more bearable, but the garlic was still strong; I managed to get all the way down to the broth, at which point I couldn’t continue. Gulping down the customary bottle of twice-steeped oolong tea afterward returned most of the inside of my mouth to normal, but the garlic stuck around in the back of my tongue. I’d prepped mints, too — those didn’t help, either. As the shirts the chefs wore said, in perfect English: Jiro without garlic is like a life without love.

One by one, the others rose from the store. None of them finished it — one admitted he’d left a bit of cha-shu behind, but if he’d gone any further he would’ve thrown up. Another — one of the people who’d thought about getting a large — asked me how people could ever hope to finish a large. I shrugged. (I remember asking the friend who’d first recommended Jiro to me the same thing; his response was “no normal person can.”)

And then my friend appeared, the last to come out of the store. He loved it. He’d finished the bowl, broth and everything. Apparently something had snapped inside him, gave him a second wind. But he needed a bit of a rest. He did admit defeat, at least, to the legendary large.

We walked through Isezaki-cho for a bit. All we could think about and talk about for the next fifteen minutes was the ramen and how much it destroyed us.

None of us ate dinner that night. Ramen Jiro was filling enough for an entire day. ◆

A Couple of Notes for the Incoming Students, Part 2 (Updated!)

Part two of my guide to Yokohama ryuugaku life. Here’s a copy-and-paste of the table of contents quickjump:

Part 1 (The Dorms, The Neighborhood, Commuter Passes)
Part 2 (Getting to School, Getting Comfy in Your New Place, Resident Registration, Cell Phones, Money)
Part 3 (Getting to Know Yokohama A Bit Better)

Disclaimers: this is not an official guide; things are current at the time I wrote this post and will change; you can probably use this as a guide for non-YNU study abroad but a good chunk of things won’t apply to you; this is based on my experience and things may be different when you get here.

Patch notes —

10 Nov 2017: fixed a couple of things here and there; updated the cellphone section. Continue reading

A Couple of Notes for the Incoming Students, Part 1 (Updated! – 2017 Oct 20)

Have a seat, and listen up!

It’s about that time of the year where I remember I have a blog, I go in, and see more hits than usual, due apparently in part to search terms for the JOY program and odd things about the area in English. Maybe I should’ve written this earlier, but now that spring break is here (and I’m done with the usual handful of end-semester assignments I procrastinated on), I can actually sit down and write this up. Ahem.

To those of you who have decided to make Yokohama National University your university away from university for a semester or two, hi! My name’s Mattie, and I look forward to getting to know you, JOY-sei alumni 2012-2013. Lemme give you a preview of life as us ryuugakusei live it here in Japan to the best of my ability, shall I?

Oh, before that, though, couple of disclaimers: this was current at the time I wrote it (2-18-2013) revised it (2013/8/29); things probably will have changed. This isn’t an official guide or anything like that. This is also YNU-specific, so if you’re thinking of studying abroad and YNU isn’t on your list, things will naturally differ…I think that’s about it. Okay, onto the good stuff. Continue reading