My first week in Japan was full on and when I say full on I mean full on! I arrived to my accommodation late Monday afternoon and Tuesday was straight into business. Tuesday morning I was met in the hotel lobby by all my my new classmates and the university buddies at 9am. We then travelled together to Ritsumeikan University on a Kyoto city bus (very packed that day)! On our first day we were allocated our classes (based on our writing abilities) and got a tour of the campus.
In the afternoon we also got a tour of Kyoto’s museum for world peace which was very interesting yet very sad. In the afternoon a group of my newly made friends and I went grocery shopping and we spent hours there! No one knew what anything was or even where to start but it was very interesting. Admittedly we had Mcdonald’s for dinner as shopping didn’t go as well as planned, BUT Mcdonald’s was very different than what I am used to in Australia and so it was a cultural experience in itself! In my defence, Monday night I did have my first ever bowl of Japanese ramen!
On Wednesday I had my first language class which was not what I was expecting at all. I thought that our teacher (sensei) would explain to us the phrases and sentence structure etc in English and then get us to practice them in Japanese, this wasn’t the case. Our sensei only spoke Japanese to us and it was difficult to ask questions in English as she didn’t always understand. In a way it was probably a good teaching method for the short amount of time that we were there but I am unsure whether I could learn that way full time as I am a slow learner most of the time. In total there were eleven people in my class (myself, Ayesha, Chester, Josephine, Chris, Cherry, Apple, Jade, Carl, Ruben & Wilson). There were also a number of other classes. After having lunch at the cafeteria, we broke into our Japan study groups and went to visit the Kinkakuji temple (Golden temple).
It was beautiful there and I ate the best shaved ice I have had in Japan so far. The temple was lovely and there were carp and turtle swimming around in the pond. We were told that the carp made the water murky and the reason they were placed in the water was so the emperor would know whether the water had been poisoned because if the carp died the water would go clear. After visiting the temple, we all went back to the university (daigaku) to have our opening ceremony where we got to eat lots of yummy Japanese foods.
On Thursday for Japan studies we got to do one of my favourite activities in the whole program: fan printing. After our language classes we we taken to Kiyomizu to print onto cloth to make into a traditional fan. We had many colours and patterns to choose from and no two looked the same. Afterwards, some of my new friends and I explored Kyoto Station, which is HUGE! There are so many places to eat and shops to look at, some very expensive while others cheaper. It was here that I had the nicest bowl of ramen I have had yet in Kyoto, although I don’t know how I feel about eating bamboo.
On Friday I got to go back to Kiyomizu for a pottery class as a part of Japan studies. During this class we got to create an piece of crockery that we desired and then got to choose the colour that we wished for it to be painted. As clay takes a long time in the kiln we were unable to paint it ourselves but were to be presented with our masterpiece at the farewell ceremony of our program along with the fan that we made. We then walked up the hill past all of there amazing food and gift stalls to get to the Kiyomizu-dera and participate in some of the activities within the temples. For example, the waterfall Otowa-no-taki is believed to bestow health, longevity and wisdom to those who drink from it; however, you are only allowed to drink from two as drinking from three would be greedy and hence none would have effect. At Jishu-jinja people try to ensure success in love by walking with their eyes closed between two stones which are 18 meters apart. If you miss the stones your desire for love won’t be fulfilled. I didn’t risk it! On the way back down the hill I ate so much food. There was this great crepe place- I’ll definitely be taking my mum there one day (she loves crepes)!
We had no classes on Saturdays or Sundays so most of us used that time to sightsee or have a rest. On Saturday Sydney, Maritza and I went to the Nishiki Market. This area was great and it’s still my favourite place to get flavoured bubble tea! The market itself is filled with food; however, the smell of fish may be a bit much to handle for some. Surrounding the fish markets are rows and rows of stalls- sweet stalls, gift stalls, you name it, it’s there. It’s here I went to my first Manga store and my first bookoff store. I bought plenty of reading material to practice my Japanese. On Sunday I had a restful day which included a visit to an Irish pub and some study in the common area of the hotel.