Thursday, February 19, 2009

Apartment Living

Well I got myself an apartment, as I stated before. I'd say I got pretty lucky with my current living arrangement. To get an apartment in Japan is typically a rather expensive investment. The deposit is usually a few months rent; there is a fee to the landlord which amounts to about one month's rent, and a fee to the real estate company (if used) that also amounts to about one month's rent. I did not have to pay a deposit, and I did not go through a real-estate company. I knew the guy that lived there last semester, so I basically transitioned in when he moved out. It was quite convenient. I did have to pay a "cleaning fee" (aka key money) to the landlady that was about 1/2 a month's rent. You might hear horror stories of how expensive rent is in Japan, but in Nagasaki it's pretty reasonable. If you're a foreigner, you have to have a guarantor sign for you in order to get an apartment as well. There are agencies in Nagasaki setup to do this in the event a person can't find one. Last semester I lived with my host family in Togitsu town, but my current apartment is located in Nagasaki City. This means I had to go to city hall and change the information on my alien registration card and reapply for the Japanese national medical insurance. That was fun. Except not. I live a greater distance away from the school now, but I'm closer to Sumiyoshi (area of massive convenience). As for food, there is a 100 yen store like 4 minutes away, and a large grocery store just a few minutes further.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Chinese Lantern Festival and Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is celebrated in Japan on the same day, but it is pretty much the inverse of the American version. In Japan, women buy chocolate for guys. There are essentially two types of chocolate, one that is given for romantic reasons, and "obligation" chocolate which is given to coworkers/bosses/etc. Chocolate given for romantic reasons is unsurprisingly more extravagant and expensive than obligation chocolate, and the holiday can end up being quite expensive. A month later is White Day, where guys return the gift of chocolate. Morinaga was trying to start a trend with Gyako-Choco (reverse chocolate), where guys buy chocolate for the girls on Valentine's Day.

Last week marked the end of the Nagasaki lantern festival, which occurred the week prior. I went twice towards the end, once at night and once during the day. Various areas of the city were dressed up with lanterns, and around the central area there was a stage for performances and some displays. At night it was extremely packed. I think I saw more foreigners in that one night alone compared to the entire semester prior. I watched an Okinawan dance that took place on the stage, and the Kunchi performers did the dragon dance at Shianbashi. Some pics:

Lanterns in Shianbashi

This is an area where people were lighting incense and praying. Those are real piggies.
There were lots of figures such as these around the central/Shianbashi area.
Lots of people. And somebody's cellphone.

Friday, February 13, 2009


Sorry for the huge delay, I’m still alive. The semester ended over a week ago, and this past week was the first week of spring break. I was expecting spring break to be filled with free time and boredom, but I’ve been far busier this past week than during the actual school year. I got to see many of my foreign friends off for the last time (only 5 or so of the 20 something JASIN students are staying in Japan for the next semester), and I moved into my own apartment. I also did some site seeing, attended a festival, and went to the Nagasaki and Togitsu city halls to take care of the paper work for my registration. I’ll post pictures and go into greater detail in subsequent posts.

Anyway, since fall semester just ended last week, it can easily be seen that school semesters in Japan run on quite a different schedule from American ones. The semester began at the end of Sept. and ended the first week of Feb. The next semester begins at the end of March and ends the first day of August. This means that I essentially have a 2 month long break. The orientation period for next semester is, I think, 2 weeks, so it is actually a bit longer than that. It should also be noted that the school year in Japan begins in the spring, not in the fall, so there will be many new students coming in next semester. There will also be many students graduating in March, including a lot of my friends.

There are a couple American students from an air force academy that arrived here a couple weeks ago due to a misunderstanding of the different semester schedules, so the school kind of threw together a few classes for them at the last minute. Since it’s break, I’m going to try to get in on these classes as well to continue my studies.