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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Foreigners: Negotiable

*Twinkle* returned from way out west today. Good job I was able to leave uni early, otherwise we would have never had time for our Kyukei (which thankfully didn't cost 3000yen) (although admittedly there's no TV screen set into the wall of the shower room here).

Got my timetable more-or-less sorted today. My core (Japanese language) classes number four per week, at 90 minutes a class. My optional choices (to make up the minimum of ten hours) are: Japanese society and culture - a class taught in English (which some Japanese friends from Sheffield are taking, thus I am taking it in order to support them!), then two modules taught in Japanese: Environmental Issues and Minority Issues. This is all subject to confirmation.

My choices were informed partly by interest in the subjects themselves, and partly by the timetable - i.e. I wanted at least one weekday off! Two classes on Monday, two on Tuesday, 1 on Wednesday, 2 on Friday. I start at 10.40am every day, and only on one day do I finish later than 4.30pm.

This is exactly the kind of timetable I wanted, me's a happy boy.

It's quite exciting to observe my classmates encountering Japan for the first time (lucky bastards!). Ah, I feel so jaded! Thing is though, I know if I was to leave Tokyo I think it would all be that little bit more "authentic" if you see what I mean. The main problem however, is that I am subconsciously avoiding straying from my comfort zone. My comfort zone is pretty big in a way; it includes most elements of normal everyday life in Western Tokyo (and in partcular Suginami-ku). Shopping, commuting, eating, watching people do the most bizarre exercises in the park at 7am (lying face down in a patch of mud - I kid you not, I almost trod on the guy this morning), it's as familiar as shopping for soya milk in Sheffield.

The thing is, I know that there is so much more out there, but at the moment, as I am able to get by perfectly well without venturing beyond Shinjuku/Ikebukuro/jogging along Zenpukuji river, I have no desire to reach out into the void. Of course, it's not really that I don't want to, it's just that I'm afraid, good old fear of the unknown.

We'll overcome it given a bit of time, but it's important that I remain conscious of the issue so as not to let life wash over me.

The ability to understand kanji is making a huge difference to my relationship with my surroundings. It pulls you in to the world, makes you feel a part of it, and helps you forget that yes, you do look different from most people around you.

Tell you what though, I can't believe how many gaijin there are here now! In only 5 years their seems to have been a huge increase in the number of foreigners. The official stats from the MOHLW or the MOJ would either confirm or negate that impression, but I'm afraid I can't be bothered to look (feel free to send me the link to the spreadsheet though!). Yeah, riding on trains, walking the streets; they're everywhere!

As is discrimination. Looking at ads for an apartment today, amongst those few that said "Foreigners: OK", we spotted one that read:
Foreigners: Negotiable

jaa ne

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