Two weeks of Japan

July 27th, 2011

Some people started complaining about the lack of blogposts ( actually, only one person, but never mind that ) so today I'll try to make up for that. The reason why it took me so long is simple, I was just too busy :-). Last two weeks really have been like a rollercoaster and rollercoasters in Japan are quite spectacular. It's a bit of a challenge to put all these new experiences into words, but let's try anyway.

I think it's a good idea to kick off with the practical side of my life here, the dry facts so to speak. The travel to tokyo went quite smooth, but flying is only fun for two hours but after that it gets boring. I didn't have much problems with the jetlag, tough the first week I had difficulties to fall asleep. Right now I'm staying in Ikegami, ota-ku a city in the Tokyo prefecture with a population of about 700.000 people. For people who want to suprise me with a visit this google map shows the exact location of my dormitory.

The dormitory is quite a big building, I guess that about 40 people are staying here. Not only students by the way, a lot of people here are employees. It's a decent place, I don't have to cook myself, breakfast and dinner are prepared for me. Which is very convenient. There's only a public bath and it takes a while to get used to that. I've got an airco at my room, but due to the powershortages you're only allowed to set it at 28° C. Which translates in a room with a temperature of 29° C. So let there be no misunderstanding, Tokyo is hot. 'Atsui' (hot) is probably the most used word out here.

Also, it's unfair to compare it with hot weather in Europe. With an humidity of over 60% 30° feels much hotter. When you leave the relatively cool trains, the heat and humidity blasts you in the face. When you walk for 10 minutes, you're wiping the sweat of your face. Most people in Japan dislike this weather and I can't blame them. But it's part of daily life and life doesn't seem to slow down because of it ( as is sometimes the case in Europe ). Instead people use things like umbrella's, sensu's and airco's to fight the heat.

The main reason I'm in Japan is for an internship, I'm a trainee at Sony Computer Science Laboratory. It's a very interesting environment, in the sense that the researchers there all have very different research areas. It's also a very challenging intership, so I'm more than lucky to get the opportunity to work at sony csl. I'm able to do this internship because of a program called IAESTE, which is a program to help engineers to do an internship abroad. The best thing about IAESTE is that there's a whole group of volunteers in Tokyo who support me and the other trainees, introduce us to their culture, organize events and take you out for sightseeing even while they are studying for their exams! ( In Japan Summer holiday starts in August and the schoolyear ends in march) I've already met some nice people and even after just 2 weeks it will be clear that it's going to be hard to say goodbye.

Japan is a civilized country, but you can't compare living here with living in Belgium/France or other western countries. Of course people in Japan have mostly the same dreams, desires and hopes as in any other country. So the basics aren't that different, you sleep you work you eat and you sleep again. But the difference is really in the details, little things that make it a different world. A lot of things you are used to in your own country you have to relearn. Things like working with the washmachine, queueing left, opening keylocks, using hashi ( chopsticks ), bowing, etc. At home these are things you do without much thinking, it's good to lose this stability from time to time as it forces you to live more intensively.

In any case, I already have a lot to write about. About food, Japanese people and their culture, about earthquakes and energy, language and so much more. I hope to write about at least some of these things, but time is limited so it might be hard. Anyway, this was a start!