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weill in japan: day 15

Getting into a routine has its downside. Today was the third consecutive day that I got up after 7:00 AM, despite the fact that I set my alarm to ring at a more realistic 6:30 AM. Because of my continued late start, I had to blaze in and out of the shower. My older brother Nori arrived from his home in Kyoto for a visit in the morning, but I didn't get to meet him until the afternoon.

first bad day

Milestone: Today was my first Bad Day in class.

Taking a lightning-quick shower, throwing on clothes, and getting ready to leave the house in 90 seconds doesn't exactly make for a good morning. My concept of "breakfast" has been reduced to coffee: a half-liter bottle of coffee milk from a kiosk on the station platform, and a demitasse of espresso from the vending machine between classes. Total cost: ¥260 ($2.25) for about 200 milligrams of caffeine.

On top of it all, we have two hours of repetitive, mindless parroting of stale material starting at 8:30 AM. It's getting to the point where I can't take much more of this boring dreck, but fortunately the next two hours are more involved and lively.

I don't think the caffeine worked today. I was on the verge of falling asleep in class on many occasions, and it was nearly impossible to stay focused. Maybe I just need more sleep.

On top of it all, I had a meeting with one of my professors this afternoon regarding my brief speech in class last week. Every student is doing these reviews: we listen to the tape along with an instructor, as he/she helpfully asks me to identify all the mistakes I made. It's a humiliating ten minutes to review a speech of about one minute on tape, repeated ad nauseum. It didn't do anything for my mood today.

family matters

After getting back from campus, I was able to finally meet Nori, my older brother who now lives in Kyoto while working for an American wine importing company. We spoke for a while about my experience so far, and about his business. The conversation was in English, as my host mother wants me to help Nori maintain his English skills.

Nori's English is exceptional, the result of extensive study both in Japan and in America. He speaks English much better than any of the bilingual volunteers on campus, although his job with an American company demands that his conversational English be excellent. All Japanese students study English as early as elementary school, but the style of lessons is very repetitive and doesn't accent conversational skills at all. Private study, including study abroad, is a much better method to learn the language.

Despite the fact that Australia is much closer to Japan than America is, students overwhelmingly learn the American style and pronunciation. Most students learning English elsewhere in the world learn the British style known as "International English," but the only sign of Japanese influence in English here is the use of metric units for measurements. American music, TV shows, movies, and the general cachet of all things American are seen as very cool here. It's not uncommon for the occasional Japanese-language variety show to include the odd American panelist speaking in fluent Japanese.


Game note: I have beaten an arcade version of Tetris, completing the "normal mode" and getting one of the day's high scores. I fell short of the high score table in "master mode," though.

Find: A 100-yen shop near Musashi-Sakai station has a refrigerator selling cold 500-mL cans of Pepsi products and one-liter bottles of generic "USA Cola," all for ¥100 ($0.85) each. That's a much better deal than the machines in the train station right next door.

Tip: If a cafeteria anywhere in the world offers something called "crab croquettes," do not buy them.

Time to get some sleep, and hope for the best tomorrow on my first C5-level vocabulary quizzes.