I woke up at 5:30am, which is good news for me since the day before I woke up at 4am so it feels that I’m making progress towards finally having a good schedule in place. I went through my morning routine and then headed towards the station. I stopped at Lawson to get some rice balls for breakfast (two of them) and had some tea from the one I bought at ‘Don Quijote’ a few days ago. I took the train from Juso Station to Yamada Station, and then switched to the monorail until I got to Handai-Byoin-Mae Station (Handai-Byoin-Mae translate to ‘In front of the Osaka University Hospital). The whole trip cost me about 500 yen (a bit over $5). I kept panicking about commuting costs for a bit, but decided to give it a rest and went in to lab.
When I arrived at lab at around 9:15am, I went and changed my shoes to the lab ones, and while doing so one of my lab mates yelled across the hall “ohayoo!” (good morning) and I looked and notice it was to me. I quickly replied, “ohayoo!” and finished changing my shoes. It felt nice to see people greeting me, kind of like they recognized me as part of the lab. Other people in lab said “ohayoo” or “ohayoo gozaimasu” (the more polite greeting) during the morning, and I quickly replied to them in the same way.
In lab, I checked my e-mail and quickly opened one from the person in charge of the program that placed me here. In her e-mail she told me that I could take the train from Justo to Kita-Senri station, instead of getting off at the previous station, Yamada, and then walk for 20 minutes to lab. That would save me having to take the monorail. The new trip would cost me 260 yen each way, down from almost 500 yen. I gladly accepted that as my new commute. 🙂
In lab that day, I had lunch with my supervisor again and we talked about many different things, mostly about differences between costs in Japan and Boston. It turns out, they are pretty similar. Food in Japan seems to be a bit cheaper (or there are cheaper options, rather) but commuting in the train seems to be a bit more expensive. Monthly commuter passes are only worth it if you go between two stations round-trip at least 20 times a month. I’m guessing this represents huge savings to some people since it seems that people in Japan tend to work 6 days a week!
I talked to the two Chinese in our lab. They both speak English. Turns out one of them has been in the lab as a technician for a few years, since she finished her graduate studies and post-doc at Osaka University. It was interesting to learn that her two brothers are actually living in Boston, one working at Harvard University and the other at Boston University. It’s funny how I’ve met two people in two days that have had some sort of connection with where I live, etc. We talked for a few minutes, it was a very welcoming and nice chat. As usual when I start speaking Japanese people ask “Where did you learn Japanese?” and “You’re fluent, aren’t you?!” to which I quickly respond that I’ve been studying the language for two years at MIT, but no, I’m far from being fluent! Some people go on and praise my Japanese skills for a bit longer, and then we move on to more interesting topics.
Anyway, after I was done with lab, at around 7:30pm I decided to head to the Kita-Senri Station, which I had never been to. I decided that I wanted to save 220 yen, so I would, at night, roam my way around until I got there. I had a general idea of where it was in reference to my lab, so I would have to just walk in the west direction for as long as I could. There was a path that, according to the map, was not going to be street, but rather a smaller dirt path. I headed down in that direction and was delighted to see more of the Osaka U. campus. When I reached the front gate I realized that’s where I had to take the path, so I did. I was walking through a dirt path, and I second-guessed that that was the right path a few times, but I just kept going. Then I got to a place where you could definitely tell was not a train station, but since I was told that walking from the lab to the station would be about 20 minutes, I just kept walking, head held high, and just pretending I was not lost. I finally was about to turn around when I saw a map. It was all in Japanese, but I could identify the train station name 北千里駅. I was almost there! I would say, though, that I thought part of the path I walked was a bit sketchy. Some areas here (and some buildings at night) are not nearly as well illuminated as those in the US, so it was a quite dark in some places.
I finally made it to the station, and to my delight, the station was huge! It has like a mini-mall inside the station. There are cellphone stores, restaurants, a supermarket, an amazing 100yen store (like the dollar store in the US, but better), etc. I was so amazed by it. It was great. It was Osaka’s way of letting me know that yes, walking from lab to Kita-Senri Station every night was a wise decision, and not only because I would save some money, but because I would have even more dining options. 🙂
I then tried to figure out how to the a monthly commuting pass, but it was too late, it closes at 7pm (it was already 8pm), so then I came home. I bought some fat noodles with chicken on the way here and ate them at home while watching TV, then headed to bed.
Quite an eventful day considering I was at work for over 10 hours.
Some things I’ve noticed about Japanese people:
they are always nice and happy, at least employees are.
at stores every employee that sees you leaving the store will yell thank you at you. “Arigatoo Gozaimasu!” “Arigatoo Gozaimasu!” etc.
Some of them dress ‘normal’ while others completely ‘different’. Men more commonly carry bags around that men in the states would consider to be women bags or purses, and are more often found carrying colorful cellphones. Also, a lot of people, especially at stations, do wear the ‘masks’ to be protected from the flu.
Japanese people don’t seem to eat or drink anything outside ‘eating areas’… no one at stations eat snacks, etc.
Some pictures of the great Kita-Senri station are posted here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2085364&id=712370&l=3769d32933
I was standing on the 2nd floor, there were three more floors above me. 😀