Tips for Living in Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan
9 Feb 2005
Yeah, you lose a day going there. But on the way
back, you land about
4 Jan 2004
I have heard calling from Japan to US costs a lot. So I
setup a Internet to regular phone thing. That program is working fine, and I
tested the program by calling US and Hong Kong. Both works fine.
30 Dec 2004
Calls are expensive, but I’m not sure how much. If you get a calling card, you can make reasonably priced calls, but I think they’re still something like 30 – 50 cents per minute. And you have to call from a pay phone, because the in room phones get charged for local calls as well. So if you can get the PC to phone thing working, that would be great. Or, just have people call you, which is about 10 cents a minutes, with the right calling card. And don’t make international calls from the phone in your room (~$1/min) or you cell phone (expensive, plus it uses your very limited minutes).
I just used email and instant messenger, and my mom called every week or two.
4 Dec 2004, from Tom (F)Allen
Interesting stuff. This is correct that only criminals have tattoos. They Japanese mafia, known as the Yakuza, are generally tattooed across their entire body, everywhere except their face, hands, and feet. They generally wear suits, so you can’t see the tattoos, but if you go to an onsen (hotspring), everyone is naked, including the Yakuza. But don’t stare at them – you could get yourself in trouble. However, the Yakuza are actually often looked up to in Japan. While they do run almost all of the organized crime, they are in many ways legitimate. There is usually an understanding between the police and the Yakuza that the Yakuza can run the gambling and prostitution, as long as they keep everything safe, which they do.
About the ATM cards – this is correct that they only work at post offices, which function much more like banks in Japan than American post offices. However, in Sendai there are Postal Savings ATMs in many areas, including right across the street from the Kaikan, so it’s actually pretty convenient.
At stores, when you walk in they will shout a bunch of things at you. The main one is irashaimase. This is a very vague, and very polite, word meaning one of the following: you have come, you are going, or you are here. They use it to mean something like “welcome”. Everyone in the store will shout it every time anyone enters or leaves. Also, as they ring up your purchases they have a constant chatter of Japanese – very fast and hard to understand. Most of it is telling you what you bought, how much it costs, plus a bunch of meaningless formalities. Just ignore it. If they don’t look at you like they want you to answer, don’t worry about it.
Arigato is very important. Say if often, along with the other most important word: suminasen. In situations like purchasing things (where the employee is expected to be much more formal than you), the employee will likely say “domo arigato gozaimasu”, plus a lot of “masu” and “mashita” endings, to be formal. You should not be formal. This makes them feel uncomfortable, because they want to be more formal than you. For a man (in Japan, it is proper for men to be less polite than women), just saying “domo” (as in “domo arigato”) is sufficient. However, with professors, etc. it’s safer to use “domo arigato”. And since you’re gaijin (foreigner), they won’t get upset if you mess up formality stuff.
Trains come in local (every stop), local express (some local stops) and express (only a few main stops). Pay attention. Also, coming from Narita airport to Tokyo, make sure to get the Narita express, not the regular train, as it’s a whole lot faster. Also, if you don’t smoke, tell the Tokyo orientation people to get you a non-smoking ticket to Sendai (if they’re still buying them). We got smoking section tickets, and had to move, cuz the car was filled with 150 people chain smoking. Which reminds me – I’ve never seen people smoke so much so fast as in Japan.
Business cards (meshi, I think) are important, but as a student, you probably won’t need one. However, if someone gives you theirs, treat it VERY respectfully. NEVER bend it, write on it, etc. as this is extremely disrespectful.
You’re actually welcome to flirt with the flight attendants. They will continue to be very nice to you. In fact, they might get fired if they weren’t. However, they might not like it, and continue to smile anyway. And you probably won’t get anything out of it.
In restaurants, you don’t tip, and you pay at the front. When you’re done eating, just go to the register and pay. If you want to pay individually, say “betsu betsu”. To pay together, it’s “i shoni”. I like their system of not tipping and paying at the front much better.
As for co-ed bathrooms, I didn’t see many. However, often there were women cleaning the men’s bathroom while everyone was using it. However, none of it seemed like a big deal to me.
Some more chopstick rules: Never point with your chopsticks, particularly at someone. This is very rude. Never stand your chopsticks up in you food. This means you are offering it to the dead. Instead, balance the chopsticks on the edge of your bowl or plate. Never move dishes with your chopsticks. And never pass things from your chopsticks to another person’s chopsticks. This is only done at funerals, where, after cremation, it is traditional to pass the bones of the deceased from chopstick to chopstick. (Again, they won’t be mad if you screw up, but try not to anyway.)
One more thing: I highly recommend the onsens (hotsprings). Go when you get a chance. It’s a little strange, as everyone is naked, but they’re really nice. Important notes: wash very well, BEFORE going into the onsen. They’ll give you a little towel – it’s OK if it touches the water in the onsen, but don’t keep it in the water.
Hope this helps.