The Slightly Longer Way – Day 2

The Slightly Longer Way Series - Table of Contents

EntryNotable Places/EventsRSJP
Day 0 – Friday, May 05 2023 to Sunday, May 07 2023Flight from Edmonton to Tokyo-
Day 1 – Monday, May 08 2023Train from Tokyo to Kyoto-
Day 2 – Tuesday, May 09 2023RSJP Orientation DayW1D1
Day 3 – Wednesday, May 10 2023Placement test, Kinkakuji/Golden PavilionW1D2
Day 4 – Thursday, May 11 2023Kyo-Yuzen Dyeing WorkshopW1D3
Day 5 – Friday, May 12 2023Mori Touki-ken Pottery WorkshopW1D4
Day 6 – Saturday, May 13 2023Ichihime Shrine, Nishiki Market-
Day 7 – Sunday, May 14 2023Nara, Todaiji Temple-
Day 8 – Monday, May 15 2023UrasenkeW2D1
Day 9 – Tuesday, May 16 2023Nijojo CastleW2D2
Day 10 – Wednesday, May 17 2023Tojiin TempleW2D3
Day 11 – Thursday, May 18 2023Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto Sanjo Shopping Street, TsubomiW2D4
Day 12 – Friday, May 19 2023Kyoto StationW2D5
Day 13 – Saturday, May 20 2023Kamogawa River, Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai-
Day 14 – Sunday, May 21 2023Shimogoryo Shrine Kankosai-
Day 15 – Monday, May 22 2023Kimono-ProW3D1
Day 16 – Tuesday, May 23 2023Ritsumeikan Library, Hama SushiW3D2
Day 17 – Wednesday, May 24 2023Domoto Insho House, Kamogawa, IchijojiW3D3
Day 18 – Thursday, May 25 2023Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Hama Sushi (with Kel)W3D4
Day 19 – Friday, May 26 2023Super KaraokeW3D5
Day 20 – Saturday, May 27 2023Nothing special
Day 21 – Sunday, May 28 2023Demachi Masugata Shopping Street, a long walk home
Day 22 – Monday, May 29 2023Nothing specialW4D1

Tuesday, May 09 2023 (Day 2)

Some early morning thoughts:

While I like my room in general, there are always a few quirks and/or peeves that one finds out about after staying in the room for some time that might not be evident at first glance. Right on the top of the list for me is that this toilet bidet has a wash function but no dry function, which is rare, I’m not sure I’ve seen a bidet which has a heated seat function and a raise/lower seat function but no blow-dry function for whatever reason.

I also wonder what the story is behind this sign:

I’ve never seen a sign warning against using hair dye in the bathroom before. But more importantly, I hadn’t realized it as of yesterday’s post but there’s a little waterproof TV by the bathtub for those who would like to surf while they soak!

Another slightly worrisome thing about this place is that I don’t actually have a key for my door, only a keycode to get in past the digital lock. Which is great and all, except that also means that anyone who manages to access the key code can find a way in when I’m not there. Sure the front desk probably changes it between guests, but the combo is also stored at the desk itself and who knows what sort of security flaws might or might not be present in the lock itself or in the building security. Oh well.

And today is the first day of the actual RSJP, which means that after today there is a chance that the blog posts will err toward brevity, depending on how much homework and/or extra-curricular activity we have that day.

I had no trouble waking up today, even though I went to bed at about 2 am, I was up and kicking again just after 6 am. From yesterday’s bus schedule:

The bus I am targetting (leftmost sheet) arrives at 8:21 and 8:29 am, both of which should get me right to school well before 9 am, which is when my classes usually start. Today’s first day is even more forgiving than that, as Orientation starts at 10 am instead of 9 am. The people staying at the hotel are meeting up in the hotel lobby with some staff and volunteers, and they all then plan to take the local bus to school together, to show them the way there I guess. I know my route already, having scoped the lay of the land yesterday evening, so I will be going myself instead, and I believe my journey is quicker than theirs.

I wrote that above paragraph before I actually left for the day at about 7:55 am, and it’s funny to read in hindsight, because one thing I hadn’t realized about taking the bus to check out my school in the evening, versus taking it in the morning during school rush hour, is that the bus stop looked like this in the morning:

This was at 8:07 am at Nishioji bus stop, just outside Saiin Station, about a 5 minute walk from my residence. There was a long, looong line of people waiting for what obviously was the same 205/Ritsumeikan bus as me, and the vast majority of them were headed to Ritsumeikan itself too. But there were also plenty of buses that came by, though the main problem with that was that most of them were already half to two-thirds full before even reaching our stop, and could only pick up a limited number of people from our stop before taking off again.

Still, the line moved fairly quickly, and I was near the front of the line after about 15 minutes or so. Although I could step aside and wait for a specific bus if I wanted to, I didn’t bother waiting for the particular super-direct bus at that point, and I just took the first rapid bus that was going right to Ritsumeikan, one of the ones from the middle bus schedule in the picture above. It was super packed but, unlike the 205 I took the prior day, took me all the way into a little transit stop inside Ritsumeikan itself. From there, it was a short and already-familiar walk to get to class, and I got there by about 8:50 am or so.

The coordinators sent a detailed schedule of our activities via email yesterday. It’s located here. Today’s schedule includes Orientation from 10-11 am, Campus Tour at 11 am, Lunch with Buddy at 11:40 am, and Training Room Class from 3 to 4 pm. The schedule is pretty similar to the English one on this page (local), just tweaked a little. The Japan Study entries are more fleshed out in the version we got yesterday — tomorrow’s Japan Study #1, for example, is a visit to Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, which is actually located very close to the campus itself. The Japanese placement test is also tomorrow morning, instead of today.

Although the class today started at 10:00, I’m glad that I tried to reach here by 9, emulating a normal schedule, instead, so that I could see the orrderly bus chaos and mentally prepare for it, even though it meant that I was sitting around in an empty classroom for a while before anyone else at all came. The first person that came was another Chinese girl named Zian (phonetically Zi3 An1), and after we made introductions to each other, I learnt that she was studying at the University of Sydney and had just completed a 4-month exchange program in Singapore, and was tacking this RSJP onto the end of that before returning home.

I also learnt that she was living at her own separate accommodation as well, and that coincidentally, it was very close to where I was, about maybe a 5 minute or so stroll west of me. By complete happenstance, we were practically neighbours in the large city and even took the bus from the same stop to Ritsumeikan in the morning! She had arrived at the stop closer to 9:00 or so, and said that there was only a tiny line when she was there and that everyone in the line got onto the next bus when it arrived, and she was shocked when I showed her the pictures of the line an hour before that!

We chatted a bit more before one of the teachers, Mr Tanaka, arrived. He was fluent in both Japanese and English (as were the other teachers that addressed us later that morning) and very funny as well, and kept big smiles on our faces as he prepared for the class. He told us in slow Japanese that our RSJP session this year (there are two RSJPs each year when it is held) only had 8 students, and this surprised me because it meant that UAlberta‘s 6 students made up the majority of the cohort. I was also under the impression from an earlier email that they weren’t sure if there would even be enough Ritsumeikan Buddies, the term they used for local student volunteers that were going to help with immersion by accompanying us and chatting with us in Japanese. Turns out they had managed to gather 98(!) of them and that 13 of them were also attending this first day orientation as well! It also really meant that Ritsumeikan had for whatever reason only been able to find a hotel with 5 or 6 spots or so in total, and not that UAlberta had been late getting the hotel sign up portion to us. Very weird.

Anyway, after a while, a flood of people entered the classroom together — a couple of teachers, the other 6 students, and about ten or so student buddies. Introductions were made, and then Mr Tanaka went over the overview of the program, handing out a package with things like a booklet, our Wi-Fi account and password, a library card, and so on. Oddly enough, it didn’t seem like we had an ID number, or at least it didn’t seem like we were going to have or get a student ID card. He also showed us the results of the pre-placement examination — we were split into 2 classes, 4 in Beginner II and 4 in Intermediate I, and for some reason I was in the Beginner II pool. Likely either because I hadn’t formally studied Japanese for about two years by this point, or because my essay was largely in hiragana instead of kanji. Anyway he said that our placement test the next day would actually determine where we would end up though.

After introductions, we split into two groups of four and were assigned about half the Buddies per group as well. The Buddies then took our two half-groups separately around campus for a tour, showing us the bookshop, various cafeterias, the very nice library with Greek-style pillars in front of the building (and how to borrow and return books), and so on.

We then went for lunch at one of the shokudou (canteen or cafeteria). Mr Tanaka had lovingly alluded to this earlier, but the cafeteria was great — it was basically a Build Your Own Set Menu thing, with really cheap food. You could first choose your own main dish:

And then go down an aisle with trays of side dishes and pick whatever you wanted from there as well. I ended up with a main dish of hoikoro, or Pork and Cabbage Stir-fry, and some rice, soup, and veggies in wasabi, for 512 yen.

Mr Tanaka had warned us that we needed to go early for lunch to avoid the long lines, and at about 12:15 pm or so the line would burgeon and extend out the door of the cafeteria. After seeing the bus stop earlier this morning, I was sure that he was not exaggerating on this. We didn’t stay long enough to see this, as the buddies guided us through the ordering process and then out of the cafeteria itself once everyone had our trays, and back into the neighbouring building where our classroom was, up the stairs with trays and all, into a different empty classroom to eat at. The cafeteria itself had lots of people seated at tables with dividers in between every adjacent seat, in a way that reminded me of the privacy dividers at ramen bars or library study rooms rather than COVID-19 social distancing barriers. But there were tables and chairs outside the cafeteria itself too, and apparently the students were trusted enough to bring the trays and bowls back afterwards that there were no real restrictions on where they could take the trays in the meantime.

Lunch was a noisy affair in a classroom with really cramped seats, although I connected here with one of the Buddies named Wakana, who liked and was studying Japanese Heian-era classical literature, and gave me high-fives once I showed here that I could namedrop the Hyakunin Isshu and some of the poets from the collection, thanks to my familiarity with them from my Chihayafuru writeups and other skeletons from my past. We chatted about various things and she showed me the kanji in her name and explained what each character meant.

After another partial campus tour, our Buddies dropped us off at the final event of the day, an optional Training Room Class that 7 of the 8 of us attended. This was a 10 minute seminar thing that we had to attend in order to get our gym cards to be able to uses the gym for free, and though I wasn’t planning on using the gym, it felt like an interesting experience anyway as Mr Tanaka had said that we would be able to see the gym machines and so on, and also that this seminar was almost always done in Japanese and this English version was a Tanaka Special (i.e. a special arrangement that Mr Tanaka arranged for us), so what the heck.

It turned out that we were just stuck in a room watching a quick Powerpoint presentation and filling in consent forms, and didn’t actually get to see any of the machines ourselves, and it felt like a colossal waste of time, not because of that alone, but because one of the stipulations of actually going inside the gym proper is that you had to have indoor shoes to wear, and short-term exchange students don’t have indoor shoes, since who brings indoor shoes when we were just going to be here for a couple of weeks?

Anyway, we left after that, though I got help from one of the teachers on the way out regarding filling out the rest of my bus pass form. I walked out some ways to the main road and took the 205 from there back to Kitaoji Bus Terminal again, where I had picked up the form from the day before, and successfully exchanged the form for my monthly bus pass, after scheduling it to start the next day (May 10-Jun 09) since the current day was nearly over. I learnt here that if I wanted a monthly pass that would work for bus AND trains, I could have done that too, but it would have been approximately double the price, something around 19,000 yen and change instead of the 9,600 or so yen that the bus-only pass was going to cost.

I also learnt that it came in two versions, a paper version that could only be used on the regular sort of Kyoto buses, and a version tied to an Icoca card, Kyoto’s version of the Suica/Pasmo transit card (and very much interchangeable with them), that for the same price would qualify me on travel on the local JR buses as well as a third kind of bus. But because I didn’t have an Icoca card, I would have to put a 500 yen deposit down for that, so it wasn’t quite exactly the same price. It was still worth it though, especially since I believe that the Ritsumeikan rapid express bus that I had taken that morning from Nishioji was a JR operated bus, so I paid the extra 500 yen and went on my way.

The other kink with the form that I needed help with was that the form had a section asking if I was a short-term visitor or a student or something else, and I had circled student because, well, I was a short-term exchange student in the city. But because I was just on a short-term program and not here on a student visa, and additionally did not have a Student ID card, they changed my selection to visitor instead before processing and issuing me the card.

This monthly bus pass is not an option found on most of the Kyoto information sites on the English internet, even if oen searches for “Kyoto monthly bus pass” or something similar to that, and I guess this is because very few tourists are actually going to be in the city long enough for a month-long bus pass to be worth it. It was still really annoying trying and failing to find out information about it online on prior days though.

I went back home on yet another 205 bus, idly watching the crowds as the bus trundled its way along. This 205 bus passes not only Ritsumeikan, but also Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, as well as a couple of major transit junctions like my Nishioji stop, which is why it always seemed to be so crowded. Even late in the afternoon, we definitely passed some bus stops around the Kinkakuji area (where we’ll be going tomorrow!) that still had lineups for the bus.

Since I lived near to Zian, I had made plans to head out together with her in the evening to the nearby Aeon Mall Kyoto Gojo, as she had a list of things she needed to buy and I wanted to visit the Aeon Mall in general (being very familiar with them from my past trip), and also had some groceries and stationery needs to fulfil. After some time resting in our respective lodgings, we ventured out again and met up at the mall.

We visited the local Can*Do 100-yen “dollar store” in the mall, and then a food court in the mall itself. I was glad to have made a new friend and we chatted for a good while while eating, and even had dinner together at the local food court. I apparently didn’t take a picture of this meal, but it was a Tomatama Curry Udon bowl, where Tomatama was an amalgamation of Tomato and Tamago (egg).

then a Plaza Capcom shop that was full of lousy claw grabbers (with only 1-2 prizes “on the floor” in many of them).

After that, we hit the supermarket on the ground floor, where we looked and noted down the location of the nightly discounted bento boxes. After that, we went our own separate ways from there and headed home.

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