Tuesday, September 20, 2011


To say the weather has been miserable would be an insult to miserable weather.  A typhoon hit us last night, and we've had torrential rain* since then.  It's supposed to clear up by Thursday, but right now walking outside is sort of like having someone dump buckets of water over your head while wading through a river.

(These pictures are from about noon, before it started getting bad.)

That might explain why there was no one else there when I went to apply for my Alien Registration Card (ARC) this morning...either that, or I was up so early that no one else in their right mind would want to go at that hour.  (9:30 isn't that early...is it?  I've been waking up at 6:30 or 7 every morning, so it seems pretty late to me...)  So instead of taking Hours and Hours (as some people said it would), it only took about twenty minutes.  And most of that time was waiting for them to issue me my temporary card certificate.  Plus it wasn't anywhere near as difficult as people were making it out to be; a lot of people told me I should go with an interpreter, and Makino-san (the woman in international student services who has been helping me out) said I should only go alone if I wanted "a challenge."  I also tried to enroll in the National Healthcare Program, but apparently a post card was sent to my dorm with information, and I need to wait until it arrives?  I'll be heading back to the ward office to pick up my real ARC in a couple of weeks anyway, so it's not a big deal.

After that, I went over to international student services to turn in my form to get an inkan (name seal) and to pay my rent.  They have a really strange rent-paying system where you buy tickets from a machine and then turn those in to the student services office.

On a slightly related note, I have so many problems with money in Japanese.  Not in the normal "problems with money" sense (I'm incredibly reluctant to ever spend money, and probably will be until the day I die), but rather in the "YOU ARE SAYING NUMBERS TO ME AUUUGH WHAT DO I DO?" sense.  Of course, Japanese doesn't have the easiest numbering system to begin with.  In English we count things in groups of three zeros: you have thousands, and then when you have a thousand thousands you have a million, and then when you have a thousand millions you have a billion and so on.  Well, SOMEBODY decided that in Japanese they would count things in groups of four zeros: you have ten thousands (man), and when you have ten thousand ten thousands you have a different number (oku...which is...100,000,000...one hundred million, I guess?) and so on and so forth.  So 1,000,000 is "one million" in English but "one hundred ten thousands" in Japanese.  To further confuse matters, the best way to mentally change yen into dollars is to lop two zeros off the end.**  So if someone asks you for "one ten thousand seven thousand eight hundred fifty yen" in Japanese, you have to first mentally convert the number into something you can actually picture (17850) and then stick a decimal point before the last two numbers (178.50).  Moral of the story: JAPANESE NUMBERS LARGER THAN 9,999 CONFUSE ME TO NO END.  And that's very unfortunate, since my rent is all in ten thousands.  I almost accidentally paid 1400円 instead of 14000円.  YIKES.  Good thing I stopped to double-check the zeroes.

So after my adventures with paperwork, I waded (literally waded; the water was over my ankles) to my professor's seminar, which turned out to be a graduate-level course.  There are four other people in the class, two in their second year of graduate school and one in her third.  (The last guy is in seminary, I believe, and is going to Rome in March?)  We had gotten about fifteen minutes into the class (and I was just about to introduce myself) when an announcement came over the P.A. saying that class was cancelled because of the typhoon.  Yikes!  So we had to leave the school, and we won't be meeting again until next week.  From what little I have seen of the class, everyone has significantly better Japanese than I do (there are two Filipino students and two Japanese students) and knows more about Christianity than I do, but I knew how to read 仏 (the kanji for "Buddha"; it's read "hotoke") and the Filipino students didn't.  Small victories, I guess.  I'm sure I'll learn a lot from all of them, and hopefully they won't think I'm too overwhelmingly pathetic.

So because classes were cancelled, I went down to the common room for the dorm and started reading the assigned article for my advisor's seminar.  It's called "What Is Shinto?" (「神道は何か?」) and although I have to look up 1 word in 20 (my academic Japanese is somewhat lacking, especially since I don't use terms like "sublime" and "ten thousand volumes of doctrine" all that often), I am understanding it perfectly, which, I think, is pretty much amazing.  Of course, I spent the last year reading about Shinto obsessively, so maybe it's not that amazing.  But the fact that I can read an academic article for a graduate-level course in Japanese?  That's something worth celebrating, I think.

...and then my friend in Niigata emailed me, because apparently the U.S. Embassy sent out a warning about the typhoon???  (But I didn't get it for some reason, even though I'm signed up for their emergency alerts...  Hrrrm.)  Apparently sections of Nagoya are being evacuated.  And the international students who live outside of the Nanzan area are being allowed to stay at our dorm tonight, because it's too dangerous for them to try to go home.  And classes might be cancelled tomorrow too.  Basically, it's crazy, but DON'T FREAK OUT, MOM AND DAD.  I'm fine.  And I will continue to be fine, as long as I don't do something stupid, like try to climb a mountain or go hang-gliding.

Last thing!  I stand corrected in regards to the comment I made earlier regarding tying up wishes.  You do do it in Japan (I've even done it)!  You tie wishes to bamboo for Tanabata, but since it's not normally done at shrines (a lot of stores set up bamboo outside, so you most commonly see Tanabata wishes in shopping districts) it totally slipped my mind.  So thanks to my mum for having a way better memory than I do.

*Unfortunately I cannot use my favorite Japanese word here (ゲリラ豪雨; guerrilla downpour) because the typhoon was expected, but I AM USING IT IN A FOOTNOTE, OH HO.

**This is no longer true, since the exchange rate SUCKS (74 yen to the dollar, last I checked), but I still do it just to get a ballpark figure.

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