Sunday, January 11, 2009

Japan's Mail System

Compared to the US mail system, I love the Japanese system. It's sooooo convenient. Actually, I really disliked the USPS. FedEx and UPS were all right, but they could be annoying too sometimes.

For instance, our mailman would never come to our door to deliver the mail. Our mailbox was directly on the street, and the front door of our house was only about 7 meters away from the mailbox. If there was a car parked in front of our mailbox, we didn't get our mail. If we got too many packages, or they didn't fit in the mailbox then we didn't get our mail. Oh yes, and on more than one occasion we received no notice of the fact that something happened and that our mail was being held for a limited time at the local branch.

God forbid that happens.... because then we had to somehow manage to get to the local branch in time before it closes, which means one of us (me or my two roommates) had to leave work early just to get the mail that the mailman couldn't bother to carry 7 meters to our door.

Okay, enough bitching about the USPS, now you get to hear how great the Japanese postal system is. I'm almost never at my apartment when they first deliver my packages, but I have been surprised on a couple of occasions. They've even delivered things to me late on a weekend... something that I'd never expect to happen with the USPS. The best thing is that I can easily arrange to have the mail either redelivered, or sent to the branch of my choice for pickup. Not only that, but if I contact them before something like 3pm, then I can have it redelivered that same day in the time-slot of my choosing (it goes all the way to an after-8pm time-slot). It's such a great system, if only the USPS could follow suit...

And one more thing. I've ordered two things from (free weights and a hard drive) and both packages arrived the next day using normal shipping. It's so refreshing compared to the 3-5 business days I'd always have to wait in America, not to mention having to be home when it's delivered so that I wouldn't have to go through the process of getting it after a failed delivery.

Latest Update

I'm going to start trying to post shorter, more daily-life type updates here from now on. It may diverge from my original goal of sticking strictly to studying Japanese, but I will mix in tidbits about that, as well as my observations about Japanese culture throughout my posts.

Maybe in the future I'll be writing these in Japanese, that's certainly the goal :) I was told that Japanese college was a lot easier than American colleges... maybe that only applies to undergrads? All I know is the school has really piled on the work. It was nice to take a break today and play some futsal. Playing futsal energizes me enough to continue slogging through the pile of work I have remaining until the end of the semester. I've joined two great futsal circles (unofficial school clubs), and been playing weekly. It has been a great way to both meet new friends and stay in shape at the same time.

Speaking of staying in shape, no one could tell me where to find free weights in Japan. The school's gym only allows access to them between 5pm and 7pm on weekdays, and that just isn't accessible enough for me. Unfortunately knew where to find any, so I ended up ordering from

Tonight I made some great Alfredo sauce and put it over spaghetti noodles. It tasted great, but unfortunately my kitchen still looks like a bomb made of cheese and milk went off in the middle of it. It's around midnight right now, and I'm writing this blog entry, in order to continue procrastinating... the cleanup is going to be a bitch :/

Tomorrow is a national holiday, so I won't have my normal class. Instead I'll be writing a program that can use a device you strap to your body to measure how fast you are moving parts of your body (such as your arm) so that you can calculate how much energy you are using while lifting weights. It should be able to tell you in real-time how many calories you are burning... I haven't decided if I'll provide other units for people to measure in, such as cheeseburgers. I don't actually know if the Japanese have cheeseburgers here... maybe I'll enquire about that to one of my futsal friends.

I'm still not sure exactly what I'll be doing over the mid-winter break. My friend Austin might be coming from Seattle for a visit. I've known him since first grade. He's one of my two best friends, and I'm sure it would be a lot of fun if he came. My other best friend is named Derek, is half-Japanese, and dislikes almost everything to do with Asian cultures. It's funny how things work out like that. His mom is Japanese, but she doesn't speak any of the Japanese language, and her mom can barely remember any.

In closing, I think I'll add the picture I took of the Strawberry Cheetos I found in the school's Seikyo (campus store). To date, that's probably the weirdest food I've seen here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Life in Japan

I've finally started to get settled here. I've got my apartment, some furniture, a few dishes and my main appliances (refrigerator, washing machine, and microwave/oven/toaster). I've got running water and gas and electricity. Unfortunately I've yet to get internet, although that should be coming soon (I hope).

For a quick refresher, I'm studying computer science at Keio University's SFC campus; specifically media databases. I've always been very interested in Parallel and Distributed Computing, so any research topic I choose will have elements of that in it.

I am studying quite a bit of Japanese, although its all on my own right now. The Japanese classes at my campus are too low level, and I'd have to commute 90 minutes on my only free weekday to my school's Mita campus in order to get in a higher level class.

Right now I'm studying Japanese through a couple of different methods. I'm still working on memorizing transitive and intransitive verb pairs. I've started using a website called "Quizlet". I tried it out a while ago and thought it had potential, but in these last few months it feels like it's matured enough that I can use it on a frequent basis. It's essentially a free flash card website with some "social networking" built in. People can share their sets with others, as well as compete in games and so forth. The transitive/intransitive set that I've put together and am studying right now is JIM: Transitive - Intransitive. I'll continue to add vocabulary to it and create other sets as well. One annoying problem with using flash cards to memorize words is that some words have very similar or identical meanings. Sometimes there are small nuances in meaning which I can add to the flashcard to help differentiate, but its a very difficult process (especially since I may not know the nuances). For instance, one verb I'm trying to learn is "あらわす" (arawasu) which means "to show". In this case, the meaning is more like "to reveal" or "to express" according to the online dictionaries I've looked at. The problem is that I learned that "みせる" (miseru) means "to show" a long time ago. I keep inputting みせる and getting marked as incorrect on the website :/ (old habits die hard I guess)

Additionally, I'm reading an online Japanese newspaper (AsaGaku) while using the Perapera-kun Firefox plugin. There are probably better newspapers out there (this one seems related to teaching Japanese to Japanese children. I found it while trying to find a Japanese children's newspaper), but this newspaper has plenty of vocabulary for me to study. I have a large vocabulary that isn't linked to kanji in my mind, so I find that as I am trying to read the newspaper by mousing over each word using the Perapera-kun plugin, I find vocabulary which I know in hiragana but not through kanji. I've already started recognizing words in everyday life on signs and posters whose kanji I've learned through the aforementioned online newspaper reading method.

If anyone can point me towards some easier online reading material written in Japanese (maybe some that has been written with children in mind) that would be much appreciated :)