Monday, February 27, 2012

Traveling for Spring Break

It's been difficult keeping track of how much I am spending while I am on my vacation. I have been in Taipei for the last 2 weeks and even though cost of living is supposed to be less than in Japan, I am still spending a lot.

It's really nice to be able to travel while we are on a 2-month vacation but it's easy for me to not keep to my budget because I am too carried away with all the new and exciting things to see and try in another country.

I will try to watch my budget when I am back in Japan but I will be going to Kansai and other parts of Japan guess I'll still be spending a lot more than I usually would.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Keio Housing and how to finding housing on your own in Tokyo

It is difficult because there are many restrictions such as getting a guarantor, key deposit...etc... so here are a couple of websites for real estate agents to help you guys out.

Enplus Inc. (Tokyo Apartments)-

Collective Residence-

Japan Apartment-


Sakura House-

Me and my friends are using Fontana and they have reasonable priced housing in Tokyo(although the complex we are renting is rather old). The apartments are fully furnished so you don't have to worry about getting furniture.

About Keio Housing

I recommend Hiyoshi International House because it is perhaps the cheapest option (56000yen including utilities). The room is also spacious and comfortable.

All the dorms at Keio do not allow visitors in the apartments but Hiyoshi is perhaps the most lenient because they don't really monitor the students. I know that Plume and Shimoda has more restrictions because there's always someone at the front.

You may be able to bypass the front desk at Shimoda by going through the emergency door on the right side of the building. This is if you and your party intend to stay past 11pm (when all guests have to leave)

Most of the classes for both KIP and JLP are at Mita campus which is about 40 minutes from Hiyoshi. There is a Keio campus at Hiyoshi but the classes offered there are a few seminar classes and some beginning Japanese classes. If you think you are going to be placed in level 1 and 2, you might be taking some of your Japanese classes at Hiyoshi. Otherwise, you will most likely be having all your classes at Mita campus.

New policies in Financial Aid --> Check your financial aid status

Oh dear. The new federal financial aid office has gotten me into a lot of trouble. I am now without institutional aid and only have limited federal aid left. I am worried that I will not have enough financial aid to last me through my program.

For everyone who is on financial aid, check to make sure that you are not exceeding your cumulative units and that you are meeting your GPA requirements.

I am really stressed that this is happening since the policy changes started only recently (Fall 2011).

I am also concerned that I will not have any financial aid when I return to UCI. I have at least one more quarter left but without financial aid, I can't pay for my tuition and living expenses.

This is terrible. I have emailed my financial aid counselor and hope that he will be able to help me.

I know that the Tokyo Study Center warned about exceeding credits before but I thought that as a transfer student I have 9 terms of financial aid after matriculation. *sigh* I will try to remain optimistic about this situation and hope that everything will be alright.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

節分 is on February 3

I celebrated 節分 with my friend Fukue and her two kids. We all wore demon (鬼) masks and threw beans outside and inside the house. The beans were crunchy and delicious but we scattered most of them on the floor. As we were throwing them we had to say 鬼は外、福は内/家 (Oni wa soto, fuku wa uchi) which means demons outside and happiness inside (the house).

We later ate sushi rolls for dinner. They were homemade and very delicious. We faced the lucky direction of this year which is North West and had to eat the whole roll without speaking. I guess it's considered lucky.

I really enjoyed spending time with Fukue and her kids and for allowing me to take part in 節分 with them this year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Studying is really hard when you are having fun

Next week is last week of school and while I only have 2 Japanese finals, I have 4 papers and a presentation that is due next week. I am really behind on my papers but I am confident that I will be able to make it! I will not get all As but I definitely am not doing as well as I am suppose to.

At first when the Tokyo Study Center gave us the talk about how exchange students don't do as well academically because they tend to slack off or have too much fun while on their EAP program, I didn't believe them. I was thinking to myself, I have a good GPA and I will definitely work as hard as I did at UCI. Well the first semester has passed and I'd have to say that their prophecy did come true and I was one of those students who played harder than they studied.

Well, I still have next semester so I hope that I will be able to get back in the swing of studying because after all, I am here to study. I just have to try to find my motivations for studying again here in Japan.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Spending Christmas and New Year in Japan

Christmas and New Year is a wonderful time to be around family and friends but this year I couldn't spend the holiday season with my family because I don't have enough money to go home for the holidays.

BUT, I did have a very wonderful celebration with some of the people (most of them EAP students).

I was trying to avoid the crowds for Christmas just because it's tiring having people shove you around on the streets when you are suppose to be sitting indoors somewhere warm with hot chocolate, marshmallows and lots of other delicious food.

Going to school from Hiyoshi to Tamachi, I pass by a river in between Osaki and Gotanda that is lighted up with pink and yellow Christmas lights during the holidays season. Then I thought what better time to go visit then Christmas.

So I spent Christmas at Denny's with Mas and Tim (two other UC students) before we started towards the Meguro river, only to find out they've turned off the lights by 10pm on Christmas eve. It's a cool place nonetheless and we ended drinking beer by the river, taking pictures at the fountain and seesaw near a hotel along the river.

I do recommend this place as a quiet romantic spot for dates because it's really nice, beautiful and serene. It's definitely better than the mad crowds in Shibuya, Shinjuku and Roppongi.

New Year's eve was a bit more crazy. I went to Zojoji where they were having a festival. It's pretty cool because you get to see the Tokyo Tower lit up in different colors than its usual orange and white. People also release balloons into the sky when we countdown to zero. It's quite exciting but it's also very damaging to the environment. (Sorry to be such a downer)

Then we went to Roppongi for some drinks and food. A bit overpriced but I highly recommend checking out the Turkish Kebab places on the streets. It's not very expensive just 500yen. But for the ladies, Roppongi can be intimidating because there are a lot of foreigners who think they can pick up any girls in Roppongi. I saw them harassing alot of women, trying to touch them and even kissing them. It was as if the men think they were all going to get some free sex from some drunk girl and were just random harassing women. This was quite disturbing to me which made me not want to go to the sketchy side of Roppongi. There's another side in Roppongi Hills that is for the rich people. They have nice Christmas lights there if you want to go there to check it out.

On New Year's Day, a few of us went to a club called Club Camelot. It is 6 minutes walk from Shibuya station and it was free for women and 1000yen for guys during Happy Hours.

Check out their page here for more info.

I think this is a far better club than the ones in Roppongi just because that clubbing district in Roppongi gives me the creeps. There are a lot of weirdos there and I don't think I want to be dancing there. I also recommend the gay clubs in Shinjuku (the gay district is 新宿二丁目 Shinjuku nichome). The clubs there feel really safe to me and people there just want to dance and have fun. I usually just prefer a place that is fun and safe. I really don't want men who keep trying to make sexual advances on us when we just want to dance.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Second hand goods

Japan is a good place to find cheap and good quality second hand stuff. Clothes, kitchen supplies, electrical appliances, bags... you name it and you can probably find it at some of the locations below.

1) Flea Market @ Tachiaigawa
A group of us went to check out the flea market in Tachiaigawa (立会川) today. I think it's definitely one of the best ones in Tokyo. Many stores and reasonable prices. Never pass up the chance to haggle for a lower price.

If you look around you can find some pretty good finds here. My roommate, Lisa, got a guitar with strings for 900yen and Andrew got a Yamaha one (w/o strings) for 1500yen.

You'll be able to find lots of clothes here to help survive the impending freezing cold in January and February. Winter jackets and lot of other clothes go for about 1000yen.

Check out the website for a map of the flea market-

2) Book Off

All locations sell books, CDs and DVDs. But there are several locations that sell second hands clothes, electrical appliances, bags, sport equipments, camera, instruments... etc...

*** There are special days of discounts on the 10th, 20th and 30th of every month. On the 10th- 10% off, 20th- 20% off, 30th- 30% off.

We went to the one at Odakyunagayama (多摩永山) and had a really wonderful day of shopping. We bought things for our hiking trip to Nikko as well as some winter wear.

Check out the Book Off website for more information-

3) Bazaar @ Hiyoshi International House (HIH)

If you live in the dorms near Hiyoshi (Plume IS, Shimoda, HIH) I highly recommend checking the bazaar out for cheap and useful stuff.

By far the cheapest place for really nice stuff. It's usually held in one of the Lounges in HIH. There is not a lot to choose from because it is not very big but there's lot of random things you can get here for cheap.

I bought an electrical blanket (new) for 800 yen, 2 coats for 300yen and 500 yen, and 2 cups for 10 yen each. The 100 yen stores are great but you'll save more money if you can get most the things for your apartment here.

They hold the bazaar once after move-in (September/October) and also once in winter (November). I am not sure if they will have it again in Spring/Summer but the HIH bazaars are definitely worth checking out especially if you live around Hiyoshi.

4) Second hand clothes store in Jiuyuugaoka (自由が丘)

10 minutes walk from the station. Ask around for GAP and it's on the street adjacent to GAP where there is a row of trees and benches in the middle of the path. (If you can't find it, just walk around Jiuyuugaoka- it's a wonderful place to explore)

Will update if I find more cool places that sell second hand stuff.