Tuesday, 15 December 2015

お久しぶり!

Long time no see! Pitkästä aikaa!

I've been lazy with this blog (again!), so there hasn't been any updates for a long time. I have also taken a lot of photos with my phone, but I can't to transfer them to my computer at the moment. I'm going to update things while in Finland. At least something. :)

Anyway, I'm doing fine, here's some updates:

- This is the last week of school, with only final presentation left on Thursday. On Friday we'll have a Christmas Party and tomorrow is reserved for final presentation practice.
- I'll go back home for Christmas, meaning I now have less than a week in Tokyo left. Where has the time gone again?
- My fiance came to visit me mid-November, we went to Kamakura for example, but most of the time the weather was quite bad --> More indoor activities like shopping, karaoke etc., less sightseeing, but anyway fun. :)
- I took the Japanese language proficiency exam (JLPT) level N3 on 6th of December, it went ok, I think I should pass.
- I had a great time with my host family during the visit in October and I've met them also a couple of times after that. :)
- Visited Lake Kawaguchi during a holiday and visited also amusent park FujiQ Highland, which has some world record rollercoasters. Saw Mt. Fuji!
- The internship starts in the beginning of January, but we already had a 2 hour introductory visit to our work place (which is all the way in Hitachi-shi).
- No snow in Tokyo (as expected), but it actually feels like autumn: There are still warm days, I'm using my lightest jacket and some trees still have almost all their leaves. In Japan the indoors are cold during winter though so there have been plenty of times I've used my wool sweaters.

Also, if there's someone reading this blog who is considering for applying for Vulcanus program for the next year. Just do it. :) Thus far the language course has been demanding, but at the same time fun and rewarding (I really can't believe how much I've improved even though it feels like I'm slower learner than my classmates). I can't comment about the internship yet, but I'm looking forward to experiencing life at the countryside (well at least it's countryside compared to Tokyo).

For questions about the application, you can check out the Vulcanus forum which Jose is keeping up. I'm also registered there and can answer via there or here on comments if you have some questions, though the application process is pretty straightforward in the end. :)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Asakusa [Sat 12th Sept]

Some pictures from my trip to Asakusa with some fellow Vulcanusians in September. Asakusa is a district in Tokyo and it's famous for the Kaminari Gate and the Sensoji Temple.

The famous Kaminarimon
Asakusa sunset
Jose (ES, left) happy with his 大吉 - goog luck omikuji. Joan (ES) got a bad one if I remember right. No worries though, you just tie the bad luck one to a string at the temple and leave it behind.
Tourist
Some Asakusa restaurants
Dinner at okonomiyaki (etc.) restaurant where you sit on the floor.
Ed was happy to get something to cook.
Sensoji looks better in the dark.






Thursday, 15 October 2015

Odaiba and Oktoberfest [9th Oct]

Last Friday we headed for Odaiba in Tokyo for Miraikan Museum and Odaiba Oktoberfest. Miraikan had a special Pokemon exhibition some people wanted to see, but the weather was really nice so I wanted to stay outside. I might go back there some day to see ASIMO, a humanoid robot, which can walk, run, climb stairs, kick a ball etc. while standing on two feet. I think that's really impressing even though I don't know much about robotics. Here's one video about ASIMO.

Oktoberfest was not quite as lively as the real Oktoberfest in Munich and a bit expensive as well as they had German beers, so some of us opted for buying beers from the shopping mall and drinking them outside the Oktoberfest area. So I actually walked and hanged out more outside the area than inside. 

We left the Oktoberfest when it ended at 10 pm and took the Yurikamome monorail to Shimbashi station. What is so special about that monorail? It doesn't have a driver. See here for a video (not taken by me): daytime , night. These videos take the train to different directions so don't mind that.

Arrived to the Tokyo Teleport Station (by train...)

Ferris wheel of Odaiba

Some "futuristic" architecture

Oktoberfest at 4pm. People hadn't gotten here from work or school yet.

Huge Gundam mecha (=giant robot controlled by human inside). And no, I don't honestly know anything about the Gundam series.

Our drinks and sweets outside the area. The three similar ones are "autumn special beers".

Enjoying those with Conrad (Belgium) and Thomas while watching a limited view sunset.
Vulcanus crew at the Oktoberfest. (The photo was horrible with the colors so I turned it to black and white instead :D)

Inside the tent.
Come on, it's not Christmas yet!
Looking more bad-ass during the night.

Odaiba seafront view at night

Being busy (and lazy)

Hi all,

I know I haven't been active with the blog at all. At first there where so many things to do and see around + the 5 day long holiday "Silver Week" during which I went to Kyoto. After that I had to study for a Japanese language exam as well as write a monthly report for the EU-Japan Centre. I also signed up for the JLPT exam (level N3) and been studying quite a lot since then (I must do that in order to pass the JLPT as passing it seems so far away at the moment...).

I have too many photos and videos to sort out and I'm being lazy, which means I rather do almost anything else than write the blog. (oops :P) But I'm planning to post a lot of things that happened during the past month soon.

Today I had the second conversation test at school and it went ok, even though I was worried before it. We'll probably get the results already tomorrow, so I'll let you know later when I write about the school. Tomorrow well only have half a day of school as in the afternoon were are going to the Ikebukuro Bosaikan Life Safety Learning Center, which means we'll experience a typhoon, an earthquake and escaping a burning house (or something like that) through simulations there.

On the weekend I'll have a home stay with a Japanese family for one night. Looking forward to that! :)

This was just a small update that I'm alive and well (though tired). I'll promise to write more soon!

Edit// Oh, and if you have something you would like to know about the life here or something about Japan or the programme in general, tell me and I'll try my best to answer and/or write about that. :)

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Typhoon & Earthquake

First two weeks in Japan and already both typhoon (not directly though) and earthquake have happened.

Last week, typhoon number 18 went past Japan. They count typhoons here with numbers instead of giving names for them since they come every year. So this typhoon was the 18th of this year.

The typhoon didn't directly hit Tokyo as it went through central Japan, but it rained almost for the whole week. I wore slippers for the whole time as I ruined one pair of (cheap) shoes on Sun 6th when it rained a lot. Or to be honest the shoes got soaked and let of color resulting my feet being black even after a wash.

Going to school on a rainy day. Shibuya station.

Where the typhoon went. 日 means day, weekday is in the brackets, 時 means time.

Coming from school. (Yep, I slipped and that's why I have a patch on my knee.)

The cheap Japanese umbrellas are really nice. :D And actually our teacher said today in the class that the umbrellas are apparently becoming a popular souvenir from Japan. She didn't understood why, but I told that in my opinion they are: cheap (~500yen from konbini), useful (you can see through, so even strong wind wouldn't be a problem), somewhat strong (more than you would expect from a cheap one. I want to take one home to Finland as well haha. :D

Then on 13th Saturday morning 5:49 am, the first earthquake came. The epicenter was at the Tokyo Bay and the intensity was 5.3. At our place it was either 4 or 5 in intensity based on the map (it doesn't have any names on it so I'm not sure which measurement point is closest to our place).

At first I didn't even understand what's going on, I was too sleepy. I though my neighbor is washing laundry (and that it's on the fast spinning mode "sling?", "linkous" in Finnish) in the next room and I was like "what the hell, why do you do it in the middle of the night". Then I realized that a) we don't have washing machines in the rooms, b) the walls are moving. But I didn't even bother getting out of the bed as I just looked up and declared that ok, nothing's going to fall on me and just continued sleeping. I can't remember it clearly as I was so sleepy, but the following picture gives some proof that it actually happened.

My laundry money pile was straight in the evening.
We also learned in our first Japanese culture/history/business/etc. lecture about an app (Yurekuru) that warns about the earthquakes about 10 or 15 seconds before it happens. My Samsung S2 has too old Android so I can't download it. More more reason to get a new phone. Many of the Vulcanus people woke up because of the app, I woke on the quake itself... and some people didn't wake at all. They seem to have good skills on sleeping. :D

Monday, 7 September 2015

First days in Tokyo

First week is behind and it's been a busy one.

Tokyo is... hot and humid. Though not as hot as it could have been (for example only +26'C at the most during the day predicted by the forecast for the first day). And yesterday is was raining cats and dogs (="satoi kuin saavista kaatamalla" in Finnish) and more rain is predicted for this week especially for tomorrow and Wednesday. Yay....

I left for Japan on Mon 31st from Helsinki with a straight Finnair flight and arrived Tokyo Tue 1st Sep around 9am. I can never really sleep on the plain so I practiced the Japanese way of sleeping in the train on the way to our hotel. I didn't fall asleep, but the Japanese seem to do so almost instantly. (For those who don't know, Japanese people might have really long commuting to their work or school and thus they tend to sleep on the trains.) We took the cheapest train from Narita Airport to Ikebukuro, so it took us almost 2 hours to reach the hotel.

The view from the hotel room in Ikebukuro.
All of us (all 45 people) spend the first night at the same hotel and on the next day we had orientation at Omotesando. After a super brief orientation we waited for our company representatives who took us to our dorms which for us is located at Takadanobaba. Our place is so really nice: we had everything needed ready for us and the place is relatively close to the school as well as Shinjuku. Shinjuku is one of the busiest areas in Tokyo with the busiest train station in world. Wikipedia tells that "The station was used by an average of 3.64 million people per day in 2007".

Not-so-busy Shinjuku in the early afternoon.
Going around Shinjuku with some of the flatmates: Mathilde (France), Edgaras (Lithuania) and Thomas (Denmark)

Besides the orientationDuring the first days we had to do registration to the city hall which is in Shinjuku, get National Health Insurance required for people staying for more than 6 months, open a bank account and get a sim card for phone. All of these went pretty smoothly. There's another post coming up soon with more detailed information about all of these (aimed for the next Vulcanus students).

Some photos of one evening in Shinjuku:

Mathilde and me in Shinjuku.

Choosing ramen for dinner. You choose the dish and pay outside the shop . The machine gives you a receipt and you take it to the counter inside and they'll prepare the dish for you.

Taiko no Tatsujin! The great taiko drumming game :) Tutorial going on at the moment.

A smaller street in Shinjuku.

The Godzilla is always watching you...
On Thursday we had more orientation and in the evening the official reception of the Vulcanus programme at the Sheraton Miyako Hotel. The dress code was business as there were people from embassies and the companies present. There was no-one from the Finnish embassy, but I met a person who is going to work in the same team as me in Hitachi. My feet hurt so much as we had to stand for the whole reception and I wore heels 12 hours during that day.

Business style at Yamanote Line by Takadanobaba people Aidan (Ireland), Giovanni (Italia) and Thomas.

Business style by me and Ed.
The venue

Loppukevennys:

A shop named Kiitos with a Swedish flag even though Kiitos means "thank you" in Finnish...


Friday, 10 July 2015

Brussels meeting

The Pre-departure brief (PDB) for the Vulcanus programme was held on Monday 6th of July in Brussels. Most of the participants arrived on Sunday, couple of people earlier. We all stayed in the same hotel so we had a good opportunity to meet and get to know each other already before the meeting. 45 people is quite a lot people to get to know in a couple of days, but I'm sure we'll have enough time while in Japan. On the first meeting everyone seems nice and laid back and I'm sure we'll get along well. :)

I arrived to Brussels around midday on Saturday and got lunch with the people who had already arrived. We later walked to the city center to see to see the Grand Place (and Manneken Pis, because it was nearby). Brussels is quite small and there's not that much to see. We actually went to the Grand Place or nearby many times during the three days I was there.

Grand Place square
Manneken Pis, one of the most famous sights of Brussels...
Belgium is famous for it's chocolate, which I bought as a souvenir, but also for waffles. I learned that there are actually a couple of types of Belgian waffles, Brussels waffle and Liege waffle. I got waffles twice while in Brussels and both times the Liege waffle as it seems tastier and softer. Delicious!

Liege waffle with chocolate ice cream from Waffle Factory. The other was a Liege waffle with warm chocolate and hazelnuts from Maison Dandoy.
On Monday we had the long awaited meeting. We went through a lot of info about our arrivals to Tokyo, how to get to the hotel and to the meeting, we got the schedule for autumn, personal information about our internship and dormitories, the COE form etc. Most of us got all information, but there are still some who are waiting for their dormitory addresses for example. The COE form is needed for the visa application and I already got my visa yesterday from the Japanese Embassy of Helsinki. They made it ready while I waited for max. 10 minutes.

Photo taken with Jose's camera, thanks for bringing it with you. :)

The most interesting info (for me) that I got: Where I will be living:

We got detailed information (address etc.) about the apartment, but I don't want to tell all that here. So you have to be satisfied with the following info. :)

My Tokyo apartment will be in Takadanobaba. The train trip to school with Yamanote line (apparently the busiest line in Tokyo) takes only 12 minutes. That means my travel time to school is only 0,5h which a really good time considering that some people on the programme have to commute even up to 1,5h per direction to the school. There will be at least 6 other Vulcanusians living there with me and we'll all have our own room.

My Hitachi apartment will be located 8km from my work. I'm considering getting a bike since taking the train doesn't seem the best option (have to walk 3,5km anyway). Might take the train on the snowy and rainy days though. We'll see, there's still a lot of time until I'll get to Hitachi. In Hitachi at least two Vulcanusians are going to live in the same dorm with me. Again it's a single room.

Both of these apartments are well equipped (see below data for my Tokyo apartment), I have internet provided for Tokyo (for Hitachi I apparently have to get it myself) and I don't have to pay for electricity, gas or water. Some people might have to pay for their electricity, or they might not have a bed or desk or they might have a shared kitchen or bathroom (and in at least one company dorm there seems to be no kitchen in the whole building...). So I'm super happy with my apartments thus far. :)

My Hitachi apartment has the same things except there's no telephone, but the apartment is 24m2 and I have a private washing machine.

At the end of the meeting we took a short test of Japanese. Those who couldn't finish the hiragana and katakana sheets are required to study them before coming to Japan. As for others who knew more Japanese, we are going to have max 30 minutes conversation with a Naganuma School teacher to determine our speaking and conversation level. Mine will be on Wed 22nd 9am Finnish time which equals to 3pm in Japan. Wish me luck!

My flight back was on Tuesday afternoon, so I had 24h left in Brussels after the meeting. For the rest of my stay I walked around the city, ate something not that special (+waffles and nice hotel breakfast) and drank some beer, all these with some other Vulcanusians. Belgium has some interesting beers as they also had a raspberry one (with 30% of raspberry juice). After that I wanted to get a real beer, even though I usually rarely drink beer.

I left my DSLR at home on purpose, so all of my photos are taken with my phone which usually doesn't take any good photos. This seems way better than usually though.

Nice trip, nice people and nice waffles. Next time most of the Vulcanus team sees each other will be in Japan. It still feels so far away even though I have less than 2 months left in Finland. Better to eat more rye bread and karelian pies.

Monday, 29 June 2015

First things first

Hello and welcome my blog! :)

If you are reading this, you'll probably know or noticed that I'm going to Japan for a year. And you'll probably know that I'm Kata from Finland.

A short story if you are too lazy to check this and this:
I'm a freshly graduated Master of Science (Technology) majoring in Electrical Systems. (Power Systems and High Voltage Engineering to be exact.) I'm going to Japan for a year on "Vulcanus in Japan" programme starting this September. We'll spend four months in Tokyo on a Japanese language course and after that we'll have an eight-month internship in a company. I'm going to work at Hitachi Research Lab in Hitachinaka Hitachi, 2 hours north from Tokyo.

We still have two whole months before landing to Tokyo on September 1st, but since we will soon have the Pre-Departure Brief (PDB) of the Vulcanus programme in Brussels I decided to create this blog already.

In this Brussels meeting we get a lot of info which I assume contains for example the details of our accommodation in Tokyo as well as the files for applying for the visa.

This will also be the first time to meet the other Vulcanus participants. There are at least 44 of us this year, though not all rows in our Vulcanus Google Docs file are filled so it might be that we have the maximum 50 participants this year as the last person selected seems to have the number 50. We'll see how it is in Brussels. Some Vulcanus statistics for '15-'16 can be found here.

Exactly one week to the meeting and weather forecast looks like this:

A nice +30°C for wearing business casual... Good thing the dress code isn't business.
Anyway, I'm excited to go to Brussels, have some more info and meet people. Of course I'm also excited to eat some Belgian waffles and chocolate as well as those super delicious macarons of Ladurée (I thought I hated macarons before I tasted ones from this shop).

I'll write more after the meeting. :)