Friday was, as usual, hot and humid. It was also the day for opening ceremonies for the exchange students. We were taken to the campus, then to the “mini theater” building, where they explained when we should sit, stand, and bow during the ceremony. They then gave us a few minutes to ourselves. The ceremony itself was relatively short, and it really was just us there. One of our number, a girl named Muki, gave a short speech, which I later learned was because she has a scholarship here. After that, we were all led to a nearby building for a tea party (as they put it). They had various beverages, cakes, shrimp, and other finger foods. We’d left our bags in their care, which meant I was without my camera, so one of the staff ran to the office with me to retrieve it so I could shoot a few photos. A bunch of the international club students (for lack of a better term) were also there, so we met a lot of new people. We also received our placements: out of five levels, I was put in level three. (Technically, level one is fall-only, level two is spring-only.) Classes would start Monday.
After a brief orientation (much of which I didn’t understand because of the terminology), we were given five minutes or less to rush to catch our bus back to the dorm, and upon our return, were rushed right back out to go to Sakae to buy phones. Apparently, Softbank is different from American companies in that different stores can (and do) charge different prices and have minor rule variations. According to Ayaka, the Sakae store was the cheapest. It took us quite a while to get everyone settled, since there were so many of us. Prepaid options are only two: a super-basic model and a slightly-less-basic model that can stream TV for free. They come in black and white only. Everything else requires a contract. Tom, in our rush in and out, neglected to grab his passport, so he was unable to buy a phone at the time, though he got a basic idea of what to expect before heading home ahead of us. I chose the basic model in black, picked my last four digits and e-mail address, and paid way more than I would have in America with way more hassle. Still, it was good to have a phone in Japan for a change, and we all immediately set out swapping numbers and addresses.
After that, Ayaka and the girls wanted to do some shopping, and Sakae’s a good place to do it. We walked a couple blocks to another building and the girls began to browse clothing. I found a Daiso on the floor above and a Book Off above that, but didn’t really need anything. In fact, I decided I’d like to go back to Kamimaezu/Akamondoori for a bit, but needed to eat first. What followed was a difficult coordination in which people tried to decide where they’d go next — food, home, or with me. In the end, we stopped upstairs so Natascha (the German girl) could get a couple things, and split up — most going back to the dorm, a few heading off to shop elsewhere with Ayaka, and me going by myself to get something small to eat and then hit the Geek Sector.
By the time I got home, most everyone was in the library, their new evening hangout (for the wired internet, natch). The wireless here is hit-and-miss, really, so I set up in there as well and ended up Skype-calling my friend Curt from Germany (whom I’d met at Yamasa). He even spoke a bit with Natascha. It was good to talk to the guy; I got the idea he missed both Japan and his girlfriend (whom I believe is still here). I stayed up fairly late, downloaded some shows for later, and finally hit the sack.