Joe: A Day in Tokyo

As one of the biggest cities in the world, Tokyo has endless activities and entertainment facilities for everyone. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been particularly interested in fully experiencing the autumn here. The four seasons in Japan are very pronounced, and Autumn means beautifully coloured trees and really good food in season.

One of the first things I did during my one week break was visit Lake Kawaguchi in Yamanashi prefecture, which is about a two hour bus from Shibuya, Tokyo. The temperature and humidity started easing with the Autumn season, so I figured the increased visibility would be perfect to get a picturesque view of Mt. Fuji. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting, but when I arrived I was just blown away by just how big the mountain was, the pictures I had seen before didn’t do it justice. It was also really refreshing to get out of the bustling city, as its contrast with the quiet New Zealand vibe was quite exhausting. Just a few nights prior, I managed to get caught up in the Halloween crowds at the Shibuya scramble on my way home. It was quite surreal and nothing like what I’d experienced in NZ.

In fact, I’d enjoyed the calm nature so much that I decided to visit the Kairaku-en Japanese garden (one of the famous three) and climb nearby Mt. Ohtake (day hike about two hours train from Shibuya) with a fellow Keio exchange student from UoA, Cailey. I also visited an avenue in Tokyo famous for being lined with Ginkgo trees in my spare time.

Finally, I managed to squeeze in a trip to Kamakura, a coastal city which is relatively close to my dormitory (about an hour by train). It used to be historically significant as a Shogun military base, for this it is sometimes called ‘The Kyoto of Eastern Japan’. It’s filled with historical sites like temples and shrines, traditional townhouses, and retro style cafes and shops. It feels very local and cozy, and the beautiful Yuigahama beach and foliage compliment it nicely. It is my one of my favourite places to visit in Japan because I personally feel the urban and rural balance is perfect. I visited Hasedera temple with a friend I made in my dormitory.

Unfortunately the one week break had come to an end before I knew it. It was time for me to get back into my university routine, as that was my primary goal of coming here (though I would certainly not mind travelling more!). My typical week is much less busy compared to a typical semester at UoA. I was taking almost two times more courses here, but each one only had one class (90 mins) every week. This was an aspect of Keio classes which I appreciated because I got more free time. But I felt a much greater appreciation for UoA because all of my lectures are recorded, and the complimentary online platform (Canvas) is fully utilised. Keio also uses Canvas, but only for class announcements, and lecture content and grades if I was lucky, no recordings though. Since Tokyo is always crammed and congested, it was ever more important to plan in advance. I strongly felt a need for a more structured and regular routine. My habits improved drastically compared to NZ. Everyday I would wake up between 07.00 and 08.00 to start my day with laundry and cleaning (smaller washing machines and more dust). For the rest of the day, I would attend all classes in person and on campus, and fit in grocery shopping (smaller fridges and storage space). Though the small living areas can feel restrictive, there is something about it I quite like. Everything is within reach, and needing to do things more regularly encouraged me to have a better routine and habits.

Oh, and just because break is over, it doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the Autumn food! Here’s a few snaps!!

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