Bobby On The Loose!

Internship & more.
January 22, 2009, 10:51 am
Filed under: Study Abroad in Tokyo

Yesterday I met with a company that I will be interning with while I am in Tokyo.  The internship was organized through the Pennsylvania International Business Development Office (and my cousins Debra and Bernie), but I will be working with a company called Yamano & Associates.  Basically the affiliation Yamano has with Pennsylvania is that it tries to promote foreign direct investment of Japanese companies into Pennsylvania.  It tries to get Japanese companies, i.e. Sony and Olympus, to build factories and offices throughout the state.  Apparently, Pennsylvania recently passed a bill requiring twenty percent of the state’s energy to be powered by alternative sources by 2020, such as wind and solar.  So the office in Tokyo tries to match Japanese companies who are in that industry to make proposals and invest in the project.  I only met with them briefly (I start working tomorrow), and still don’t know my defined role in any of the projects, but they were all very friendly and I am excited to get valuable experience and exposure to an international business environment.  This internship will certainly enhance my study abroad experience and allow me to see more of Tokyo that I otherwise would not (they already promised me a tour of the US Embassy!).

After I left my internship, I went to class and then met a woman who works with my boss in the Admissions Office in Philadelphia.  Her name is Holly and she works in the deans office at TUJ, and she sent me an email introducing herself and told me to stop be her office to say hello.  So I did, and she asked my impression of Japanese food.  After I described to her my dilemma and fear of trying some Japanese cuisine, she made it her obligation to feed me and she is organizing a dinner to take me and several of her favorite TUJ students out so that I can try authentic Japanese food.  I am not sure whether or not I should thank her yet for this, but it is certainly a nice gesture and hopefully I will like the food I try and continue to eat it while I am here. I also told her of my internship, and when I told her what company it was with, she told me that she knew many people who worked there personally!  Who would have thought that in such a huge city, that connection would be there!  But she assured me they are very nice people and fun to work with.


January 12, 2009, 9:35 am
Filed under: Study Abroad in Tokyo

One of the truly exciting parts of my study abroad experience is that I really don’t know what to expect.  I can read pages of books and hear people tell me of what a wonderful city Tokyo is, but going to a place whose culture, language, and lifestyle are astronomically different than my own makes it difficult to completely associate myself with what lies ahead.  My comfort zone has vanished, which is necessary for the experience to be successful.   Already, I have seen such differences in communication, food, and etiquette that have expanded my appreciation for Japanese culture.  

Today, for example, I went to a restaurant for lunch, and based on a picture on the menu, I ordered something that looked like beef and vegetables.  I did my best to speak to the waitress, who suggested to me that I did not know what I was ordering.  But, I thought maybe it was all confused in translation, so I ordered it anyway.  When I received my meal, I wish I had taken the waitress’s advice.  It looked like some type of Korean tofu, and it was cold.  I tried a tiny piece, and it didn’t taste like anything, but I couldn’t get past the texture.  I ate the vegetables that it came with, and they were okay (not great though), until the waitress came over and felt really bad that I did not like it.  I explained that the vegetables were good (using the little Japanese I know how to speak), so she prepared me a whole dish of the vegetables for me to eat!  She was very kind and not offended since she realized we were foreigners…that probably isn’t something that a waitress in America would do for a foreign customer who didn’t like their food!  After returning home, I Googled “Korean Jello,” because that is what it looked like, and it turned out to be “Do-to-ri Mook”, a Korean dish made from acorns.  Needless to say, I do not regret not eating it!


Do-To-Ri Mook

Do-To-Ri Mook

While Do-to-ri Mook may be an acquired taste, I hope that by the end of my trip, there are some other ethnic foods that I enjoy.  Even though lunch was a bust, I was proud that I at least tried to eat something different, instead of going to McDonalds again!  I also hope that my Japanese language skills improve, which is certain to happen considering I am taking another semester of Japanese and I will be immersed in it everyday.  Lastly, I hope to take away not just an appreciation of Japanese culture and customs, which thus far are very fascinating, but also a different perspective on how I act as an American.  Oh, and since I am here for school, I hope to get good grades too! 🙂

Shibuya, Shibuya, Shibuya!!!
January 10, 2009, 10:56 pm
Filed under: Study Abroad in Tokyo

We were taken on a trip to another part of the city today, Shibuya.  This place was amazing, comparable to Times Square in New York City.  There were millions of people, many shops, and the largest grossing Starbucks in the world!  A current TUJ student walked us around and showed us many of the nightlife hotspots, and I ate McDonalds for the first time in Japan.  I told myself that I wouldn’t do it, but I gave in.  Let me just say that the food is significantly better here than in the US!  And it is actually fast food…my order was completed in about two minutes!  




We continued to walk around this metropolis, when all of a sudden we stumbled upon this large forest.  A wide path cut through the trees and led to a sacred Japanese shrine.  I am not sure exactly what it meant, but it was neat to see.  



We left the shrine and walked around the city some more, fighting through crowds of tons of people.  We returned home, and I planned on taking a short nap and going back out later in the evening.  I fell asleep at 5pm and did not wake up until 2am!  All of that walking wore me out!

I Made It!
January 9, 2009, 11:30 am
Filed under: Study Abroad in Tokyo

So following a very painful 18 hour flight originating in Philadelphia, I arrived in Tokyo yesterday to begin my journey as a study abroad student at Temple’s Japan campus!  However, my travels did not end at the airport.  After claiming my baggage, going through customs, and converting my USD to Yen, I next sat on a bus for two hours which took me from the airport to a hotel located in downtown Tokyo.  We were greeted by friendly TUJ (Temple University Japan) staff, who then sent us in a cab to our final destination, Ontakesan Dorm.  At last, I was able to drop my bags and unpack into what will be my residence for the next four months.  I was given a tour of the building, took a shower, and then passed out in my bed by 9:00!  

Ontakesan Dorm

Ontakesan Dorm

I was so exhausted after the nearly full day of travel.  However, the fourteen hour time change left me jet lagged and woke me up by 4:30 am.  I started the morning by chatting with many of my friends from home on the internet, letting them know I arrived safely and so far having a positive outlook on what is to come.  Then, me and a friend I met on my flight from Philadelphia to San Francisco walked around the neighborhood to a convenience store where I bought my breakfast…a Japanese chocolate pastry and Japanese orange juice.  Both were delicious, and I topped it off with a good pot of American Starbucks coffee, brewed in the coffee maker I brought along for the trip!  

We had orientation all day which started at 8:00 am to go over the rules of the dorm…fun stuff, I know.  But then we had our first venture into downtown Tokyo to see Temple’s two academic buildings.  The first part of the adventure, though, was purchasing the ticket for the train, which was made difficult because I can’t exactly read Japanese very well!  But I managed, and with the help of a current TUJ student as our tour guide, we arrived at Azabu Hall, Temple’s main academic building.  Most of my classes, however, will be in Mita Hall, home to TUJ’s business program, located just a short five minute walk from Azabu.  We toured the neighborhood, and went to a restaurant for lunch.  Again, my lack of Japanese language skills forced me to point on the menu to what I wanted to order.  Luckily, the menu included pictures so I was able to get an idea of what I would eat.  

After lunch, we returned to Azabu where we were overwhelmed with information and instructions of things we have to do as students in Japan,  like alien registration cards, and train passes, and cell phones, and blah blah blah.  I wish there was more exciting information to share about that, but it was quite boring.  But finally, by 4:45, we were on our way back home.  We got on the train, were moving right along, until we were stopped at the station right before the one we were to get off at.  The train sat idle for nearly a half hour, apparently because somewhere along the train route, there was an earthquake.  We were told it was a common thing, given that Japan is the most seismic country in the world with five tectonic plates beneath it.  Soon enough, they had us moving again, and when we got off the train, my friend Josh and I ventured out for authentic Japanese cuisine.  There were many restaurants we peaked into, and finally settled on one and went in.  Of course, no one spoke English, so again, I just pointed to what looked good.  I think it was pork and noodles in some type of broth, but I cannot be sure of that.  I am typically a somewhat picky eater, but I figure I came here for a totally new experience, so now is not the time or place to be picky.  In all, it tasted pretty good.