After a poorly slept night in the plane, Noora and I finally arrived to Nagoya on Wednesday morning. Noora is a fellow Aalto University student, who will be working in the same laboratory as I do, albeit in a different research group. To meet us at the airport were Kie-san and Shuji-san, our tutors.
Two train rides and a short walk later we were standing at the front gates of NIT. With some 35 kilos worth of luggage and the humid weather, I was more than happy to stop for a moment and fill some forms in order to acquire my room's keycard. My spirits momentarily lifted as I was able to get a shower and change for my shorts to enjoy the summery weather by Finnish standards. According to Shuji-san it was "not so warm" although I was sweating as if I had just been in a sauna.
At the main gate of the university.
We managed to get a glimpse of the laboratory and met most of the staff there. Everyone was kind enough to make acquaintance although they were busy preparing for a conference the next day. Shortly after we made our way to the nearby mall to eat some delicious sushi and then proceeded to the Shikusa-ward municipal office to complete alien registration (it has a welcoming sound, doesn't it?). In other words we queued and filled some more papers. We went back to the mall to buy the most necessary of things to survive until the next day, that is toilet paper, some kitchen utensils, instant noodles and onigiri. Heading back to the campus at twilight, I was strolling empty-headed down the streets, resembling more a zombie than the eager traveller who had arrived that same day. You can only guess what happened as soon as I got back to the residence.
Today was dedicated to form filling in various places including but not limited to the bank, mobile network operator and university. I knew that the Japanese bureaucracy can be a long and winding road, so I was prepared for the worst. On top of that I had heard that having a special character in your name such as the Finnish ääkköset or a middle name could get you into trouble as well. So obviously, I wasn't going to be spared by the bureaucratic rigor! Also, one Japanese peculiarity is that people don't sign official papers with a pen, but with a seal or "inkan". Noora and I were acculturated to the Japanese way and are now happy owners of our own personal inkans with our family names written in katakana (in my case "パロマキ"). I would like to see the disbelieving face of a Finnish official when I attempt to sign with it at home.
It was not the most interesting day to blog about, but by the end of the day we had managed to get a whole lot of important things done. Soon I can start concentrating on the essential! Thank you Kie-san and Shuji-san for the priceless help during these first days. Without you I couldn't even have properly written my birthdate in the documents (for the record I was born in the year 61 of the Shouwa calendar or 昭和 61 年). High five guys!
"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time" -André Gide
Last June I received some pleasant and eagerly awaited news from Nagoya Institute of Technology (NIT) in Japan. My application for an exchange year had been approved, which meant that I was going to spend the 2011-2012 academic year as a research assistant at NIT. The daunting application process started last September and after all the tedious form filling and pre-voyage arrangements I am relieved to say the least. In fact, my plane is leaving in merely 5 hours as I'm writing this first blog entry.
A question that I have been constantly asked during this last year is why did I choose Japan as my destination. I think part of the answer stems from the mid 90s and the craze for Dragon Ball, a renowned manga and anime series. Growing up in Switzerland every kid from the neighborhood was collecting something related to it whether it was cards, mangas or videogames. Aside the series itself I was always fascinated by the mysterious writings that later turned out to be kanji or the backbone of the Japanese writing system. The last nail on the coffin was my visit to Japan in 2008-2009. The mélange of hundred-year-old traditions and high-end technology and modern lifestyle was intriguing. Also, the next World Ultimate & Guts Championships will be held in Japan next summer.... sheer coincidence?
The last week has been an inner turmoil from the anxiousness of leaving home and bidding farewell to friends and family to the excitement of going on a journey. But right now the feeling is getting better by the minute, high five here I come Nagoya!