Samantha in Japan

Archive for May 2009

Swine flu madness!!

Over the weekend, I met up with my academic adviser from my home school here in Japan. She’s got a position here, teaching at a college in Kobe, so we decided to meet up once she arrived and started teaching for the new semester. It was nice seeing her again, and we made plans that involved me going to her college and doing a little presentation for one of her classes later this week. However, I got an email from her Sunday night. Just as we were joking about swine flu (we had gone out to eat pork), the classes at her college ended up canceled for the entire week, so we had to postpone the presentation until next week.

In the meantime, I had studying for finals to do. It’s finals week here at Gaidai, and the schedule runs like this– all students take their Japanese language exams on Monday and Tuesday, while other exams are scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

So, I studied for my Reading/Writing Japanese exam and went into school early on Monday morning because I wasn’t sure what time my exam exactly was. I ended up arriving two hours early, so I had a lot of time to waste before I had my exam to take. As I was walking around, I noticed that a lot more people than normal were wearing masks.

Now, in Japan, it’s absolutely commonplace to see people wearing masks all over the place, even when there isn’t some pandemic. But this time around, even the international students were wearing them (for the record, international students generally don’t wear masks– sometimes, but VERY RARELY, they do. We don’t really feel comfortable wearing them/we weren’t raised doing so/we look silly), so I was thinking, ‘What in the world…?’

Anyway, the hours passed, and I went up to take my final exam (and got a good laugh out of one girl walking into the room and proclaiming, “DOOM!” before the exam even started), took that, went downstairs to hang out in the computer lounge while I waited for my friends.

I kept getting told by other international students AND Japanese students alike that the classes were canceled for Japanese students for one week. Why? SWINE FLU!

Apparently, swine flu popped up officially in Japan over the weekend, and most of the cases are in the Osaka and Hyogo prefectures (I’m in Osaka). I wasn’t even aware it WASN’T here before.

But anyway, the international students all grumbled amongst each other that if this came one week earlier, we’d wouldn’t have had classes either! Some of us had a “nande ya nen?!” moment, because… really, were they going to cancel classes for the sake of keeping the Japanese students healthy… but leave the international students to fend for themselves in little old CIE. I wasn’t aware that a super immune system was part of my gaijin superpowers!

A rumor started spreading around that KGU was going to shut down the entire campus for the week, and there was a little bit of chaos around CIE while people wondered what was going to happen with our finals. I remember joking around with my friends and asking, with my best, hopeful puppy-pout, “Finals are canceled~?” I had about HALF the room looking up at me with anticipation on their faces, haha.

Nevertheless, within about 45 minutes, people suddenly started running around, clapping, and urging others to read their email. So I popped open my email, saw a notice from KGU (beautifully titled “URGENT!!”)–

Dear international students,

We are sending this message to inform you that the University has decided to cancel all classes starting from 1:30 pm today, May 18, until Sunday, May 24, due to the outbreaks of the H1N1 flu in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures. This decision has been made in accordance with advice from local authorities and Japanese government.

The university will be physically shut down during the above period. Accordingly, you will not be able to take further final examinations as scheduled.



Our graduation/completion ceremony is also canceled, as well (it was scheduled for Saturday), and I’m a little disappointed about that, but more than anything else, I am PUMPED for nearly TWO WEEKS of sheer playtime in Japan!

Oh, Japanese paranoia, how I love thee. All the KGU students are taking this brilliantly. Finals canceled… for influenza! I’ve already heard it referred to as Flu Celebration Week.

Dear Japan, it’s the flu! We’re in a developed country! We’re going to be okay!

There are already signs all over the dormitories advising us to gargle water and wash our hands, haha. (Not including the one in the picture above, that one’s a bit less specific, haha.)

For the genuinely concerned, I feel absolutely fine. No flu symptoms whatsoever.

In other news, I got back from a WONDERFUL Golden Week in Tokyo safe and sound last week. The friend who I went with and I did a lot of window shopping (well, I did the window shopping, she did the actual shopping), explored Shibuya at night, ate chicken heart at yakitori and got a free baked potato from the chef to commend us for it, saw TWO(!) AKB48 shows (I saw one alone, as you have to win tickets for it; THAT was interesting, too– finding my way through Tokyo alone for a little bit. Not difficult or scary in the least, but just fun!), saw Tokyo Dome and went to the amusement park right outside it, and just generally had a lot of fun. I had to stop at the Krispy Kreme in Shinjuku (Krispy Kremes are ONLY in Tokyo in Japan) to pick up a box of originals, because I got requests from other KGU students to do so while I was there. Riding the train home from Kyoto once I arrived there was funny as all hell, too– I was getting the STARE-DOWN from other passengers. Well, at least my GIANT BOX of donuts was. (“WHERE DID YOU GET THOOOOSE?!!?!”) I got advised to disguise my box in a shopping bag before bringing them to KGU, because I’d surely get MOBBED otherwise.

Anyway, I’m off to Okinawa for a few days starting Sunday, and the rest of the time, I’ll be running around and playing in the Kansai area, celebrating the cancellation of finals, and exhausting myself so I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything. 🙂

(And yes, all photos are from the chaos today, just before they kicked us all off campus grounds.)

Don’t worry, don’t worry, I haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth… yet.

I’ve just been super busy.

To sum things up: Went to view the cherry blossoms all over the place, namely Yoshino (climbed the ENTIRE MOUNTAIN, WHAT), went to Nara to play with the deer and see the big Buddha, went to Arashiyama again with a few friends and had the most hilarious day ever (me + rowing a boat + one friend helping me navigate + the other sitting in the back like a stowaway = amazingly memorable disaster), went to Fushimi-Inari, constantly running around Kyoto and Osaka, constantly getting approached by Japanese people. The last part is really, really… just, amazing. Without fail, I get approached by someone, if not multiple people, every week, just amazed at the fact I’m a foreigner and wanting to play. Or, in the case of an encounter last week, this Japanese guy didn’t know I understood Japanese, so when he was looking at my face as I walked into a store (and not talking directly to me, but to a friend, rather), and remarked on foreigners being there, I was like, “Yup, that’s right. :3” in Japanese right back to him. EPIC RESPONSE. The guy blushed about ten shades of red and apologized profusely before chatting with me for a good five minutes.

But, really, to anyone who wants to know more/I haven’t told already, I’ve got so many stories. My friends and I are curious Japanese people magnets, for some reason. I think it’s because when we’re approached, we WILL respond– we want to PLAY. You say something to me in English, I’ll say something right back. They try to ninja in there and sneak in some English every now and then, but I am PREPARED for stuff like that.

Anyway, back to the summary of sorts.

Now, Golden Week has started. I ran around Shinsaibashi and Nanba all day with a friend, and it’s just SO fun people-watching, even amidst the chaos of Golden Week. Osaka really… exploded with people. Eventually, we had to head home and catch the last train, but stuff like that is just so amusing.

This week, I’ll be hanging around the Osaka-Kyoto-etc. area, doing… whatever comes my way. Until Wednesday night, when I leave on a night bus for… Tokyo trip number two! Surprise!

I’m super pumped. Tokyo was SO fun when I went back in March, and I’ll be there for a little longer. On the agenda: exploring Harajuku, Shibuya, Roppongi, Ikebukuro, and wherever else our travels may lead, seeing an AKB48 show (MY FRIEND AND I WON TICKETS! YOU ALL HAVE NO IDEA HOW HAPPY I AM!), and just generally having fun. We’re staying at a REAL hotel this time, and not the Capsule Inn, just for reference. Ironically, the Capsule Inn in Akihabara has ceased operations as of a few weeks ago. It was really weird, opening up my email and seeing a notice about their closing; I only receive it because I stayed there and was on their mailing list or something. But, just… wow. I feel like I got in there to experience it just in the nick of time, haha.

Anyway, I’ve got to get up early in the morning and it’s already going on 3:30 AM, yikes.

Pictures will be coming eventually. I uploaded over 300 from my camera today… that’s going to take FOREVER to resize.

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  • Isa: No, there can't be two ninja dogs in Kyoto. But in April it was in Arashiyama!
  • Paula: Hey: I'm so glad you are swine flu-free. A little over-kill, don't you think? Anyway, I'm so glad you are enjoying your last few days there. Live it u
  • Paula: There's no place like home, there's no place like home!!! Can't wait to see you...we are counting the days.