Archive for the ‘Tokyo’ category

As Long As I Know Icelandic…

January 26, 2010

From now on I’m going to make this my stream-of-consciousness zone for my Tokyo life! I think I was trying to plan out my entries too much… hence the lack of updates. But from now on I will try to post more!!

So, I am currently going through final exams right now. It’s not really any fun. But actually the only thing I am really stressed out about is that little class called Iceland, Language & Culture that I am taking. My final is in TWO DAYS. Last week I was freaking out because, honestly, I didn’t even know how to say “hello” in Icelandic after a whole semester. But now, you will be proud of me, I’ve buckled down and studied studied studied!! I think right now I might be able to get a 40% on the exam. So I am still in “failing mode.” But give me one more day and you will see that I can totally pass this test. Sure, I still don’t know how to say “hello”… But that’s besides the point… possessives, definite articles, verb conjugations, declensions for all masculine, neuter and feminine nouns?? I know them!!

The second thing that has been occupying my time lately is of course Ancient Egyptian. I am going to my favorite museum in Tokyo (it’s the tiniest cutest thing!! I wrote about it in 2008) next week with one of my friends from the Egyptology department at Waseda. We’re going to see the current Egypt exhibit and eat Mexican food at my favorite mall in Tokyo =) Oh, but really what’s going to take up WAY MORE TIME than studying hieroglyphs or going on random excursions is a little project my professor has recently given me. It involves 700 pages and lots and lots of Tutankhamun-related jargon. Yes, I’m going to be a copy-editor for my prof’s dissertation. We’ll see how that goes…

Number three is work at the marketing company I have a part time job at. After finals I have a whopping 2 month break before the next semester begins – so basically all of February I am planning to work in Shibuya every day, 10-6, a real day job! I’m really hoping that I will be able to get more involved by being there full-time. Lately I’ve been so busy and we’ve had some changes in who’s working there, so I need to focus on finding a way to keep track of all the Japan marketing news, latest releases, campaigns, etc. in a more efficient fashion. Other than that, it will be the usual writing reports on all that news for our clients. And going around Shibuya looking for interesting new things in Tokyo. Fun ;)

I’ve worked full-time at this company before (summer of 2008), but back then I hardly new anyone in Tokyo and my life really completely centered around my internship there. This time it will be different because I have lots of things to plan outside of that job – excursions with friends, nomikai of course, a visit to my good friend in Kyoto, etc! So now it looks like it will be more like my summer last year in Washington DC, where I interned at National Geographic but really the fun stuff centered around Georgetown, campus, friends and M Street.

OK, so let’s hope I survive the next 3 days of finals week… then I get two (maybe three) nomikai, one musical, and a chance to finally sleep in!


Ancient Egypt in Japan. Not An Oxymoron.

December 21, 2009

So, while Waseda is indeed one of the best universities in Japan, Japanese uni students have mastered the art of BS-ing admirably well. It’s very inspiring. In general, they are much, much more interested in school club activities and preparing for the Real World than actually learning anything. They show up 45 minutes late (and still get attendance marks), sleep in class, beg for deadline extensions, skip classes for weeks at a time, and so on.

Anyway, this is great for the classes I don’t care about, but there was no way I was going to go through a WHOLE YEAR doing absolutely nothing in class.

For people who are interested in digging further, Waseda is a wonderful, very large university with tons of resources. One thing I’ve always been interested in is Ancient Egypt.

Incidentally, I interned for National Geographic in Washington DC last summer

So, I asked the Waseda professor of my English-taught class “Ancient Egyptian Civilization” if he could help me get involved in Egyptology here.

It turns out that this professor has completely taken me under his wing. I am not even kidding. Within the first hour I met him he was offering to write me a recommendation for grad school. He introduced me to the whole department here,¬† first of all. Then he got me attending his Ancient Egyptian history class (taught in Japanese) every Tuesday. I’ve become good friends with two future Egyptologists (students my age), been proofreading English in archaeological reports, and the department has got me learning how to trace reliefs and wall carvings for publication. I also helped out at the Cairo Forum 2009 at Waseda – definitely an interesting experience to be behind-the-scenes at one of those crazy formal functions in Japan.

Basically, I am VERY involved at the Institute of Egyptology here at Waseda, much more so than anything I’ve ever been involved in back at Georgetown.

Oh, and I’m actually learning Ancient Egyptian properly this time. I had taken a semester-long tutorial in it before and a few weeks of it in high school, but this time I am hardcore doing the homework and memorizing things like no other. Apparently my prof started teaching this class in the first place because I showed interest in it last summer. So… because of me… the whole department of Egyptology at Waseda is learning Ancient Egyptian. Pretty awesome.

I can read this... with a dictionary

The big question mark at this point is probably, “WHY, Natalie??” Why am I putting in so much time and effort, until 10 PM some nights, 4 classes a week, volunteering on top of that?

Well, I don’t think it’s for grad school. I don’t think I want to be an Egyptologist. I am also very interested in international marketing and that seems like a better career choice, plus I would hate to have to teach anything, be a professor, or dig in any sand. I am no academic. But ancient Egypt has always been something I’ve been interested in, and this is the perfect opportunity to really learn about it…. Believe it or not, it’s 100 times easier for me to study Egyptology in Japan than in America.

Plus, it’s amazing Japanese practice. Learning hieroglyphs, being exposed to and part of an authentic Japanese work environment, meeting so many professors and researchers – all in Japanese – is probably going to end up being one of the best experiences I’ve had in Tokyo.

Well, right now, they’re all in Luxor, Egypt doing their job, i.e., archaeology… but don’t worry, I’ll be working way too much again next month.

Ancient Egyptian-inspired soda released this fall. Marketing, Japan and ancient Egypt. All my interests together!

Tokyo Restaurant Edition, Pt. 1

December 3, 2009

So I’ve decided I want to blog about all the awesome food I’ve been eating here!!

I am basically obsessed with eating out, I love restaurants and couldn’t cook a meal to save my life.

That’s why it’s really a good thing that there are so many great eateries here. It’s probably not that good that when I don’t feel like going out I tend to just go to the convenience store and make do with grilled chicken pasta salads or baked cheese cake sticks. But in terms of restaurants, Tokyo is fantastic!!

I’ll start off with a few of my tried-and-true fav places to go for a bite to eat:

Brown Rice Cafe, Omotesando: vegan

Veggie Burger

I love this place in Omotesando. It’s tucked behind a shopfront with lots of European lotions/beauty/health products. I always go here and get their Veggie Burger, absolutely delicious! It can be really hard to find decent all-out vegetarian food in Tokyo but this place is really good. Anyway, at 1500yen for a meal and with drinks around 700yen, it can get pricey – but I love going to this place to unwind, enjoy a nice meal, maybe get some Egyptian homework out of the way. They also have delicious caramel macchiatos.

Kantipur, Shibuya: Nepalese

Delicious (and sublimely unhealthy)

There is a ton of quality Indian food to be found in Tokyo, but this place is my favorite. Hidden away from the street and run by a charmingly eccentric and sarcastic owner, coming here can be intimidating – but so worth it! I usually get the vegetarian curry, although their almond chicken and pumpkin and chicken (when they have it for a lunch special a couple times a month) are also really good. I prefer coming for lunch, although it’s really packed then with salarymen – that’s because you get a salad, curry, and the most delicious (unlimited) naan I’ve ever had, all for 900yen. Seriously, the naan is to die for: it’s buttery and SO GOOD. The waiters constantly come around refilling your plate with piles of it.

Nagi Shokudo, Shibuya: vegan

Hearty and healthy!!

Another delicious vegan option. I really love this place. 1000yen gets you 3 different dishes, miso soup and brown rice along with a drink. It’s never too busy and the atmosphere is lovely, with soothing music. Plus, it’s genuinely healthy and fills you up at the same time! I always get the kara-age veggie meat with chili sauce, avocado and tomato salad with tofu mayo, and pumpkin salad with the red shiso drink for after the meal. Mouth-watering. It’s also pretty hard to find decent avocado dishes in Japan, and this makes me happy every time I come. Incidentally, I was surprised to see that CNN just covered this restaurant on their Tokyo lifestyle site.

one plus one, Takadanobaba: cafe

Chicken Pita

This place is right across the street from me, and a very calm, quaint little cafe with really cheap prices. I get the smoked chicken and burdock pita sandwich whenever I go. It’s filling and only 480yen. Atmosphere is peaceful, and a nice break from the typically ramen-filled streets of Takadanobaba.

Always Busy, Even When I’m Not

November 13, 2009

Yeah, so, I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my Twitter is basically my blog now.

So if you really want to follow me and my time here in Japan… follow me on Twitter.

But, since this wouldn’t fit there, here’s a glance at my Tokyo life. Note, it is definitely not normal that I have almost(!) nowhere I need to be tomorrow. Finally, a day off!!


  • Sleep in as late as possible
  • Do laundry
  • Actually put away laundry
  • Collect my free veggie burger from Freshness Burger
  • Eat said burger with the $5 french fries which make it basically unfree while watching soap opera
  • Relax in cafe with a cappuccino
  • Do Tuesday’s Ancient Egyptian homework in said cafe
  • Check out that coffee shop by day/bar by night place (work-related research purposes!)
  • Buy air freshener, hairbrush, etc., at Olympic (Japanese Target equivalent)
  • Avoid lusting over that $250 green coat in the store near the station
  • Keep eye out for Ginger Hot Cocoa which is nowhere to be found
  • Clean room
  • Throw out that damn piano box
  • Sort crap on desk
  • Go to ayu nomi
  • Get pumped for Les Miserables on Sunday!!

Loved my leg warmers:


Japan trend: leg warmers


Shinjuku parfait with Haruka a few weeks ago

A Waseda Dorm Room, Life in Tokyo Part I

October 18, 2009

So what is it like to be a university student in Tokyo? Well, usually it involves long commutes and living with your family. But if you are an exchange student… especially at Waseda… you generally get lucky with 1) a dorm room (very likely a single) and 2) a short, short walk to campus!

So I am living in a dorm for international students and I get my own room with fridge, desk, AC, bed, etc. and bathroom. The kitchen and laundry room is shared on each floor. There’s no curfew, like some of the 4-year student dorms have, and it’s in the middle of Waseda Street, equidistant to campus and Takadanobaba Station, which is the main train station that will take you anywhere in Tokyo. I have a really nice dorm room. I would even say it’s bigger than the singles at Georgetown…

Here's what you see upon entering

Here's what you see upon entering

As you can see I’ve bought a ton of stuff. The drawers, the mirror, the piano (yes. a piano).

My bathroom

My bathroom

I have a shower/tub… A lot of the guys have been complaining about the small size but it’s fine for me haha. And it’s really nice to have my own bathroom!

My desk, fridge & dresser

My refrigerator and dresser

My desk

My desk

I moved the fridge so that my desk can be closer to the window… not sure if I was allowed to do that.

View from my room

View from my room

I like looking out my window =) That road going up the hill takes you straight to Nishi Waseda Station, a 3-4 minute walk.

My bed

My bed

My dorm is only 7 minutes to the front gates of the main campus, walking fast (I’ve timed it). So it’s almost like Georgetown where I can roll out of bed and into class… but not really.

This is what you see turning left from my dorm on the way to campus

This is what you see looking back to my dorm on the way to campus

Busy street on the way to campus

Busy street on the way to campus

It doesn’t look that busy here but Waseda-doori is packed with students coming to/from Takadanobaba Station just before each class period begins. The whole street is jam-packed with ramen restaurants and used bookstores. A fun place to be =)

Working, Studying, Living in Tokyo

October 6, 2009

My life is finally falling into a routine here at Waseda. It’s very different from Georgetown in that I have SO MUCH I am involved in. I’m going to do some posts in the upcoming days on these different aspects of my life here…

  • My dorm room: small but happily a single
  • Classes: in Japanese and English
  • Work: I am again working at Five By Fifty
  • Clubs: “circles,” where the fun stuff happens
  • Egyptology work: don’t ask. You’ll find out soon.

I’m not exactly your average Japan exchange student, and it’s really led to some crazy things here for me. I want to talk about that a little….

For one thing, I have the confidence to look around Tokyo and take risks most people new to the city don’t. The reason for that is that I was here last year on a completely unstructured internship, which means I was on my own in Tokyo for 2 months. So, it was really necessary for me to be able to explore Tokyo on my own. And I did. Now I feel perfectly fine figuring out how to get somewhere, meeting people I haven’t necessarily met before in random places, trying like crazy to use my Japanese to communicate, etc. etc. It’s often an embarrassing and painful experience, but never boring. I really love the independence my internship last year has brought me in Tokyo.

Also, my Japanese is at the level where it is opening up opportunities for me. I can take classes in Japanese. I’ve gotten in contact with a professor of a field I’m interested in. I’ve been able to make Japanese friends in club events. These sorts of things are really making a difference in my every day life compared with other exchange students here… And at the same time, it keeps rubbing in my face the fact that I am so far from fluent. So I am striving to learn more.

I think most important, though, is the fact that I was here last year. There isn’t really an “OOHH TOKYO IS AMAZING THIS IS SO FUN!!” phase for me. It’s more: “There are so many opportunities here, I love this city, how am I going to get involved?”

Add to that the fact that my internship focused on marketing in Tokyo – trends, new products, innovation, etc. – and I’ve really been exposed to how Tokyo, as a city, works. I can step back and focus on Tokyo from a marketing perspective… which has thoroughly deepened the sense of fulfillment that comes from living here. I can appreciate my surroundings in a way the average visitor can’t.

But at the same time I am meeting other foreigners who have been here for years and years, and it’s a very interesting experience to see how those people have let Tokyo shape their lives. Whether it be learning Japanese, paving a career path, or just enjoying the city… I respect all of these people and it is humbling think that they have been here so much longer than me.

That’s not to say I want to live in Tokyo in the future – I really don’t know yet, and that’s partly what this year is for. Honestly, if you were to ask me, right now, “Do you want to live the rest of your life here?” I would say NO. Yet my life experiences have become so entwined with “Tokyo” that I can certainly see myself becoming attached to it (and I already have). So I’d love to be here some of the time. But all of the time? Right now, I don’t think so.

Anyway, I’ve been in Tokyo more than a month now. I have 10 months to go. I want to make the best of it!!


At last weekend's international club barbecue by the river

No Really, I Can Speak Icelandic

October 1, 2009

So after an epic 5 month summer vacation classes have finally begun.

It’s really quite ironic because when I came here I had thought the academic side of Waseda was going to be REALLY, REALLY easy… but it hasn’t ended up that way at all.

The reason? I am taking 2 classes taught in Japanese, auditing another, and of course some language classes as well. So in the end, while I had sort of come here resigned that I wasn’t going to be working that hard (OK, I was pretty excited about it), it seems that I’m going to have my hands full.

OK, do you guys want to hear a joke?

It’s actually very serious for me. But I’m sure it’ll be funny to you.

I signed up for a class called “Iceland, Language and Culture” taught in Japanese. It’s more like a language class. I knew that when I signed up for it. I figured it’s probably easy to learn a new language with my level of Japanese, and I’m interested in Icelandic too since I did a linguistics project on it once. Anyway, I know there’s probably no other time I’m going to be able to learn some Icelandic (Georgetown definitely does not offer it), so I signed up for this course.

But guess what??

It’s the CONTINUATION of last semester.

As in, the people in this course have already been learning Icelandic for 1 semester.

Add to this the fact that I don’t exactly know the vocabulary for conjugations and declensions in Japanese, and you can see why I may have screwed myself over JUST a little bit.

Well I was basically freaking out through that whole class this afternoon and was GREATLY relieved when at least half a dozen other students came up with me at the end to tell the professor they hadn’t taken last semester, either, we’re screwed over, can you help us?

So yes, I am taking PART TWO of basic Icelandic language. In Japanese. I’m really going to have to catch up somehow. And here I was thinking it’d be easy after Russian… hahaha.

I am going to the international club BBQ this Sunday and meeting another club that I might join on Saturday at a global festival thing. Also I have my first day back at work tomorrow. Should be interesting!!