Midterms and free time (or the lack of it…)

So it’s been about two weeks since I last posted… Some might say that studying for midterms has left me with less free time than before, but they are (kind of) wrong.

Unfortunately my exchange semester here has already reached its midpoint and some of my courses had midterm tests to see if we had actually learned anything during the first half of them. The tests were nothing too hard, but if you were lagging on your studies the results would’ve probably been some kind of a wake-up call for the actual need of study. I did well, and from a Finnish student’s viewpoint the courses here seem to be a bit lax – the workload is light and the contents easy.

So, what have I actually spent my time on? Well, being a gamer there was Skyrim‘s release and this beta test weekend of SW:TOR that I managed to sink some of my time to between the weekly parties… But the thing is – I’ve actually started going to gym again!
After visiting a few nearby gyms to see if they were well-equipped enough to spend my money on, I ended up getting a membership at Kunitachi’s Geo Fitness. They had a nice deal that instead of paying around 13 000 円 in registration fees etc. you got the whole deal and one month of membership for only 11 円. The monthly membership fee is 7 350 円 for students, which is about the same amount as a year’s membership for me in Finland… but then again, I really couldn’t go on living without a gym too much longer. Now I’m basically going to the gym every day, with the exceptions of Thursdays when it’s closed. Hangover-days are also a no-go for the gym.

When looking for the gym it was pretty disappointing to see that most gyms didn’t have adequate amount of free weights to train with – Dumbbells maxing out at 20 kilos was totally normal. The gym I now go to has basically everything you need except for a rack to do dips at :( Locker room facilities do get a big up from me, as besides showers they also have a jacuzzi and an almost-genuine sauna! The only thing with the sauna is that even though the room is heated to 90 degrees Celcius, you aren’t allowed to throw water on the stones – what a shame!

Oh well, time to get fit for next summer!

一橋祭 – Hitotsubashi’s Cultural Festival

Describing the past weekend without using superlatives is hard – My exchange school Hitotsubashi University had its annual cultural festival (called Ikkyosai) last weekend which meant that from Friday morning to Sunday evening the campus was swarming with students and locals enjoying the stalls and shows different student clubs had organized. I had never seen anything like that before, and if I had to, at this point of my exchange, name one thing I’d like to bring to Finland with me it definitely would be cultural festivals like this.

I didn’t know much about the festival beforehand as most of the information on the campus and the internet is on Japanese, and my fluency has yet to develop. I only knew that there were going to be some sort of shows around the campus and people would be having fun… But I didn’t expect it to be THAT fun!

When I first went to the main area of campus on Friday afternoon, I was surprised by the sheer amount of people there. People were enjoying the fine weather, different cheap dishes that clubs sold and listening to the bands playing. I tried several dishes with names I cannot pronounce (or write, for that matter) and tried my skills at archery, at which was good enough to win a CD full of Japanese music. Something that especially struck me was the enthusiasm with which the students sold their stalls’ stuff – I’ve never before been applauded by 6 cute Japanese girls just because I bought one 100円 choco-banana.

Here’s a small compilation of video clips I captured on my mobile phone during the weekend, including performances of bands at the campus and some performances on the main street of Kunitachi.

The buildings were also being used during the festival – classrooms were filled with all kinds of stuff ranging from haunted house -attractions to cafés with properly dressed butlers, music and fashion shows, mahjong tournaments and art exhibitions. One of the clubs (something related to literature and visual culture) even had their members draw the portraits of willing visitors in manga-style and of course I had one done of myself as well! The last events of each day on the neatly-lit main stage after the sun had gone down were also really nice; The performers of Friday’s street dance show were really skilled, as were the Saturday’s a cappella -group’s members that performed Michael Jackson’s songs.

Sunday’s final event, IKKYO FINALE 2011, was something totally different – The cheerleading club of Hitotsubashi performed on the stage and inbetween their performances the MCs were thanking every club and participant of the festival. What I didn’t expect, though, was the massive(ly drunk, and happy) crowd just climbing on stage at all  times. Apparently the chaos on the final event is a tradition, and we saw quite a few people undressing on stage along with some steal-a-microphones happening, all while the MC’s and organizers tried to control it somehow. After the show was over, people dispersed to have afterparties in their own groups, and the sounds of people having fun could be heard late into the night.

The weekend was definitely something I want to experience again at some point, but unfortunately a festival of this size only happens once a year here in Hitotsubashi.