G’day! It’s Clare, and if you can’t already tell I’m an Aussie. Yep that’s right, an Aussie living and studying in Japan.
I moved to Japan in March 2018, after visiting twice before I was determined to make this my temporary home. Previous visits had been merely for tourism, I had seen so much that it made me want to learn even more about the culture. In this blog I will share with you my experience as a gaijin student so far!
I began my journey in a home stay filled with four children, might I add they were all less than 10 years old. At first I thought home stay was a brilliant idea, what more could I want right? I wouldn’t get lonely, I didn’t have to cook or wash or deal with any of the bills etc. I just had to pay my family the set fee and everything was there for me. Let me first say I grew up in a family of four kids as well so I was prepared for the mayhem the children would bring, however I quickly learnt that living in this type of environment just wasn’t for me. I felt uncomfortable being in the living room, asking to have something to eat or when I could take a shower, all the little things that never cross your mind when you’re living in your own home and on top of this, I had to ask in Japanese, which is definitely not my strong point. This was confronting and it scared me to think I would have to do this for a long time. Two weeks later, I moved into my own apartment and instantly felt at peace. I won’t even begin to tell you about the transportation from my home stay to my new apartment with 4 pieces of luggage… Anyway, I was excited for my new journey living alone!
Everything was smooth sailing for a few months, I joined a club activity and met a group of like-minded and caring friends, did my weekly grocery shop, studying at university everyday and having a lot of fun… Until June 18th, when Osaka was struck by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.1 at 7:45am. Everything happened really fast so bare with me as I explain the frightening few moments of that Monday morning.
I woke up previously around 6am from the sun beaming through my window, I had a class that started at 9am so I thought I sneak in a couple more hours of sleep. I had a strange feeling and thought I shouldn’t go back to sleep, however I ignored this and off I went. Alarms, sirens, loud banging that mimicked a thunderstorm, glass smashing and the building vigorously shaking suddenly woke me. My phone had some Japanese emergency alert system going off and all I could recognise was “Jishin, jishin, jishin!” Which means earthquake in Japanese. It felt like a movie. I think it lasted about 3-5 minutes, but as I woke I remember thinking to myself “This is it, this is happening, it’s an earthquake! Get out now”. I jumped off my futon and ran for my door, jumping over the obstacles that had been knocked over from the shake. Living on the third floor, I jumped down those stairs thinking I only had seconds to live. I got outside… It was empty… There was nobody around, until a moment or two later when other the international students started to flow out of their rooms. Distraught looks on each of their faces. We had just been in one of Kansai’s traumatising earthquakes that took 3 lives and left more than 200 injured. The epicentre was located in Takatsuki, which is the prefecture next to Ibaraki where I live. The damage was brutal, many friends of mine lost power, gas and water for a week or so, trains and buses were suspended, roads and houses were ruined and lives were lost. I remember visiting 7/11 a few hours after the main shock; it was filled with people trying to get whatever was left on the shelves. It really felt like the end of the world was coming. In the mixed of trying to recover from the damage, the following week was struck with many aftershocks, which are small earthquakes that occur often after a large earthquake. Because of this, my university was closed for the week, so my gaijin friends and I headed to Tokyo.
We returned a few days later to a more normal city.
Reminder to be careful when visiting Japan, it’s full of natural disasters! We were briefly warned about earthquakes but told it would never happen in Osaka… Always stay alert and keep in touch with loved ones!
Take care and stay tuned for my next blog about the quirkiness of Japan.