Category Archives: Introductions

My Trusty Travel Tool

I must apologise to those of you following my blog for my absence these past two weeks. My darling macbook had a little bit of a fit and stopped working on me for a few days (which I suspect may have had something to do with an influx of travel photographs. Oops.)

Anyways, I appear to be up and running again for the moment! I have a bunch of events and projects ready to post about. It’s simply a matter of finding time to write them. I have my first body of work due for Printmaking tomorrow so I’ve been a bit busy trying to pull the whole thing together (the story of which deserves it’s own post).

The final work will be up on my other blog hopefully sometime this week if you’re interested:
http://caseycrockfordphotography.wordpress.com/

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a picture of my trusty pink bike, and a little info on how bikes work in this strange country…

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I bought this pastel-pink beauty at the local hardware store for 8900 yen, plus another 500 yen for registration. The system here with bikes is so different to Australia, and possibly every other country in the world! They are treated more like cars in that they have a kind of license plate in the form of a sticker that you can use to track your bike when it’s stolen or (in my case) abducted by the local police forĀ illegal parking.
If you get caught in this situation in Japan look for a nearby sign from where your bike was taken, with directions to the nearest impound. You bring along your bike key and your ID, and pay about 2300 yen to get it unchained from its sad bike-prison. You also have to fill a form with your name, number, address, etc… This proved a touch difficult for us foreigners, but we managed.
If you want to avoid this, I suggest not parking around train stations between 8am and 6pm, especially on weekends! There is often cheap pay-bicycle-parking at these locations, or you can alternatively find a nearby supermarket or fast-food joint with a carpark and try your luck there. Most Japanese bikes have an inbuilt wheel lock, but to be extra safe I’d buy another loop lock and chain it to a post. According to the Japanese people I’ve spoken to, this tends to deter the police and potential thieves (not that there is much crime in Japan to begin with.)

For a society that uses bikes as such a key form of transport, the road-rules surrounding them are surprisingly vague… and are rarely enforced. It seems bikes count both as pedestrians and vehicles here, riding freely on both the footpaths and roads. I still don’t understand who has right of way at an intersection, so I tend to only cycle on the quieter streets now. Some rules such as not being allowed to cycle with an umbrella or headphones or intoxicated all seem to be ignored, and even more shockingly no one wears helmets! Children under a certain age are required to by law, but after that age you can cycle as fast as you like with as little protection as you want. It’s a little scary if you ask me… but at least I won’t have to worry about helmet hair!

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The Journey Begins…

For the next four months I’m going to be studying as an exchange student at Kyoto Seika University. Coming from Australia with little knowledge of the Japanese language is going to be difficult enough, but this will also be my first time living independently of my parents. It is going to be quite an adventure, with many challenges to tackle along the way. Hopefully my experiences will help others looking to travel here or participate exchange to this wonderful and wacky country…

Ready to explore Kyoto!

Ready to explore Kyoto!

I’ve only been here 4 nights and already it’s beginning to feel like home. There are heaps of other foreign students here and so far they’ve all been lovely. I’ve already met a couple of my classmates in the printmaking department at the university, and even though their English wasn’t great, they tried their absolute best to help me out and get to know me. I hope everyone will be like this when I start classes next week!

Fellow exchange student Emma. She's from the UK.

Fellow exchange student Emma. She’s from the UK.

In the meantime I’ve been exploring my local area with the other exchange girls from my dorm. We’re staying in Iwakura, in the Northern region of Kyoto. It’s a very scenic place, with cherry blossoms and bamboo groves everywhere. Actually there’s a mountain out the back of the dorm building and a path that leads through the forrest to the university. It’s absolutely beautiful! And apparently there are monkeys!

The river near my dorm

The river near my dorm

I’m still trying to settle in properly at the moment, but when I do I’ll try to blog more.
And if there’s anything you’d like to know about Kyoto, Japan, going on exchange, etc… Please don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll help if I can!