International University of Japan
I first came to Japan in the fall of 1989, at the height of the economic bubble, as an exchange student for my MBA. My school (IUJ) was about 100 miles from Tokyo and not an easy place to get to - from the airport, I took a bus, a train, walked, another train, and a shuttle to reach campus !
So, I get off the first train in Tokyo, near Ueno station and this is my first real view of Japan 15 years ago:
Fortunately, a friend was guiding me and a fellow student, so we weren't totally lost - this is my second view of the country - walking to Ueno Station to catch a bullet train.
My first Japanese surprise was the crosswalks - everyone just waits for the light - when I first arrived in 1989, this intersection had hundreds of people just standing waiting for the light - far more crowded than this picture.
And then, poof ! The light turns green and the streets were filled with people (picture 500 people here) - it was my first experience with Japanese orderliness and street crossing.
So, I finally made it to Ueno Station and on the bullet train for the 90 minute ride to Urasa, in Niigata Prefecture. This is the station there - actually, this is only 1/2 of the building's length - essentially a 1,000 foot long elevated track.
And my first view of rural Japan - Urasa, a town of 500-1,000 people on a small plain surrounded by mountains. The university is in the distance next to the mountains. As I would find out later, it's a bit too far to walk to town !
The main administration building of IUJ - this school has 500 students and is a graduate school only for international business and international relations.
Inner courtyard - this is essentially the whole school !! There are outbuildings as you'll see, but this is 50% of the classroom space (the other 50% behind the camera). This is also very modern Japanese - all concrete, no grass.
The mountains surrounding campus - with only rice fields between.
More mountains - really a lovely setting. Some of these mountains are scared; we attended a big harvest festival at Hakai (?) San where I even walked on fire.
The library complex to the left, a gift of Matsushita - a very nice place, even had a full MacIntosh computer lab.
The gym I never used - we did have a big international festival here, though, with each country showing off their culture and foods. Us Americans were lame and had only hamburgers. The Americans (who were the largest non-Japanese group on campus) threw the best parties, including big Halloween and Thanksgiving bashes.
Our lovely cafeteria - lower level is standard cafeteria, serving bad rice many times a day. This are is famous for great rice, but I think our rice came from far away. The upper level is a better cafe, but more expensive; I treated myself up there each Sunday evening, practicing eating spaghetti and chicken drumsticks with chopsticks.
My dormitory - Because I was only an exchange student, I got this, the older, dorm.
My room is probably the 3rd floor window visible between the trees.
The nice dorm where the good students lived. Most of my friends were here, including a girl I secretly dated; I had to sneak in and out of the dorm at all hours for quite some time.
One minor thing they don't tell you in the brochures is that it snows here - a LOT ! Up to two feet a day, so in winter, there can be 5-10 feet of snow on the ground. Thus, people walk in tunnels to get between all the buildings. Fortunately, I left just as the snow began falling (nearly two feet my last day).
Inside a tunnel.
The USA Japan Study Center - A cool place where we held a huge Thanksgiving dinner that year, with Americans, pseudo-Americans (foreigners who went to school in the US) and friends. We ordered turkeys and other goodies from Tokyo, but had to split them to fit into Japanese ovens !!
Finally, the funniest part of Urasa - these are sprinklers in the middle of the road -what are they used for ? To remove winter snow, of course !! Seriously, in winter, the temperature is just above freezing and they turn on the water to wash the snow off the roads - something unthinkable to a New Englander like me, but it worked.