Thursday, November 27, 2014

Surviving the Sendai Winter... Indoors!

Although the weather is already pretty chilly, it's about to get a lot chillier! Sendai's winters are comparatively mild, but if this is your first winter here, you might be in for a few surprises. Particularly when you get home from a long outing to find... it's colder in your room than it is outside!! In this article, we will try to prepare you for Japan's great indoors.
Inside author's apartment during January.

1. Indoor wear: Sendai's apartments and houses are cold. Even the natives say so! Very few buildings have insulation. Even fewer have central heating. As a result, the common practice here is to dress warmly even when inside one's own home. You will want some warm slippers and comfortable, warm clothing for inside use. If you want to go the traditional route, there is a Japanese garment called a hanten. It is a warm padded jacket worn inside and for brief outings. You can find them in any department store in a variety of lovely patterns and colors. Warm pajamas are definitely required at night! Pharmacies also sell chemical heaters (hokkairo) you can use to keep your hands warm both indoors and out.
Hanten -traditional winter wear

2. Heating: As mentioned, most residences don't have central heating. Instead, only the rooms being used are warmed with electric or kerosene heaters. If you use a kerosene heater in particular, please use caution as they release fumes that become toxic if allowed to build up. So be sure open a window or door every two hours or so. Never leave kerosene heaters burning unattended as they do pose a considerable fire hazard. Heated carpets/pads and kotatsu (a table with a built-in heater on the bottom to keep the lower body warm) are also popular ways to keep warm while relaxing or studying inside.

Hanging a curtain in front of
your entrance helps keep out the
cold air.
3. DIY Insulation: Tempting as it may be, you should refrain from trying to seal up the gaps around your room's windows and doors with plastic sheeting etc. If you manage to permanently caulk or tape a window shut, you will of course be fined by your landlord. Moreover, if you seal your room up too well, mold may begin to grow. If you allow mold to spread, you will be charged around JPY 100,000 for cleaning/de-molding. But there are some things you can do to better insulate your apartment. Many Japanese residences have a curtain-rod near the entrance inside. In the winter this can be used to hang a floor-length curtain (or an old piece of material, sheet, etc.) to prevent drafts from coming in through the entrance. Keeping window curtains securely drawn at night will also help keep the cold air out and the warm air in. If your curtains are too flimsy to block the winter drafts, consider replacing them.

We hope this guide is of some help. Stay warm and have a great winter!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer School 2014

Tohoku University invited high school teachers and prospective students to Future Global Leadership (FGL) Summer School again this year, from the 4th to 6th of August. 21 Participants joined the event from 7 high schools in China, Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

During the three-day program, participants got detailed information on Tohoku University, FGL courses, the application process, and even the city of Sendai.

On the 2nd and 3rd day, participants took a tour of the labs in each faculty of the FGL program: the Advanced Molecular Chemistry Course (AMC), Applied Marine Biology Course (AMB) and International Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Course (IMAC-U).

This is one of the labs in AMB. Students are working on research in the field of Integrative Aquatic Biology.

Students also learnt Japanese flower arrangement (Ikebana). This Ikebana class was taught by Prof. Chen. She is a professor of Nanomechanics in the School of Engineering of our university!

Thank you so much for joining the event. See you again!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Preparation for your new student life

 Right now, we cannot eat at the main cafeteria, “Kawauchi Daiichi Shokudo,” on Kawauchi North Campus. It is a very spacious place and usually many people from students to professors to staff take time at the lunch time there, but there are only a few students at the moment thanks to the spring vacation. So it is being used as a support center for freshmen entering in April!

 If you enter the room, various desks can be seen: near the entrance is the housing section for those who are looking for apartments. Staff explain about the areas suitable for students and the price range of apartments. Lately, according to reports by the media, more students prefer sharing an apartment or living in a dorm, so you can ask about the choices there.

 Then, on the left side there computers are displayed. In some afternoons, there are only a few people there, but it gets more crowded by the hour. Both laptops and usual computers are available, so it might be a good idea to buy new one before the sales tax rises on April 1st. 

 In front of the computer section, the staff invites students to join the university co-op. You need to pay 25,000JPY, but it will be refunded when you graduate from Tohoku University (necessary procedures must be conducted). If you become a member, you will be provided a membership card: it allows you to buy books at discounted prices, and can be used as a prepaid card. You will also have a meal card (chargeable prepaid card), so there is no need to pay with cash for lunch and supper. 

 Having walked around, you can see many bikes at the exit of the cafeteria. Many Tohoku University students commute by bike, and say that it is difficult to live without one. Just don’t ride too fast since a lot of accidents have happened!

All these support systems are the fruit of efforts by the university coop: in April, they will hold a bazaar in aid of international students. More details will be given in the next blog!