Dorm life in Japan is definitely different from dorm life in America.
For starters, there is such a limited amount of available space in Japan that dorms are usually not on the school campus. In my case I have to take at least two trains (sometimes three) for about 30 minutes in order to make it to school. Housing in Japan can get expensive too so a fair amount of students choose to commute from home instead. I know of a girl who commutes every day from home even though she lives 2 hours away by train. I personally can’t imagine spending 4 hours every day on a train.
Another difference is that the dorms are not specifically for one school. There are plenty of students from other universities in our dorm as well as young professionals who don’t want to live with their parents anymore. All of the rooms are singles as far as I know; I’m not sure if this is true for all of Japan though. However, it seems to me that since there’s so little personal space in this country, most people would probably want their own room. The dorm is run by a manager who lives there along with his wife and daughter. He looks after the place and really takes the time to make sure all of us are okay. He knows every single person in the dorm by name and even told us that we can wake him up no matter what time it is if something is seriously wrong, like we need to go to the hospital.
There is also a lot more work that goes into living at a Japanese dorm. For example, you have to do your own recycling and take out the trash. But by recycling I don’t just mean throwing a can in a bin. There are separate bins for plastic, magazines, scrap metal, cans, glass bottles, plastic bottles, bottle caps, bottle wrappers, etc. On top of that you have to rinse out any bottles or cans before you put them in the recycling. It’s quite a process to go through. Also, at dinner you have to scrub and rinse out all of your dishes in a sink before giving them to the kitchen staff so that they don’t have as much work to do. All of these things give a sense that you are also working to take care of the dorm and I think it makes the place feel a bit more homey.
Other cultural differences include taking off your shoes at the entrance and putting on slippers when you walk around the dorm. But when you go to the bathroom you have to take off your “regular” slippers and put on bathroom ones instead. You also have a curfew that you have to abide by unless you tell the manager ahead of time that you are staying out for the night. This applies to the boys dorms as well but I think they aren’t as strict about it.
Overall I am really enjoying my experience in the dorm and I am happy with my choice to live there rather than at a homestay. I know plenty of friends who are having a fantastic time as well at their homestay but I think that the dorm is better for me.
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<p>Mikaela is a junior at Indiana University majoring in International Studies and East Asian Languages & Cultures. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she has spent the past few years enjoying life as a Hoosier while dreaming of the day she finally got to go abroad. Traveling is one of her greatest passions and she looks forward to exploring not only Tokyo but as much of Japan as possible during her semester abroad. She is actively involved in both her sorority and International Studies Honor Society, and enjoys reading, hiking, and drinking tea in her free time. She is so excited for the adventure that lies ahead and can’t wait to share it with everyone!</p>