Nanzan University: Elite private school; Fitness program

4 Oct

October 3, 2010

So, I know that, several times, I have made mention of my crazy commute.  I feel that possibly I should take the opportunity to describe exactly what I mean.

Let me preface by saying that, with absolutely no conscious (or voluntary) changes in eating habits or exercise, I have lost 15 pounds since coming here.  In a month.  And I think this commute kind of explains all that.


After heading out the door in the morning, I go straight for the amazingly efficient parking system for bikes.

(Hiii biiike!  I have spot number ONE!)

I say incredibly efficient because the individual bikes are actually put on sliding bars – so if you need to get to your bike you slide the others out of the way.  You can move the whole row this way!  It allows bikes to be packed unrealistically close together without worrying about baskets and handlbars getting caught together.

From there, I have a 15 to 25 minute bike ride to the station, depending on how rushed I’m feeling.  (Not pictured:  Me dying about half-way through.)

Once at the station, I arrive at this lovely little slice of crazy:  (And yes, I do feel that the explanatory diagrams are entirely necessary.)

Also please allow me to note that this was a relatively slow day at the station, for reasons I don’t totally understand.  The labelled red boxes are places where, in fact, there is usually another bike packed in.  (There are people employed by the station specifically to place bikes closer together so that more can fit in each row before and after rush hour.)  This is one parking lot.  Out of four that I know of (shown above).

I usually pull in off the road in the middle, very very close to where I usually park.  I rode past my turn and headed straight for the main entrance of the station on Thursday;  it was a SIX BLOCKS DIFFERENCE.


The train really isn’t all that bad, unless you have the ill fortune to need to get somewhere during rush hour.  Like I do.  Every morning and three nights a week.

In that case, good luck getting a seat.  In fact, you’d better hope you get on ahead of enough people to stand near a wall or door, or at least to grab one of the hanging handles.  It is better to be crushed against a wall, which is stationary, than your neighbors, because there is not enough room, on bad days, to even stand under your own power.  Take this opportunity to get used to close physical contact (full-body!) with strangers.  When enough people have already boarded the train to the point that it appears no more will fit, you will be pushed and jostled (with surprising force by such stereotypically small, polite people) until you fit, and if you’re lucky you will not have someone’s purse jabbing you angrily in the ribs.  (But you usually will.)

Most days it’s not that bad.  Sometimes you don’t actually have to touch your neighbor on the train at all!  But in any case, you will need to get your sea legs and become comfortable with swaying violently with the train, or else you will fall over.

Effective methods I’ve found so far:  1) Grab one of the hanging handles and use your arm to support your entire weight.  This is extremely useful for preventing yourself from falling over; unfortunately you are left with only one arm to carry whatever bags you have brought, that seem to magically become heavier the longer you are on the train (You may place your bags between your feet, but you risk having them kicked away from you when you don’t have enough room to bend over and pick it up).  EXCELLENT FOR TRICEPS, BICEPS, AND SHOULDERS.  2)  Be a jerk and take up a little extra space for an appropriately wide stance.  This is the best method if you have somehow become trapped in the middle of the train with no available handles left.  This also leaves the elbows free for jabbing and pushing at a passive-aggressive level (the amount of force you are using could in theory be accidental, but the frequency of attacks is somewhat suspicious).  If you are stuck in the middle of a train during rush hour, believe me, you will want the pointiest part of your body aimed and ready.  EXCELLENT FOR CALVES, GLUTES, AND LOWER ABS.  3) Lean up against the wall or door and guard your face carefully with one of the following items (opened towards you):  cellphone with repetetive game; novel, magazine, or other compact reading material; a music player that you are far too concentrated on.  The addition of sunglasses is recommended where practical (i.e., not the subway).  Support your weight entirely with your hips and lower spine against the surface, and apologize ferociously when you fall into your neighbors (it will happen).  My observations lead me to conclude that this is by far the most popular method among Japanese riders.  EXCELLENT FOR PECS, OBLIQUES, UPPER ABS.

Every morning I board the Toyohashi-bound Limited Express at 7:39 (It doesn’t seem to matter what time I leave the house – this is always the next available express when I arrive at the station).  At 8:06 I take the time for some brief stretches and warm-up during my transfer at Kanayama station, and board the Meijo Line Subway (counterclockwise) at 8:13 for another 20 minutes of exciting train riding.

STEP THREE:  ENDURANCE AND INCLINE TRAINING (Trying to walk absolutely anywhere in Nagoya)  

I leave the subway at Yagoto Nisseki station.  Within the station itself, there are approximately three-and-a-half stories of stairs or escalators required to exit.  Inititally I intended to take the stairs every time, something I have become decreasingly strict about (It’s funny how if a rule is “It has to be the worst day ever, and then you can take the escalator,” suddenly you are capable of remembering many small things that could be interpreted as slightly inconvenient or annoying).  The point is rather moot, however, because after I exit the station I walk downhill at a 30 to 35 degree decline for three blocks, turn and walk on a rather level surface for a block and a half, and then I am greeted by this:

This picture is not a joke. That is literally from the same picture, just at 100% zoom.   The giant “ma” painted on the road (as part of “tomare” or “stop”) is itself at least five feet long.  This hill is probably over 100 meters long and I would guess it to be varying between a 45 and 60 degree incline for its entire length, and it terminates about 30 feet from Nanzan University’s main gate.

This is the easiest way to get to Nanzan.

One of my friends agreed that this hill was awful and suggested an alternative.  All I had to do was walk a block past this hill and take the next one up.  “It’s a lot shorter,” she said.  This all sounded great, until it turned out she meant this:

While in terms of literal horizontal distance, this probably actually is shorter, with the twists and turns in it (you cannot see the top from the bottom, that’s why it took three photos to get it all in – the colored stars mark the same point in different photos) it is probably an equal length of walking distance. In addition, it is a whole lot steeper. After taking this hill one time, I resolved to myself to take specific steps to avoid ever climbing it again. Then, I took it one more time to take pictures of its angry majesty. And so, I’m understandably a little upset at the amount of stupid that is totally lost in the pictures. To understand the empty-souled hate that emanates from this hill, you really just have to go there and stand at the bottom. Add into the equation the two additional blocks (one at the bottom and one at the top) of walking it adds to my commute, and it is a candidate for being permanently blocked from my conscious mind.

And I didn’t bother taking pictures of hills on campus, but yes, I have to climb and descend hills between classes.

Then, at the end of the day, I do it all in reverse order. Oi.


4 Responses to “Nanzan University: Elite private school; Fitness program”

  1. Ceven October 6, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    Dear Lynn,
    I am surprised about all the bikes in Japan. Do you know why there are so many bikes in Japan? And doesn’t everybody have a lock so a security center isn’t needed? I love you Lynn. I will see you at Christmas time. Love,
    Ceven Hill
    P.S. I am getting a dog for Christmas.

  2. Kevin O'Brien October 12, 2010 at 8:44 pm #

    Hi Lynn

    Great writing style!!!! Very enjoyable reading.

    Miss you.


  3. Carlene Quirk October 17, 2010 at 9:52 pm #

    Wonderful Blog, I love your “workout”. At this rate, you will loose another 45 pounds! I don’t think you have that much to loose, so I hope you are building muscle as well aiding you in executing your work-out. I like the seat on the bike, it seems they would be more comfortable than what we use here.

  4. Clare October 24, 2010 at 5:06 am #

    Hi Lynn,

    Are people more polite on the subways there, or do they shove pregnant ladies and trip blind elderly people to try to get a seat like they do here? They sound just as awful as NYC.

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