Living in an Apartment in Hitachi

General Information

Having lived in Hitachi for two sumers now in an apartment, it’s easy for me to say that it is extremely convenient and enjoyable to live by oneself in Japan. I stayed in Sagawa-san’s apartments, other known as the “Maison d’Espoir” complex. Sagawa-san is the landlord, and he is very friendly and helpful. On your first day in the apartment, he will guide you through everything that you need to know, including when/how to throw out the trash, where to put recyclable PET bottles, how to use the stove, etc.

The apartment itself is quite small, being that it is a studio. The kitchen has a singular stove, but Sagawa-san provides an abundance of cooking supplies and eating utensils such as pots, pans, plates, bowls, and cutlery. The bathroom has a classic Japanese-style shower/bathtub/sink combination, which saves a lot of space and is easy to use. There is air conditioning, and depending on the room, there may also be a fan. There are hangers for clothes drying, a vacuum cleaner, and a closet as well as other storage cubicles. There is also a TV (beware of NHK! Sagawa-san will explain this when you meet him). Additionally, Sagawa-san provides a fridge, microwave, toaster, water kettle, and a rice cooker!

Apartment Layout

During my two stays, I had the chance to see three different apartments. I can safely say that the layout for the apartments I stayed in varied only slightly. For example, in 2017, I had a desk and chair, and this year in 2018, the two apartments I saw had floor tables and no chairs. *I had to change my apartment once this year because my AC had broken down, and Sagawa-san swiftly helped me move into a different apartment the very next day. Both the apartments I stayed in this year were on the second floor, whereas the one I stayed in last year was on the first floor. If you have a request to have a table or floor table, I would make sure to let the Intern Coordinator and Sagawa-san know before it is arranged! I personally would have preferred having a chair this year, but it was nice to experience using a floor table and a seat mat (that I purchased at Daiso) seeing that I was in Japan! As for beds, my first and second apartments had regular beds and Sagawa-san provided all of the bedding. The third apartment had a sofa bed, which was slightly less firm than a mattress, but still very comfortable.


The apartment is conveniently located about 25 minutes by foot from Ibaraki Christian University or 12 minutes by bicycle. A 5-minute walk away is a Daiso (100-yen shop) as well as a Mini-Stop (convenience store). I have found these two stores to be extremely useful. Daiso for things such as dish sponges, cups, and just about anything you will need in your apartment (even soy sauce, spices, and food!). Mini-stop is a 24/7 convenience store that will satisfy your late-night cravings or if you need anything when stores are usually closed. About a 20 minute walk away in two different directions are two supermarkets: Maruto and Sanyu. Maruto is larger, closer to the school, and slightly cheaper overall. I wouldsuggest shopping at Maruto. Sanyu is smaller but adjacent to a drugstore (drugstores in Japan also sell toiletries and amenities such as shampoo, make-up, soap, etc.).

Overall Impressions

If you prefer the independence and freedom, I would highly recommend staying in the apartments. If you like to cook, the singular stove is easy to work with (you can get creative with how to cook everything!). I have nothing but good impressions of the apartments and can say that if I were to return (a third time…) to Hitachi, that I would definitely return to the apartments.

Lunch at DCE

When I first arrived at the DCE, I was anxious about the lunchtime component of the internship and hesitant to sit with students that I didn’t know and might not connect with. As a generally introverted person, enthusiastically introducing myself to new people and holding the weight of starting new conversations does not come easily to me, and when I first sat down with students and tried to energetically connect, it felt uncomfortable and forced. However, after a half dozen or so lunchtimes at different tables with unfamiliar students, I realized that forcing myself to be enthusiastic and outgoing around new people and pushing myself out of my comfort zone became gradually less forced and less uncomfortable.

A series of things had changed: first, I was getting to know the students and making genuine friends, so that each time I sat down at lunch there were one or two familiar faces. Second, I learned which points of conversation were generally successful: asking for recommendations of where to travel and what to eat in Japan, sharing photos and watching music videos, and talking about my interests in Kpop and Tokyo street fashion almost always got students excited and more confidently speaking about their own favorite shows or interests. A balance of familiar (Japanese/Asian) and unfamiliar (Western) topics proved to work really well; discussing both Disney and Ghibli, Marvel and manga, kept students comfortable and confident but also challenged and engaged. Third, my enthusiasm and energy became more natural over time as I became used to regularly introducing myself to new people and sharing my interests with the students.

Of course, just as in any other situation, you can’t form a deep connection with everyone you talk to; regardless, if you’re friendly, approachable and willing to listen, it’s possible to have a good conversation with almost anyone. The experience is always tiring and conversations sometimes fall short – miscommunication and misunderstandings are common, largely as a result of the language barrier – but ultimately, it’s entirely worth it to expend the energy and put yourself out there. I’ve made some wonderful close friends at Ibaraki as a result of the lunchtime component of the internship, and I urge future interns to take advantage of the least-structured period of the day to really connect with students and have fun.

In summary, if you’re considering interning at the DCE but you’re nervous about interacting with unfamiliar students and putting yourself out of your comfort zone: fake it till you make it. With time and practice, forced enthusiasm can become the genuine enjoyment of eating lunch with your friends.

Traveling to Tokyo using the Bus

With Tokyo only 2 hours away, it would be a shame to not venture into the city during the weekend.  Lucky for interns, it is very easy and cheap to take the highway bus to and from Tokyo!

Step 1. Go to the online website (which is in English)

The site should look like this

Ibaraki and Tokyo should be in the “to” and “from” sections.  The route should be “Tokyo –> Hitachi”.  The bus stop for Tokyo should always be Tokyo Station.  There are two choices for the bus stop from Ibaraki.  “Shintanakochi” is the stop interns use when they arrive from the airport but without a car it is a little difficult to get to.  I suggest using “Ishinazaka”.  This stop is just up the road from IC and can be easily walked to.  If you are living with a host family in a town other than Omika, from “Ishinazaka” you can walk to Omika Station and catch a train home.

Step 2: Picking and paying for your ticket  

Once you put in your ticket information, you can search for available buses.

Different bus selections will pop up for the day selected

The tickets are displayed from earliest departure to latest.  (Be careful! Japan uses a 24-hour clock).  Once you find your desired departure time, there will usually be 3 options to chose from.  “Hayauri” tickets are early booking seats and are only available if tickets are reserved at least a day in advanced of the trip day.  They are a little cheaper at ¥2100  and are what I usually choose when I’m picking tickets.  The normal price for a one-way trip is ¥2460 and is the next option.  The options in the red boxes are special ladies-only seating if anyone is uncomfortable sitting next to a man.  Options or the whole bus may be sold out if you try to reserve late so make sure you get your tickets in advance.

Once you have made your selection, the website will have you give your email address and will send you a reservation confirmation and a link for payment. !!!MAKE SURE YOU PAY!!!  Your reservation usually has a time limit of 10-30 minutes.  If you do not pay within this time limit, the link becomes a dud and the whole process must be started again.  I recommend paying right away to avoid any headaches.  Once you pay online, they will provide you with a printable electronic ticket.  You will need to print it and hand it to the bus driver when you board the bus.

An example of a ticket

Step 3: Returning

After you have had your fun weekend in Tokyo, it is time to return and get ready for Monday morning.  Returning buses always leave from Tokyo Station from the Yaesu South Exit.

Japanese public transportation is always on time so do NOT be late.  I recommend giving yourself plenty of time to navigate the maze that is Tokyo Station.  Once you find the buses, it might seem a little intimidating with buses leaving every 10 minutes and masses of people running around.  No worries though since you left yourself at least 10 minutes to find what dock your bus will be leaving from….rightttt?  They have electronic screens at every docking pillar that lists the next three departing buses.  Find the correct departure time and look for 日立駅 (Hitachi Station).  If you really can’t find it, try asking one of the station attendants who are wondering around.  I am sure they will gladly point you in the right direction.  Once you find your bus, there will be 10 minutes of boarding time before you are finally off and on your way back home! The return bus will always stop at Shintanakochi (新田中内), but if you are getting off at Ishinazaka (石名坂 – the next stop), remember to push the button telling the driver that you want to get off. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself at Taga station and will have to find your way back to Omika.

Being an intern at IC has allowed me to fully appreciate Japanese public transportation.  It is so easy to use and much cheaper than back home.  During your time at IC, make sure to utilize it.  Enjoy!

Kashima-Jingu Shrine

Check out my vlog to see just how beautiful the Kashima-Jingu shrine really is!


The Kashima-Jingu shrine is dedicated to Takemikazuchi, the ancient god of thunder and martial arts. After the Father of Japan, Izanagi, beheaded his own son as a punishment, it is said that Takemikazuchi sprung from the blood that splashed onto the rocks from Izanagi’s sword. With Takemikazuchi, Futsunushi was also born. Both gods are revered and respected as gods of martial and military arts.


This shrine is the oldest shrine in the entire Kanto region and is one of the Three Shrines of the East in Japan. It is assumed to have been founded in 660BC, during Emperor Jimmu’s first year.

The entrance of the shrine, the Romon, is one of the largest gateways in Japan! It is also considered to be an important cultural property and is one of many important aspects of the shrine. There are many historical artifacts stored within the treasure hall inside the shrine. One of the artifacts is Japan’s longest and oldest sword. Unfortunately, I was unable to go into the treasure hall so I didn’t get to see the sword.

Gateway to Kashima-Jingu Shrine
The bright red gateway showed us exactly where we needed to go.

In some parts of Japan, deer are considered to be messengers of the gods and are admired greatly due to their significance in the Shinto religion. Deer are sacred animals and can be found in the “deer park” in the Kashima-Jingu shrine, among a few other places around Japan.

Sacred Deer in Kashima-Jingu Shrine
The deer park in the Kashima-Jingu Shrine.

After wandering around the shrine and immersing yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds the shrine, you can buy an amulet (omamori) as a lucky souvenir. The ones I saw said “Traffic safety” and “Good luck on exams”. The omamori are made by women who work at the shrine. At the Kashima-Jingu shrine, they wear the traditional styled clothing of the red skirt and white top.

More omamori
Even more omamori! Buy all the luck you can!

I hope you enjoyed this post! I will try to be posting every other day on my personal blog so follow me to keep up with my adventures in Japan!