There was the enrollment ceremony at the beginning of April. None of my family members came, so I went alone. I couldn’t get the seat because more students and their families turned up than they had anticipated. I stood in the back for 90 minutes, catching glimpses of the speakers on the podium shown on the giant screen on the side of the stage.
After the ceremony, we went into the assigned classroom. I belonged to one of 50 classes, divided based on the chosen second language. I chose Mandarin Chinese because of my love for Chinese films. Other options were French, German, and Russian. There were about 50 of us in the classroom, 5 of whom girls. Many of the boys came from Waseda’s affiliated schools, all of which boys schools as of 1996 (later became co-ed). They had passed the competitive entrance exam to the affiliated schools at the age as early as twelve, but they were promised to enter the university as long as they maintained decent grades. The professor assigned to our class monotonously talked about the protocol. We were going to be in the same Chinese class for the next two years, but we were to sit with a different mix from a thousand students for the rest of the subjects.
When I was scribbling down something, I noticed the boy next to me wasn’t taking notes. I thought he had forgotten his pen, so I gestured to him if he needed to used mine. He looked a little surprised at first and shook his head. After the class meeting, I was caught up by the same boy from behind. He walked alongside me and asked me questions. He had dyed brown hair and wore a cool t-shirt and a nice pair of jeans, which made him look a little frivolous. I wondered what this urbane looking boy wanted from a girl like myself, so I responded with a hint of annoyance. He might have sensed it and let me go.
The boy’s name was Ogura. We didn’t become friends until our final year when I returned from the U.S., and he had to repeat the third year because he was mostly absent from school experiencing an existential crisis. Our friendship then blossomed into respect for each other, and for many years I’d turn to him when I had an existential crisis of my own.
But as of day one at Waseda, I had zero ideas on what and who awaited me.