Hello, everybody. This is Steven Crowder here to bring you more tales from the Far East! This has been one of the most interesting months in Japan, and my personal favorite by far. Among said interesting events are travel logs, new experiences, and meeting up with people who I have missed dearly. Let's dive in, shall we?
On October 31st, I traveled to an onsen, or Japanese hot spring, resort in the Yamanashi prefecture of Japan. I did some studying about the Yamanashi prefecture in my spare time before I went to the resort with everyone in the JOINUS club here at Rikkyo University, and learned that it is where Mount Fuji is located, and how Mount Fuji got its name. The name comes from one of my favorite Japanese folk tales about a bamboo cutter. If you want to learn about the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, just Google it. When I arrived in the town where the resort was, we could see that the town was located at the very base of Mount Fuji. The weather was just perfect enough that we could see the whole mountain. When I was taking photos for my personal collection, I forgot to change the batteries. As a result, my camera died and I did not have any replacement batteries on hand. Luckily, there are always friends on Facebook who got to post similar images from our trip to the resort. When I entered the onsen, I was actually very embarassed because it was my first time in one. During our time in the onsen, we had a clear view of Mount Fuji on a cloudless night and there was a full moon in the sky. That could not have been a more perfect night.
I also turned twenty on the 11th of November, so I am now no longer a teenager. It felt weird at first, but I got used to it. Unfortunately, since I had a big project to do for the following Tuesday and everyone else was busy, I spent my birthday indoors. That is one thing that you need to be aware of when everyone you normally would hang out with at Linfield and in America is so far away from you. If you want to do something for your birthday, plan ahead. Believe me, I know.
I went to the Gunma prefecture on the 16th in order to visit some of my best friends that I met during my freshman year of college. One of them is also a former roommate of mine, and I wanted to meet up with him as well. When I arrived at Takasaki station, I recieved a phone call from my friend that I was going to meet up with and she told me to go to Komagata station. When I arrived at said station, a random Japanese man stopped me and said "Ah, a foreigner. Are you an English teacher coming to teach here in Gunma?" I told him that I am not and explained that I am here to meet up with some friends. When my friend arrived and told me to hop into her car, I told her and her friend about what happened. They explained to me that there are not a whole lot of foreigners in the Gunma prefecture, and that I am a rare sight. I especially stick out among other foreigners, since I am 6'2" with blonde hair and blue eyes. I then went to a restaurant with my friends and met up with everyone, including Tyson Takeuchi and Bryan Takano, who are fellow students from Linfield studying in Japan at Kanto Gakuin University. We all had our fun, ate good food, and took several pictures. A little after twelve in the morning, I went to the house of the friend who met me at the train station and spent the night. I was hoping to introduce myself to her family, but they had left very early in the morning because her younger sister had a gymnastics competition in the morning and they had to wake up bright and early. I also brought a gift with me that I bought in Ikebukuro: Chocolates. I asked my friend to give them to her family as a way of saying "Thank you for allowing me to stay over at your home". I did have the chance to meet with her grandmother, who had never seen an American in her entire life. I also learned that people outside of Tokyo are much nicer than the ones in Tokyo, and that foreigners are not too common of a sight. I had a similar experience on the onsen trip, which also provided me with some interesting material for a research project I am doing for one of my classes. When the time came for me to leave, I could not hold back the tears because I wished I could stay longer, but we all had things that we needed to take care of. I told one of my friends from Kyouai that "The only thing heavier than the bag on my shoulders ifs my heart." even though as I type out this diary entry, I still have tears running down my face. However, I know in my heart, that I will see them again and they are just a text message away. Ever since I came back from Gunma, I have been a little more cheerful in my daily life, and I don't feel so cold anymore. To my friends in Gunma: I will cherish you in my memories for the rest of my life. I love you all.
Life here at Rikkyo University is not as hectic as it was back in October. I am able to see my friends in the JOINUS club again. They had a lot of work and studying to take care of, so they kind of disappeared after the onsen trip. I also had a big project for a culture class that I had to do in a group with some of my classmates, and we decided to go to Shibuya to learn more about youth fashion and culture in Japan. Shibuya is an interesting place at night, and it is just the place that we needed to gather research. Afterwards, we went to a restaurant and had dinner. At some restaurants, you place your orders on something that looks like an iPad and it sends the requested drink or food order to the kitchen. It's like an all-you-can-eat buffet, but the food is actually warm. It was a good way to cool off after we spent a great deal of time organizing our ideas, sorting out the outline, and gathering photographic samples from a bookstore.
That is all I have to report for this month. This is Steven Crowder, signing off. Until next time, dear readers!