December 1st-8th 2018- A Hui Hou Japan (Until We Meet Again, Japan)

Konnichiwa! On our last week in Japan, we got another week off so we explored what we could before our departure. However, the weekend before we had to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam or JLPT for short. The JLPT was a standardized exam that measures Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers. It was almost like the Japanese version of the College Board SAT. After the JLPT, there were no more classes, studying, final papers, presentations, or homework! So here is what I did during my final week in Japan. For the last time, 始めましょう !

Saturday 12/01- The day before the JLPT exam, my KGU buddies and I got together one last time by having dinner at a shabu-shabu (hotpot) restaurant. We had such a great time together. I also gave them a small box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts as my way of saying thanks. Overall, my KGU buddies have been really helpful and kind during my time in Japan. In the beginning, it was a rocky start getting to know them because my Japanese wasn’t that great but now I can happily say we have become great friends for life!

My KGU buddies and I together one last time
My KGU buddies and I together one last time

Monday 12/03- My final week off started by going to Harajuku and Shibuya for some shopping and a little sightseeing. First, I went to see the famous Hachiko statue in front of Shibuya station. For those of who don’t know Hachiko’s story, Hachiko was a famous Japanese Akita dog known for always waiting for his owner in front of the station even after his death. I remember seeing the movie, Hachi: A Dog’s Tale back in 7th grade in my Japanese class and asking if the statue still existed. I never knew that 9 years later, I would actually see that same statue. After that, I went to the Mocha Cat Café in Shibuya. Now, I am not a fan of cats, but they seem to be pretty popular in Japan. The admission price was 200 yen for every ten minutes. There were two floors of cats and they were all over the place! After playing with cats, it was time for me to do some shopping. I shopped at the famous Shibuya 109, known for its many stores filled with cute Japanese products and mainly fashion. After that I shopped at H&M and UNIQLO, and that concludes round 2 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip!

Tuesday 12/04- I stayed in the Yokohama area by going to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum which was about all things ramen. The first floor is all about the history of ramen in Japan, but the two basement floors are the most fun. It is a replica of an old town of Japan and there are nine different restaurants serving different types of ramen. You can even request to have a mini sample if you want to try multiple bowls which is exactly what I did. I had three mini bowls from three different restaurants and they were all so good! I wish I could have tried more, but I was so full. Maybe instead of having a wine studies major at Linfield, how about a ramen studies major with ramen tasting?! After that, I worked off all that ramen by doing some shopping at World Porters shopping mall in Minato-Mirai. While I was shopping, I came across this unique section called Hawaiian Town. It was a section of all things Hawaiian including restaurants, cafes, and shops. There were even signs that had names of Hawaiian towns such as Waikiki, Ala Moana Blvd., etc. I wished I had found this place earlier because the atmosphere has a nice taste of home.

 

Wednesday 12/05- I returned to Tokyo by doing some omiyage shopping. First I went to Nakamise shopping street in Asakusa which is the best place to get local souvenirs from Japan. Then, it was round 3 of my Harajuku/Shibuya trip. It started by having lunch at Harajuku Gyoza-ro, then shopping at places such as Kiddyland and the Takeshita shopping street which wasn’t too crowded compared to the last time I came. The main highlight of my trip was going to a conveyor belt-dessert café called the Maison Albe Café Ron Ron. It costs $18 USD for an all-you-can-eat dessert experience. There were a variety of desserts to choose from, and I ate about nine plates! At night, I hung out with my former Linfield International students/Tokyo friends. We first went to Tokyo Tower, the world’s tallest, self-supported steel tower (not to be confused with the Tokyo Skytree that I went to during fall break). The view was really pretty especially since we went at night. After that, we had dinner at a restaurant where we ate monjyaki. Monjyaki is similar to okonomiyaki, but the batter is softer and you cook the ingredients first and then pour the batter in the center. Plus it is often eaten when partially cooked. There was also okonomiyaki served at the restaurant and I actually helped cook it on the grill. I had a fun time hanging out with my Tokyo friends for the last time because I may not ever seen them again for a while.

Thursday 12/06- The next day I headed out to the Fujiko F. Fujio Museum aka Doraemon Museum in Kawasaki. Fujiko F. Fujio was a manga artist known for creating many manga including the popular Doraemon. For those of you who are not familiar with Doraemon, he is a cat that comes from the future to help a boy named Nobita by using many tools that I wish existed in our world. The museum also included works from Fujio’s other manga including one called Kiteretsu Encyclopedia that looks similar to Doraemon in plot lines and characters.

Model of Gian in the Woodcutter's Spring from Doraemon manga, "The Woodcutter's Spring"
Model of Gian in the Woodcutter’s Spring from Doraemon manga, “The Woodcutter’s Spring.”
Model of Doraemon in children's play area
Model of Doraemon in children’s play area
Me in front of Christmas tree in Doraemon Museum
Me in front of Christmas tree in Doraemon Museum

In the evening, I reunited with my host family before I left Japan. When I met them in front of my dorm, I was very happy to see them again. We had dinner at a restaurant that served Japanese-style spaghetti (sorry I forgot the name) because it was eaten with chopsticks. During dinner we exchanged gifts with each other. I gave my host family a box of Hawaiian chocolate-covered macadamia nuts along with 3 bags of Kona coffee. In addition, I also gave individual gifts to each of the family members including a toy for the dogs. For my gifts, they gave me a pair of beautiful chopsticks and a hand towel plus, they also had a gift for my real family back home! And they gave me a decorated card with messages including a video made by my host sister. My host family has done so much for me during my homestay, that words cannot express how thankful I am to meet them. I still (and hope to continue to) keep in touch with them even long after my homestay ended. No matter how many International students they “adopted,” and if they get a new one next year, I hope that they will always remembered me. As soon as we returned to my dorm, I wanted to cry but I couldn’t. Right before my host family left, we took a family selfie and I gave my host mother a tight hug before we parted ways. I will say this once again, I WILL HAVE SERIOUS WITHDRAWALS from my host family when I leave Japan.

My host family and I
My host family and I together before we parted ways

Friday 12/07- My last full day in Japan was spent at one of the greatest places in Japan! Can you guess what it was? Here is a hint: It is the happiest place on Earth. That’s right! I went to Tokyo Disneyland! Here are some differences between Disneyland in America and the one in Tokyo. First, the ticket price in Tokyo is cheaper than America’s for a one day pass. Second, Tokyo Disneyland is known for their popcorn. There are many popcorn vendors around the park and they come in many different flavors including a curry-flavored popcorn. Plus, they sell popcorn containers that are shaped like Disney characters that you can use to carry the popcorn in. Plus at Tokyo Disneyland, they have many rides and attractions that are similar to the ones in America such as It’s a Small World and Haunted Mansion. I only stayed a little while because the park closed early that day, and I wasn’t feeling too good in the afternoon. But, I had fun because the park was in their Christmas season which is the most magical time of the year for Disney. Plus, I got to see a parade and got myself a pair of rose-gold Mickey Mouse ears. If I ever decide to go back to Japan, I will definitely go to Tokyo Disneyland again!

Saturday 12/08- This was the day I departed from Japan. Hours before I left my dorm, it was a bit hectic as I had to get everything out of my room, and fit all the souvenirs that I had bought in both of my suitcases. As soon as that was over, we met most of our buddies in the dorm cafeteria. After turning in our insurance cards, room keys, and student IDs, it was a two-hour bus ride to Narita Airport. When we arrived at the airport to check my bags, I found out that one of them was overweight by 11 lbs. Luckily, my KGU buddies helped me make my bag less overweight. I had to end up carrying some of my stuff in a bag, though. Before I proceeded to TSA, we all had dinner together, and took last-minute selfies and goodbyes. Then before I knew it, I was heading back home. Even though it was a 7 hour flight, I slept most of the time and when I woke up, it was already 1 hour before arriving back in the US. As the time was counting down, I thought to myself, “Man, it is going to be so hard going back to reality, and it will feel like c***!” The moment the plane landed in Honolulu, the weather was cloudy with showers. However, there are some things I am looking forward to being back home. I get to spend the holidays with my family, and I get a chance to see my high school Christmas concert since I came home earlier than usual.

Well, that is it for this blog, and the last of the blogs. Looking back at my study abroad experience, I can say I have no regrets. Even though there were some setbacks and challenges, it didn’t stop me from doing things I wouldn’t imagine myself doing. I traveled by myself during fall break to Kyoto and Hiroshima, I tried windsurfing even though I failed, I got used to riding the rail system even though it can get crowded at times, and made some awesome friends and family in Japan. I wish I could stay longer, but next semester I have a 16 credit load, plus I will be in the Hawaiian Club Luau. Yes, I manage to do everything I can possibly do in a short time. If there was song that could describe my experience, it would be “I Lived” by One Republic.

Since this is the last blog, I would like to take some time to say a few thank yous. First, I want thank my Japanese professors Christopher Keaveney, Masayuki Itomitsu, and TA Ayaki Horii. Part of the reason why I am studying abroad is because Japanese is my minor and language minors are required to study abroad for a semester. They were the ones who encouraged me to minor in Japanese and study abroad, while making it possible to pursue the rest of my college career. Second, I would like to thank the Linfield College IPO, specifically Shaik, Matt, Marie, and Michelle. The IPO was a huge help preparing me before, during, and even after studying abroad. They made sure we turned in our forms on time, answered any questions that we had about studying abroad, and made sure our experience was comfortable. Third, even though I already thanked them, I would like to give another thank you to the International Center at KGU (Matsuoka san, Murakami san, and Yamada san). They were the ones who coordinated our time at KGU, our go-to people when we needed help, and blessed me with a loving host family and great KGU buddies. どうもありがとうございました (Thank you very much)! Lastly, I would like to thank YOU for following my journey throughout my blogs which will hopefully inspire you to study abroad in the future if you haven’t. It will change your life for the better, and you won’t regret it. Linfield makes it possible for everyone to study abroad, including nursing students and athletes.

さようなら and Aloha (Goodbye)

-アリッサ クワモト