Alive and Thriving?

Welcome, everyone!

(Warning: This might be kinda long.)

My name is Alecia Barlow, and I cordially invite you all to join me (virtually) throughout my adventures in Japan and South Korea. This spring semester, I am set to study abroad in South Korea; however, starting early February, I galivanted around Japan for three weeks on a quest to visit friends and explore as much as possible (more about that coming up). I’m currently in South Korea, and I feel as if I should briefly address the elephants in the room before I carry on with my blog.

  1. Yes, I do know that the coronavirus (aka COVID-19) is spreading throughout East Asia and is becoming quite a hot topic. I am and have been taking the necessary precautions to keep myself and others around me healthy, but I also don’t want to let fear get in the way of me experiencing new things. I’m realistic about my situation, but I’m also not going to let fear control my life.
  2. Yes, I do know that Kim Jong Un exists and is a possible threat. First of all, I think that’s the least of the world’s worries right now, and I can promise you that I won’t cross over into North Korea—though I might be tempted to go to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) ;).

I will most likely talk more about these topics later on in my study abroad experience, but for now I’d like to talk about other fun things that have happened.

SO. Japan…WOW.


(also I apologize for the quality of some of these photos because I can’t seem to keep my hand steady for some reason)

What a time and a half. I arrived in Japan around 6:45 p.m. their time, and my friends Isis Hatcher and Emi Kishi picked me up from the airport. Emi went to Linfield as a Japanese exchange student and Isis is a Linfield student doing an exchange at Aoyama Gakuin University for the year. Naturally, the first thing I had to eat in Japan was…conveyor belt sushi. Try the cheesy salmon nigiri—it’s delicious. And, yes, I’m lactose intolerant, but sometimes I like to test the limits of my body. What can I say? Cheese is cheese.

For the next couple of days, Isis, Emi and Marina (another Japanese student who did an exchange at Linfield), and I stayed at Emi’s uncle’s apartment in Kanagawa. We explored some of the surrounding areas and ate good food like Ichiran (basically ramen but fast-food style), cheese dog, and more ramen (lol I love ramen).

Me, Isis, and Emi at an Ichiran counter with bowls of ramen in front of us.
Ramen is life.
My friend Emi eating a cheese dog on the side of the street
I ate one bite because I wasn’t trying to die from cheese that day.

We visited a shrine, experienced Shibuya Crossing, and went out to eat at an izakaya with our friends Rei and Zeno who are also Japanese students who did an exchange at Linfield!

Me jumping and striking a pose in front of a wooden torii gate.
Me jumping in front of a wooden torii gate. Sorry to the girl whose photoshoot I probably ruined…oops.
The entrance to the shrine. Magnificent building with lanterns decorating the front.
The entrance to the shrine.
A large crowd of people waiting on the sidewalk to cross at Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing.
Me, Isis, Emi, Zeno, and Rei posing for the camera in a room in an izakaya
Good food and drink with friends!

We also explored Akihabara which is famous for otaku culture, and I got to experience an onsen for the first time!

A mural of cartoons on a wall in Akihabara
Oh, look! A wild Isis and a cool mural.

We went to this place called Team Lab Borderless Museum, and it was super cool and trippy. I almost ran into a few walls.

Flowers are projected onto every surface of the room creating a borderless feel
Flowers are projected onto every surface of the room creating a borderless feel.

Then I went to go visit my friend Minami Yamamoto (another Japanese exchange student who had gone to Linfield). We went to Disney Sea with Risa (another Japanese exchange student who studied at Linfield — oh, the connections you’ll make at Linfield!), the ocean, Yokohama, and Kamakura. We got to see a big Buddha statue in Kamakura, and we ate dozens of fresh strawberries at a strawberry park in Yokohama.

Me, Minami, and Risa posing in front of an Aladdin themed fountain
Apparently, this is a popular photo spot, so naturally, we had to take a photo! ALSO, curry popcorn is officially the best kind of popcorn. I had three bags of it. Too good.
Pretty yellow lanterns hang over the main walkway in Yokohama's Chinatown
Yokohama’s Chinatown!







A gigantic statue of buddha with a blue sky behind it and some fruit by its legs
Wow, that’s a big Buddha.

After my time with Minami was over, I went back to Shibuya area and hung out with Marina and Isis. We traveled to Asakusa and went to yet another shrine!

Me, Marina, and Isis in front of the entrance gate to the shrine. The entrance has a big lantern featured in the middle of the doorway colored red and gold.
Another shrine, another silly pose
Melon pan being held up in front of a road full of shops and food places








So, now it was time for the road trip. Four girls, one tiny car, driving around Japan for five days.

First, we went to Hiroshima, saw the last standing building after the bomb hit and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was very hard and emotional to walk through the museum and memorials surrounding it, and I encourage more people to educate themselves on the devastating effects of the U.S.’ actions both in Japan and other places around the world.

Ruins of the last standing building from pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima
The last standing building from pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima

Next up was the Fushimi Inari Shrine where we got to see the famous Torii gates. It was nighttime when we got there so the photos aren’t the best, but it’s all about the company right? Then, we experienced the majesty of the Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, bamboo forest, and Byodoin.

Isis, Emi, and Marina doing a silly pose in front of orange and black arches
The famous torii gates featuring three goofballs.
A golden temple with a nice lake in front and a tree on a mini island in the water
The Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple!
A view from the ground looking up in the middle of the bamboo forest
Bamboo forest!









Byodoin, a red temple during the sunset
Byodoin—Featured on the 10 yen coin!







Then, we went to the Tottori Sand Dunes…except they were covered in snow!

Snow covered sand dunes with a peak of the ocean
Where’s the sand? This Alaskan came to see sand dunes, but I guess I’ll never escape the snow…

And last but not least…Mt. Fuji! (and another onsen with Mt. Fuji as the view)

A beautiful sunny day with a red/green temple and Mt. Fuji in full view
What a beauty.
Me, Isis, Marina, and Emi posing in front of Mt. Fuji and a red/green temple
What a way to end our road trip!

And that was the end of the road trip! I was so sleep deprived the whole entire time, but it was totally worth it. 10/10 would recommend.

Ok, I know this is already really long, but I only have a little bit more to say. Please stay with me lol.


So, now I’m in South Korea at Yonsei’s dorms. I’m conducting a self-quarantine, so that means I see and interact with no one in-person for two weeks and can’t leave my room. All I can do is just keep up with the news and keep an ear out for updates from the university or other international students through a group chat I’m in. Am I afraid that my semester might be canceled? Yeah, of course. But, I’ve decided to just take things day by day because that’s all I can do. I will live in the now and try to make the most out of the time I have here.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me. My parents, IPO, my friends—you all rock. Even when I can’t leave my room, have to be dependent on some random stranger for delivering me food, and have uncertainty as a big part of my life, my panic goes away because I remember all of the people who are cheering me on at home and believe in me. Thank you.

Yours truly,