Finale of Road Trip and an Impromptu Best Friend Appreciation Post

Okay everyone I have to be up in three hours and you need some information so let’s go!

2 students driving on the way to Yamanash in the car. Marina was passed out in the back seat.
Us extremely tired on the way to Yamanashi, and the last photo of us in the car.

To finalize my road trip let’s start with Yamanashi. Getting to Yamanashi from Tottori was really crazy because it was supposed to be a 7-8 hour drive that quickly turned into late night, sleep deprived chaos. This all began with Emi’s car navigation malfunctioning and taking us the wrong way for four hours. The way the road trip has been informally structured is that two people will sleep at a time so everyone is rested (that’s not exactly followed all the time). Emi and Marina figured this out and switched to phone navigation, but when we switched drivers with an hour and a half left to go we didn’t communicate and turned the phone navigation off and fell asleep (mind you we’re still on two hours of sleep). We woke up in Kawasaki, 20 minutes away from Emi’s house and 2 hours away from our hostel.

A bowl of food in the foreground, and two girls eating behind it.
Make sure you come hungry because there’s so much food for each person you can barely finish it.

We then had to turn around and drive all the way back to Yamanashi where we almost got hit by a truck (long story) and were put in potentially dangerous, vehicle-involving near incidents along the way. Aside from this, I have been reading a spiritual self-help book that Emi brought, and all of us have been practicing living in the Now. Now meaning our every moment, and living life where if we decide that we are going to be lazy (for example) you are fully lazy and not lazy but also thinking about what you should be doing. Do something or don’t; and if you can’t do it then, don’t bother thinking about it because it’s interrupting your current ability to enjoy everything you are doing in the moment. It has kind of been the theme of this trip which I really appreciate and am glad to have brought into my life.

Picture of mountain with trees and a building in the foreground.
Same view from my previous post about Yamanashi but this time Fuji-san is not shy.

If you remember from one of my first posts, we took Alecia to the same place I went last time where you can see Fuji. Unlike last time where it was cloudy, this time the sky was quite clear and it was easy to see Fuji-san at the temple and everywhere we went. Afterwards we went to an onsen to see Fuji outside and relax which we managed to do for three hours (super relaxing, I am addicted to onsens as in I’m going tomorrow). Then we went to eat houto, a flat, udon like noodle with lots of veggies, where we all got food babies and then drove home to Emi’s house. I finally got to meet Emi’s family which was so fun and explained so much about who Emi is as a person, and met her dog ichi-go (15, whose name both means strawberry and the discounted price they got him at lol) and prepared to take Alecia to the airport at 4 a.m.

Now on to Alecia.

Image of two girls holding s'mores in front of an open computer.
The first night Alecia came to Japan we ate s’mores in Emi’s apartment

To start, I forgot a lot of the good Linfield has done for me. Sometimes it’s hard to study abroad because your head is so full of what you don’t have at home rather than what you have. Amongst the Linfield community there are about five people I see taking with me throughout the rest of my life and one of those is Alecia. Alecia and I are both the same and total opposites. We have the same morals and beliefs but different approaches, and even when we’re agreeing we still manage to argue. But as a whole Alecia makes me a better person, reminds me of who I am, and always pushes me to change for me and no one else. She has quickly become one of my greatest supporters and vice versa, and having her in Japan made me realize the importance of having someone like Alecia around. I’ve realized that while I have had an amazing time and met truly some of my best friends for life, it is so important to have the people you love around you.

Two girls standing in Shibuya Crossing with people crossing the street behind them.
I personally think Shibuya crossing is overrated, but the best part of this photo is Alecia running into someone directly after haha.

It was interesting bringing both of my worlds together and seeing how they fit, understanding the chaos of my best friend and how that matches with my own. Alecia being here reminded me of the importance of taking pictures (even though she hates them) because you want to save precious memories, the thrill of seeing a country for the first time, the nervousness of traveling alone — I had to FaceTime her at the station while she was in Ikebukuro trying to find her way to her hostel and talk her down from crying, and she then returned the favor when I broke down in a Starbucks because of how overwhelmed I felt by life. I have learned that while I don’t cry in front of a lot of people, I can cry in front of Alecia. She brings stability to unstable situations, and although she doubts herself I think she’s perfect at being in foreign countries.

As I am writing this, as it is now tomorrow, Alecia is currently waiting for the counters to open at the airport. She goes off on her own study abroad journey today. Saying goodbye was really hard for Emi, Marina and I, but we left each other with the understanding that we will see each other in Alaska, as it’s now Alecia’s turn to show us her home.

Four friends smiling and gathered around a table.
The four of us at Takoyaki. Zeno was really nice and bought it for us. This was also right before Zeno went backpacking in South America 🙂

While Alecia was here we had many interesting conversations about how she felt to be in Asia. Alecia and I share a similar relationship with identity, as I grew up feeling like I didn’t fit into either the stereotypical lives of “fully” black or “fully” white families, and Alecia is ethnically Asian but grew up within a predominately white community and therefore feels like she’s not Asian enough. This changed my perception of my own ability to walk through Asia, as the treatment the two of us received was very different: she would be spoken to in Japanese and me English immediately, and the look on people’s faces when she responded in English was very insightful to immediate perceptions (not to sound accusatory but it is just interesting to see how Alecia adapted to that).

Actual adventures with Alecia:

Three friends standing under a large, red lantern.
Marina, Alecia, and I at Senso-ji.

I break down Alecia’s visit in three different parts, one for each week. First we have our adventures with Emi and Marina at Emi’s apartment. This mini-insight in how we would live together was so much fun because we laid out futons on the floor in the living room so we were always together, and this was the general break down:

  1. wake up from 10-12 ***Alecia was jet lagged so she would always wake up at 7 or 8 and then go back to sleep and Marina was looking for an apartment or had plans with friends so she would wake up at 10 and be out by 11***
  2. make “breakfast” usually something healthy around 12
  3. have second breakfast directly after — usually ramen
  4. take a nap because eating was exhausting and we deserve it
  5. wake up and leave by 4pm to go do some fun adventure
    1. Alecia had a list of places she wanted to visit in Tokyo so we went there:
      1. we first went to Akihabara which was pretty short because even though I was the only one that has been there, it’s not very interesting if you don’t like anime or maid cafes. ***I bought a Star Wars sticker and we saw some creepy guy talking to a maid on the street who was advertising her store**
      2. repeat steps 1-5 but 5.1.1 is now Harajuku. We just walked through because it’s a lot of shopping and we saw the Lolita culture (hyper feminine outfits) and then took Alecia to Meiji-jingu to pray at the shrine.

        We took photos right before this and Emi clicked on the wrong eye size so I look like an alien
      3. that night we met up with Zeno and Rei and went and got dinner and then got Takoyaki in Shibuya before almost missing the last train and having to sprint our way through Shibuya in order to make it (very chaotic, very fun in my opinion, Alecia thinks differently hehe).
      4. the next day we went and got dinner in Shin-Okubo (KoreaTown). After walking around a bit and seeing some shops, we went and ate our weight in food and talked a bit about what Korea might be like for Alecia. I tried to answer her questions as best I could, but at the end of the day you can’t ever be prepared to be in another country for a long period of time.
      5. not to always talk about Onsens, but we went to Yokohama to go to a really cool onsen where they have lot of different rooms of varying heat where you can fall asleep for hours and just purge your body of any stress or toxins. Alecia loved it except the 87 degree Celsius room where she claims she was going to pass out. The spa also had little capsules where you can just nap and a reading area. It’s basically a fun place to take naps in different places (which is extremely under appreciated).

        this room was so hot!
        This was the area where people are clothed so you can bring your phones. The rooms are different temperatures and you basically just choose what temp you want to nap in (my favorite thing ever)
      6. TeamLab! Go there! totally worth it but also make sure you have hours to explore. It’s really dark inside and you have no map and the art changes so you have to keep going back to different to rooms to get the true experience. My favorite part was when you got to color an animal or flower and they scan it into the room so your art becomes part of the artwork. I was also jealous of the kids section where they could jump on trampolines and effect the universe by jumping on a star and destroying it and then following the atoms and molecules.  20/10 GO THERE!
Two girls in a room with very red balloons.
TeamLab babyyy

The second part of Alecia’s trip is the time that she spent with Minami, a girl who studied abroad at Linfield our sophomore year. I didn’t spend time with her during that time because I had plans that week so I’ll let her tell you of her adventures, but I had to say goodbye to friends. The semester ended and all my friends that were staying for six months had to go home. It was really sad because the best way to have new hope for the world is to talk to the people in the dorm and remind yourself that there are some truly intelligent, empathetic, genuine human beings all over the world. Goodbyes are bittersweet because some people you know that realistically you will never see them again, and it’s really hard to think about. Anyway, I spent time with some truly amazing people, played dungeons and dragons, and learned how to make fettuccine sauce from scratch.

Girl striking a fun pose on a side street in Shinjuku.
This is a side street in Shinjuku. Not many foreigners come through here and you can see very small local restaurants (usually they only seat 6 people at a time).

The third part is the road trip up until Alecia left. The day before we went on the road trip, Alecia came out to dinner with my friends from the dorm. It was fun to see all of them getting along and my friend Serena turned to me and went “you guys are the same person!” because Alecia brought up toxic masculinity hehe. Everyone loved her and not that I need it but it’s nice to know that the people you care also care about each other :). Road trip wise, you already got that information, but I will say it was the best trip of my life so far. I don’t know if I’m going to be living in Japan in the future, but I do think that Japan has created some extremely amazing experiences for me to have, and for that I am thankful.

Thank you so much for following along so far, I know I can be a little abstract at times.

I bid you adieu until the aliens attack,


****I have gotten 2 hours and 45 minutes of sleep within the past two days, forgive me****