Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) is a private university founded in 1949. There are 2 campuses-Aoyama Campus in Shibuya, Tokyo and in Sagamihara Campus in Fuchinobe, Kanagawa. It is approximately 90 minutes to commute by train between campuses. Exchange students can choose which campus to study according to the area of study applicable.
To start, a really good song to understand my current situation is Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life.”
Okay! Welcome! As you might have guessed, today’s blog will be about all of the things you can do INSIDE while corona runs rampant in your city.
First! You can drastically change your sleep schedule. My take on this is that when you can turn off all of your alarms and just sleep until you naturally wake up, DO IT! The only downside is that if you stay up late one night you will wake up at 5pm — but hey! cheers to 15 hours of sleep 🙂
Second! You can set health goals and ACTUALLY achieve them! For example, I am learning to do the splits within the month, and learning how to dance (not tiktok, no disrespect but I can’t look at another tiktok dance again), and learning more Japanese and French 😀 CAN YOU TELL I’M BORED???
Fun fact! When I started this post I was in Japan, living my best life with some of my best friends avoiding the impending doom (reality) that is Corona. That very evening, all of our bubbles were popped very quickly and without remorse (I understand the rationale I am just stating this for dramatic flair, I appreciate everyone who has helped and supported me throughout this — shoutout IPO). Long story short I packed up and left Japan two days after I thought I convinced my dad to stay, but alas, I had to depart.
To quickly describe why it hurt so much: I have learned that a semester abroad is a lot like a vacation. You learn a lot, but at the end of the day you’re still trying to absorb information as quickly as you can, still holding a veil over most of the “bad” because you’re so entranced by the “good.” With a year abroad, the sense of urgency isn’t there. The exchange is a walk rather than a run, you’re more willing to stop and smell these flowers because you know you’ll get to the next flower patch in two weeks time.
Your relationships are deeper and more solidified because when you’re staying in a dorm like I was, these people become who you see everyday. Who you cry more with, who you have more inside jokes, you stay up all night to watch the sunrise more with these people that are now your family. All of this was heightened because of Corona. All in-bound exchanges were canceled to AGU so it was just the same people in the dorms — kind of bad it you want to meet new people all the time, but I was okay with it because I was able to strengthen my relationships. Acquaintances were now people that you cooked with every day, laughed with, went to onsens together to become the “naked buddies” (they are the best group of girls I could be around haha). I guess, in a way, it became a mixed-gender Greek house? I don’t usually support Greek life, but if it’s like this then I get why people do it.
I’m hurting because the day I found out I had to go home was the best day of the semester. I was with all of my friends saying goodbye to “season 1,” and celebrating the coming adventures of “season 2.” It was like a bucket of water over my head. I was going home after four of my friends, and then myself, and then two other would follow, and at the time of me writing this, Tokyo has an impending lock-down and everyone might be going home immediately. My family says “I got out before the worst of it” and I agree with them. But just because I agree doesn’t mean that my chest doesn’t ache.
The hardest part is talking to everyone and not wanting to lie when they ask “are you happy to be home.” I know I may be entitled and sound like I don’t understand the severity of the situation, but I think it’s okay to understand the truth of the situation and still hurt.
So as I am no longer in Japan this will be my last blog. I’m sorry I’m not a ray of sunshine in every post like Korea, but I’d like to think I’ve become a bit more observant. That being said, it was lovely to write for you, I am extremely privileged to do what I have done and I hope you enjoy your experiences traveling.
Sometimes I think I lost out on a lot of Linfield connections and missed out of the “power of a small college” experience, but if that’s what’s holding you back from seeing the world then, know that Linfield is a forever kind of thing, the friends you make there are a forever kind of thing, and it would be unfortunate if you didn’t want to go make some forever kind of friends internationally. You’ll help make Linfield and yourself better that way. Grow the understanding of our community. And Linfield is so unique in the opportunities it provides. Go travel by yourself, feel alone, and then feel the creation of community. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced.
My one last bit of advice is to just go experience things. Waiting for the “right” experience isn’t going to help because you’re going to miss every other crazy thing with your tunnel vision.
Oh, and SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL SOLVE A LOT OF PROBLEMS DON’T BE INCONSIDERATE!
So this won’t be long, it’s just a brief update on the happenings of Coronavirus.
Okay so, coronavirus is in Japan (obviously) and there are (I think) over 800 cases and counting. “Scary!” you say, “why don’t you come home?” you follow with. In response, I simply don’t want to. I am personally unconcerned. I think the panic in the United States is both laughable and concerning because all it’s doing in the US (and internationally) is allowing people to be racist, and the panic is causing more problems than solving them.
*GASP* “I am not racist! I have a friend who’s Asian.”
Chill homie, I’m not calling YOU racist, I’m calling your discriminatory actions racist. If you’re in the US you have great (extremely expensive) healthcare and most importantly, most Americans just have ACCESS to healthcare professionals. Anyone can have corona, just because it started in Wuhan doesn’t mean you need to be rude to anyone who looks Asian (this isn’t just a rant, this is happening to my friends). The coronavirus is a flu. You can’t eradicate it, but you can be healthy.
Here is Japan I am unconcerned because:
I have had swine flu before. Was bad, don’t want to do it again, but I figured it out.
I am a healthy person. Try eating healthier, getting lots of rest, I cannot stress the importance of hydration enough, and working out.
The onsens here are genius for preventing illness. You just go to the hot pools or rooms and burn any diseases away
Over the weekend, the Japanese government asked people to stay inside so they could do an extra count of cases, but that genuinely did not stop anyone and everyone from taking that as a “the world is burning down” and bought all of the toilet paper and ramen.
As a side note, I kind of like Japanese panic. If you just came here as a tourist, you would never think that people are becoming concerned. Because there’s this idea that people need to be polite here, there is rarely any verbal exclusion. With that, I’ve talked to a woman who’s in her sixties and she says it’s worse for her. Older people have a higher rate of getting coronavirus (and men are more likely to die — there’s a fact for ya), and this woman said that she coughed on a bus (she was wearing a mask) and someone in front of her got up and moved away. Now, that was just her situation, and I haven’t coughed in public in a while, but I’ve noticed more discrimination towards Japanese people from Japanese people than any other demographic.
just briefly on masks, there are two schools of thought:
“WEAR A MASK ALL THE TIME IF YOU DON’T YOU DIE” and
“masks don’t do anything for corona so why would I even bother?”
Choose your fight folks! Don’t be discriminatory (no matter where you’re from) and please be healthy.
Okay everyone I have to be up in three hours and you need some information so let’s go!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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:
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***
make “breakfast” usually something healthy around 12
have second breakfast directly after — usually ramen
take a nap because eating was exhausting and we deserve it
wake up and leave by 4pm to go do some fun adventure
Alecia had a list of places she wanted to visit in Tokyo so we went there:
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**
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.
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).
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.
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).
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!
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.
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****
First, we went to an onsen in Osaka to have a bath because we decided to sleep in the car (because when Emi and Marina were in Washington we decided to sleep in my moms car that was parked in her driveway on our way back from Canada as a joke and now it’s a tradition). The onsen was really fun and I did this weird stem thing for my back in one of the pools and I felt like I electrocuted my whole body — like couldn’t feel my whole right side, kind of crazy. Apparently it’s supposed to help you physically, but I think it ruined me psychologically. I will get back to you on that in the long run. After almost killing Alecia and Marina in the steam room (because they don’t do well with heat), we went to a salt room and exfoliated our whole bodies and then jumped in the cold pool to make our skin smooth. I am only going this in depth because I feel the need to mention that three years ago when I first met these girls, I did not see us having a casual conversation while being naked.
This whole side adventure is all on the way to Nara, a prefecture that has deer that you can feed. I was really excited to do this as well as Emi and Marina, but Alecia feeds deer all the time since she lives in Alaska (odd Snow White flex but okay) and was less impressed by the idea — until she was highly entertained by the deer biting us if we didn’t feed them fast enough. She was also kind enough to teach us how to feed them so they didn’t nip our fingers, and I would like to say another first in my life is reprimanding a deer for biting me.
Example: *deer bites my sweatshirt* Me: “Hey! Stop that! That is rude and won’t get you food! Life doesn’t work that way!” ***DEER LISTENS AND STOPS***
Like what the heck? What kind animals! They even bow to you if you bow to them — it’s an interesting cultural conditioning. 🙂
道の駅 is a place where we stayed, the name literally translates to “road station” but they are basically rest stops where people can sleep in their cars if they are too tired to drive or truck drivers for example (or us — poor college students that prefer spending money on food than lodgings). Logically, sleeping in the car was a bad idea; the car was too small and my blanket was too little, my legs were too long, and we all were freezing. But the adventure was fun and entertaining as a whole 12/10 don’t regret.
After Nara we drove to Kyoto! The first thing we did was hike up to the top of the Inari-San. The hike wasn’t hard and was about an hour, it was funny because there wasn’t any view of the city from the top that we could see (there was an observation deck at the top but it was closed because we decided to do a night hike). During the day there are shops open so you can eat snacks while you walk, but I preferred the night walk because of the quiet and the wind through the trees. It was very peaceful, but kind of scary if you don’t like the forest, or wild monkeys and boars.
Maiko-san is a similar word for geisha. There’s a street in Kyoto, that is predominantly for Maiko-san, but it is still hard to see them. They are only seen while they are working, and are looking to maintain their privacy so they don’t come out very often. The girls speak differently (in a very old Kyoto dialect) act differently, and live in a dorm with other girls who are also Maiko-san. The girls either choose to go into this rigid life, or they are born into a family of Maiko-san and follow their family’s footsteps. We didn’t see anything while we were in Kyoto, but I thought it was interesting that this tradition managed to stay healthy and maintained while Japan globalized.
The next day we went to see Kinkaku-ji, a bamboo forest and another temple, Byodo-in, and had matcha in a restaurant that’s been open for 500 years. Kinkaku-ji and the bamboo forest were very brief stops, both are famous but as a whole very tourist trap-y in my opinion. The fun thing about Kinkaku-ji is that I went there when I was 13 years old on my first exchange to Japan! Matcha was supposedly created here in this prefecture and this shop has been run by the same family, in the same shop, with no separate locations, for 16 generations. The 13th generation was a tea ambassador to the United States, and presented a tea ceremony in the USA.
Also, in Japan there are nation wide symbols to represent various different things in maps, highway signs, etc. The symbol for tea is this shops emblem that they have used since the start of their business. The day we went to Kinkaku-ji and Byodo-in, by chance we met up with Yusa, a student that went to Linfield my freshman year. He lives in Osaka but texted the Japanese student group chat that he wanted to hang out with someone that day and we were nearby! We met him at Byodo-in and since he has a reputation for knowing everything he taught us about the meaning of Byodo-in (it’s a physical representation of heaven for the Gods) and he also brought us to the matcha place (they still make their matcha today). Afterwards we gave him a ride home to Osaka (by the way, Osaka was ever on the list to visit because Emi said there was nothing to do haha but this would be our second time going in three days) because it was on the way to our next stop, Tottori. In Osaka, Yusa took us to his favorite restaurants where we had okinomiyaki, yakisoba, takoyaki, some fried thing I forgot the name of, then we went to a shrine (that’s famous for being covered in lots of moss??) and they had lots of cats around!
After that we dropped Yusa home and drove on the highways to Tottori. Tottori is famous for having sand dunes which we were excited to joke about being in Dubai in photos, but it ended up snowing really hard so now it’s all covered in snow. It’s really cold here because this area is in a valley (-2 degrees Celsius), so summers are hot and winters are very cold, and the dunes are very pretty and on the ocean. We stayed up until 3:30 a.m. driving and woke up at 6 to see the sunrise. Alecia drove in the snow because she and I have the most experience, but I don’t have an international drivers license so my job is to stay awake with the driver and play music while everyone else rests so they can be good to drive later. In the morning I got to push Emi’s car out of the snow briefly which was fun, but I also felt like my dad for some reason (I haven’t really looked into why I felt that way, and I’m too tired to try but yeah). I’m also writing this on 2 hours of sleep waiting for the cafes to open.
Everyone else got a nap in first before we saw the dunes officially, when we did it was SO beautiful. The sand dunes are really important in Tottori so if you write anything in the sand or take some with you, you will be fined 50,000 USD (which is not worth it in my opinion). Emi and I were in Aikido when we were at Linfield so we did rolls down the mountain until Emi was too dizzy for more. We also (as usual) made sure to lay down in the snow and rest before going to a bakery and getting breakfast. The bakery we went to was so delicious and everything there was 100 ye (about a dollar) so everyone spent way too much money on way too much food, but we girls are not quitters so that food was gone within the hour. After eating we took off to Yamanashi Prefecture (one I have previously talked about in another blog) that is also my favorite prefecture, to show Alecia another onsen and houto before sending her off to Korea.
That’s it for today!
I’m Isis Hatcher and you’re watching Disney Channel!
So today I’m going to talk about my trip to Hiroshima! Let’s start by saying I am not a morning person. By far my least favorite thing to do is to get less than 10 hours of sleep (I happen to do that every night), and for this trip I woke up at 6:20 a.m. and had to make it to my friend’s house where she would be first driver (I got 4).
Japanese highways are super expensive, a two hour drive on the highways usually cost $60 round trip, and so the four of us budgeted to spend about $100 on highways each (keep that in mind if you ever decide to roadtrip).
Some fun facts for the trip down!
– We almost ran out of gas twice which shouldn’t be possible but we are really good at going above and beyond so…
– We coasted 1.5 kilometers to the gas station on basically no gas.
– We had several dance parties and listened to some really good Japanese music — both Okinawan and main island Japanese music.
– One artist that’s really famous got arrested for meth possession on Valentine’s Day.
– I like to hold my breath when I go through tunnels which is fun until Japanese tunnels are 250-3000 meters long which is a wild ride on my body.
– Tunnels are long bc most go through the mountains
– In the morning Emi lost her contacts and found them underneath her the whole time.
– Our hostel was super cute. We stayed in the mixed dorm which was cheaper than the all-female dorm. There was a boy who was four years old, the son of the people who owned the hostel, and his name was Haru-kun. He was very cute and showed us his legos. He also called me 変なおねちん and then when I said that was mean Emi asked him to apologize to which he said “even if I apologize she’d still be sad” lolll
– They had a very cute dog named オット (Otto)
Hiroshima was very emotional. There’s a way to balance the information they deliver in the museum. You first see the last standing building from the blast. Then you have the ability to see the place where they’ve memorialized the victims. There’s one specifically for the children that died.
In the 40s, children after the age of 12 were enlisted to work for the military while at school. The children that died were working to move materials at a demolition site. The museum there is very sad, it’s hard to not cry as they provide you with first hand accounts and some very detailed, unedited footage and photos of people before and after the blast. It also serves as a way for people to understand that we need to live without nuclear weapons and promotes activism towards building a world like that.
I thought it was interesting how many people brought up in class or at the memorial that Obama came to visit Hiroshima. There was a general feeling of positive reception with him coming, and I think it was criticized because he was the only foreign dignitary to visit Hiroshima. As a whole it was a very good experience, and after we got 広島焼 (Hiroshima-yaki), which is similar to okinomiyaki but is made with soba noodles. It was very, very good and thoroughly recommend it.
If you get this far, tell someone you love them. If there’s anything this trip taught me, it’s that you don’t want to waste your time. If you care, talk about it. If you love, tell them. And if you want something to change do something. There is so much ego involved in our lives that prevents us from seeing people as equals; people worth living. And if we could all think a little more critically when thinking about how WE think, the world would be an infinitely better place.
Honestly I have been trying to find things to write about — obviously I have been doing things, but I have found myself so stressed out and angry on a macro scale that I don’t even really understand what the point is of the minute details of my trip.
On the outside I am in Japan. I live in Musashi-Kosugi in a lovely neighborhood surrounded by children. My room seems like a shoebox sometimes but it has everything anyone would need and is very enlightening on my perception of size. I have friends that I go out to eat with, go to the gym with, I hike mountains and ice skate and spend hours in arcade centers that you literally cannot imagine the US having, and I acknowledge, truthfully, that I live a very good life here.
But I have exited the honeymoon phase of my trip — turns out when you live in another country it just becomes home, and home is often not interesting. I have fallen into the mundane, I have finals — school is very different here and yet the same.
I genuinely feel like I am learning everything but nothing that they say you would. Classes are held once a week so you can take more — which I enjoy. Attendance is the only thing that truly matters and as long as you have a credible school your GPA doesn’t matter; people sleep through their classes or don’t show up and it’s still so strange how little ambition people show in the classroom. Once you get in it’s not competitive until you look for a job. It’s similar to home in that everyday I think of dropping out and becoming a stripper, everyday I struggle with knowing that I love to learn but I hate school (it’s toxic and this environment is too much like high school drama, truly chaotic stuff).
Though I have become a more informed person, more critical. I have met with outstanding human beings and shed tears with ones that would make a difference if only the world really wanted that. I think I have realized just how unimportant we all are. I work with kids here — one told me she wants to work at the OECD when she’s older (I was stupefied because majority of adults don’t even know what that is). She was eye-opening because she was the first young girl I have met here that has said something other than “mom” and “teacher” for careers (I acknowledge that both of those careers are tremendously hard and deserve more recognition but you know what I mean). What I meant by that is that there is very rarely an “out of the norm” experience here. Things that happened in the past, will happen today because to try to change is upsetting the social rules that dictate law. I feel as though we are unimportant because when she told me what she wanted to do in the future, my first reaction was “impressive,” and the second was “enough people will tell her she can’t by the time she gets to uni.”
Learning more has made me feel more helpless — hopeless. There is a lot I can do as an individual, but nothing happens unless there is social change, and ultimately corporate change because I have learned that politics follows the money.
How can everyone live their lives facing facts and still prioritize their own selfishness over collective good? I ask myself this everyday.
On the opposite hand I have met some remarkable people. My professor of American politics is an advisor for the Japanese Defense Department and knows more about U.S. Presidents than I ever bothered considering. I have spoken with a 75 year old man who lost his wife (he gave me the best advice on love I ave ever received). I have met a Japanese girl who is 22 years old and lobbying the government for women’s rights. I felt the thickness in the air as she called Japan “a backwards country,” one that ‘has created refugees’ (sexual assault victims) while only allowing 10% into the country (that’s 20 families btw). I have met classmates that are the only two women in their law classrooms and others who want to legalize same-sex marriage. These are outstanding human beings.
I am happy here, despite this. I want to scream most of the time — this is not a country for those who want to think outside the norm; not vocally. But this is a country based on culture and tradition, and for me, coming from a country that has no consistent culture (culture is based off of every family’s ethnic background and environment in the States), and traditions that are deeply related to your environment and the color of your skin, it’s refreshing to only be an other by my nationality and not what I look like.
I understand that this was not fun or inviting or entertaining in the least. But I have had writers block for four months now and I have desperately needed to get this off my chest.
Let’s first start out with a “Merry Christmas!” now that Spooky Season is no longer upon us
This one will brief — I just wanted to talk about my trip to Saitama and Halloween.
SO, Halloween in Japan is really intense. As a country, Japan celebrates many holidays, and most of them are spent with family or if you ask college students, spent sleeping or working. Halloween and Christmas are the only two holidays that have been adapted into Japan and both aren’t usually family holidays, more so something that you spend with your friends. I haven’t experienced Christmas here yet, but I heard it’s when you go to karaoke with your friends all night for the entire break (wowza) or go clubbing (also a big “yikes”).
Halloween on the other hand is an entirely different beast. During the week up to Halloween, the night streets of Tokyo are flooded with people in costume and already busy parts of the city become unbearable. This year, drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco on the streets (something that’s usually legal) were banned in Shibuya. This was due to the danger that occurs when several million people come to Shibuya to celebrate Halloween. A few residents of Shibuya told me that the city of Tokyo spent over $250,000 on police reinforcements to prevent the rioting that usually occurs during the holiday.
When I first heard this I made up my mind to go and see the chaos for myself, but it was so busy the weekend before and I could barely move anywhere, so I didn’t see the point in going, and I was also deterred by the knowledge that last year people got really drunk and flipped a truck over and started vandalizing shops. A truck. a T R U C K. Overall, I stayed at my dorm during Halloween, watched a movie, and went to bed early (it was an overwhelmingly positive decision in my book).
There were a few Halloween parties that I went to, the one in my dorm was for a cupcake decorating competition, and all the kids in the neighborhood came to trick or treat with all of us. It was really fun, they auctioned off prizes and we played a massive game of infection (if you haven’t played before you’re missing out). That evening we had a Halloween gathering, where we had unlimited food and karaoke. It was really fun and I lost my voice but what else is new :))
NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT SAITAMA
My trip to Saitama was really fun, I went with a group of Aoyama students — it was sort of a field trip which was really fun for me (like I was back in elementary school). Saitama is a smaller town up towards the mountains. There I got to make my own stamp (carved it myself – yes I did – that was me), after which I picked some grapes. These grapes are extremely expensive and cost about three dollars for just a single one, so a bushel, (a bunch? a gaggle?) costs anywhere from thirty-five to fifty dollars. Since they were so expensive we all got the larger bushels thinking that we would get them for free — which is true, we did — we just didn’t know that we had to finish all of the grapes right then. So, we proceeded to each eat about 20-30 grapes in one sitting under 15 minutes (I know it doesn’t sound too bad but these grapes are huge).
Note – ***fun fact*** we played chubby bunny with the grapes and I can fit nine in my mouth before I can’t breathe fully. Hehe – (in positive news I won so yay!)
Anyway, we all thought we were going to die of grapes and many of the people there have sworn off grapes for the next several months haha!
It was a very long day (and a very fun one) and I hit my head on every door of every bathroom I went into so if you’re above average in height make sure you duck 🙂
Okay, that is it! I love you and have a love life with my beautiful people!
Sorry for not writing for such a long time, I think I have hit a point in my travels where I feel severely unbalanced in the time that I apply to school, friends, interests, and most importantly myself.
I wanted this post to be fun, but I think it’s important to talk about some more “real” things — mainly how to travel and not feel disconnected from yourself and the struggles of navigating a society different than your own (JUST BRIEFLY).
I would like to start by saying that I love Japan, the people here are very kind, very helpful, and there’s a certain comfort knowing that no one really cares about what you’re doing — with over 30 million people living in one area, it’s hard to think longer than 30 seconds about other people and their actions. With that, it’s also important to note that I have a pass because I am obviously a foreigner. I have friends that are Taiwanese, Korean, and Chinese and just because their nationality isn’t starkly obvious, their experience with some Japanese people have been harsher and much more stressful for them to experience. I can’t directly speak to this because I do not live and experience this, but I would just keep that in mind if you come to Japan. I am also trying to unpack how I feel about being on the outside (and the excuses you have because of it) and the truth that you will never be truly allowed in.
Self care wise, I am trying to put into practice saying no — this is the opposite of my original plan because I want to experience a lot of things, but it’s taking a toll on me and therefore I need to cut back on some things . I acknowledge that I am hypocritical because this is my main issue — but I’m trying to do one thing that is JUST for me, once a day. My dad says “find a garden” when ever I am stressed but that’s a bit hard when you’re in a city packed with buildings (haha). Since I am hyper-extroverted, the best I can do now is to take time by myself. I try to commute to school by myself so I can listen to music and read a bit before I throw myself into the lives of other people.
OKAY! THAT WAS IT! NOW THAT WE’VE CLEARED THAT UP — LET’S TALK ABOUT FUN THINGS
ALRIGHT ALRIGHT ALRIGHT ALRIGHT, SO. Since I’ve last updated I have experienced a trip to see Mt. Fuji, a typhoon, a copious amount of classes, a shopping spree, and a temple — you ready for the briggity break down?
“Leggo” — Alexander Hamilton
MY TRIP TO MT. FUJI
Super fun! I went to Yamanashi Prefecture, which is roughly a two-hour drive from Tokyo (my friend Emi drove), and it is BEAUTIFUL — I needed to see some nature and you bet I got my fix. It’s very cool because Tokyo is just buildings but you get 30 minutes outside of the city (by car) and it’s just mountains and trees — so extremely green <3.
The downside of the trip was that we went on a cloudy day so we didn’t actually get to see the mountain (we’re dumb we know) — we still had a blast, we went and ate houda — a udon-esqe noodle that is famous within Yamanashi. The best part of this dish is that IT ONLY HAS VEGETABLES IN IT! WOOHOO! GO ME! GO YAMANASHI!! GO VEGGIE-BASED DISHES! FINALLYYYYYY!!!
Afterwards we went to a lake (where you can see the mountain) but conveniently for us and our overcast weather, got to hang out on the lake and look at everything else other than the mountain. In our pursuit of some sick views, we went to a shine/lookout for Mt. Fuji (the one that you have most likely seen on every google search for Japan).
Woot! Woot! If you have kept up with our current trend, we didn’t see the mountain but got a pretty great view of the city.
To make the trip worth it, we went to an onsen: a Japanese bathhouse that was on top of a mountain, where you can look out and see all of the city lights — it was seriously one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen (the entire city laid out against a mountain; the lights looked like extremely bright stars in the sky) I would have taken a picture but obviously cameras are not allowed in a bathhouse. Also if you were unaware Japanese onsen are primarily anti-tattoo, and requires you to be naked, so if you feel uncomfortable, that’s something to consider.
Briefly on onsen’s, most are divided into male and female sections and then there are some that are meant for couples so both men and women can go, but that has a reputation of quite a few pervy men so attend with that in mind (yikes).
*** FUN FACT*** If I can be 100% honest, I totally forgot that I had tattoos until I was already in the water and my friend and I were freaking out that I’d be kicked out but we managed to attend one that is tattoo friendly without even checking 🙂 what great timing 🙂
THE TYPHOON was a little more concerning, we got the largest typhoon of the year a few weeks ago, and it was my first time prepping for a natural disaster so I made sure I had water and non-perishable food for three days. I also moved my bed away from my window because the wind was so strong a newspaper would’ve shattered it. In actuality I thought the typhoon was anticlimactic, I spent a lot of time playing mahjong, and taking naps, eating food and watching movies, until the next day when I found out that within my prefecture 15 people died, and several others died outside of my prefecture, with heavy amounts of flooding, but based off of where my building was located, I had no major issues with the storm. If you have a Japanese phone number you would’ve received alerts of the storm, where flooding has occurred , who needs to evacuate, etc. I do not have a Japanese phone number, so I found information on tv, they have specific apps to alert you, and the internet is always a good source (the internet doesn’t lie right?)
THE TEMPLE on the other hand, was really quite lovely. My friends and I went a few days after the typhoon since the weather after a typhoon is always extremely sunny (I don’t know why that is but it’s been very consistent so far). The temple was situated within a very quite part of town, semi-large apartment buildings, a vending machine directly outside, and a 7-11 down the street — you enter into an older, silent, more peaceful world when you cross into the temple. When you first enter, it is customary to wash your hands and mouth, to purify your body before you enter a holy space. Although it was primarily Shinto, it maintained a significant amount of Buddhist influences and the marriage between the two faiths was beautiful. Although I was not allowed to take photos of the inside of the temple, and I don’t consider myself to be religious, there was still this overwhelming amount of comfort that settled on me when I entered. I felt like I was able to receive some clarity, could see myself and the world around me a bit better — what I needed to do and what I needed to do specifically for me and my health. I’m sure my experience is not the same as everyone else’s, but if you ever have a chance, I recommend going, sitting quietly, and taking some time to listen to what the earth wants to tell you. It’s extremely rewarding.
Alrighty folks, that’s all I got for ya this time around! I’ll write more soon I promise 🙂
Welcome to Japan! I hope you can live vicariously through me happily through all the struggles, adventures, and stressors (mainly from school haha).
I would like to start with the hardest experience I’ve had while being in this country: Getting Home From the Airport. (DUN DUN DUUUUUUNN)
Everything about my flight was amazing until I landed. Due to the power of Japanese weather and glorious timing from the universe, the largest typhoon of the year hit Tokyo during my flight, and while it didn’t delay anything flight wise, land was proving to be the harder challenge. The typhoon shut down the highways, stopped trains, and slowed every mode of transportation in and out of the airport. Someone fainted in line while we were waiting for customs to move, and due to the weather there were fewer employees able to get into work. Needless to say, after sitting on the airport floor for hours in front of a ‘closed-for-inventory Starbucks’ (the worst timing, truly) I was a shell of a human and my friends finally made it to the airport to pick me up.
My friends, Emi and Zeno, were both exchange students at Linfield. They were without a doubt the greatest gift I could’ve received in that moment — they were in the car for nine hours trying to get to me, and then drove me two more hours to my dorm so I wouldn’t have to worry about sleeping in the airport. Very simply I owe them everything 🙂
With that being my first experience with the country, I have a pretty good feeling that everything can go up. It was a really great bonding experience amongst people in my dorm to discuss the various ways we struggled with getting to the country.
The days following were pretty amazing. I made friends quickly and we’ve spent lots of time exploring around Tokyo. Akihabara is basically anime heaven, whereas Shinokubo is for everything K-pop. I live in Kanagawa prefecture, more specifically Musashikosugi. It’s a quieter part of the city, suburbs are still very crowded but you can very quickly recognize the craziness of Tokyo and the lack of noise (specifically in smaller areas).
A few things to take note of while here:
A store called SoapLand is a brothel so don’t go in there (whatever floats your boat but maybe just be aware of what you’re getting into). I thought it was really cool that there was a whole store dedicated to soap and when I suggested we go in my friend laughed really hard at me, so I would just stress the fact that its fun to experience things but at the same time do so with a friend that knows more about the city for a bit longer and can guide you.
There is an old woman in Shinjuku, I only mention this because she apparently has done this to multiple people, but she will ask you for money and when you refuse she gets very aggressive. In my situation, she asked for money and when I didn’t respond she cut me off from my friends, grabbed my arm and started shaking it. My friend then pulled my arm away because she was shouting a lot and we ran off. She then proceeded to yell “never come back to Japan” at me. A chaotic experience, but a learning moment definitely. (Also my teacher experienced the same thing, so what a bonding moment!)
Make sure you leave extra early for class, the commute could be anywhere from 30 min to an hour and 45 min.
If you’re a vegetarian, short statement: give up. Nearly every dish will have meat incorporated in it. THAT BEING SAID I am a vegetarian. It’s harder to find meals, but I have been forced to become a better cook (which I’m sure my parents are happy to hear).
Lastly, 7-11 in America is not 7-11 here. It is extremely fancy (and super healthy?!) most people will buy basic meals from there and they have everything from cup ramens, to pesto pasta, to salads, to sushi. All-in-all just a pretty good place, not just your everyday slurpee stop.
That’s it for now my lovely humans, thanks for hanging out!
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!
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.
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.
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.