Bucket List–My Final Post

Hello, everyone!

I am writing this post from my couch, safe and sound, back in my home state of Michigan.

Looking back on my time in Japan, I’ve had a lot of things on my to-do list that I haven’t been able to do due to distance, construction, or time/money restraints, and I did get a little bit bummed out about it, but then I thought to myself, you know what? I’ve already done a lot! Some of the things I didn’t even think I’d ever accomplish, but was able to check off my bucket list!! Let me share with you some examples:

I went to Sanrio Puroland (an amusement park for Sanrio characters)

I designed a tattoo

I joked around with a radio station staff in Harajuku

I experienced two earthquakes

I got to ride a Shinkansen 3 times

I missed the last train home (and made it back safe on foot!)

I tried natto (and loved it!)

I tried umeboshi (and hated it)

I went to several shrines

I got my nails done

I went to a Japanese rave/club

I saw several wedding processions, both traditional and Western styles

I learned a lot about Japanese samurai and castles

I saw sakura (cherry blossoms) and ate tons of sakura flavored food

I am now featured on Google Maps’ street view next to my local train station

I walked right by a boyband signing autographs

I went to several summer fireworks displays (including a private showing on a mountainside lake)

I found a thrift store close to my apartment

I made my own dinner almost every day

I walked along two different beaches

I wore a kimono (and now have my own yukata!)

I ate almost every type of traditional Japanese food (except the meat dishes)

I went all over Tokyo, as well as Yokohama, Gunma, Nagoya, and Hakone

I went to Tokyo Disney Sea

I saw a 500-year old bonsai tree

I met a monkey and got to hang out with cats, hedgehogs, dogs, and all kinds of birds

I saw several politicians campaigning in the streets of Tokyo before the election for the new mayor

I got to drive to the top of two different mountains

I got to see a live concert event for free from my seat in a nearby restaurant

I discovered the cheapest places to get groceries, do karaoke, and go out to dinner

I made my own fudge (on the first try without any recipe!) along with other American sweets for my host family

I got to play with kids at a day care and an elementary school

I ate at a prison-themed restaurant

I went to two museums

I went inside an old castle

I attended a hip-hop dance class

I gave directions to other foreigners

I saw Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree

I went shopping down Character Street inside of Tokyo Station

I ate French flan, Liberian milk candy, Vegemite, and English toffee crisps

I saw two movies in the Japanese movie theaters

I ate traditional Nagoyan miso udon (spicy soy paste flavored noodles)

I learned calligraphy and traditional tea ceremony rituals

I read my favorite children’s book in Japanese

I went to several Studio Ghibli stores

I went inside a Buddha statue

I went to a bamboo forest

I saw three monks

…and probably many other things that aren’t coming to mind as I write this.

Thanks for following me this far during my travels to Japan!! I learned a lot on my trip, and I hope my readers could learn something, too! I’m thankful for my time abroad and for the opportunity to share it with so many other people.

Sayoonara!

15 Things Japan Has That America Should, Too

  1. Sickness masks. Keep the germs contained!
  2. Escalator etiquette. One half stands to the side, the other half is a passing lane. I’ve never felt more satisfied.
  3. I’ve already mentioned this in a previous post, but: THE TOILETS. So cool.
  4. Packaging. Like, nice packaging. Japan would scoff at America’s put-it-in-a-bag-with-some-tissue-paper-on-top mentality.
  5. Yuzu. They’re a type of fruit with a flavor similar to a lemon but sweeter. So refreshing!
  6. Recycling and trash sorting. The system is so strict, but so effective.
  7. Cute signs. They give you more motivation to look at the warnings or instructions written on them!
  8. Shinkansen, a.k.a. bullet trains—for those long trips you want to take when you don’t have a car.
  9. Kuromitsu, otherwise known as “black sugar syrup.” It has a slightly roasted taste with some subtle sweetness, and is the perfect type of topping for any dessert.
  10. The slightly lifted platform inside of fitting rooms. This is so nice; you take your shoes off and leave them on the lower level. That way, the clothes that you’re trying on don’t get as dirty!
  11. Pocari Sweat: a water drink mixed with a little bit of salt in order to help retain liquid. SO helpful in the summer when everyone sweats a ton!
  12. Services for blind people. For example, sidewalks have grooves in the middle so that people can “see” where they are going in the busy, crowded streets. Also, at crosswalks, when the light turns green for pedestrians, a chirping sound plays until it’s not safe to cross the street anymore. Genius.
  13. Bringing a handkerchief everywhere–wonderful for wiping off the sweat that builds up during the hot summer day!
  14. Women-only cars–certain cars on the trains to help women feel safer on their way to work during rush hour.
  15. Subtitles on TV programs. I don’t mean for the hearing impaired. I mean a special type of text used to make the screen more colorful and add extra energy to variety shows.
    It’s just so fun! And it helps you learn the language better.What are your thoughts? Are there any others I didn’t mention? Let me know what you think!

Hakone Field Trip

A few months ago, my fellow dormmates/classmates/exchange students and I went on a field trip with our Japanese language professors to Hakone, a famous location for foreigners and Japanese people alike.

Hakone is famous for its hot springs, lake, shrine, and special black hard boiled eggs (naturally boiled in the hot springs, giving it its color and strong sulfur smell). It’s often a place where people can relax and get away from the business of the city.

Unfortunately, because Hakone is so far from Tokyo, a large majority of our day was spent on some sort of transportation, so we weren’t able to cover a lot of ground once we got there. Also, on the specific day we went to Hakone, the mountain had some dangerous volcanic activity, so it wasn’t safe to spend a lot of time once we reached the top. Despite all that, though, it was still a great day being out in nature and exploring with so many people!

This video is a bit late because editing took longer than expected (so much footage to file through!), but please enjoy!! 🙂

Apartment Tour Part 2!

Here is the second part of the apartment tour!

Meiji Gakuin University provides an apartment building for all the exchange students, located in a nearby residential area. The reason for this is because Japanese universities do not provide housing, since many students find it more easy to commute by train from their homes.  So this is where we live!

In total, there are about 21 exchange students living here: 4 from Texas, 2 from Kentucky, 2 from New Mexico, 1 from California, 1 from Romania, 3 from England, 1 from Hong Kong, 3 from China, 2 from France, 1 from Germany, and me, the only one from Michigan 🙂

Habits

Hello there! Welcome back to the blog!

This post will be a little more brief, as I wanted to quickly share a few daily life changes that I’ve experienced, or that tend to happen while you’re living in Japan.

The first difference made in my routine from day 1 was my sleep schedule.

I woke up at around 6 or 7 am every day my first week of being in Japan without an alarm. Of course, my first week could have also been influenced by jet lag, but I honestly don’t think it made that much of an impact. The main factor behind this early rising habit is more because of the time the sun rises and sets in Japan. Japan is a country that never changes their clock for Daylight Savings Time, so the sunset is always around 6 pm and sunrise is always around 4 am. Because of this, and also because many shops close at 8 pm (discluding bars), it’s much easier to end your day earlier and have an early-riser attitude to your sleep schedule here.

Now, of course, being a student with responsibilities and a social life, and also having family in a different time zone, I can’t always go to bed before 11:30 pm or even 12:30 am, but it has been much easier for me to wake up to get ready and leave for class at 8 am.

Another habit that quickly changed here has been bathing. Japanese people LOVE to bathe. They bathe every day!

But Japanese baths are a bit different from the bath system we’re used to. Compared to Americans, Japanese people clean their whole body and rise off completely before entering the tub, so the bath is simply used to soak and relax.

Anyway, I’m used to taking a shower every other day back home, so it felt unnatural at first, but I really like it! Especially because in Japan, the summer is quite humid, so it’s easy to feel gross after a long day. Also, sitting in a bath helps relax your body and mind.

Another interesting habit change is that I hardly wear any makeup here. Of course, if you know me, you know I don’t wear that much in the first place, but I don’t feel as much of a need for it here. Often times, I will just put on mascara and a little bit of cover-up for blemish spots. This is mostly because the weather is warm enough that anything I put on will melt off anyway, but it’s also because my skin has become clearer here. I think school back home is much more stressful and causes more acne than school here.

Staying on the subject of beauty, this was something I was not expecting to happen: I have begun to wear more skirts and dresses!! I have nothing against those types of clothes, but my style is very casual and more comfort-oriented, and I feel strange not having leg holes. Of course, my style is still mostly that way, but it is so incredibly normal for girls to wear slightly more girly clothes that my style has kind of adapted to it! No worries, though, I don’t feel forced at all to wear anything; I think it’s fun!

As well as skirts and dresses, the bottoms in these pictures are verrrrrry popular in Japan right now! They’re kinda like gaucho pants and appear to be skirts from far away. I’m actually not a huge fan (reminds me of that awkward time in middle school when stretchy gauchos were popular…*shudder*), but they do look comfy!

Something else I was not expecting when I came here was the difference in the air. My allergies have changed a little bit after being exposed to so much city air so suddenly and so often. I have found myself waking up every morning with a slightly dry throat or nose, or with the urgency to lightly cough a few times right after waking up. The other day I forgot to take my medication and my sinuses were actually less stuffy than normal, so I’m curious as to whether there is a correlation with my medication dosage and the change of atmosphere. Who knows?

Anyway, those are some small examples of how easily your daily life can change in a foreign country! Feel free to ask any questions or leave comments about things that I may not have mentioned!

See you in the next post!

Nagoya Scenery

Hello, all!

Guess what?! I saw Mt. Fuji!

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….Well, a model version of Mt. Fuji. On a high rise observatory machine. But still cool!

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I’ll back up a little bit for you: I actually recently came back from a trip to Nagoya! Nagoya is a city located in Aichi Prefecture, which is southwest of Tokyo. It’s very far and very much in the countryside, so the best way to get there is by Shinkansen, which is the rapid bullet train. By Shinkansen, it takes about 2 hours.

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I was so fortunate to have a family to stay with while I was in Nagoya. (Actually, it was the family of my very first Japanese friend, with whom I met back in high school! What a blessing!!!) To get anywhere, you need to have a car and drive for at least 30 minutes in any direction. But, even though the commute was long, I was entertained with the beautiful scenery, accompanied by lots of information about the area from my friend’s parents and grandmother.

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It was a bit intimidating at first, because my friend’s family spoke in Nagoya dialect, which is slightly different from normal Tokyo dialect. My friend’s grandmother was the most difficult to understand, because her hurried and somewhat slurred speech made me have to force out a nervous “I have no idea what you just said” laugh once in a while. But thankfully, I was able to understand at the very least 50-60% at all times! That was a nice confidence boost! I was also really happy to hear that my friend’s grandmother was relieved she could communicate well with me.

We went to SO many places during my stay: castles, parks, and even a festival! (the park was where I rode the Mt. Fuji observatory ride)

I took so many pictures, but still felt like the scenery was just too much for me to be able to capture it all. It was almost overstimulating.

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I told my friend’s family that I was so happy to see so many mountains, as I had never been so close to them before (growing up in west Michigan means seeing only trees, fields, hills, and sand dunes). To my surprise, on my last day in Nagoya, my friend’s family took me to the Ibukiyama Driveway, which is literally a driving path that goes to the top of Ibuki Mountain! What a wonderful view that was…Talk about overstimulation.

No worries, though, guys. I managed to get some good shots on my camera. 😉

I have seen many beautiful places in my lifetime, but Nagoya is by far the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was the perfect escape after living in the city of Tokyo for the past few months. I am so incredibly grateful!

2 main things to take away from this:

  1. Even when it’s hard to understand someone in a different language, they will deeply appreciate it when you show how hard you’re trying. It’s much better to struggle through a sentence for 5 minutes than to stay silent, because at least your conversation partner can tell that you really want to share your thoughts with them!
  2. If you find yourself studying abroad in the city, make sure you get the chance to take a mini vacation to the countryside if you can. Your body and mind will feel so refreshed!

Until next time 🙂