Hello everyone! As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I was working on a short video about my time in Tohoku. Here it is! I hope that this video will help remind us all that, even though the media may stop covering these kind of events that they should not be forgotten and there are still ways we can help out. Please share! Thank you and I hope you enjoy it!
If you have not had a chance to read my blog post about my trip to New Zealand, I highly suggest you do! It’s right below this one. It is really crazy to think that I was in New Zealand only two weeks ago. It feels like so much time has passed and so much has happened. And well, it has!
I am back at Waseda University for my second and final semester of my time here in Japan. I have reached the point where instead of counting up, I am counting down. I have to say, it’s pretty sad. Instead of dwelling on that, I intend to make these last four months some of the best yet!
This semester I have really great classes! Like last time, once the semester is over I will do a review of each of my classes but here is a list of what I am taking!
- International Organizations and Japan
- Japanese Economy and Industry
- Cultural Psychology of Japan and East Asia
- Reading Modern Short Novels in Japanese
- Case Methods in Japanese
- Kanji Around Town
- Pronunciation and Grammar in Japanese
- Writing About Yourself in Japanese
- and another Japanese reading class
It is a much more intense schedule but I have great teachers and I am loving how it is keeping me busy. Also, I don’t have any morning classes which gives me enough time to exercise and avoid busy trains!
Since returning from New Zealand I haven’t been doing much since I’ve been adjusting to my new schedule but this weekend my host parents took me Hakone! They took me to three different art museums, out to lunch, and to an onsen (hot spring)! It was such a nice day. Saw some truly beautiful art and just enjoyed great conversation with my host family.
Outside the Venetian Glass Museum!
I love this shot. Beautiful mirror and great view of the museum ceiling!
Breakfast! I drank coffee and enjoyed it. This is a big deal!
My host mother and host grandmother!
Grande Striptease by Giacomo Manzu (Italy) in the Hakone Open-Air Museum. I really love this sculpture.
They had some great Picasso sketches in here. Wish pictures had been allowed!
One angle of the all stained glass tower.
Another angle! This was my favorite piece from the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
At the end of the day, not only had I had a lot of fun, but I was proud at how far I’d come along with my Japanese to the point where days like these with my host family feel so normal.
Needless to say settling back into normal life is going pretty well. I do find myself missing New Zealand but it’s nice to be home in Japan!
We have a school holiday coming up next week, which coincides with the Japanese national holidays of Golden Week. I will be packing my bags and heading back to Tohoku to do more volunteer work! I’m really excited.
A song I’ve been really enjoying this week is Young Guns by Lemi White Featuring Ed Sheeran, Devlin, Griminal, and Yasmin. I wish it was available on US iTunes!
With the events of this past week in the United States, I hope all of you continue to stay safe and have a great week. Until next time!
I think I still can’t believe that I actually went to New Zealand. I can’t wait to share them with you all, so lets get started!
Getting to New Zealand was an adventure of its own! I left Tokyo on March 16th with stops in Taipei, Taiwan and Brisbane, Australia before arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on March 17th. I think airports say a lot about the area and you usually get to try native foods and such so it is like getting a glimpse into each country. So I didn’t really mind all the stops!
Brisbane City Centre.
Auckland was a really interesting few days. I experienced a lot of culture shock on my first few days there. Seeing as I’ve always been going back and forth between Japan, I was able to mentally prepare myself for the coming trip. Also, I feel very comfortable in Japan. Auckland was the exact opposite. I felt like I stood out so much, which is ironic since it is much more ethnically diverse than the train I ride home every day in Japan. At first, I hated feeling like that but after a day or so I really began to appreciate those feelings. It made me realize that there are so many more places I want to go and I need to continue to put myself in these situations where I don’t know how everything works so that I can learn and grow more. Which is not to say that I dislike being comfortable with Japan, because I don’t. I feel very fortunate to have such a close, comfortable relationship with both the US and Japan.
Aside from that, Auckland was a really cool city. It had a lot going on and I really liked how diverse it was. I spent a lot of time walking around the city and learning its ins and outs. By the time I left, I felt I had come to know the city a lot better and felt a lot more comfortable and confident about my New Zealand trip.
Kia ora is Maori for hello, goodbye, and be in good health. I ended up using this a lot.
Sunset in the Auckland Art Gallery.
Auckland City Centre from the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere!
My next stop was Rotorua! Famous for it’s geothermal hot pools, Rotorua is relatively small but with a lot of character. It was my favorite stop in the north island. While in Rotorua, I went to the Rotorua Museum which explained the history of the area and also the Maori people. Then I went to a Maori village that still makes use of the geothermal hot pools, which was a really amazing to learn first hand experience to get to learn first hand about their culture. Lastly, I went to Hobbiton! I was so extremely excited and it was legitimately one of the coolest things ever.
Rotorua Museum! This museum used to be a famous bathhouse that used the geothermal water and mud to help heal a variety of ailments.
Old bath tub.
The underground pipe system for the old Rotorua bathhouse. Not creepy at all!
My super comfy bed at Rotorua Central Backpackers!
Whakarewarewa Thermal Village! The green lake.
Te Puia and Prince of Whales Geysers.
Bag End! Can I just stay here forever?
I made a brief stop in Napier, which is a really unique city right on the coast. The city was destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1931 and was rebuilt with heavy art deco influence. I love the vibe it had and would really like to live in Napier if I was going to live in New Zealand.
The gorgeous coast! I love the sea.
Love the art deco!
My final stop in the north island was the capital of New Zealand, Wellington! Wellington also had a really great vibe. Calm, cool, collected are some of the words that come to mind. There was also so much to do in Wellington and a lot of it was free! So, even better! I spent a whole day in the Wellington Botanic Gardens. You get to go up the hill by cable car which gives you such a great view of Wellington (pictured below). Then I meandered my way down the hill enjoying flowers, herbs, and sculptures till I reached the rose garden. I also did a walking tour of Wellington on another one of my days there. Wellington is a bit confusing so I got a little lost but in turn found some interesting shops. On my last day in Wellington I went to The Weta Cave, which is the special effects company that worked on Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and a lot other movies. It really gave me such an appreciation for all the work that goes into those kinds of movies.
Wellington from the hilltop!
Smelling the roses.
Gollum at Weta Cave.
FERRY & CROSSING ISLANDS
I felt that gained so much knowledge in the north island that I was really excited to get to the south island and put it to use!
From north to south.
Sailing into the sunrise.
Arriving at the south island!
My first stop in the south island was Kaikoura, a small coastal town. I stayed at the YHA and it was probably the best yet. Met some really great people and felt really comfortable. Tina, if you are reading this, it was so great to meet you! My main activity in Kaikoura was swimming with dolphins! It was really exhilarating but also kind of terrifying. For as long as I live I will never forget the first moment I slid from the boat into the pacific ocean and was immediately surrounded by hundreds of dolphins. Absolutely amazing!
Wet suit. Post swim!
Can’t believe I swam with these guys!
An albatross, just hanging out.
Nelson was a really nice, artsy little town. They had a great local market on one of the mornings I was there, which is where I got my New new favorite accessory, a silver ring. I don’t think I’ve taken it off since I got it. After the market I went to this gorgeous art deco church. Then I just enjoyed walking around the town. It was nice to have a relaxing couple of days.
Christ Church Cathedral.
Franz Josef was my second to last stop and also one of the best! I stayed at another YHA and I had the best roommates! Tamara and Wanyi, it was so great to meet you both and I don’t think I’ll forget any of our conversations! I really hope I get to see you both again. On my second day in Franz, I went on the glacier walk. I met a fellow North American from Canada, Terrin. It was so good to meet you as well and hope the rest of your trip goes really well! Overall, Franz was just a lot of fun!
Franz Josef Glacier!
Franz, up close.
My final stop in New Zealand was Queenstown. Again, I had some really awesome roommates! I also met Kathrin, a friend of Tamara’s, and ended up spending the rest of my time in Queenstown with her. We went on lots of adventures! On the first day, we went up the gondola to a lookout point of Queenstown. Then we got Fergburger. They were massive but so yummy! On the second day, we went for 30km bike ride! It was pretty intense but Queenstown is just so beautiful it was work the really wobbly legs. On the last day, we went to Milford Sound, more on that below. My time in Queenstown was the perfect end to a perfect trip.
View of Queenstown from top of the gondola ride!
Kathrin and I took a 30km bike ride!
The highest peak of The Remarkables. I loved this mountain range! I could stare at it all day.
On my last day in New Zealand, Kathrin and I took a day trip to Milford Sound. We also got to drive through Fiordland National Park. It was simply stunning and it was such a perfect way to end my trip, great company and great sights!
I love waterfalls!
Kathrin and I! Miss this girl already!
Leaving New Zealand was really sad. It was such an amazing experience and I feel so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to go to New Zealand, meet all the people I met and see all the things I saw.
Sydney, Australia at night!
I have to take a moment to say a huge thank you to my parents. Without them this trip would not have been possible. Mom and Dad, I will never be able to thank you enough. Your support in everything I’ve done in these past few months has meant the most. Also, thank you to my Grandmother, who helped me swim with dolphins!
This trip was exactly what I’ve always wanted to do in terms of travel. It also made me what to travel a whole lot more. I really think the best way to learn about the world is to go out and experience it. The next place I want to go is London. It has always been a dream of mine to live there so I am going to work on making that dream a reality.
I feel more confident than ever in who I am and what I want from life. Tohoku and New Zealand have been the best times of my young life and I’m looking forward to bringing my rejuvenated spirit back to my life in Japan and (eventually) the United States.
It’s been over a month since I’ve written and so much has happened. If you remember from my last post I left Tokyo for Tono, which is in the Iwate prefecture of the Tohoku region of Japan’s main island. Google it! I have been there for the past four weeks volunteering for the 3.11 tsunami and earthquake relief efforts. The experience was life-changing. But before we get to that, I want to share with you why I chose to do this.
One of the great things about my program, Japan Study, is that during part of our two month spring break they send us on a cultural practicum. Your cultural practicum lasts four weeks and can cover many different parts of Japanese culture and life like teaching English, interning at a Japanese company, working at a ryokan (Japanese style inn) or becoming a Buddhist monk. When I found out volunteering for tsunami relief was an option I was immediately drawn to it for a few reasons.
As I mentioned in my first blog post way back in September of 2012, my life has revolved around Japan since I was six. I lived here for three years, visited on vacation, visited as part of a school trip, and now am studying abroad here. My experiences with Japan gave my life a sense of purpose. I worked toward this goal of studying abroad here and to have achieved it is a great triumph. The first reason I was drawn to this practicum was that I had never experienced that kind of devastation. When 9.11 happened I was in Japan and, in turn, when 3.11 happened I was in the States. For the two countries that I considered home, I had missed important parts of their history that affected their thinking and I hoped that by volunteering I could begin to understand that feeling. The second, and most important, reason was because Japan has meant the world to me since I was six and I wanted to give back to this amazing country. And so, on the 13th of February, my fellow volunteers and I set off by Shinkansen for Tono. This is where everything was about to begin!
On the Shinkansen!
Upon our arrival in Tohoku, we were shown around the facilities and given an overview of the rules and the like. Basically a day in Tono went something like this:
- Wake up at 6:00 (but who are we kidding, more like 6:45 on some days)
- Morning meeting at 7:40
- Leave at 8:00 on a bus that would take us to that days work location
- Work from 9:30-12:00
- Lunch from 12:00-13:00
- Work from 13:00-14:30
- Return home at 16:00
- Clean facilities at 16:30
- Free time from 17:00-22:00
- Lights out at 22:00 (you could stay up later but we were always too tired)
We always had Mondays off and since we were there for a month we were allowed to take one other day off a week. Usually that meant doing some combination of laundry, errand running, being lazy or exploring. As far as food went, we didn’t have a kitchen, so each day was a food adventure. My favorite food from Tono were the locally grown apples. They were super amazing. Some of the best apples I have ever had. Yum! This became our way of life. I’m still on the same time schedule and I miss the apples. More than that though, I miss the work and the people. Especially the people. But don’t worry, we’ll get there. If you are still reading, thank you!
Now the most frequently asked question I’ve received since returning to Tokyo is: what kind of work did you do there? As I mentioned in the schedule, we traveled every day to get to our work destination. Tono itself was affected more by the earthquake than the tsunami and that damage has, from what I saw, been dealt with. So this meant that each day we traveled to the coast where the tsunami did its worst damage. We visited multiple areas and each area required us to do a different task or allowed us to see a different part of the affected areas.
Below is Magokoro no-en. Here we cut up tress which were used to make crop for the area. Also the plot we were clearing was going to be used to build a school for the area, as it is surrounded by temporary housing.
Volunteers at work in Makogoro no-en.
George and Emily at work!
Below is Otsuchi. While we did not do direct work in this part of Otsuchi that is pictured, it was an important part of Tohoku that was also affected by the tsunami.
Close up up the harbor edge.
Eternal flame in remembrance.
A former station platform.
Below is Hakozaki, Kamaishi. A lot of our jobs here revolved around snow and ice. My first day on the job was shoveling ice for the senior citizens living in the area. Another task we worked on here was clearing ice from the emergency roads. We used metal rods to break up the ice so we could shovel it away. This became one of our favorite activities as a group. The first road we cleared gave me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
Yuri, Emily, and Peter! We cleared that whole road of ice.
Hakozaki, Kamaishi Emergency Center. The building was filled up to the second floor with water. Only 30 out of 300 people managed to make it to the roof and find something to hold onto for safety.
Memorial for all the people who died in the center.
Cleaning out the roadside drains.
A dress we dug up.
A tree that managed to survive the tsunami.
The most interesting thing I found was an Anpanman DVD. Anpanman is children’s show that I remember watching as a kid in Japan. The DVD was still in its rental case. My supervisor said I could keep it because he didn’t think it would work. On my first day back in Tokyo I cleaned it off and tried it out. IT WORKED. At that moment, I think I was the most emotional I had been the whole trip. The people I met in Tohoku were incredibly upbeat and strong. They didn’t give up. When that DVD began to play I felt such an overwhelming sense of hope. I think in any of these situations it’s the most important to keep that sense of hope. I would like to get back in contact with a library that was built in the area after the earthquake and send it to them. Hopefully someone will be able to watch it and enjoy.
Below is Taro, Miyako. I came here on the anniversary of the tsunami as it was a place I had not been to yet. We had a moment of silence at 14:46, which is the exact moment the earthquake occurred. I was very grateful to be there with everyone in that moment.
A hotel that stood the force of the waves. We got to go up inside.
Local monks performing a prayer ritual.
Before the moment of silence.
That brings us to the people I was with. There were four other people from my study abroad program that came on this adventure as well. Emily, Kübra, George, and Peter. These four people are a large part of the reason why this practicum was so amazing. I wasn’t sure how we were all going to get along at first because we are all so different but at the end of the day we all wanted to do this practicum and I think that goes to show how much we actually have in common. I got to learn so much about all of them, which was a true joy. Each one of them has an interesting view on life and I love that. We challenged each other, we comforted each other, we laughed together, we worked and experienced a lot together. I am so glad that we all came together this way. I hope you all read this. Emily, Kübra, George, and Peter, I love you all! Thank you for everything and I can’t wait for Tono reunions. Nothing would have been the same without any one of you.
On our way to work!
Emily and I with dolls we got from a Hinamatsuri (doll festival) in Rikuzentakada.
George, Emily Kübra, and Peter seeing me off!
This practicum brought a few things home for me.
The first is that life happens and moves forward whether we want it to or not. At some level, we cannot control what happens to us but you can control how you come out of that experience. The best you can do is your best. Nothing will ever be perfect. You will get hurt but you will also be successful. You can’t let the mistakes weigh you down. All those things are age old statements because they are true.
The second is that life is truly precious so make sure to enjoy every day to the best of your abilities.
Taking a moment to recognize the family and friends we lost this year.
With all that said, I have realized my next life goal. After working at the Japan America Society of Chicago and now at Tono Magokoro Net, I realize that I really enjoy the work that NPOs do. I want to explore this further and I really think make it my life’s work. After graduation, I’d like to continue to volunteer , do some internships and see a more of the world. Then I’d like to go to graduate school and get a Ph.D. in Public Policy or Public Affairs. Then hopefully work for the government or an NPO to help those who need it. I am really excited to have a clear goal and I intend to see it through. Just like I did with my study abroad program.
My practicum was truly life-changing. I miss it already! I plan to go back to the region and do more exploring before I go home. It is such a beautiful region that I feel I have only just begun to explore.
In front of Tono Station.
I still have more to say about the experience, which is why I also plan on making a video about my experiences in Tohoku, which I will also share on this website. Look for that in mid-April. In that video I hope to discuss more about the actual state of Tohoku and what is next for the region, which I didn’t do much of in this blog post. So look forward to that!
Tomorrow I leave for New Zealand to start my journey of seeing more of the world. I am nervous and excited! This is a big step for me. After I return it will be time to go back to school. Before I know it, it will be time to go home, which is crazy to even think about.
Until then, please plug in your headphones and enjoy Coahulia by Balmorhea (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4QQSxkcp6M). I listened to this song a lot during my time in Tohoku and on repeat while I typed this blog post. It is very beautiful.
See you in April with a blog post about New Zealand!
As promised here is the blog update about what is coming up for me next over spring break! But first…
My friend Madi came to Tokyo today. She has been teaching in Japan for about a year and a half and unfortunately has to return to the states. We originally bonded when we came to Japan on a school trip during my freshman year and her senior year. I’m so glad I got to see her here in Japan and hang out here again! I really didn’t think we’d get the chance. Madi if you are reading this you are the best and I’ll miss you! I cannot wait to come visit you in the states.
I had the best time traveling around Tokyo! We managed to go to Gotoku-ji, Ueno, Asakusa, and Akihabara.
Now onto what’s next!
On February 13th, five months to the date that I came to Japan, I will board the Shinkansen bright and early to go to Tono in the Tohoku region of Japan. Almost two years ago Japan was hit by the worst earthquake and tsunami ever in it’s country’s history. This left the surrounding area desolate and two years later they are still working to clean it up. For the next four weeks I will be joining the clean up effort. I have never volunteered in a clean-up like this before and I’m sure it will leave an impact. I have been reading lots of articles on the subject and I have grown increasingly passionate about the cause as I have read and researched. I am looking forward to this experience more than I can put into words.
Three days after I return from Tono I leave for a three week adventure in New Zealand with brief stops in Taiwan and Australia. I am beyond excited and also really nervous. I have planned almost all of this trip by myself, which I am really proud of. It will also be my first time traveling my own. I am close to finalizing my plans and it’s going to a jam-packed three weeks, which I think will be a truly amazing experience.
Needless to say, these next two months are going to be insanely busy, but I am ready. Almost. I still need to finish packing!
Side note, one of my favorite bands finally ended their hiatus and got back together for a new album! Unfortunately I will miss both their Japan and US tour dates but I cannot wait for the new album. Their new song is great so check it out! MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK (LIGHT EM UP) BY FALL OUT BOY!
My next blog post will be after I return from Tohoku! Until then, keep in contact with me by Facebook or email.
Here we are, almost five months later and my first semester of study abroad has finally come to an end. Typing that still seems strange.
I had a great time this semester! I learned a lot about myself, how university is functions in Japan, and not to mention the subject matters of the classes I took. I mentioned in an earlier blog post that once the semester was over I would review each of my classes. So below I have done just that. I also had the chance to go see Sumo! More on that later.
Movements in Japanese Intellectual History: This class was my favorite overall. The content focused more on literary intellectuals, which isn’t my normal area of study so I really did learn a lot. The professor of this class was also really engaging, which made the three hour class entertaining all the way through. I really feel that the content from this class will stick with me.
Environmental Economics: This class left me wanting a lot more. The professor presented a lot of interesting facts about current environmental problems and I would like to explore that more. That being said the one critique of this class is that I wish we could have studied more ongoing environmental cases between companies or something along those lines.
Social and International Relations of Japan: Of my SILS (School of Liberal Studies) classes, this was probably my least favorite. The content was a bit repetitive for me but I did get to read some interesting articles along the way. The professor of this class really let her biases against other countries and methodologies come out, which could be a bit irritating. However, I think that made us students work harder to prove our point, which is what I found to be most beneficial from the class.
Intensive Japanese 4: Ah, Japanese. This class was always a hot topic of discussion, or rather, complaining. This class met three times a week for a total of seven and a half hours (three hours twice a week and an hour and a half the other). My critique of that is that I wish it had been everyday instead of three days a week. The long extended hours twice a week created some busy work that I didn’t feel benefited my language skills. I did learn a lot of new grammar and kanji in this class. I do feel that it contributed to my language improvement.
My Waseda Experience: This class was a Japanese theme class. Since level four did not meet the number of Japanese credits I needed to take I took this one. The goal of the class was to learn about Waseda and also share your experiences through conversation. This class could get kind of boring, especially if the class was not in a talkative mood. I did really like my teacher and people in my class so I have positive feelings about this class.
This first semesters classes could at times get pretty overwhelming due to it being completely different from what I am used to back in the states. However, because of that I learned a lot about university life in Japan and I know better how to organize my life and class schedule for next semester.
My favorite part about the end of January, besides ending the semester, was going to see the end of the current Sumo Basho (tournament). This was my first time going to see Sumo. Since it was also the end of the Basho we got to see the prizes be given out! Also the Prime Minister of Japan, Abe Shinzo, was there to present one of the trophy’s! I can now say I’ve been in the same room as the Prime Minister. Even if it was a really big room.
Abe Shinzo presenting one of the trophy’s to the winner.
View of the whole stadium!
It’s really nice to be on break. I’ve got a lot coming up it in the next two months and I will be posting a new blog post about that later this week!
In the meantime, take a listen to this song that has been stuck in my head due to the fact that I’ve been watching a lot of Scrubs lately. Question by Rhett Miller. Until next time!
The first thirteen days of the new year have already reminded me so much of how important study abroad is and how grateful I feel to be able to do so.
One the third day of the new year my host family and I went to Meiji-jingu to pray for good things to come in the new year. Meiji-jingu was so crowded! My host mom said that it can be even more crowded on the first of January, which was hard to imagine. We did eventually get to the front, threw in our coins, clapped, and said our prayers for the new year. My host dad also got me a charm for good luck in studies in the new year! It was sweet.
Look at how crowded Meiji-jingu is!
Coins, coins, coins!
Then my host parents and I went to this delicious tonkatsu restaurant. I had a pork katsu, crab katsu, and chicken katsu. All delicious! Tonkatsu is definitely my favorite Japanese food.
Three kinds of tonkatsu!
I returned to school last week, which was not as difficult as I imagined. Overall, I really enjoyed all my classes last week, including Japanese. THAT’S A BIG DEAL. Also it was really great to see all my friends. It had been a while. The event I was really looking forward to was my host brothers wedding on Sunday!
My favorite picture!
Tatsuya, myself, and Fumiko! Thank you so much for inviting me!
The wedding was absolutely beautiful! I almost cried… every five seconds. I don’t think I will forget this experience, ever. It was such a happy occasion and it was wonderful to be able to come together with my host family in that setting!
And finally, a gift. I am so excited to announce that I AM GOING TO NEW ZEALAND! The ticket was purchased today. I cannot believe that it is really happening. I starting to plan in greater detail. I plan on seeing as much of the country as I can in three weeks! I am really looking forward to it. So if you have any suggestions for places I must see, please let me know!
The song that has been stuck in my head this week is: You Know Where To Find Me by Imogen Heap. I love her work! Glad to hear she is back in the studio. Until next time!
I really think my blog posting is going to be sporadic. So please bear with me in the future!
It is officially 2013! Happy New Year to everyone! Before I can begin to tell you about that though, let me fill you in on what has happened since I last wrote.
I SAW THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY. It was fantastic! I understand what the critics were complaining about but regardless I really enjoyed it. My favorite thing about the movie was definitely the characters themselves. I felt that each actor/actress that was cast fit all my expectations for what I thought that specific character would be like based on my reading of the book. Especially, Martin Freeman. HE WAS EVERYTHING I WANTED IN BILBO. Needless to say, I would definitely, happily, see it again.
The last week of school was a pretty hectic blur but I managed to survive! Since break started I have been relaxing and not doing much. It was and is just what I need! I didn’t forget about Christmas though!
Christmas is not a holiday in Japan but occasionally (as it did this year) falls into the time off school’s give surrounding new years. In Japan, to celebrate Christmas, you go see illuminations and eat cake. I did both! I started my Christmas celebrations by going to see the Tokyo Station illuminations on Christmas eve. They were really pretty and despite the cold, I’m really glad I went.
The inside of Tokyo Station! It is finally finished!
Illuminations outside of Tokyo Station!
Closest I got to a Christmas tree this year!
This is a very Marta-appropriate tree! So much purple.
Being classy with Kiyomi!
Potato gratin as my Christmas eve meal!
Christmas day started off with a chocolate Christmas cake for breakfast. It was so yummy!
Keepin’ it healthy.
Then I had some friends over and we baked cookies! It was a really great experience because my host mom got to be involved, which she really seemed to enjoy. I also like cooking in Japan because it’s never quite the same as in the US and it makes it all the more memorable.
I look so awkward but my host family is so cute!
Kiyomi and Scarlet! I have such great friends!
Becky! A.K.A. Cookie Master.
The finished product!
Overall it turned out really well! My host siblings actually ate a bunch today at our family New Years party! That made me happy.
Christmas ended with me Skyping with my family pretty late into the night and I got to watch everyone open their Christmas presents! I almost felt like I was there.
Which brings us to New Years (お正月 - oshogatsu), the biggest holiday in Japan! I spent both New Years Eve and day with my host family. On New Years Eve we stayed up late and watched various TV programs and then once the clock struck midnight we ate soba/udon! Both are noodles that, when eaten on new years, signify long life. On New Years Day host grandmother, host brothers, and sisters-in-law all came over to celebrate. It was a great evening filled with interesting food and good conversation! I feel very grateful for my host family. They are such wonderful people!
I return to school in a week to finish out the semester. In February I head off on my cultural practicum, a four-week long trip to another part of Japan where I will be participating in the local community. I will be heading to Tohoku to assist in earthquake relief. Even though I am going to freeze, I am really excited and I look forward to being able to give back to Japan in some small way. After that I will have about three weeks before I have to go back to school. I really want to go to New Zealand and travel around there. I have begun the planning! I have always traveled with my family, and while I enjoy that, it is really important for me to take this trip on my own. I really hope this can work out.
So before I present you with my blog post song choice and say goodbye I thought I would share some of my favorite things from 2012.
Favorites of 2012:
- My mom, dad, and brother
- Mumford & Sons new album, Babel
- My summer internship at the Japan America Society of Chicago
- CHICAGO in general
- My brother starting college
- Moving back to Japan (even if it’s only for a year)
- Attempting to learn Danish with Sterling Kowalski
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
- Pitch Perfect
- Regaining my confidence
- Halloween at Tokyo Disneyland
- 57th Street Beach
- Learning a tough lesson
- Hyde Park
- Knox College
- Reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones
- Being Joe Rogers pen pal
- Spending way too much time in Takadanobaba’s Starbucks
- My host family
- Waseda University
That is all for now! The song I recommend this week is Spitting Fire by The Boxer Rebellion! Short and sweet.
This blog is much later than intended but these past two weeks have been (and still are) very busy! When I last blogged it was Thanksgiving and the day before my birthday. A lot as happened since then so let me fill you in.
I AM OFFICIALLY 21! And I have a feeling it’s going to be a great year. :)
On my actual birthday, November 23rd, which was a Friday, I spent the morning talking to my family and relaxing. I was able to open the presents from my parents on camera with them which was great. They got me a lovely necklace, a scarf, some makeup, and an iTunes gift card. Thank you so much you two! It was a great start to my day.
My uncles, aunt, cousins, and grandmother signing me happy birthday!
My mom, brother, and dad signing me happy birthday! I really love and miss my family.
In the evening my friends and I went out to TGI Friday’s on Omote-Sando. Why TGIF? Because they had enough room for all of us to sit and relax without feeling rushed. Dinner was delicious! My friends and the staff sang happy birthday to me as well. They also got me presents! I was so surprised! Thank you all so much!
I decided to go with a Grande Martini as my first legal (in the USA) drink!
Free dessert that I shared with everyone! It was yummy!
My amazing friends (L to R): Eri, me, Kiyomi, Brendan, Dré, Austen, Emily, Anna, Becky, Jhanus, and Dan! This photo is missing Scarlet and Emma who unfortunately couldn’t make it!
It wouldn’t be complete without signing some Justin Bieber at Karaoke!
Jhanus and I!
We ended the evening with some Karaoke! It was a great evening and I am so thankful to be able to celebrate it with wonderful people in such a wonderful country!
The next night I had a party with my host family! Two of my host brothers came over with their wives. Also one of my host parents former host students was visiting with her husband and two friends. It was a great evening! I really appreciate my host family making me feel so at home and so normal. They got be presents as well! It was so sweet! Picture is below!
My presents! A giant Hello Kitty pillow and a Hello Kitty makeup case. Because if you know anything about me, it’s probably that I love Hello Kitty. It was so cute that my host family remembered!
My host family, former host student and friends, and I!
The next day, November 25th, there was a Japan Study Thanksgiving Lunch! The food was delicious and I got to meet a lot of the host families of my friends. They were all really nice!
Random picture of Kiyomi and I out and about in Takadanobaba!
The week that followed was pretty uneventful except for the fact that I finally got sick. I say finally because almost everyone else in JS had been sick at some point in the past month. I thought I was going to escape it but it caught up on me. So from Wednesday on I was in resting mode, which was incredibly bad timing since I was expected at Becky’s host family’s house for a dinner party on Saturday, December 1st. Oh, did I mention that Saturday through Monday, December 3rd, I had no voice? It was okay though since Becky’s family was really understanding and I was still able to go to the party!
The dinner party at Becky’s house was a great time! I got to meet a lot of her host family and extended host family as well as their friends. Everyone was so welcoming and the food was yummy!
So much food!
Happy Holidays from Kiyomi, Scarlet, Dré, and I!
Dré, Kiyomi, and I!
Becky playing the guitar and being awesome!
The rest of this week was spent in recovery mode and drowning in piles of homework with of course trips to Starbucks to help us survive it all.
Friday though, Becky and I stumbled upon some hidden gems! We went to jazz concert with my host dad where the US Army jazz combo performed. I don’t remember which base they were from but I’ll try to get the pictures from Becky and post them next week! Then Becky and I decided to try a Indian restaurant in my town that turned out to be super delicious! Amazing samosas! Then we decided to try this karaoke place in my neighborhood. In all honestly, this place looks super sketchy. Turns out it was a small, one room joint run by a local couple. They were of course shocked to see two foreigners walk in. Becky and I decided, what the hell, and ended up staying there, signing some Justin Bieber, and talking to the owners and their friends. These people were so nice and genuinely excited to have us there. I’m so glad we went because I think that it’s nights like these that I will look back on and share the store. It is so different from what we normally do. That’s what made it so special! I would definitely go back there too!
The song that has been stuck in my head recently (that unfortunately I wasn’t able to sign it at karaoke) is It’s Time by Imagine Dragons. I just got their CD and all of it is quite fantastic so don’t just limit your ears to this song!
This upcoming weekend is going to be so busy! Two Hanukkah parties, going to see THE HOBBIT (OMG, SO EXCITED, FANGIRL), and other things that I can’t currently remember. Hopefully I will post a blog about all that sometime next week! Until then!