Biggest Struggles in Japan

Recently, over a beer, or two, I had a conversation with some other exchange students in Japan about things that we are struggling with. I have been debating with myself, whether or not I should publish this, but ultimately, I want to get this off of my chest.

For most of us, our daily lives are not the struggle, it’s just the little things that keep piling up that tug on us. Japan is very different from most of our countries, but because we all have an interest in Japanese culture and language it is fine. We are willing to accept most things, but also because the people I was talking with want to be, or are already teachers as well, there are of course things that we wish would be different, for ourselves and for our future students.

There are always people that are different, even in a society that says being different is not okay… However, this is about the population as a whole in Japan in general.

1. So freaking reserved, shy

Outside of the tutor group that interacts with international students, a grand total of ONE person has initiated a conversation with us. Anything else, outside of class are people connected to the International Office in some way, mostly tutors. This makes forming friendships very difficult, and no one responds to emails about being interested in clubs/circles…so joining clubs is difficult as well– probably will just wait until next semester at this point. We have conversations with people in our classes, but none of them express interest in hanging out with us outside of class (even though we see them all the time @Yuuki –who does not read this, but still).

2. Afraid to be different?

Not really sure if this is 100% accurate for everyone. I have definitely seen some people break away from the mold. Also, guys like to show off their skills like anywhere (talking about all the guys in my soccer class).

However, when I visited a high school two weeks ago we had conversations with the students. One of the questions I asked all of them was what kind of music do you like? All the guys in the group had the same answer. That’s just weird to me. How do all of them like Justin Bieber and One Direction…? Also, when asked what food I should try… “Udon” or “Sushi” was everyone’s answer. Which could do more with them being famous Japanese food, but just trying to get an authentic answer out of them was so difficult.

3. Sexist related things

Of course sexism goes both ways. However, being a girl, I can really only speak on the sexism that I have experienced since arriving.

Mostly regarding my sports class:

~It’s hot. No one wears tank tops here in sports class. So, okay, I should follow those cultural norms… So I try to do so. However, one day I came straight from the train to class, not having time to stop by my room to grab a workout shirt. The only thing I had from the day before was a tank top and a cardigan, so while we were warming up I wore the cardigan, but then we got to playing soccer seriously, it was hot and of course a cardigan is not ideal clothing to play in, so I took it off. Immediately the girls start making comments, like “you’re not cold?” “It’s cold.” “You’ll get sick…” “Sexy.” The guys on my team asked me one time if I was hot (because you know we were playing soccer and running), I said yes, and we moved on. However, the girls would just keep making comments, which really rubbed me the wrong way. I understand this is a cultural difference, but it is just something I have such a hard time accepting, that some how showing my shoulder’s skin is a sexual thing… It is definitely not, yet it has been ingrained into Japanese girls brains that it is inappropriate. If you are hot, do not continue to wear your jacket. If someone else is hot, allow them to dress as they wish. I will forever make an effort to try to wear a T-shirt, but on the occasions that I do not want to, or forget, I just wish that I could be allowed to in peace.

~If a girl can pass the soccer ball, the guys will be thoroughly impressed, amazed even. When playing a game “Volleyball soccer” (the actual name, I do not know), but the girls move closer to serve. The size of the soccer field is different between the guys and girls too. The girls will play shorter games.

~Coach will say “Because you are playing with the girls (females), play easier/more gently” to the male students.

I hate that so much. Maybe it is from playing Co-Rec soccer growing up, but I do not believe that is a good attitude to have for either gender. Playing “gentle” will not allow the girls to improve their skills, also it just perpetuates the idea that girls are “weak” and need guys to help them. I experienced this kind of attitude before of course, but in the US it is not accepted by women and we can speak up about this kind of attitude.

However, in Japan, if I were to say something to the coach about that, I am sure it would not go down right, which has to do with my next thing:

4. Inherent belief in authority/older people (not sure how to word this one)

My music teacher made me realize that this is still something that Japanese students do naturally without thinking. He said something that to me was obviously incorrect. However, the Japanese students absorb this information and do not question it. Which is why I think it is so harmful when someone in that position teaches things that may create negative stereotypes or images about people. Due to the fact he is actually an American, I feel that I can address this with him. However, in other situations I cannot do such a thing.

For example, a linguistics professor from Arizona State University came to Osaka Kyoiku University came to speak. Her talk about linguistics was great, actually allowed me to learn new things as well as remember things that I previously studied in my other linguistics class, and I think what she spoke about was accurate. However, she was quick to become defensive when a question was asked– in a completely non-aggressive way–regarding linguistics. Then, she was asked some questions about differences between American and Iranian universities. In that talk, she showed her privilege and her lack of experience understanding other walks of life. Basically saying that in the United States, if you do not speak English that you cannot get a job. Her definition of a job was probably different from mine and my friend, but for her to imply that if you cannot speak English, you cannot succeed in America is not true. It is more difficult so I agree to a point with her, but just in general her attitude seemed to be, rather negative. Also, she bashed universities that were not “premium quality”. Of course, there are many differences between the quality of education you can receive at different universities, but I think she needed to word what she said a bit more carefully.

5. Weight

This is something I just need to get over. I will never be as skinny as Japanese girls, or guys for that matter, but it seriously bothers me of their view of skinny. Someone that is my height, “ideally”, should be less than 110 pounds– from videos I’ve watched and conversations I’ve had. I am probably a good 50 pounds more than that.

Since arriving in Japan, I have been more active than I was in the United States, playing soccer at least twice a week, trying to go running three times a week (not always succeeding). Also, just beginning to eat healthier foods. I do not really have snacks in my room, so that is already an improvement. So what I eat for snacks tends to be healthier than what I would eat in the US, especially over the summer taking care of two kids, my diet was quick, pretty unhealthy foods, but now I have time to cook, and the ability to obtain these foods– fruits, nuts, yogurt. So, I definitely do think that I am becoming a better me. When I look at other girls, I see that I do not look like them. I do not like myself. In America, I dealt with such self-esteem issues from 4th grade on. However, I thought I improved. I thought I reached a point where I could love my body no matter what it looked like, but I was wrong. Being in Japan made these feelings come back. I have to be more conscious about what I wear… There are days where I just don’t care. Those are the days I allow myself to just be myself. Hopefully, I will reach a point where I can be conscientious about Japanese cultural dressing while still being myself, but right now it’s an either or for me. Either I am me, or I am fitting the mold that I feel that I should be.

 

 

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December 3|12月3日

今日、ちょっと短いブログをします。今日、大阪城に行こうと思っていますから。

最近、私の将来を考えます。休みの予定のことや、日本で留学した後や、大学院生のことや、仕事のことを考えています。

1。休みのと予定、

このクリスマス休み、友達とUSJに行きます。2月前に、ハロウィンの時、行きたかったですが、ちょっと予定変わりました。でも、今、クリスマスのことあるから、行ってみたいです!

春休み:多分この春休み、私は他の国に行くつもりです。例えば、韓国とタイとラオスに行きたいです。後で、沖縄に行きます。まだ考えています、まだ決めていませんが、すぐ決めます。

2。日本で留学した後

もちろん、アメリカに帰ります。でも、前に、他の学級、留学したいです。でも、日本か韓国かスペインで、まだ決めていません。今朝、韓国と日本のこと考えました。今、韓国の授業を撮りますから、もちろん韓国に行きたいです。でも、休み?留学?住んでいる?もっと考えます。

3。大学院生

私は友達と話しました。私たちは同じ夢がありますから、いつも一緒にいりたいです。でも、多分できません。違う人から、夢だけはダメです。しかし、日本で大学院生とアパートと日本で働くのことを話し合いました。

それに、私の両親は変な人です。ノースカロライナで多分、すぐ他の家を買います。妹は大学生ですが、妹に家をくれるつもりです。何??本当にクレジー。両親は「あなたはUNC-Wの大学院生になったら、あなたもその家使えます」と言いました。でも、多分できません。アメリカに住みたくないですよ。とても複雑な気持ちがあります。

4。仕事

教師になりたいです。でも、

すぐ?大学院生の後?大学院生の前?いつの方がいい?

どこ?日本?韓国?タイ?色々な国?

英語だけは大丈夫?歴史も?科学?

多分たくさん暇な時ありますから、このことを考えれます。

____________________________

Today I am going to write a short blog post because I am planning to go to Osaka Castle.

Recently, I have been thinking about my future… Such as my plans for different breaks from school, what I will do after studying abroad, graduate school plans, and what my future job will be.

1。Break/Holiday plans

My friends and I will go to USJ around Christmas time. We were supposed to go two months ago, but our plans changed. Now, USJ has Christmas decorations and Christmas shows and such things, so I really want to try to go.

“spring break”: If I am able to, I plan to go to other countries during this time. For example, South Korea, Thailand, and Laos (don’t ask me how that one got in the mix). After that I would like to also visit Okinawa. However, I haven’t quite decided yet, but I have to decide soon.

2. After studying abroad

Of course, I will return to America (even if just temporarily). But, before I return, maybe I will study abroad for another semester. I still want to study abroad. Should I study in Japan, South Korea, Spain? I have also not yet decided. This morning, I was thinking a lot between South Korea and Japan. Currently, I am taking Korean classes, so of course I want to go to South Korea. But, is a vacation enough? Do I need to study abroad? Maybe I will live there… I need to think about this more.

3. Graduate School

I talked to my friend who has the same goal and dream as me to teach English. We always talk about wanting to live together, to teach near each other, study with each other. Yet, I know that we are different people, even if we have the same dream, it’s not enough… However, we cannot help, but to discuss things like living together in an apartment in Japan, pursuing graduate school here and working here.

Another issue, my parents are strange people. They intend to buy another home in North Carolina soon. My sister is a university student, but they plan to buy her a house. WHAT? That’s crazy I thought. My parents said though, if you also plan to study at UNCW (grad school), then you can also use the house. So now, I have very complicated feelings…

4. Work

I want to be a teacher. But…

Soon? After graduate school? Before? When is the best time?

Where? Japan? Korea? Thailand? Different countries?

Is English only enough? History too? Science?

 

Recently, I have had a lot of free time, so this is probably why I am having such thoughts…

Study Habits/Strategies/Failing

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I miss WCU’s library (and falling asleep on the couch)

Since joining Western Carolina University August 2015, I have learned a lot about the best ways to acquire a new language. Through books, TESOL classes, and interacting with language learners. I will often ask people how they learn kanji, or how they are able to remember vocabulary, how they practice grammar.

However, do I do what other people suggest to me? No! I am a bad language learner. Honestly. Grammar connects fairly easily in my head, but of course I make lots of mistakes. However, that point is that I learn a new grammar point in class, and then I am able to try to use it, whether I succeed or fail, I use them… But vocabulary and kanji are a bit different.

I am going to be 100% honest, I hate studying. I love learning a language, I love being able to talk to people, I love finding linguistic patterns, I love analyzing sentences and trying to figure out the meaning (on TV shows, in books, in songs, etc.). However, just sitting down with flashcards, or just staring at the words on a page is so boring for me, and I think many other people out there.

For example, recently, we had a Kanji test that covered Kanji from the first lesson until lesson 30. I don’t know how many kanji it was, but my flashcards that I had been collecting since the first kanji quiz were too many to get through. We started studying at 7:00, and by 12:30 I still had not gone through all of them. That’s not to say I studied straight through the night, I definitely got distracted, but regardless, that is clearly not a good method for truly learning. That is only cramming, and honestly the studying probably only reinforced the kanji that I did know, but did nothing for the kanji that has yet to be ingrained into my brain. The kanji that I easily remember are the ones I see daily, or at least often. Such as illness ones because when you’re in a new country I guess you’re more susceptible to getting sick (I’ve caught a cold 3 times now)!

So, I have figured out what I need to try to do~

Contextualize everything. Writing sentences with the kanji in them and trying to associate their “picture” to something that means something to me. I have read about that in books about learning vocabulary as well, but did I ever listen and try to do that as I studied? Nope~ Anyhow, you all will be finding that I am planning to do a post once a week when I am studying new Vocabulary and Kanji and I will just create sentences. Hopefully, I can find a way to relate them all together, but we will see how that turns out.

One thing that I’ve noticed that Troi does when learning vocabulary, is that she will record herself reading all of the vocabulary words and then play them back to herself. This is a great way to associate the words with their pronunciation, listening practice as well as acquiring vocabulary. That cannot be the only thing that I do to learn vocabulary, but it is a very smart idea, I think, as long as I can pronounce things properly!

Now as for watching TV shows, my advice for other Japanese language learners!
Try to watch them without English subtitles, but go ahead and turn on the Japanese subtitles, this makes taking notes easier about unfamiliar things they say. The best shows I think are comedies (like comedians), and reality TV shows, for me these are easier to follow and use “real” Japanese, more authentic and less scripted, but of course not 100% non-scripted. Also with songs.. I cannot memorize the words for the life of me, but that is definitely one way to do that.

M.

 

Ken and Kiichi’s Visit!

Ken and Kiichi are two of our friends that studied abroad at Western Carolina University! It was so nice seeing them again. They both go to Chukyo University in Nagoya and are currently busy figuring out their future plans, but made time to visit us at our university which really made us so happy! I did not take many pictures after this, but it was fun being able to show them around our campus, but also hang out with them in Namba. It almost felt like we were back in the United States, and they were studying abroad (yeah, we talked in English, it’s faster!).

We went out for dinner and drinks. Moe had to leave us at that point, but Yoshi was finally able to join us!

We spent a lot of time together… I really missed everyone… Making friends with Japanese people in Japan is hard…so I am really grateful for these friends that I already made at WCU.

Next time we will visit them in Nagoya~! Not sure when, but stay tuned in…

M.

November 19: Kyoto |11月19日:京都

京都に行きました〜!

電車で:大阪教育大前駅→河内国分駅→鶴橋駅→京橋→三条駅(ここからバスに乗れます。)

本当に楽しかったです。京都はとても綺麗です。たくさんバス乗りました。一人でじゃないだから(秘本人と行きました)、できました。でも、私は一人で京都に行ったら、多分道に迷いました。

京都でこの場所に行きました:

金閣寺

駅に着きました。昼ごはん食べました。すぐ後、金閣寺に行きました!私は魅了しました。この写真は綺麗、でも自分で行ってください。いいカメラとまた帰りたいです。私はスマトフォンでだけ写真を撮りますから、ちょっと悪質です。

京都タワー

次、京都タワーに行きました。私の新しい目的は全部の日本のタワーに行くことです。夜のときとても綺麗です!このタワーはちょっと高いです。タワーでエスカレーターを使いました。だから、本当に多分、30分ぐらいだけタワーにいましたが、本当に綺麗で、全部のタワーに入りたいです。

清水寺

清水寺はすごいです!素晴らしい!夜の時はとても混んでいますが、このときは一番綺麗な時と思います。

奈良!いつ?

アメリカで留学した友達と一緒に奈良に行きました。本当に楽しかったです、でも本当に遅いでブログしてごめんなさい、@もえ!その日、奈良で食べ物の祭りありましたから、最初、昼ごはん食べました。私たちは美味しかった肉まんトピザーとパスたを食べました。あと、奈良公園に行きました。たくさん写真撮りましたけど、私はスマトフォンでだけ、私の友達はプロにみたい感じでした、本当のカメーラがあるから。奈良公園で、シカはとても可愛いですよ!!!でも、毎日たくさん食べてるから、とても丸々とします。ちょっと悲しと思いますから、シカせんべいあげません。たくさんせんべいは悪いことと思います。多分、私はぜんぜん動物に触ることできる場所好きじゃないです(英語でPetting Zoo、でも日本語でちょっとわかりません)。でも、私は東大寺も行きました。東大寺はとても面白かったです。寺に入ることは初めてです。

遅いで私は書きますから、ちょっと全部覚えません、でも、本当に楽しかったです。もえと、もっと旅行したいです!

短いですが、写真みてください!

目眼

 

 

11月18日ホームビジトプログラム、グロバル香芝

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私は本当に日本語で話しにくいですけど、私のホストファミリーはとても優しい人です。ホストファミリーはお母さんとお父さんとお兄さんです。皆さんの趣味は旅行と思います。いろいろな国で旅行しました。例えばタイランドと中国に行きました。すごいと思いました。今はアジアに初めてです。ちょっとアジアの中で、韓国と日本に興味がありましたが、ホストファミリーと話した後、もっと国に行きたいです。 日本の料理食べました、美味しいたこ焼きとお寿司。たくさん話ました。野球とサッカーについて話ました。お父さんとお母さんと一緒に広島のことも話しました。お母さんとお父さんは最近広島に行きました。私も行きたいですから、お父さんとお母さんは私に今工事がありますから、ちょっと待ってくださいと言いました。進めたことありがとうございます!短い時間と私日本語が下手ですから、全部の話したいことを話せませんでしたが、ホームビジットファミリーと話すことは本当に楽しかったです。その日、私はとても嬉しいでした!大丈夫だったら、また伺うつもりです。 私のお母さんは彼女のアメリカのイメージを説明しました。私は本当に興味がありましたから、もっと話したいです。多分、たくさんにほんじんは同じイメージがあります。私のアメリカの友達は黒人です。でも、お母さんはイメージがアメリカ人の中で皆は白人です。でも、本当に違います。アメリカ人いろいろな国から来ましたから、いろいろな顔と肌の色があります。実際に、大阪教育大学でアメリカ人は三人です。私は白人、父は南アフリカから来て、私のお母さんはアメリカ人(色々な国住みましたが、アメリカ人)です。でも、トロイさんのお父さんとお母さんはアメリカ人で、ぜんぜん他の国から来ました。他のアメリカ人はヒスパニック人、アメリカで生まれましたが、両親はエルサルバドルからアメリカに来ました。アメリカは本当に違いますから、私のホストファミリーにアメリカ友達ともっと説明したいです。

November 14 | 11月14日

The next post was supposed to be on Saturday and Sunday about Nara and a Homestay experience… I haven’t even finished translating my previous blog post… However, I just have something else I need to blog about real quick.

I am sure everyone and anyone going through a study abroad experience (or just in general, life) has times that they break down. Get frustrated with themselves. Or feel like giving up. If there is a person out there that has never had a moment like that when they feel weak, or defeated… they are just absolutely amazing.

Honestly, most of the time I am fine with not being able to speak in Japanese. I am fine with not being able to understand everything. I am fine with not getting what I ordered due to miscommunication. I am fine… Most of the time.

Today though was that day. The day where I felt defeated. Starting from my first class of the day, which was Korean class. We were just going over counting/numbers which I know in Korean, there were only four of us in the class today, so it should be easy… I just say the fourth number, right? Well… I messed up and said the wrong number–Korean has two ways of counting. No big deal simple mistake, I can correct it write? However, the teacher started saying something to me in Japanese and I got more and more confused, so I try to look where she is pointing on the page, but I just could not grasp the fact that she was telling me to just read off of the sheet. Finally though, she gets through to me… I say the right number. Next though she has us switch to the other type of numbers to count… Good lord, I have no idea what she said, but I tried to follow what everyone else was doing! I got it! We were counting by twos, with the odd numbers. Easy! Until it was 20, 30, etc. She changed up the rules on me and I was lost. Then, at the end of class she starts talking about the homework assignments. I am trying to pay attention to the numbers that she is saying, and what kind of assignments they are, but it was so difficult to do even that.

Then, later today I had a vocabulary test… Which I did not study as much as I should have for. Over the weekend I was spending time with friends, so I did not start studying until Monday. Language learners out there, do not follow my example! For long term understanding of vocabulary, cramming is not beneficial at all. Even if you remember it for the test, being able to apply it to your life is completely different if you study cram style. However, that was my only option Monday night. I was able to recognize all the words going Japanese -> English, but once I had to produce the Japanese word on my own, I had a pile of words that I could not remember. Of course, on our quiz there were 3 of those words on there. Now, I do not believe tests are accurate measurements of a person’s language ability, nor do I think they are accurate measures of ones intelligence or understanding of a subject. However, being a very competitive person, even missing one question is not enough. And I missed three…

Other things naturally happened throughout the day where there were communication failures. However, I was talking to one of my Japanese friends who I speak mostly in Japanese to. We’ve been talking since the beginning of October, so only about a month, but it has been one of the reasons I do not mind speaking as much anymore and one of the reasons I feel more motivated to learn more Japanese. Now he also speaks English, fairly well, but I am trying to avoid speaking to him in English unless there is something I need to convey that I cannot in Japanese. Our conversations are relatively basic, but I enjoy talking with him.

Now, yesterday was Monday…Monday is my favorite day of the week. I can play soccer and I have a class about British History, which interests me. At the beginning of the day, I was responding to his messages fairly fast, but then I had class, and then needed to eat, then I fell asleep… Just in general I was a little bit busy, but also did not know how to respond to his questions other than with simple one word answers… So, today he mentioned that he felt hurt that I did not respond much to his messages (beyond just today)– which is true they were very short responses. He ended up talking a lot about how he was feeling and was very nice about it, but obviously my lack of response hurt… In fact I never really am the one asking questions because that is hard for me to do, in either language. I understood most of what was said. However, then it came to me responding… I could not express my feelings accurately. I could not tell if he understood what I meant… But I tried. I felt frustrated that I wasn’t able to communicate my thoughts. While still talking, on the phone, I started to cry…Which made me more frustrated… I do not think he noticed I was crying, but still…

I rarely cry… But I think everything just got to me. I was frustrated with my lack of Japanese ability, with just in general who I am as a person… I felt exhausted and defeated. It was more than just feeling uncomfortable, which most of the time I laugh off (I think it is important to be able to laugh at yourself). Luckily, we were able to come to an understanding and work out the issues at hand (I don’t feel comfortable giving more details on the blog, but in general what I said before is accurate). I realized, that the people that will end up being my friends are going to be the ones that are patient, who recognize the fact that mistakes will be made, frequently, and who help me overcome them. Thankfully the person I am talking with is like that.

I just wanted to share this story on here to let people see the side of things you may experience while in Japan, or studying anywhere else. Not only is there a language barrier to deal with, but there are cultural differences to take into consideration when making friends and forming relationships.

I really enjoy my time in Japan, and now only feel more motivated to learn. However, I do not think I realized just how frustrated and how defeated I could become. Now, I recognize this and am going to continue studying hard~!

M.

 

November 13 | 11月13日

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This past weekend Troi, Jackie and I stayed at our friend Kanako Hata’s house. It was a wonderful experience, and it made me miss being with my family that much more! In her home at that time was herself, her mom, and her grandma. Everyone was so sweet and supportive of our lack of Japanese language ability. Unfortunately, I did not speak in Japanese as much as I should have… It is always difficult when you are with people that you know speak English to speak Japanese, or I think so anyway. However, it was one of the most fun weekends I have had in Japan so far!

First, we ate soba noodles at a really good soba restaurant. The chef, gave us tomato soba as a service, which basically tasted like Italian pasta, once the olive oil was added. Also, with the tempura there was a matcha-salt to taste it with. I actually really liked the unique blend of bitter and saltiness to go along with the tempura. Seriously, the soba was so good! After eating we had to go shopping for the things we wanted to put in our takoyaki… Honestly, we had no idea at all what to add, but luckily Kanako knew.

Then we returned to her home and she showed us our rooms. We rested for a little bit, and then we went exploring around the area that she lives. She showed us where she used to go to school, and we went to many different parks that she went to as a child, and really enjoyed going down a slide and “working out” on the equipment at the parks.

That evening we had a Takoyaki party! We had ones with octopus, ham, cheese, kimchi, and more… They tasted so good! After that we tried to make desert versions of the Takoyaki with pancake batter and chocolate… We forgot chocolate melts, and burns… Maybe we added the chocolate a little bit too early. However, it was a fun experience! It was the first time that we made takoyaki ourselves. (Also, cannot forget this experience, I was talking to someone and called takoyaki, “takonomiyaki” — takoyaki+okonomiyaki, I think.)

Then we watched a funny Japanese movie “Thermae Romae”. It was hilarious–although I was definitely not able to understand everything, I couldn’t stop laughing at the character’s antics.

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After the movie, we were pretty tired, so I went to sleep. The next day we woke up and went to the mall! Shopping~! It was fun to spend time (and money) together. Laughing at clothes, and at each other, and remembering times at Western Carolina that we spent with each other. We spent probably 5 hours at the mall that day, but it was so much fun! At the mall we did a purikura (Japanese sticker booth), check out the picture below, we look so cute~! We returned to Kanako’s home, watched videos from her childhood, then we ate Sushi, and chatted some more. It was such a fun day.

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All in all, I just want to thank Kanako’s family for this experience! It was so wonderful~

Soon I will write about Nara! Which we actually went to a while ago…But I haven’t written a post yet!

M.

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先週の週末、私はトロイとジャキーと一緒に友達の家で泊まりました。本当に素晴らし経験でした。友達の家に友達とお母さんとお祖母さんは住んでいます。友達の家族は本当に優し人でした。私は日本語話すのが下手ですが、家族はとても面倒見の良いです。友達とお母さんは英語できるから、たくさん日本語はしませんでした。でも、本当に楽しかったです!

つくの後、最初、いいそばレストランでとても美味しいそばを食べました。そばを作る人(コック?)はサビスのトマトそばをくれました。美味しかったですが、味はイタリアのパスタの同じようにでした。私は天ぷらそばをしました。コックは天ぷらを抹茶塩と盛りました(装いました?)。その時前に、全然食べました、でも、私はこの味が好きです!ぞばも本当に美味しかったです。もう一回食べたいです!食べるの後、食べ物の買い物をしました。この日、たこ焼きを食べるつもりでしたから。でも、私とトロイとジャキーと全然たこ焼き作りました。何がいい?と思いました。運良く友達は知りました。

買い物が終わった時、家に行きました。部屋に行きました。ちょっと休みまして、友達は私たちに案内してくれました。小学校を見ました。本当に広い学校です。その学校で教師になりたいです。その地方でたくさん公園があります。滑り台しまして、色々な運動することもしました。とても楽しかったです。

晩御飯はたこ焼きでした。たこ焼き作りにくいです。たこ焼きの中に、タコ、ハムとチーズ、ときむち、など。。。美味しかったです。このたこ焼き食べた後、デザートのたこ焼き作りみました。でも、ちょっと難しいでした。チョコレートが溶けました。でもー本当に美味しかったです!たこ焼きは初めて作りました。(笑、二週前に、私はタコや好み焼きと言いました。たこ焼き+お好み焼きと思います。)

日本の映画見ました。面白かったです。全部わかりません、でも、コメーヂだから、大丈夫でした。

日曜日、マールに行きました。多分5時間ぐらいいました。

“Tokyo”, November 10

I received a scholarship from the United States-Japan Bridging Foundation for my study abroad year in Japan. They organized an event in Tokyo for us to get to know other scholars, network with representatives, and listen to a talk sponsored by Temple’s Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies. The speaker, Professor Akiko Hashimoto, is a sociologist whose special interests include culture and power, war memory, and national identity. Her topic was “Something Dreadful Happened in the Past: Generational Memory of War and Peace in Japan,” which was about a book that she wrote. 

I did not have to attend this event, but it was a good opportunity to go to Tokyo and talk to other students that are going through similar experiences. I missed my class on Thursday in order for me to have the opportunity to explore the area before the event, as well as to not have to take the Shinkansen and spend $140 both ways.

Now, originally, GoogleMaps told me I could get there for $40 and back for $60, which included all the trains, subways, and buses I would need to take, as well as the night bus which was the primary method of transportation.

However, I got lost looking for the first bus, and missed it. So, someone told me to go to Osaka-Station (Umeda) and get a bus from there. I did not really understand everything they told me to do, but once I got to Osaka-Station, I asked some other people how to get a bus ticket. I ended up at the JR Station and got someone to point me in the right direction from there. I got a bus ticket for 3,500 yen, so about $35 to get there, so still cheaper than the Shinkansen, but more than I originally planned.

The bus departed around 11:00 and I arrived in Tokyo around 7:30. It was not a bad ride at all, in my opinion. I had two seats to myself and a curtain blocked my side off from the other side, so I was able to have my own personal space. Also, the seats reclined so I was able to sleep fairly well, despite the bus stopping about 8 times along the way.

Finally, I get to the Tokyo area! Technically, Shinjuku. My first stop is Starbucks! I was hungry and needed some caffeine to survive the first part of the day.

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In Tokyo, people were more impressed by my horrible Japanese, than people around campus have been. Ordering from the menu at Starbucks is really not that big of a feat, with the menu basically in English– granted Katakana, Japanese-English, but regardless, not the most complicated task. Yet, the barista complimented my Japanese… In response, I choked on my latte.

After that, because I was afraid of getting lost on the subway lines, I decided to see if there was anything nearby that I could do. I saw that the National Stadium where the 1964 Olympics were held were nearby. I wanted to see the stadium, so I decided to try to walk there. It was supposed to be a 35 minute walk from the Starbucks, but it ended up being close to an hour after getting turned around several times. Finally, I found it…

Or I think I found it… But…

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I think because of the 2020 Olympics, construction is all I was able to see. However, I still spent a good amount of time looking around this area. A security guard at one point started to approach me as I stood on the grass watching some construction near a small soccer field… I assume it is because I was on the grass, but maybe it was nothing at all. I walked away before he could say anything to me.

Then, I began my search for something more interesting to do, still nearby, I wasn’t feeling super adventurous just yet.

However, after walking and walking I became tired and wanted to rest. Let me point out the fact, I was carrying a book bag which had a reading book, a change of clothes and shoes, a blanket, neck pillow, and toiletry items in it– okay, it could have been heavier, but I am weak, and I was exhausted. So, I decided to head closer to the event area and see what was around there. I was glad I did so!

After taking the subway I was close to a Snoopy Museum which I originally planned to go to first. However, I got lost and ended up around here:

Tired, but content with finding Asahi-TV, I decided to walk around the garden and watch a movie in Japanese at the neighboring movie theatre.

The movie was okay…weird plot, and seemed to encourage teacher-student relationships, but I got to rest my feet and try to practice my Japanese, so it was a good experience. Plus, I really wanted to go see a movie at a theatre in Japan. After working at a movie theatre, one of my favorite things to do when I travel is to compare how movie theaters operate, I am sure I will talk more about that another post.

After that, I wanted to check out the Tokyo observation point and what was supposed to be an art museum, or art gallery. However, I couldn’t find it, or was unimpressed that I did not notice that I was there. Although here, the signs were in English as well as in Japanese, if you are directionally challenged, as I am, it is very easy to not find what you are looking for. So, after wandering around for a bit, it was off to the Snoopy Museum I go! Again, I took a couple wrong streets, but ended up successfully finding it!

 

In Japan Snoopy is a very popular icon, at least compared to in the United States. This museum seemed extremely popular, their tickets seemed to only allow people in at designated times. Maybe because I did not understand the Japanese, or maybe they were not so busy on a Thursday, I was able to go in right away, which was great! Of course, since I was there, I had to eat at the cafe, and I ate pancakes (for  a late lunch, by then it was 2:45).

After the museum, I decided to walk towards Temple University, where the networking event was going to take place and thought once I found it I could find something nearby to sit down at– such as a cafe, or bookstore. Well, I found bookstores, but there were no chairs and I could not find any cafes around. So, instead I ended up wandering around looking for some bench to sit at. Japan does not really have benches, unless it is at a bus stop or a park. Therefore, I had to look for a park. I ended up finally finding one and I sat there for a bit reading my book.

If I was a bit better with directions, or traveling with my non- directionally challenged friends, I feel like I would have enjoyed my time more and done more. However, after getting lost before even reaching Tokyo, I was not up for the challenge navigating the streets solo. Despite all that, it was a very good experience for me!

After the event I took the same subway back to the Shinjuku station area, then I tried to buy a ticket for the bus I wanted, but they were sold out! So, I had to get on a later and slightly more expensive bus. It still got me where I wanted to go, but again, I was sad about having to cough up more money.

My advice for travel:

  1. Make sure to buy overnight bus tickets in advance (at least from Shinjuku area to Osaka, apparently it is a very popular route)
  2. Plan out more about where you want to go and study the map, as well as making sure that the place you want to go will be open when you get there.
  3. Most of all though, be flexible! Things will most likely not work out 100% the way you want them too, but the more worked up you get, the harder it will become to navigate a new area.
  4. For me, solo-travel is not as fun. Big group travel for me is also stressful. However, with a small group (my definition of small is ~3-8), I think that it can be a lot of fun.

That being said, I am looking forward to my next overnight travel experience, most likely with friends!