Category Archives: Tokyo

Odawara Castle


Since our boat trip to Hachijo-jima Island was canceled because a typhoon was forecast to interrupt the trip, a group of friends and I planned a backup trip to Odawara Castle to experience a more traditional side of Japan. For the most part, areas in the Tokyo Prefecture are very modern with the exceptions of spots of shrines placed throughout the city. Odawara Castle is probably the furthest outside the city we have been thus far. Considering that it was more than two hours away from campus, the trip was pretty inexpensive (only $13 one way).

Odawara Castle has a long history as a strategic headquarter in the late 15th century. My host mother explained that a Shogun wanted to unite all the clans in Japan and form a peace treaty; however, the Hojo clan refused to conform.

"The Three Dragonscales"is the emblem of the Hōjō clan. Apparently Zelda's Triforce symbol came from this design.

“The Three Dragonscales”is the emblem of the Hōjō clan. Apparently Zelda’s Triforce symbol came from this design.

Eventually, the Hojo clan was defeated in a large siege around the 1590’s by a large force under the command of Hideyoshi. Apparently, the story of Hideyoshi is well known and quite popular throughout Japan is seems to be a timeless story. Our visit to Odawara Castle certainly made me realize how little I know about Japan’s history. It was certainly interesting to learn about the history of another country, and to retrace the steps of mighty feudal lords.

As you enter the site, you are greeted with sakura trees on one side, and construction on the other side (they are still excavating the outer castle). The original castle was largely destroyed by the Meiji government in 1867 (with the exceptions of its stone walls and moats), however the restoration process began in the 1930’s. Nowadays, the interior of the castle is used as a museum, and the surrounding area has become a popular location for sightseeing and experiencing traditional Japan.

Speaking of experiencing traditional Japan, the location had a site set up where you could rent and wear kimonos or real samurai armor!

Ready for combat!

Ready for combat!

This has got to be one of the most unique experience I’ve had so far in Japan!

Unfortunately, since the inside of the castle was a museum, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures. However the museum had countless historical artifacts, beautiful pieces of art, and weapons with interesting stories of romance, revenge, and heroic feats. We were allowed to take pictures at the top of the castle though!



There were also a lot of gardens and markets around the area!

A very pretty looking bridge!

A very pretty looking bridge!

We stopped by a famous restaurant that was recommended to us. The food was surprisingly affordable despite its exotic appearance! The drinks on the other hand were not (it was 600 yen for a cup of coke!! And refills aren’t a common thing in Japan!) It might be a little too adventurous for some friends back home, but we figured this was a once in a lifetime experience.

I guess being in Japan has made us all open up to new experiences.

I guess being in Japan has made us all open up to new experiences.


Anyway, I would definitely recommend Odawara Castle to visitors who would like to experience a bit of feudal Japan! We all had a great time, definitely got a lot of cool pictures!

Through the Doors and Into the Classroom-A Look Inside My TUJ Classes (Part 1)


You may be thinking, “It’s been a month already! So, what’s it like being a student at Temple University Japan?” Well, look no further friends because I’m here to give you some answers (Well, as many as I can for something in my major). I’m currently taking four classes: Introduction to Visual Language: Drawing, Ideology and Social Change in Japan, Korean Elements I, and Japanese Elements II. This will be a two-part post so for this portion I’ll be focusing on the first two classes. First up, drawing.

Introduction to Visual Language, Drawing:

I’ll be honest, I had my reservations about taking art classes in Japan (let’s just say it’s not really the first place I thought of when thinking of the visual arts), but I registered for drawing and I’m glad I did.

Taught by Kaoru Sakurai, the class has about 15 other students that are divided into two groups, the intro students and the intermediate students. The intro students work on the basics like value, shading, texture, proportion and perspective, while the intermediate students work on building upon what they learned from the intro level with the addition of color.

Kaoru Sakurai teaches the intro students about using a grid in order to draw subjects with proper proportions.

Kaoru Sakurai teaches the intro students about using a grid in order to draw subjects with proper proportions.

Two students hard at work trying to draw objects in perspective.

Two students hard at work trying to draw objects in perspective.

This is the first time I’ve taken a proper drawing class and I was surprised at my first assignment, which focused on shading and tone values.

I know it's not perfect (especially the cube), but it turned out a lot better than I thought it would.

I know it’s not perfect (especially the cube), but it turned out a lot better than I thought it would.

Although the two levels are split during the studio sessions, both come together for Critique Day. Everyone gathered in one room and as the professor called two students at a time, they displayed their first three assignments on easels. Each said which drawing was from which assignment and what they thought their strengths and weaknesses were. Then the floor was open for the rest of the class to provide any constructive criticism before the professor gave his input. The intermediate students have gone through what the intro students are going through now so it was really appreciated that they were able to give the intro students advice on what helped them overcome their weaknesses.

Two students place their assignments on display. Why is this making me nervous as if it were my own work?

Two intro students place their assignments on display. Why is this making me nervous as if they were my own works?

An intermediate student approaches to take a closer look at an intro student's work before critiquing it.

An intermediate student takes a closer look at an intro student’s work before critiquing it.

An intermediate student explains her works to the class and with her ends the first day of critiques. Day 2 looks to be promising!

An intermediate student explains her works to the class and with her ends the first day of critiques. Day 2 looks to be promising!

Because the class is relatively small, critique day for the intro students ended early and we were also able to critique the works of an intermediate student. To me, the drawings were very impressive and evidence that they were from someone coming into their own style. I don’t know if it’s too much to hope I can reach for that level of skill yet, nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing what the rest of the semester will bring.

Ideology and Social Change in Japan:  

First things first, the assigned and supplementary readings for the class are challenging, but I find them interesting so I don’t mind. During classes we discuss the readings, our feelings on them, and Dr. Kyle Cleveland engages us in debate about how we view the issues. For instance, one recent topic that was brought up was whaling in Japan and last week’s class proved to be very intriguing.

Guess what class? Next week you're having a debate on whaling! Come prepared!

Guess what class? Next week you’re having a debate on whaling! Come prepared!

The class started with a screening to open up the floor to the topic of the day’s debate, whaling in Japan. The class was then split into two groups, those who were in favor of whaling and those who were against it. As this was not to be a debate based upon our personal preferences, Dr. Cleveland had the students count off by twos to decide who would be on what side. Both groups were given 15 minutes to prepare their arguments and counter-arguments to as many points they thought the opposition would bring up. After constructing several sound arguments (all of which were supported by previous assigned readings, in-class screenings and lectures), it was time for the debate. Both sides were ready and raring to go.

Following Robert’s Rules of Order, one person from either side spoke at a time and only brought up relevant points pertaining to the topic at hand. Those against whaling gave their opening statements, listing concerns like individual health from mercury poisoning, the inhumane ways in which the whales and dolphins are killed and the efforts taken by the Japanese government in order to keep the whaling process a secret. With the gauntlet official thrown, those for whaling responded with just as much passion. The two sides went back and forth during the debate, focusing on several different aspects of whaling that were noted by Dr. Cleveland.

Both sides working in order to make sure they can present and defend their argument at the end.

Both sides working in order to make sure they can present and defend their arguments.

Pros vs. Cons of whaling. Write your main arguments on the board.

This looks to be a most interesting debate.

The debating portion of the class concluded and the professor posed a question to everyone. He asked, “Is there anything that would make you switch to the other side?” Some were dead set on not changing their minds while others were willing to switch only under certain circumstances. Whatever the positions taken, I think what was important was that we were able to 1) choose a side and support it by using facts from creditable resources and 2) listen to the opposition’s argument in order to take into consideration all sides and not be limited to our own perspective.

Beyond the debate, I find the way Dr. Cleveland teaches and engages his students to be effective. The points he includes in his lectures are made clearer by his use of personal anecdotes, whether they are humorous or horrifying. Even if some of the students tell their own anecdotes, he asks them questions about it, finds a way to relate it back to the lesson and moves on to the next point.

A fellow student relates whaling to her experience in the rodeo.

A fellow student relates whaling to her experience in the rodeo.

Some students think he is a tough teacher, but I see him as a teacher who wants to bring out the potential in his students by challenging them. For instance, at times he plays the role of devil’s advocate in order to debate with his students and get them to clearly and efficiently explain their perspective.

There are certain things these two classes have provided me that I don’t think I would have gotten if I were to take the same classes at my university. For example, in my home university, all critiques come from the instructor so it’s nice to learn from fellow students as well as the professor. Taking an Ideology and Social Change in Japan class while in Japan has a different feel to it. I’m actually in the country that we’re taking about and it’s made me more aware of the culture that I and many others have romanticized because of anime, technological advances and such. It helped me gain a more realistic perspective of Japan and furthered my understanding that Japan is so much more than those things.

Language Partner Program-A Step Towards Bridging the Language Gap


Being in Japan has made me realize how important it is to actually learn the language. When in Japan, Japanese ceases to be something you can say you “kind of knew” based on several words or phrases in order to impress your friends and becomes something that needs to be studied in order to operate in daily life. I’ve taken three semesters of Japanese at my home university, but being in Japan has forced me to lift my head up from my textbook and finally put those skills to practice. Almost every day I hear different words and phrases, said in different dialects and with different inflections and gestures. If anything, it has reawakened my desire to perfect my Japanese.

Knock knock! Who's there? TUJ's Language Partner Program! Time to improve those communication skills!

Knock knock! Who’s there? TUJ’s Language Partner Program! Time to improve those communication skills!

That being said, I wanted to take advantage of Temple University Japan’s resources and registered for their Language Partner Program. During registration, you fill out your basic information (name, birth date, program, etc) and your preferred day and time slot (the sessions were to be 50 minutes long.) However, there was also a section for you to include your hobbies and interests. I filled in the usual: listening to music, dancing, cooking, watching dramas and movies, writing short stories, etc; but there were two words I found myself including in my list, “Japanese” and “Korean,” (both of which I am studying.) I clicked the submit button and it was all up in the air from there. I received the confirmation email within an hour but nothing was concrete. There was no guarantee the school would be able to find a partner for me, but a girl can dream can’t she?

The next day I got the email which began with, “After considering your schedule, we are excited to announce that we have been able to match you with a language partner.” YAY! They were able to find a language partner for me! Scrolling further down, I discovered I was partnered with Shiwoo Moon, a Korean student. I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time (Is that even possible? Oh well.) I would be able to perfect my Japanese (and possibly my Korean as well) from a fluent speaker. Perhaps, if things go well, the partnership could turn into a friendship. Just as the rainbow started to appear over my optimistic thoughts, the nervousness hit me. The information that was provided in the email didn’t specify anything beyond the fact that Shiwoo Moon was also a student at Temple University Japan. Yes, we had the commonality of being students in the same school, but the session would essentially be yet another instance of having to meet someone new, with the only difference being that it would be in a foreign country. (Can you feeling the anxiety levels raising? Because I sure did.)

The 29th came and it was time to meet my partner for our session. Of course I was nervous to begin with (so nervous that I showed up 30 minutes early), nevertheless, I couldn’t turn back. Once Shiwoo arrived, we were taken to a small nearby room that was close to the OSS office, given water and told about what others had done, just to give us an idea of how to proceed. Some partners met to focus solely on getting homework assignments done, some worked on grammar and some worked strictly on speaking, but it was up to us to decide what we wanted to do. And so, with our 50 minutes officially started Shiwoo and I exchanged our awkward greetings (to be honest, I think I was the only awkward one in the room. It felt like we were being set up on a blind date at first.) Since I am still taking Japanese Elements II (I will elaborate on what that is in a later post,) he started speaking in Japanese, but I understood most of what he said. If he said a word or phrase I didn’t understand I would say, “(insert Japanese word/phrase here) てどういういみですか” or “What do you mean by (insert Japanese word/phrase here)?” He would clarify what I didn’t understand and I would answer him in Japanese as best as I could. I really thank him for being patient with my broken Japanese.

While going back and forth in both English and Japanese, Shiwoo and I talked, laughed and above all else, learned more about each other. I was the first film major he’d met at TUJ and he was rather impressed to learn that I cook Korean food on a regular basis. Although he currently lives in Saitama with his family, I was surprised to learn about Shiwoo’s time before coming to TUJ. He went to middle school in Long Island, New York, without knowing any English. He told me about how he struggled, couldn’t make any friends or even participate in class because he didn’t know what anyone was saying let alone had the English skills to speak to anyone. After joining the track team, he started studying English in order to communicate with his coach and teammates. From that point on, he kept on studying to improve his English. I think this was where we bonded. I was going through something similar so I asked him what kept him motivated to improve his language skills and he replied, “I keep challenging myself. I like that feeling when I accomplish something.” I knew that feeling as well and I was inspired again.

Even though we only had 50 minutes to talk (which seemed to fly by once we got more acquainted), my initial meeting with Shiwoo was very helpful. He left me with some much needed words of encouragement and hospitality, “I know what’s it like to be in a country and not know the language at all, so if you need me, I can be there to help you.” (ありがとうございます先輩! Thank you senpai! T_T).

Our meeting came to an end and we were kicked out of our room, but we exchanged information and added each other on LINE so we could keep in touch. In those 50 minutes, I managed to meet my language partner, improve my conversational Japanese, increase my motivation to keep studying and gain a new friend.

Nothing like a picture to capture the formation of a new friendship :)

Nothing like a picture to capture the formation of a new friendship :)

L is for Lawson, Loppi and Love


If there’s one store that all TUJ students (whether they are under Japanese Admission or Study Abroad) know about, it’s Lawson. There’s one right next to the Azabu main building and it’s where they can go to get a quick bite to eat, catch up on some quality reading from a selection of magazines and pay their bills. (Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?) Yes, in Japan, you can pay your bills at the convenience store and this alone takes the word “convenience” to a new level. But I digress. It was Lawson that made me the happiest person this week. Just how did this little conbini make me the happiest person in the world in one day? Loppi, (ロッピー) that’s how.

But you may be wondering, “What the heck is Loppi?” Loppi is magic, that’s what it is. It’s a machine that you can find at any Lawson. Although it looks like an ATM machine it’s used to buy tickets to events (for concerts, sports, museum exhibitions, etc.) Thanks to Loppi, it was possible for me to buy a concert ticket to see Miyavi, one of the first Japanese artists I listened to that paved the way for my love of all Japanese music. It’s extremely convenient for those like me who are terrified of calling a Japanese venue for ticket information or going through complicated online registration in only Japanese in order to purchase a ticket online. Loppi was a lifesaver and a time-saver for me. Even though there isn’t an option for English, Loppi is fairly easy to operate for those with limited Japanese. But before I proceed, allow me to clarify one thing. The Loppi machine does not print out the actual tickets themselves. It allows you to pay for the ticket and receive it at Lawson. With that, here’s the step-by-step breakdown for what I had to do to get my concert ticket:


After touching anywhere on the screen, you will see this screen. Touch the option on the left to search for your event via L-code or name of the event.


Input the L-code for the event. This is a five digit number that is often available when you search for an event on Lawson’s website. I had an L-code for the concert so I found it to be a lot easier in terms of getting to it quicker. Touch the orange button that will appear on the lower right. However, if you don’t have an L-code, just search for the event by name, venue or artist. You will be taken to a page where you will be given options and must select which event and on what day you would like to attend.


There it is. My desired concert. Artist, venue, date, time all correct. Now to select my preferred seating. 1st Floor please.


Select how many tickets you want to purchase using the arrow buttons and the price at the bottom right will adjust itself. Some can only go up to a 4 ticket maximum while others have the option for up to 10. But seeing as how there’s only one of me, I think I can be satisfied with just one. Then press the orange button. If an error message pops up, that means the particular show/seat you selected is sold out or not available. If you need to go back, simply touch the back arrow on the top left corner of the screen.


This page is just to accept the store’s minimal fee for using their Loppi machine. It’s literally a dollar so no harm in it. Press the orange button again.


This is for those who have a Lawson card. Didn’t waste my time on this one. I didn’t have one so I selected the option that said いいえ (or no).

Enter your name (in hiragana) in first bar (doesn't matter if it's last name, first name or first name, last name). Make sure you hit the

Enter your name (in hiragana) in first bar (doesn’t matter if it’s last name, first name or first name, last name). Make sure you hit the button that says ー字あけるbetween your first and last name otherwise an error will pop up. You will see the katakana appear below the hiragana just to be sure that it is right. When you’re done, press the orange button that will appear on the lower right.


Enter your phone number. I have a Japanese cellphone so I put in my number. You can also use the Japanese phone number of a friend. When you’re finished, press the orange button that will appear on the lower right.


Time to confirm the order one last time. Artist, venue, event, date, time, number of tickets, seating all correct, but what is this? My full name isn’t there. I was missing a character in my last name.

As you can see, I had some trouble when the confirmation screen came up. I didn’t see my full name so I ended up going back several times and retyping it only to get the same result. It wasn’t until I asked one of the employees that I felt like a fool. It seemed that my full name would never come up on the screen because……wait for it……it was too long. (Gasp!) Luckily, the employee assured me that it was fine and I finished placing my ticket order.

Note: A final message will pop up after you push the orange button on the confirmation screen. It will ask if you understand that you cannot cancel the ticket once it has been purchased. Touch the button on the right, which says “はい”

Yes, print me out that lovely receipt so I can be one step closer.

Yes, print me out that lovely receipt so I can be one step closer.

Little receipt, you are what is going to help me see Miyavi live for the first time!

Little receipt, you are what is going to help me see Miyavi live for the first time!

After the receipt printed out, I had to take it to the front counter. They scanned the receipt and had me confirm the event, location, date and time. All was correct so I wrote my name on the receipt in katakana to make it official, (last name then first name of course.) The cashier took the receipt back and I paid for the ticket (cash or credit was fine.) At that point, all that stood between me and my concert ticket was an mere 60 seconds. (Yes, I said it, 60 seconds!) The cashier handed me my ticket and I’m pretty sure I heard a choir behind me.


やった!私のコンサートチケットを買った!私はMiyaviを見に行こう!(Alright! I bought my concert ticket. I’m going to see Miyavi!)

In my hands was my ticket. My glorious ticket. The ticket that would allow me to see one of the artists I thought I would never in my life get to see. That evening, I went home with a smile on my face and a happy bounce in my step.

Study abroad student, Vivienne Shao, was able to get a ticket to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka thanks to Loppi.

Study abroad student, Vivienne Shao, was able to get a ticket to the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka thanks to Loppi :)

Now you may be asking, “So where’s the love part of this?” Perhaps you’re wondering, “Did you find love at Lawson? Did you find some tall, handsome Japanese man capable of prolonging your stay in Japan?” Well, you’re only half right. I did find love but it wasn’t with a Japanese man. It was with a Japanese machine. (Woah, what?) Before you start panicking, let me clarify:

I Love Loppi!

That wasn’t too lame, right?

私は気にしないから、もう一回いう (I don’t care so I’ll say it one more time):



Freedom and Fun stuff!


The thought that “maybe I signed up for too much” always occasionally slips into my mind whenever my schedule starts to overwhelm me. Japan has been the adventure I have always dreamed of, but lately there is just so much to do and so much to absorb, I can’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed. It’s not a bad thing, but I’m not used to constantly being under a time pressure. The days back at home, following a mundane and repetitive schedule seems so far away nowadays. Kind of like how when you first enter college and thinking to yourself “wow, I feel like I had much more free time during high school!” Well I guess with more freedom, comes more responsibilities.

Freedom and Fun stuff:

The Otaku Cultural Center!

The Otaku Cultural Center!

One of the places I was most excited to see upon arriving in Japan was Akihabara, also known as the world’s Otaku Cultural Center. After finding each other at the station, we decided to experience having lunch at a maid café. (Yeah, I know Tiara, also did a blog post on the same place—I guess it’s almost a tradition to visit one when you’re in Japan!) Our maid knew just enough English to ask where we were from, demonstrate a really cute “ritual” to bless our food to taste good, and told us how excited she was to have us.

Here’s a picture of my meal! It’s so adorable! I wonder how they made it.

Here’s a picture of my meal! It’s so adorable! I wonder how they made it.

Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures of anything else, but they did give us a keychain and photo with our maid to keep!

Here’s a picture of me with our maid! She was very energetic and great at dancing!

Here’s a picture of me with our maid! She was very energetic and great at dancing!

Next stop Animate! So if I was to summarize this place with one word, I would probably pick “paradise”!

Heaven on Earth!

Heaven on Earth!

This store is literally six floors with nothing but anime merchandise. I have never been more tempted to buy everything I saw in a store before. We literally spend hours here and never got tired of it! I am definitely coming back here to for souvenirs for friends!

This place is HUGE!! Unfortunately the panorama picture came out a bit weird since people were still moving about, but I guess this is why I'm a blogger and not a photo blogger!

This place is HUGE!! Unfortunately the panorama picture came out a bit weird since people were still moving about, but I guess this is why I’m a blogger and not a photo blogger!

For dinner, conveyor belt sushi!

おいしそう! Looks yummy!

Looks yummy!

My friends who came back from study abroad total me that the sushi here is super fresh and taste so much better in comparison to what we had in the US, so I just had to experience the difference myself. Needless to say I was not disappointed.

The plates are color coded by price!

The plates are color coded by price!

We also made a pit-stop by the Gundam Café!

Greeting us at the entrance of the Gundam Cafe!

Greeting us at the entrance of the Gundam Cafe!

Much our surprise, there was actually a decent about of girls in there! We were expecting a bunch of guys since that’s usually what we are used to when it comes to the Gundam fan-base in the US. It’s cool to see some diversity in something I once thought was a predominantly male hobby.

Is it weird for me to take a picture of their bathroom? In addition to being super clean, they designed it to make you feel like you were actually piloting a Gundam!

Is it weird for me to take a picture of their bathroom? In addition to being super clean, they designed it to make you feel like you were actually piloting a Gundam!

After a fun Saturday with friends, I stayed home on Sunday to catch up on homework and spend time with my host family. Around evening, otou-san told me that there was a local Matsuri, and asked if I wanted to take a break from homework to walk with him. And I’m certainly glad I did!

Wish we had these in the US!

Wish we had these in the US!

There were kids doing taiko drumming, all the fun games you would normally see in an anime Matsuri episode, and the food smelled delicious!

To the left we have the shrine, to the right we have the taiko drummers!

To the left we have the shrine, to the right we have the taiko drummers!

The goal of this game is to catch a goldfish, without breaking your net! It's a lot harder than it sounds!

The goal of this game is to catch a goldfish, without breaking your net! It’s a lot harder than it sounds!

The food smells and looks amazing! But I'm pretty sure it has nothing against okaa-san's cooking!

The food smells and looks amazing! But I’m pretty sure it has nothing against okaa-san’s cooking!

We did a quick prayer to the gods, enjoyed the festival, before returning home to okaa-san’s world-class cooking.

It looks just as good as it tastes!

It looks just as good as it tastes!

Welcome to Japan! Now What? TUJ Study Abroad Student Orientation!


August 26th was the day that began everything. I arrived in Japan at Narita Airport and was officially on Japanese soil. My heart was ecstatic, but unfortunately, my body was exhausted from the 13 1/2 hour nonstop flight it had just been through. Nevertheless, I had finally made it to my destination. I was in Japan.

After making my way to the Kitazono Women’s Dorm and getting a good night’s rest (or a much needed coma really), I realized I had to overcome another obstacle: Temple University Japan Campus Study Abroad Orientation. (Insert intimidating thunder and lightning here.) Dun Dun DUUUUUUN!

Welcome to Temple University Japan Campus (^_^)

Welcome to Temple University Japan Campus (^_^)

Various TUJ staff members gave presentations throughout the orientation, including Dr. Kyle Cleveland, the Study Abroad Coordinator, Jonathan Wu, the Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Wataru Nishida, the Chief Information Officer and through the wonders of technology (aka the Iphone), Mariko Nagai, the Study Abroad Academic Coordinator. After each speaker approached the front to give their words of wisdom to the group of curious (and let’s not forget jetlagged) new arrivals, one question was asked: “How many of you are from the main campus?” (It was asked seven times to be exact and yes, I counted!) Apart from this little icebreaker, the information that was provided was extremely helpful. They covered topics such as the procedure to add, drop, or withdraw from a course and the different timeframes allotted for each, emergency and crisis procedures (have to be prepared from those earthquakes and typhoons after all), different student government and semester activities, and getting settled in Japan.


Chief Information Officer, Wataru Nishida, encourages the study abroad students to not just “live in” Japan, but to “experience” Japan.


Chief Operating Officer, Paul Raudkepp, reviews emergency and crisis procedures. We must keep the children safe!

The two-day orientation was filled with humor, useful information, the Japanese Language Placement Test (for those registered for a Japanese course level higher than Japanese Elements I) and good pizza (thank you Japanese Dominos), but at the end of it all we were left with memorable comments such as:

“Your experience is largely dependent on what you make of it.” -Dr. Kyle Cleveland


“Take a risk and experience anew. If you want to go to an onsen, take off all of your clothes and go to an onsen. There are so many things waiting for you, but you have to experience them.” -Wataru Nishida

Reflecting back on it now, they made perfect sense. Think about it for a minute. We all made the decision to take the initiative and fill out the application to study abroad. We all applied for the Japanese Certificate of Eligibility and student visas. We all bought our plane tickets, boarded our planes and are now in Japan! Now there are two options for what can happen and they are both dependent on the individual. It can be the most wonderful experience in a person’s life if they can have an open mind, allow themselves to relinquish the control they are so used to having, and delve into a world they are unfamiliar with or it can be an utterly miserable one, where each day becomes torture to get through until the day they board the flight back home. I don’t know about you but personally, I’ll take door number one, please and thank you. So I say make an effort to learn the language, explore the country that you are in, and let yourself really experience it because let’s be honest; no one else is going to live your life for you so why not take that leap and make the most out of it?

Final Reflections on a Summer Well Spent


So I’m now officially home. In fact, this will be my last blog entry and my final (written) words on an adventure of a summer that I’ll remember forever. I learned a lot, both about myself and the world around me, so I compiled a list of some of the things that I discovered while abroad.

Things I learned from Japan:

  1. There is no set of stairs too short to have a paralleling escalator.
  2. Always bring a mini towel everywhere you go. You never know when the humidity is going to hit 90 percent when you’re wearing a business suit. Or really any clothes at all. They will be soaked immediately along with your face and your soul. Goodbye, meticulously applied makeup. The same goes for fans. Always carry a fan.
  3. Life is too short not to eat as many Mister Donut donuts as humanly possible. There’s an old Japanese proverb that goes: “A cronut a day keeps the doctor away.” At least, I think that’s how it goes….
  4. Sometimes the tourist crowds are worth it. Sometimes they’re not. Don’t let a guidebook decide for you what’s worth seeing, because if you hate crowds, the Sumidagawa fireworks festival is going to be awful no matter how much you love fireworks.
  5. It’s okay to wear heels wherever you want, whenever you want. This applies to both men and women as far as I can tell.
  6. A little politeness and courtesy go a long way. Say “please” and “thank you” to food service workers, don’t walk and eat a meal, and being the only loud person on a crowded subway or bus means you’re probably doing something wrong. Is a little consideration too much to ask?
  7. Don’t be afraid to use a foreign language, even if “please,” “thank you,” and “hello” are the only words you know. It does a make a difference.
  8. It’s okay to not like a food, especially if it’s squid or sea urchin, but major points for at last trying it. Especially if you didn’t pay for it yourself, it’s just the polite thing to do to try what’s put in front of you. Life isn’t always burgers and fries, and that’s really for the best.
  9. Be responsible, but don’t miss out on opportunities because you’re worried about money. I know this is easier said than done, but as someone who is largely frugal, I’ve regretted not doing things because of money before. I don’t really know how I’m going to buy books this fall, but Tokyo is what I’ll remember forever. There were no holds barred on this trip and I had an amazing experience. No regrets.
  10. Always take opportunities, even if they’re scary. Doing something is always better than wondering what could have been. My prime example of that is this trip to Japan. Before I left, I panicked about whether I was making the right decision to go. I freaked out. I tried to talk myself out of it. I looked for reasons not to go. But I’m so glad I did. Coming to Japan has been an incredible experience and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Of course, I learned many things that aren’t included on this list, but these seemed to be the things, both lighthearted and serious, that stood out the most. A year ago, I would not have believed you if you’d told me I would spend Summer 2014 studying in Japan. It’s one of the most impulsive, random choices I’ve ever made, and I don’t regret it for an instant.