Monthly Archives: September 2013

Mt. Fuji…An Uphill Battle



One of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done in my life was climb Mt. Fuji. Sure, I’m in pretty good shape, I eat right (most of the time) I exercise every now and then, and I’ve gone hiking numerous times. But nothing I’ve done up to this point could have ever prepared me for Mt. Fuji.




It was worth it, but it was grueling. The weather was unpredictable. One minute its nice and warm, then it starts to get cooler, and colder, and you look up and it’s snowing! I went from wearing shorts and a t-shirt, to two pairs of pants, three pairs of socks, a scarf, gloves, and five coats. Do you think I’m kidding? Behold the puffiness for yourself:


It was freezing cold, but because we were hiking for hours and hours, I had sweat through about three of the five coats I was wearing. It was really tough. Sometimes the path was flat and easy enough to tread, but other times it was very steep. There were small steps, and giant steps. At one point we were climbing almost completely vertically up the side of the mountain. By the time we got to the 8th station, we were all exhausted. The 8th station is the final station right before the top of the mountain. It’s a place where you can use the bathroom (for a hefty fee of 200円 (two bucks!)) Grab a bottle of water ( for 500円 (5 bucks!) eat, and rest up. But if you were planning to climb the rest of the way up, don’t plan on getting more than a four hour rest.

I was in the bed by 10pm, but set my alarm for 2am in order to finish the hike before sunrise. The whole night I was plagued by dreams of me falling off the edge of the mountain, so when I actually did wake up I heavily debated whether I wanted to finish the hike or not. But something inside me gave me the strength to do it. We had hiked for over five hours to get to that point, and only two more hours separated me from the top of the mountain. I was so close…how could I stop now?

So I gathered up all the strength and will-power I could muster, and finished the rest of the hike. Here is a photo of me at the very, tippy top:


I think that I learned about 100 different life lessons from that hike. Don’t doubt yourself, believe in your friends, nothing is impossible, mind over matter, etc etc. Mt. Fuji is definitely not for the weak of heart, you must have extreme will power and a strong desire to make it to the top. About half of the people in our group decided to stay at the 8th station instead of going all the way, because it was just too difficult. I came to climb the Mt. with a friend, and even she didn’t make it all the way up.

I was moving on will power alone, because my body was tired, sore, and completely out of steam. I often wonder how I was actually able to do it. But one thing is for sure, it is something I can check off my life’s ‘to do’ list. Climb to the top of Mt. Fuji? Done, and done.

One more thing….the view from the top is astounding. You can watch youtube videos of other people completing the climb, you can look at pictures, you can dream about it, but nothing compares to actually seeing it was your own eyes. Nothing can rival watching as the sun begins to peek over the clouds, painting the sky fluorescent blues, purples, and orange. Of course, you can watch a sunrise from just about anywhere: on tv, from your rooftop, at your grandmother’s house. But Mt. FUji isn’t just “anywhere.”



TGS Saturdays


One of Japan’s biggest technological advances has been the video gaming industry. What better way to celebrate and highlight all the newest gains made in that department than a huge showcase with thousands of people?

Tokyo Game Show, or TGS as most call it, is a yearly showcase and conference held in Makuhari Messe  in the Chiba prefecture. It’s a little ways out from Tokyo itself but that really doesn’t make a difference to huge chunk of the population that attends. People in not just Tokyo, but a good international crowd as well! I personally discovered people from France, England, the Netherlands and even Russia who had come to Tokyo merely for the purpose of this single convention.

Getting there was a bit of a stretch, as my group all came from different directions but eventually met at Tokyo station to take the Keiyo line way out there past Tokyo Disney. We left early, even though the event didn’t start until 10, but that didn’t make a difference to the length of the line. Arriving at nine the area outside was already packed and we would have wasted over 2 hours of our time had we not bought tickets in advance. Even then it was a good hour to wait till opening along with a half hour trek around the building until finally we were permitted entrance.


Once inside we were surrounded with nothing but sights, sounds, and plenty of women dressed in cosplay or handing us promotional items and catalogs for all the big shot companies premiering their new titles. With a map in hand I was able to figure the layout for the show which included three distinct areas – the showcase, which were the first three halls, the merchandise/food area, and the Cosplay area. The whole convention spanned seven different halls and the entrance put us out into the largest hall, Hall 3, where the biggest names, such as Square Enix and Sega, had set up their stations.

The first thing we were greeted with was the Square Enix booth, signified by the giant Chocobo (a mascot for their famous ‘Final Fantasy’ series) looming above. Half of their set-up was one large screen that was playing all the preview trailers for their upcoming titles, most of which I had already known about prior since they were revealed in previous conferences. Most of the booths had the trailers running on repeat, which gathered quite a crowd that stopped themselves right in the middle of the pathway with their necks craned back. You could run them down with a tank and they wouldn’t have shifted their gaze for a second. The other half of the booths were a trial area where anyone could wait in line to play one of the games prior to the release to get a taste for it. The more popular companies all had hour-long lines, and I personally didn’t wait in one, but it’s a good strategy to know what you’re getting into before you buy it, or just hype you up even more so it’s guaranteed you’ll buy it. Either way it benefits both producer and customer. There was also a pair of booths showcasing the two new systems, X-Box 1 and the Playstation 4, neither of which has been released yet. Many gamers, including one of my group, waited to give the systems a test run to help determine which company they’ll throw their lot in with, Microsoft or Sony.

Hall 7 was comprised of smaller booth set up for merchandise. This included soundtracks, posters, miscellaneous items like mugs and key-chains, cosplay accessories, t-shirts, and figures. Some of these items were exclusive to TGS or unreleased beforehand, which drew a rather large crowd. Most shops were set up in a way where they gave you a list of the items once you got in line and you would decide before approaching the register what you wanted to buy. Beyond all this was also a food court as the event ran until 5 PM, and most attendees would get hungry at some point or another. It is possible to exit the halls and return. All that would happen was you’d receive a stamp, like you would at an amusement park if you needed to run back to your car, that you could show to prove reentry.


The rest of hall 7 was a huge stage that was constantly running programs throughout the day. My group only attended the final two; an auction and the ‘Cosplay Collection’ which one needed tickets to enter. The tickets were handed out at random during the day and it was first come first serve, so we were grateful to find some.

The auction was actually a lot of fun. It consisted of rare collectible items, most of them signed by a producer for the game in which it came from. Some notable names had products on the line, including the Sengoku Basara series, Street Fighter, and Ace Attorney (Phoenix Wright). I managed to snap something from the later, a copy of the Ace Attorney 5 game’s cover signed by the producer, Motohide Eshiro. It was pretty entertaining to watch a pair of guys do battle over a couple of signed posters featuring some of the girls from the Touhou series soon afterwards.


The final event of the night was the Cosplay Collection, which is like Masquerade back in America. By 5 PM everything was closed down and the show didn’t start until 6:30 so those with tickets were shuffled off to the side while everyone else headed home. The show itself was pretty entertaining, with groups from different animes or games taking the stage to preform some sort of skit. My personal highlight was the Shingeki no Kyoujin (Attack on Titan) group having a dance off to both of the show’s openings. That one got the whole crowd singing along. Following the show was the hour long ride home, and by this point we were all exhausted so we stopped in a Family Mart to grab a snack to recharge our batteries.

TGS has been declining in popularity in the recent years due to most companies putting out their innovations before hand and not too many reveals being released during the conference, but it’s still a widely attended and celebrated event. If anything the excitement from attending was enough to make the day worth while and I managed to meet quite a few people who shared similar game interests, as well as play a few matches. While TGS isn’t the end all be all of video games, it’s definitely an experiment I recommend to any real fans of the industry. You’ll be sure to find something exciting.

Diner Dash in Japan…sort of!



So hopefully you’ve heard of the game Diner Dash by now. In the game you are a waitress named Flo, and you seat customer as the come in, take their order, and serve their food, but you must do all of this within certain time constraints. You must keep the costumers happy so that you can earn more and more money, and continue to have more customers. It is a strategy game where time management is key. But, the purpose of this post isn’t to tell you how to succeed in the game, but instead, show you a way to experience the game in real life, from the point of view of the customers.

How is this possible? Because Japan has thought of everything. In the ward I live in, Itabashi, there is a certain restaurant near Jujo station named “Coco’s Restaurant.” No, it’s not the infamous “Coco’s Curry House” (which is what I thought upon entering) but it does have it’s own appeal. Once you go to Coco’s Restaurant, you feel somewhat like you’re in the game Diner Dash.  Let me explain.

The layout is not much different than any other restaurant you might be used to. You walk in, a waiter/waitress seats you, and you browse through the menu. Pretty typical of every restaurant right? Well, once you’re ready to order, that’s when the game begins.


You see this? This is the button you press whenever you want….anything. Now these “ringers” are pretty typical in Japanese restaurants. Unlike American restaurants, the waiters don’t constantly check on you to see how the food is, if you need more water, etc. Whenever you want the waiter’s attention, you press the button which alerts the staff to come and take care of your needs. In some restaurants you have to yell “Sumimasen,” (Excuse me) and someone will come over to you.

Well, at Coco’s you press this button, and a number appears on this call board, (which is the number for your table) The waiter or waitress rushes over to you and takes your order, or refills you drinks, or does whatever you are calling them over for. But here’s the thing, in all the times I’ve gone there (which is way too many) I’ve only ever seen two waiters in the restaurant at a time, and the restaurant is pretty big.

That’s where the Diner Dash element comes in. The customers are constantly pressing their buttons and these two waiters are rushing around between all of the tables, making sure that everything is alright, and then rushing over to the front of the restaurant to usher in customers and seat them as they walk in. They also work at the register when you’re ready to pay for your food. It’s pretty amazing to see. A few times our waiter was out of breath by the time he reached our table!

But, despite how hectic it feels at times, the service is always good and the food, even better. Let me just show you what I mean.






How’s that?? Are you hungry yet?? Believe me when I say, it’s as good as it looks, and the price is reasonable as well! So when you come to Japan, remember Coco’s Restaurant. It’s delicious, service is fast and friendly, and you get to feel like your a customer in the Diner Dash game!! What more could you ask for? So make sure you check it out, especially if you are a girl and living in the dorm, because it’s just a few blocks away!! No excuses! Until next time!! (⌒▽⌒)☆


Pets and the City


Keeping pets in the city has always been a different challenge than a more suburban home. The dogs my family has had have been used to large yards, large houses, short walks, and the freedom to do as they please. I’ve also had large dogs, mainly golden retrievers, and as mellow a breed as they are, they do need a lot of space, which to many people in the city who live in apartments or dorms is a luxury they can’t afford. Many apartments have pet restrictions. I see plenty of dogs on a daily basis since I’m staying in a more residential area rather then the center of the city, but in somewhere like Shibuya or Ikebukuro it’s rare to see someone’s canine friend following at their heels.

The only animals I’ve seen are dogs and cats, the dogs being pets and the cats being strays. The felines don’t really pay people too much mind, though some are skittish or somehow offended by your presence. The dogs on the other hand are all well behaved. I haven’t heard a single dog bark in the couple of weeks I’ve been here, even though a good majority of canines here include Chihuahuas, which are rather talkative breeds. Another popular breed are Corgis, which I find strange seeing since they are a member of the herding group and I would think they’d need more space, but the owners seem to compensate for that by long walks or simply taking their dog with them everywhere. Since many people in Tokyo also own bikes, the smaller breeds get a front row seat from the bike basket! Try and put my dog there and she’d hop right out.

Another popular trend is clothes! Yes, even the dogs are fashion conscious in the city! It’s rare to see a naked Chihuahua walking down the street and even all the Bichon Frises have their designer sweaters and the Dachshunds are sporting a glamorous outer coat. Considering the heat this time of year, the clothes don’t really seem to serve a purpose other then fashion or for the sake of achieving ‘kawaii’ which the Japanese are quite fond of.

But what about those that can’t keep a pet? Maybe their apartment complex has laws, they’re too elderly, or they have children and other obligations and don’t have the time. Well, Tokyo has a clever solution to that! It’s called animal cafes! There are many different kinds all around the city, the most popular and numerous being cat cafes. There are also dog cafes, rabbit cafes, and even bird and goat cafes. At an animal café you pay a certain amount to spend time there surrounded by the animals, and unlike most cafes it isn’t about food or drinks, it’s about the experience. Usually the only things getting fed are the animals themselves.


I took a trip myself to the Rabbit café in Harajuku called R.A.A.G.F., which is an acronym for ‘Rabbit and Grow Fat’. The sign outside is a comical depiction of a white rabbit taking a dump and hopefully you know what it looks like in advance since the café is a little difficult to find. When I tried to go with a friend we ended up getting lost so I backtracked another day to find it myself. I stayed there for an hour, paying the fee of 1000 yen, and was given unlimited drinks (though I just had water), though you are allowed to bring your own food and drink in.

The benches are against a wall of cages where your fluffy companions sit waiting. You’re allowed to open the cages and pet the rabbits but you have to ask a staff member to be able to hold them. A pair of rabbits were already loose and hopping around the establishment when I got there and I almost didn’t see one of them hiding under my table. I ended up next to a very friendly brown rabbit that kept nose-butting the cage like he wanted attention. He certainly scarfed down the veggies I fed him (you can buy a bowl for 100 yen for the purpose of rabbit consumption)! All the animals here are well trained and accustomed to humans so the only accidents that might happen are a few rabbit droppings on your clothes, unless you pull on their ears, of course. The instructions outside of the café even give you a friendly little warning: ‘we won’t compensate for injuries and stains inflicted on your clothes by our rabbits’. People can even bring their own rabbits in and they only have to pay the fee the first time. After that get in free with a bunny!


These animal cafes serve a great purpose: they’re a place for people without pets of their own to still be able to experience them. A lot of the people I noticed in the rabbit café were elderly, and they seemed to enjoy the calm, relaxing presence of the animals themselves. Animals are wonderful for therapy and in the vibrant, fast-paced and often hectic city life they are a great presence to retreat to. Dogs especially, for their unconditional love is sure to put a smile on your face no matter how hard your day was. The cafes are comfortable, if a little expensive at times, but the perfect chance to experience being a pet owner without all the hassle, time, and money! It’s a great experience, and I plan to try out one of the cat and dogs cafes while I’m here as well!


Temple Campus & Student Art Festival


Temple University’s Japan Campus is a small campus within an office building located in Minamiazabu, Minato, Tokyo. The walk to the campus building from the station is short, fairly quiet, and very nice when it comes to scenery, despite being in a business area.

IMG_1451(Outside the Shirokane-Takanawe subway station exit, leading to TUJ)




The building and classes are small, but this allows for a more personalized class experience– this is good at times for any growing student. Sometimes the classes are so small that teachers are able to do impromptu field trips during the day. In this case, my 3D teacher decided to take us to an art school festival in Ueno Park, held by Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music.

In this festival, the students from each different art departments make a Styrofoam statue representing their department. Afterwards, they bring them to the park, show them off, and then carry them around the entire park until they reach the center again.







Lastly, my all-time favorite sculpture…


Each group also wore custom-designed and crafted outfits for the parade that went with their department themes. They huddled around, danced, played music, and squirted water at everyone. Here’s some video of what the parade was really like:


Itabashi and Kitazono Women’s Dorms


Upon arrival in Japan, our first task was making our way to where we would be residing for the next 4 months– Itabashi, Tokyo, Japan in the Kitazono Women’s Dormitories. The dorms are quaint, perfect for simple living, and in a wonderful area of Tokyo.

kitazono1(aerial view of Kitazono entrance)

Each room also comes with a balcony, featuring a beautiful skyline view of the surrounding area. Peaceful and beautiful to wake up to every morning.


The women’s dorms are certainly something to get used to, as the rules here are drastically different from those of most American Universities. These rules are implemented simply for the protection of the residents– Kitazono is comprised of both university students and high school students.

The area Kitazono resides in is a small suburb/town with both apartment buildings and small shopping streets with just about everything you might need on a daily basis. The shopping street is only a short 10 minute walk from the dorms, so there is no need to worry about long trips when you’re in need of something.

itabashi1(A cross-street where part of the shopping street begins)

itabashi2(Many cafes, grocery stores, 100 Yen shops, and Konbinis line these streets and provide for excellent variety while shopping.)


itabashi4(The small and quiet residential street that you must walk through in order to get to the shopping street)

Along this street, there is also a small shrine that you can visit. There are many places like this scattered all throughout Tokyo. Some may be bigger than others, but all of these shrines have something unique to offer.


Many of the areas of Tokyo have small Mikoshi festivals all generally at the same time. A Mikoshi is a small, portable shrine, and the idea of the event is to carry this shrine from its main shrine around the neighborhood that it resides in. Many people come together to carry the shrine to each designated resting spot on their shoulders– rain or shine! Fortunately, we arrived just in time to witness such an event, and it took place in the middle of our everyday shopping street.

shrine carry1(Some fellow TUJ students were invited to help carry the shrine)


shrine2(A large crowd of people trek through the rain and follow the shrine carriers)

This area is wonderful, rich with history, and provides for great everyday experiences, even when you least expect them.

Next time, I will show you around Temple’s campus and lead you through my first big Art School Festival experience!


A few of my favorite things….so far!!


Well, I’ve been in Japan for about three weeks now, and it feels like I’ve been here my whole life. Ok, so not really, but I’m definitely enjoying my time here. Everything just seems so clean, orderly, and convenient. I wanted to take a moment out of the day, and just share with you some of the cool and wonderful things that I’ve discovered while being in Japan for half a month. Don’t worry, this list may seem a little short right now, but as the semester continues on, I’m sure more and more will be added to it. Enjoy!!

So around this time Japan is pretty hot and humid. Trust’s not like anything you’ve ever experienced in America…you literally feel like you’re melting in the land of the boiling, I mean rising sun. So you buy a bottle of water, twist off the cap, set it aside and take a long swig of that refreshing water. Suddenly your train comes. You panic. Everyone is rushing to get on but you’re all the way over by the vending machine. You grab your belongings and sprint across the platform, making it on just before the doors close. You breath a sigh of relief, then realize you left the cap to your water over by the vending machine…..Ok, so that’s a little dramatic but it could happen. Well, not if you have this:


Your eyes do not deceive you. This is a bottle cap that will never get lost under the fridge, behind the desk, or under the passenger side seat of your best friend’s car. I don’t really know what to call it other than amazing. You just twist the cap and pull up when your ready to drink, and it just sits there patiently until your thirst has been quenched. Then when your finished, the cap is right there just waiting to be twisted back on, it’s that easy!!! I can’t tell you how many bottle caps I’ve lost over the years, but Japan has just solved that problem. Hopefully I’m not the only one who finds this little gem astounding!! I absolutely love it!

Here’s another scenario. You always lifted weights back home, but you can’t take them on the plane due to weight limits and the fact that nobody brings weights with them to Japan…Don’t worry, there are 100円 (yen) stores for that. Now, the 100円 store deserves a blog post all on its own, but for now let’s just say it’s the new and improved version of the American dollar store. Anything you could ever possibly want, you can buy at the 100円 store, and it’ll only cost you 100円 (roughly $1USD). So why fret about not being able to bring your weights when you can buy them for only a dollar!!! But these are no ordinary weights:


These are water weights. They weigh almost nothing, but bring them back to your dorm/apartment/homestay, fill it up with water, and you’ll be well on your way to the buffness you’ve always dreamed of! There’s a cap on one side of the weight that unscrews to reveal a tiny, clear plastic plug. The plug is to prevent the water from leaking out in the case that you don’t screw the cap on tight enough. So convenient! And you can bring them back to America, just unscrew the cap, take out the plug and drain the water. And don’t worry, pink isn’t the only color they have!

There are two more neat things that I want to cover, and both of these are drinks, but with a twist. These are no ordinary drinks…..they come equipped with a motivational message!! First is BOSS!!! Feeling down? Co-workers picking on you? Can’t seem to do anything right? Well don’t worry, drink some of this BOSS cafe au lait, and you’ll really feel like a BOSS! No one can bring you down, and nothing can take away your spirit because no matter what you do, as long as you’re drinking BOSS drinks, you are the BOSS!!


If that wasn’t enough there’s one more thing that might brighten up your day:


Need I say more? While I will admit that it was lacking in flavor, and it’s a drink and not food, the sweet little message on the bottle made me crack a smile.

Well that’s all I have for now, hope you enjoyed. This is the short version. As more time passes I will include more awesome finds!! Until next time~~( ^_^)/




While making my initial plans for spending my weekends in Tokyo I came across several themed cafes. I’ve heard about these before, and many of them only run for a certain time while the theme itself is popular, though several are constantly operating such as the Gundam Café in Ahkihabara. I’d never really been to cafes back in America, unless one wanted to count the Starbucks located on campus, but I would always buy my coffee and leave. I would never sit down for a meal, which meant I never had the sort of experience that comes from the atmosphere of these places.

The one I wanted to visit first was only running from August to September and is themed on a currently running animation called ‘Dangan Ronpa’. Being a huge fan of this show I figured this was a must do for my first weekend in Tokyo, considering how short the running period is. Finding the café itself was a hassle, as these places aren’t really out in the open and heavily advertised, save for some popular Maid Cafes, and this one was tucked away on the fifth floor of a building down the main road of Akihabara. When my party of three arrived we were told that we’d have to wait an hour and a half for our table so we passed the time by wandering the stores below which were filled with various Anime Goods, Music groups, and other Pop Culture goods. After the wait we were finally welcomed in for the experience.

Image      Image

The café itself was small, not nearly as grand as I had pictured. The walls were lined with screenshots from the show while the promotional trailer constantly played on loop in three widescreens at the back. The tables were set for four people and were relatively small so once we got our dishes we had a bit of a struggle fitting them on since we were trying to share them. The current menu had 9 themed drinks and 6 themed dishes, and the prices weren’t too bad. I knew the café would be a little expensive at most dishes being 740 yen a piece, which was why going in a group to taste multiple dishes ended up being the best idea. We were given an hour time limit to spend in the café itself and with our food we were given several free promotional items just for buying something at the café at all. We made use of the hour and even with the blasting opening theme and the chattering people, it felt oddly relaxing and also exhilarating at the same time.

This was just a taste of what the cafes in Japan have to offer, and they serve multiple purposes. One of my classmates is being paid to tutor English and they work from whatever café location coincides for both student and teacher; so the cafes serve a form of business. Themed cafes, like the Dangan Ronpa one, are purely for the recreation and experience while more common ones can be business places, meeting places, or just somewhere to relax. Some are cheap, such as a smaller café I pass on the way to school with reasonably priced coffee and cheesecakes at only 280 yen. The more popular ones that draw in a crowd tends to be a bit pricier, since the experience alone is worth the price of admission. The themed cafe almost felt like being in an amusement park while the smaller one felt like reclining in my room.

Image     Image

I don’t plan to halt my café ventures here, as this weekend I plan to check out a Butler café, the female guest tailored counterpart to the popular Maid cafes in Akihabara. And later we’ll be making a trip to Shibuya for a Bunny café. I never really took the time to sit down and enjoy the experience of just eating or anything else back home, since I was constantly moving or took my food to go when I wasn’t at a restaurant. But the cafes feel different. They aren’t a place to just pass by and leave, but people of all ages will stop and spend some time, which makes sense considering the daily strain of their working lives. In the morning it’s common to find businessmen with coffee in their hands reading some report or the morning paper before work. Other times there will be children, elders, and students all gathered under one roof. It’s an odd, but peaceful coexistence that I certainly plan to make further use of.


There’s no place like home….or Japan



Do you see that? This photo was taken 13 hours into a 14 and a half hour direct flight from Newark NJ to Narita Japan. I was so close it almost seemed like a dream. Now, I’ve been in Japan for a little over a week and it’s still a little hard to believe that I’m actually here.

Of course, that disbelief fades away once I step outside my dorm room and realize that everyone is speaking Japanese, all of the sign are in Japanese, and the food is, of course Japanese. (^v^)I’ve even started incorporating Japanese emoticons because they’re just so darn cute!!

This is definitely a place like no other! There are water bottle with caps that never come off, special yellow lines in the subway for the vision impaired, and subway cards that not only assure your ride on the subway, but can buy you snacks and drinks from designated vending machines! This is definitely a land of convenience. They even heat up your food for you at convenience stores!!

Don’t even get me started on the food. Ever heard of McDonald’s Teriyaki burger? Or a pepper mayo chicken wrap at KFC? Or how about green tea doughnuts at Krispy Kreme? If you’ve ever dreamed of it, it’s probably here. Yes, even pizza sushi. Speaking of pizza, any topping you’ve ever thought possible, can be found on Japanese pizzas, even combinations you’ve never heard of. Want tempura shrimp on your pizza? No problem. Oh, so you want hot dogs in your crust and seaweed all over? Not a problem!! And the service here can’t be beat….Just don’t forget to bow. You’ll be doing that a lot!

‘There are so many things that I want to see and do, and only one semester to do them in. I want to climb Mt. Fuji, have chats with random strangers in Japanese, be able to actually read kanji, go shopping till I drop….ping, eat something strange and exotic. I want to get over my fear of onsens, see a movie without subtitles, and so so much more.

Anyway, a week might not seem like a very long time to most people, but so much has happened over these past few days! It almost feels as though I’ve been here my whole life. For as short as I’ve been here, funny thing is, I wouldn’t staying here after the semester ends.  Three months just isn’t enough time to see and experience everything a country has to offer. But I’m always up for a challenge…

Life in Japan is just so wonderful, everything is new and exciting and I want to share all of my experiences with you here on this blog!! I will be posting weekly blogs about my time here, the people I’ve met, culture shock, strange foods I’ve found, the most interesting places and what it means to be a student abroad and how you can prepare yourself when the time comes for you study abroad.

Until next time~! Sayounara~! ☆*・゜゚・*\(^O^)/*・゜゚・*☆



First Views



Temple University Japan Campus.

I suppose when I first heard that name to myself I was envisioning something not too different from home. I’ve known a lot about Japan, at least I envisioned it to be plenty but most of my notions just came from popular media and vague research rather then personal experience. In all honest respects, I knew nothing. And what I was preparing myself for ended up being grander and yet, more mundane then I could have expected.

Even in the cities back in America, the schools tend to consist of a few key elements all conveniently located within a reasonable walking distance. So when I first heard the words ‘commute’ I didn’t know what to think. I live in the suburbs, so high school I suppose was a commute as mine didn’t even have a bus system, but driving ten minutes through easy to navigate streets is nothing like a 45 minute train ride underneath a bustling city. And school wasn’t just classrooms located in a couple of shared high-rises, it was a quad, a cafeteria, dorms, perhaps athletic fields and a fitness center, plenty of little goodies to make it seem like you’re living an American idea of  ‘a full life’. Perhaps we’re just a bit too picky about our needs, or in more honest words we’re just too lazy to walk more then ten feet. Even the city goers find themselves almost pampered.

So here I am, barely into the Kitazono dorms and it’s time for our first day of Orientation at the school. When I looked at a map the path to the station seemed manageable. It wasn’t until we were led along that I began to feel the distance strain on my heels in this endless complaint of ‘how much farther’. And the first span on the train was another complaint of ‘how much longer’. Coming from a suburban area, never having lived in the city, and having little in the way of patience or physical endurance I soon discovered the greatest task that lay ahead of me was not class, but commuting. And I was determined to overcome any feeling of being defeated.

I made my weekend plans after our standard orientation (some things about college never change). There were several neighborhoods that careened to the top of my ‘must visit’ list: Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and Akihabara. I had three full days under my command, that’s enough for anyone to at least get a glimpse at what was waiting for me. I pulled a few comrades along for the ride and made it a point to be our guide. If I didn’t do these things myself now I would have trouble later. Turns out that the trains themselves are easy to navigate, and the subway system, while confusing in the different lines (especially adding in the JR Trains) was a pretty logical system. And Pas-mo cards made life all the easier, since buying different tickets to take different trains were a little too much strain.

As it turned out my problem didn’t lie in the trains, it was the stations. The most confusing part of the exploration was figuring out which exit we needed to take to make our way onto the right streets. With the school and dorms, the stations have two, maybe three exits that all lead to relatively the same area. But Ikebukuro and Shibuya? It was an underground maze of the highest difficulty, and even in a small station like Nakano where there were only two exits I ended up picking the right one, thought it was the wrong one and went back in the station, circling around another twenty minutes before realizing my mistake. While street maps are helpful and I took several screenshots with my phone to get us going the right direction, too much of the city of Tokyo looks the same. Without landmarks finding ones way through the various high-rises and small little shops is a challenge and looking for one specific store isn’t about just paying attention to the signs, but no it could be on the fifth floor of a larger building rather than occupy the entire thing. Coming from a suburban lifestyle I was almost babied with the idea that ‘one building = one store’. As it turns out, it wasn’t just Tokyo I’d have to get used to, but the city lifestyle, which had always either scared or unnerved me in the past.

In New York I always felt uncomfortable. In Chicago I always felt impatient and delayed. But strangely enough the only feeling I’ve received so far in Tokyo is a sense of misdirection, something that’s easy to train with more time and practice. Tokyo leaves me with much less a sense of fear in the unknown but an amazement for it. Spending time getting lost is the best way to understand the intricate workings of the city. In my trip to Nakano I discovered a long street that was nothing but shops and was covered above like a row in any other mall. While in Shibuya I was amazed by the grand Shibuya crossing and how traffic stops in every direction as the streets fill with people, all who already have a sense of where they were going. While the city is foreign and strange to me, the people here are so accustomed to it that they barely bat an eye.

Hopefully after a few weeks I’ll be able to do the same. At least for the areas frequently traveled.