Second semester, as it always does, is flying by. It feels like literally last week that classes started, and I near panicked the other day when I realized I only have two months left in Japan, and that my midterms are approaching fast. I’m not sure which bothered me more.
At this point living here feels so natural that I’m almost worried about the reverse culture shock of transitioning back to life in Philadelphia. Things that used to seem so daunting just a few months ago, like ordering in Japanese at a restaurant, or reading street signs while navigating Tokyo traffic on bicycle are now second nature to me. I’ve been working my part time job, have started to recognize some of the other locals in my neighborhood (and they definitely recognize me; my roommate and I are seemingly the only foreigners in our area of the city), and have even befriended and hung out with some of the guys who work at our local Konbini.
I am definitely glad that I decided to stay in Japan for the entire year, instead of a single semester. During my first semester it seemed daunting, and there were a few times when I had no idea what I was thinking, but it has been worth it, and I would very strongly advise any future study abroad students who can to do so. I especially see the benefit reflected in my Japanese, which, while still objectively awful (I speak, as David Sedaris described his own grasp of French, like an “evil baby”), has improved so much from the constant exposure. While the Japanese courses I’ve taken at TUJ have undeniably been a huge part of my improvement, the month off we had in the winter, where I was forced to essentially fend for myself and practice on my own did so much for my confidence with the language.
Being here for a year has also given me the luxury of being able to explore at my own pace, and not feel that tourist-like rush to see everything before my time is up (though that deadline is getting closer and closer, which I am painfully aware of).
Tokyo is so massive that there is no way for anybody to see all of it in a lifetime, let alone an academic year, but I really have been to some incredible places in and around the city over the past few months.
One of my absolute favorites, which I went to a week or two ago, was the Chinatown in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, the reason being the food, of course. My roommate and I went into a very tiny restaurant in an alley so narrow we could barely stand shoulder to shoulder, and ended up hanging out with a few old Japanese men all night. They kept buying us dumplings and beer, and I got to practice my Japanese, so the night was an undeniable success.