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4 posts categorized "Japan"

October-December/Winter Break (十月から十二月まで・冬休み)

I haven't written a post in a while so this one will be kind of lengthy to catch you guys up.


    Early October, we had two new exchange students from Australia come to my school from a different program. For their privacy I'll use their initials. There was a boy (P) and a girl (L).  They got put into the first-years classes.

    Some classmates of mine, P, and I went to help out at a shrine near my school called tōfukuji (東福寺). The shrine is very popular in the autumn due to the leaves changing colour. If you're in Kyoto I recommend you to take a look around. That weekend there was some event and there were booths around selling sweets, alcohol, and souvenirs. The people we helped out were some college students that were doing surveys, asking foreigners things like: "why'd you come to tōfukuji?" and "how do you like it?" It was fun handing the surveys out at first but then it started raining. It was difficult to balance an umbrella while handing out papers and pens but we managed.

    Late October the English club (ESS) had a Halloween party. It's the only time of the year you're allowed to wear something other than your uniform at school. Even if you go to school for an event during the weekend you have to go in your uniform, so it was fun seeing everyone's costumes. Some people went all out and put on a face full of makeup and contacts and others just wore a hat and glasses. We ate snacks, played games, and carved pumpkins.



    November was probably the month where I had the most fun. It mostly consisted of hanging out at Hello Village- a room in my school where people can study English and also where ESS is held- after school and during test week playing Connect Four, chess and cards. I met a lot of people that month from the other classes. Normally there isn't a chance to talk to them so I'm glad that I got to. One of the girls that I met also takes the same train as me to go to school/go home. One day we ran into each other on the train and since then we've been friends.

    The movie "IT" also came out in Japan in the first week of November. I had waited so long to be able to see it so as soon as it came out I went to see it in the movie theatre with P. I've loved horror movies ever since I was a child so the movie didn't scare me. Pow, on the other hand, kept jumping out of his seat every few seconds. That was amusing.

    I also went to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) for the second time with the new exchange students plus one of their host sisters. We dressed up in the Harry Potter robes and scarves and agreed that we would all belong to different houses, mine being Slytherin.


    Last but not least, I changed host families again, so I'm at my third family. It's an old couple and it's rather difficult to communicate for a few reasons.



    December had three major events.

For one, we had a Christmas party hosted by the ESS club. We did a present exchange and about thirty high school students from Taiwan came to visit our school. They did a presentation about their school and their culture in Japanese and then half of them danced for us. Most of them couldn't speak English but they could somewhat speak Japanese. It's a really satisfying feeling when you meet other foreigners who can't speak your main language and you can't theirs but still communicate due to both parties knowing a different language. It goes too show that if you can speak other languages you aren't only able to interact with people who live in the country that uses that language, you can interact with so many more people from all over the world. 


     Secondly, the two exchange students were getting ready to leave and go back to Australia. During their time here, I had gotten close to the guy, so when it was time to say goodbye it was pretty hard. School had already ended and even though it was officially winter break people still had to go to school. The first day of winter break was the last day that we could see each other and he wanted to say goodbye to his Japanese friends so we met up at Hello Village and hung out for a while. He left to hang out with his classmates (they threw him a farewell party) and when he got back he had to leave already.

    I actually had plans to go back to California for winter break to see my family. The day of my flight was the same as the other exchange students who were going home. We were all flying out from Itami (in Osaka) to Narita (in Tokyo) to our final destinations. The guy and I had plans to meet up at one of the airports. Unfortunately we couldn't since we booked with different airlines and were on opposite sides of the airports. We still stay in touch though and now if I ever decided to travel to Australia I have a friend there to show me around. 

    Winter break was two weeks long and seeing as how I wasn't in Japan for the break, I'll spare details. Overall, it was nice to be back for a while. Eat the foods I was craving, play on my PLayStation again, sleep in my own bed, see friends, etc. Yet I also really wanted to return to Japan. My being home made me realize how fast time can go by and before knowing it my study abroad will have ended. There's still so many things I want to talk to my classmates about and I want to hang out with them a lot before having to say goodbye. Upon returning I didn't get homesickness. Visiting home for the holidays actually helps me to appreciate my time abroad even more. You only have a limited amount of time abroad that goes by quickly. Spending it feeling homesick is a waste. If you feel homesick, though, try to focus on things you don't miss form home and things that make your trip abroad worth it. For me, my classmates make it all the worthwhile. Just being able to joke around with them makes my day.

    My flight back was two days before break ended (U.S time). When I arrived to my home stay it was the night before school started again. It was a tiring trip but I was excited to see my classmates the next day. I had also brought them some Mexican candy to try out. Japanese people aren't good at handling spicy things so it was amusing seeing some of their reactions. 

That's it for this entry. I'll try to post more regularly from now on so all my posts aren't as long as this one.    

These past 2 weeks: food (この二週間前:食べ物)


     Food. Everyone's favourite thing when travelling. When you travel and are surrounded by new smells and sights, you decide to take the plunge to try even more new things. To truly immerse yourself with a culture. I've tried a few new foods these past two weeks. Some friends at my school first asked me if I had ever tried takoyaki (たこ焼き), small ball-shaped appetizers made with flour-based batter and with octopus in the middle. The fact that it had octopus threw me off and made me not want to try it. I told my friends that I hadn't and they seemed shocked at that, so they invited me to eat takoyaki with them after school at the little store in front of the station. A part of me did want to try it so I said sure, I'll go. So off we went (after school) to that little shop.


     We ordered 6 per 2 people. The person that I was sharing with ordered it with all the toppings. When the server gave us our food I was excited and hesitant at the same time. I took the plunge and put the first one into my mouth. At first it was pretty good. Then I got to the octopus. You couldn't actually taste the octopus but the texture of it was squishy and dense and very much not to my liking. Overall though, I enjoyed it and I would eat it again. Later on that week, at the same store, I had my first kakigōri (かき氷), Japanese shaved ice. It was my first ever shaved ice too. It had way too much syrup and I didn't really enjoy it all that much and I wouldn't have it again. I think once was enough for me. Later on that day, I also had my first okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), a savoury pancake. My host mom at the time made it. I wasn't expecting it too be very good but I was surprised when I took my first bite. I would definitely like to have it again during my stay here. 

Continue reading "These past 2 weeks: food (この二週間前:食べ物)" »

Story time (物語の時間) #1

Story time: Lost and saved by ramen?!

A week ago I moved to a new host family. The first day, on my way back home from school, I got lost. Oh, and it was pouring rain too. So lost and drenched as I was, I wandered into a ramen shop to ask for directions to the station so that my host family could pick me up. Three employees gathered and were confused as to why there was a crazy foreigner, completely drenched and speaking Japanese. They were shocked at first but then they tried to explain the directions. I said I only understood about half of what they said and so they told another employee to take me to the station. We got about halfway until my host dad found me though. Well anyways, today my host family and I went there to eat dinner and the guy that guided me immediately recognized me and vice versa. When my host dad was paying we explained how I was doing a home stay and we thanked him for guiding me. I only managed a small "thank you" because of my shyness and I wish I could've thanked him properly, but at least I brought my host family to eat there. It was pretty nice and the food was good too. It might not seem like a big deal, and maybe it isn't, but it's those little things that turn your day around.

Introduction (紹介)

     My name is Alyssa. I am a 16 year old, 11th-grader, exchange student. I always knew that I wanted to study abroad but when I started learning Japanese, and after I visited Japan with my family, it became clear to me. I wanted to study in Japan. It has such a unique culture, completely different from any other country. Aside from that, the language is very attractive. I wanted to take this opportunity to learn the language from the natives themselves, and also experience something that not many people get to do. Sure, there's people studying abroad for university, but how many people are willing to go while they're still underage and dependent on their family? It's a challenge not many are willing to take, but I'm hoping that with time more people will come to see how rewarding it is.

     I have already been in Japan for almost 4 weeks. The first half of the first week included orientation and sightseeing around Tokyo with the other exchange students and CIEE staff, the second half included traveling to kyoto with 2 other exchange students and some CIEE staff, settling in with our host families and getting orientation at our schools. For me, it also consisted of trying to order some things for my uniform, as how I was the only exchange student who got a school that required a uniform. Fortunately, my school was willing to lend me this much.

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     The first day was as overwhelming as I thought it would be. I got to school late because I couldn't find the station, didn't know where my classes where and had to have people guide me, and my classmates had lots of questions for me and we're all speaking quickly and at the same time. Nonetheless, it was fun and made friends rather quickly, even though that was my biggest concern because of the language barrier (plus I'm shy). 

     Anyways, that's all for my introduction. Yesterday was the sports festival (体育祭) so I'll write about that and post pictures sometime this upcoming week.