And So the Ring Nears Completion

IMG_1962IMG_1973IMG_1983IMG_1999IMG_2004It seems like a lifetime since I was in America, so much has happened. I still remember the faces of my loved ones, the layout of my house, the area where I live, almost like a dream, I remember all of these details, yet I feel like its a dream. Okay, maybe I am getting a bit too sentimental and what not, but when your life dream of living in a nation with such an astonishing culture, history and society as Japan, where arcades are filled with all sorts of fascinating machines and historic sites centuries older than my country, it is pretty bittersweet to be leaving. Still, I made so many incredible memories and friends. I also invited a lot of these Japanese friends to visit me in New York as many are coming to America to study abroad and glamorize NYC as this amazing metropolis. Honestly, I am happy to be going home soon as while I loved, really loved the country, living here, the standards of Japanese society are a bit rough, nothing too major, just that my bed was a little small, I am 5`11, which is above average, still I slept well and the other major topic being that while Japanese and Chinese food are great, I really want some pizza and tacos! Also, I miss my car, the trains are really easy to navigate and use, but I like being able to go wherever I want, whenever I want. I mean I could adapt to living without these things, probably could make my own pizza and tacos, but America is my homeland and that is the culture that I am used to. I am positive that others, who study abroad feel the same. What really brings me back to America is my friends and family, I love them and if they lived here, then I would have no major reason to not consider living in Japan. I definitely will return, probably for the Olympics in 2020, but hopefully sooner, I really like the arcades here, I know that sounds petty, but they are so much fun, also there are a lot of places that I want to visit when I return that I did not have the chance to, did a ton of traveling, but it is impossible to see all of a nation as rich as Japan.

I know that I am suppose to focus on the point of my leaving Japan and my emotions, but really I knew that it was always the last part of my trip and I have been preparing to leave before I even got here. Not that I felt that I would not like Japan, but because I am a very pragmatic person, something that I definitely advise anyone studying abroad to be. I bought a ridiculous amount of stuff, which I have described in detail in previous posts. I have had to buy a second suitcase and fill my duffel bag to get everything home, fortunately my airline, ANA (All Nippon Airways) allows a second suitcase and a large carry-on for no addition charge, if you`re coming to Japan, ANA is your best opinion. Not that the other airlines do not have these accommodations, but the flight on a Japanese airline, definitely helps hype you up for Japan and the service is great!

I feel that it is important to be able to give some useful advise to those considering doing it. First of all, it is kind of intimidating to decide whether or not to leave everything and everyone, you have ever known and live in a foreign country. But, it really is a great opportunity that you may never have again and you can not let your fear hold you back. I was pretty intimidated by it at first, but my parents supported me and told me that I have nothing to hold me down like a family or job; and that I have to take this opportunity to grow as a person. The best way to think of it is just like living in a college dorm in a different part of the country, same amount of personal space and amenities, just as long, and you know that you are far from home, but with modern technology like Skype, you can feel like you are there. My cousins who have graduated from college have told me that their only regret was not leaving their comfort zone and studying abroad, something that they give me credit for. If you are a very pragmatic person, than what I would suggest is try a short 2-week or so Summer study abroad program and see if you like it, that`s what I did and it definitely helped incline me to go for the whole semester.

I definitely feel that thanks to studying abroad, that I am more confident in myself and that when I am given an opportunity, I will go for it with no fear. I went on a lot trips, both alone and with others, from mountain climbing to festivals, I seized every day to its fullest and felt that no day was wasted. It was exhausting beyond belief, I know that sounds rough, but honestly you have to make the most of an experience that you will never have again. A lot of people give me a huge amount of credit for being so brave and adventurous, that praise definitely gave strength to keep going even, when I missed home. Whenever I encounter an issue or something intimidating in my life, I just think to myself that I went to a foreign country and prospered, there is nothing that I can not do and I know that I can adapt to any situation.

One area that is absolutely vital to mention is interactions and relations with others. When I first go here, me and all of the other new residents were always hanging out, going on adventures and I believed that we would spend a lot time over the coming semester together. But, as school started and people committed to their studies and made new friends at school, we all went our separate ways. Of course this happens in college in America too, but as it seemed like everyone lost interest in exploring Japan within a few weeks, while I still had my enthusiasm, this kind of bummed me out, but I preserved and continued to go everywhere I could. While going by oneself may seem kind of lonely, I definitely encourage you to go everywhere you want to because not going due to being by yourself is wasting a great opportunity. I did make friends that went on adventures with me, but I always acknowledged that not everyone would be interested in going everywhere I wanted to and I should not let that hold me back.

Like I have done since the start of my time in Japan, its time for stories of my adventures and all of the amazing things to see and do in Japan! After passing it twice on my other Bullet train trips, I went to the central Japanese city of Nagoya for a day trip. Its a smaller city than Tokyo and has a lot less history than Kyoto, but still it did have some pretty cool places. The first place that I went to was called Atsuta Shrine, which according to Japanese mythology a legendary sword is believed to be there enshrined behind closed doors where not even the Priests are allowed to see it. The sword is properly called Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi and according to myth, it was acquired by the God of Sea and Storms, Susanoo, in the belly of a legendary eight headed dragon that he had defeated. With a story like that, I had to go to the shrine and while Kusanagi is not on display, they do have other swords including one that was easily 9 feet long, but photography was prohibited. It was a really amazing shrine that had a very spiritual feel to it as the area around it has remained untouched for nearly two thousand years, yeah Shintoism has a long history.

After that, I went to Nagoya Castle, which belonged to the legendary, yeah there`s a lot of legendary Daimyos, Oda Nobunaga. Unfortunately, the original castle was destroyed during the war, so it is a reconstruction, but that actually makes it easier to explore as it is built for tourists and you do not take off your shoes, something that is required at real castles. It was a pretty cool place with lots of artifacts and a really good view of the city from the top. Overall it was a fun day trip and certainly worth taking!

Then last Sunday, my friends, who are part of a dance troupe, invited me to see them at a dance festival competition. The type of dancing they perform is called Yosakoi, which is free-style traditional Japanese group dancing, that permits the groups to choose their moves, music and costumes allowing for every group to develop their own distinct style that stands out. There were over 80 groups made up of everyone from small children to the elderly with group sizes varying from 20 members to some that easily had over 50, it was incredible to see so many people taking part in the competition and their beautiful costumes. My friends` group did really well and placed in 4th, which they were very happy about, they gave a great performance and I am glad that they were praised for it.

So this is my final post in Japan and I am both happy and a bit sad. I will return to America, see my friends and family, sleep in my bed again, get prepared for graduating, getting an internship and just getting used to America again. These are things that I very much am looking forward to. At the same time, I will miss the bright neon streets of Tokyo, the arcades with their amazing games, the different festivals and of course, the awesome friends that I made here. I always obviously knew that I would only get to know these people for a few months and they knew it too, but I believe that we will meet again when one of us goes to visit the others country, probably when they come to New York, so that is something to look forward to! Still social media makes it pretty easy to stay in touch with others, so the gap, won`t feel that big. Really, that is all that I am feeling, obviously everyone has their own way that they will react to leaving, its really tough, but change is part of growing up and the earlier you adapt to it, the better. I still have finals to take care of, so I have to dedicate to studying, but after that, I will enjoy my last days here by just relaxing, going to the arcade and fireworks, I have done plenty of huge adventures, so I think relaxing and preparing to go home will be best. Talk to you again, once I return!   



Aaron is a History Major with the desire to see the world and learn as much as possible about it. He cannot wait to write about his adventures in Japan, making new friends, living in Tokyo and exploring both new & old Japan. This is Aaron's second Study Abroad program to Japan through SUNY New Paltz!

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