A Traveling Scholar in a Distant Land

IMG_1684 IMG_1725 IMG_1701 IMG_1692 IMG_1658As of now, I have really adjusted with my accommodations as a whole. The bed is comfortable, though I need to buy a larger pillow, my room is compact, though if I use my space correctly it is easy to work with, the bathrooms are clean and the surrounding area is pleasant. All things considered, its what you would expect for the living quarters of a college student. I am able to sleep well, so no really complaints about my room. There is only one issue, which is the fact that the dryers here don`t really work well, so I have to hang dry my laundry, but I was prepared for that as it was the same way last time. Its actually a pretty cool dorm, if you go on the roof, where there are drying racks, you can see the surrounding area for quite a distance. It really has that Japanese adventure feel to it like out of an anime about how i`m a single pebble in the colossal mountain of Tokyo.

As well, the Cherry Blossoms are in bloom and everything is a nice bright pink, thousands of graceful petals float through the air as the cover the ground. It really is soothing to the soul, now I get why the Japanese love it so much. I went to Ueno park, Tokyo equivalent of Central park, to go see the Cherry Blossoms, it was cloudy, but that only made the blossoms bright color stand out even more fantastically. Turned out that I had the Japanese mindset down well, as thousands of other people from office workers to preschoolers were all over the park taking in the Cherry Blossoms. Got a lot of beautiful shots. The blossoms were also in full beauty in Shinkoiwa, at the local park and stream, so I went for some walks in the area. It is really nice just to take in all of it and realize that you are part of it. As well, I got Cherry Blossom Pepsi, seasonal of course, Sour-cherry flavored, to bring home for my best friend, also got one for myself, it was pretty tasty.

Though I usually just go to the 7-11, down the street in the immediate area around the dorm, I do feel like I am part of the neighborhood. You often see people walking their adorable dogs in the area or the neighboring the high school students either on their way to class or playing sports in their school`s courtyard. Despite just being a small corner store, the 7-11 here is stocked with a ton of things. Lots of meals, candy, drinks and at least 30 different magazines, usually weekly ones. It really is awesome that I can get whatever, I want here 24/7 with a 2 minute walk. It is peaceful here and I really like that about the area, though you can hear the trains passing by at night, when you are in the lobby here, still you get used to it after a few nights.

Usually for some reason everyone thinks that the Japaneses love sushi and eat it all the time, but truth be told its expensive here and sushi restaurants are a rarity outside of high-end areas. Though the Japanese do love fish, its noodles that are their favorite dish to eat, but of course rice is king throughout the East and Japan is no different. There are so many noodle dishes to eat, ramen, udon, soba, regular noodles, all served hot or cold depending on what you want. There are all other kinds of foods to get here like Japanese or Indian-styled Curry served normally with chicken and rice, though Nan, Middle-eastern flat bread, is another option if you are having Indian styled. Of course there are more distinctly Japanese foods to eat like Takoyaki, which is octopus served in little fried balls, Okonomiyaki. which is pretty much a giant meat and vegetable pancake, and Dango, which are round little dumplings on a stick, covered in sweet soy sauce because yes, the Japanese have even made a soy sauce for sweets.

Speaking of sweets, I have been eating a whole lot of different ones! Green tea flavored Kit-Kats, which are amazing, chocolate mushrooms, which are just reshaped pocky, and just regular chocolate, which is pretty good here. I have also been enjoying the different flavors of ice cream here like Japanese melon and green tea, the ice cream here as a whole is awesome, though it seems more like gelato, but i`m not complaining. The drinks here are also awesome, lemon seems to be a favorite of the Japaneses and fortunately myself as well, so I have had plenty of things to enjoy as a whole.

Despite all the eating, I have shed a couple of pounds, probably because of all the walking I have to do to get around. Of course, any day I have off, I go out and explore with my camera. There`s so many amazing things to do here and I seem to keep finding even more, so I will be off exploring even more ,when I get the chance!

The Journey of Seven Thousand Miles

IMG_1643 IMG_1589 IMG_1636 IMG_1595 IMG_1593At long last, I`m back in Japan and it is as amazing as I remember! Though I was excited since August, my excitement for new experiences grows with every day, I`m here. It was quite a trip to say the least. I had the good fortune that no one was in the middle seat in my row during the flight, so I had plenty of leg room in my aisle seat. There was plenty to watch on the flight over, it really gets you in the mood for Japan, when you`re flying on a Japanese airline (ANA) and they have a ton of Japanese movies and shows. I especially enjoyed the ones by the tourism companies that show you all the amazing places to see, things to do people to meet and foods to eat. The food on the flight definitely also built up the Japanese hype with noodles, rice and fish being served with chopsticks, luckily I have a good grasp on chopsticks, so it was easy for me. Still a 14 hour flight is pretty exhausting, they did give us pillows and blankets as well as dim the lights to rest, but I spent most of the flight watching TV and walking around the plane to keep my legs from falling asleep.

Once we landed it wasn`t too difficult to navigate Narita airport, get all my necessary paperwork and find my train to where my dorm was. I had researched how to get from the airport to there and even googlemapped the directions, so once I got on the train, I knew where to go. I`m staying in the Shinkoiwa district of Katsushika ward of Tokyo, which is probably the closest part of the city to Narita. When I finally got off at my station and saw the surrounding area, I was in awe, it`s a really awesome place, there were bright signs, colorful buildings and lots of people all over the place, it really felt like Tokyo at that point! After a ten minute trek, I arrived at my dorm and I was warmly greet by the manager as well as the assistant manager, who gave me a tour of the dorm as well as explained everything to me. At first my room seemed very small, a quintessence of Japanese living arrangements, but I had thought the same of my hotel room from last time and that was plenty spacious for my needs. Once I had unloaded everything and got settled in, I saw that I had plenty of space for me. I took a short personal tour and met a few of my fellow dorm mates, there`s a lot of Europeans here, but fortunately they all speak English, so we were able to communicate easily. After washing up, I called it a night, excited for my first full day in Tokyo.

After a fulfilling night`s sleep, I woke up at like 7 in the morning and decided to explore a bit before I headed out for breakfast. Since I`ve been to Japan before, I did have a basic grasp on things here, but living here, I definitely have been adjusting with minimal difficulty to the cultural differences. I was very glad to meet another American at the dorm, which definitely gave me a feeling of no being culturally isolated from my dorm mates. I was pretty astonished to find out, this other American was from Buffalo, New York, so I really have someone, who understands my “culture”. As my dorm doesn`t have a meal plan, which is a very American concept, I decided to head to the nearby 7-11 for breakfast. Though in America, we would think of a 7-11 breakfast menu consisting of things like burritos or hash browns, the convenience stores here have an amazing meal selection, that`s both delicious and healthy. I have actually visited the 7-11 so frequently as their lunch and dinner selections is incredible, that today the cashier recognized me and asked me how much I enjoyed my favorite breakfast choice of rice stuffed bean curds, that look like little bean bags called Inari. Though I do enjoy the more Japanese foods available at the 7-11, there`s plenty of American staples like hot dogs, fried chicken and donuts, which the cashiers will happily heat up for you. The food here is all awesome and I enjoy going to 7-11 every time and seeing what catches my eye.

After eating my breakfast, student assistants from the university came by to take us to the Katsushika city office to register as residents, there was a lot important paperwork to take care of, but I got to know the other Meiji foreign exchange students better. The student assistants also, told us about a group they run for foreign students that does a lot events like Cherry Blossom viewing. The Cherry Blossoms blooming is one of the most important events of the year in Japan as it is the first sign that spring has come. After getting back to the dorm, I made more friends from countries like Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, France and Russia. Before, I left for Japan, I was worried about how I would live in a country by myself thousand of miles away from everyone I knew, so I asked a friend of mine, who was in the military and he gave me amazing advice, that everyone else in my dorm is in the same boat and that would allow us to bond very quickly and form our own group.The TV here is one of the best ways for us to bond, as sports are a universal language, right know the big high school baseball tournament, the Koushien, is on TV everyday, so there`s plenty to watch.

Though we did have early orientation at the university, we`ve been spending most of our time exploring Tokyo. Though Shinkoiwa seems like it is far from the more popular areas of Tokyo, the rail line here is part of two main lines that link to major stations like Tokyo and Shibuya as well as that the Pop culture and video game Mecca of Japan, Akihabara, is only 15 minutes away from Shinkoiwa, with no transfers. Still, Shinkoiwa itself has plenty to do, the local arcade has a ton of awesome and new games like Gundam simulation pods, Dragonball Z fighting games and anything else you can imagine. I went with some friends a few nights ago and had a blast for only like 10 dollars, we even took photos together in one of the Japanese photo booths and I carry my copy around in my wallet.

From hanging out with all these foreign students and going on all these amazing adventures, I have learned “my feet are tired” in eight different languages! I am certainly still excited about Japan, but know that I am here, I can start doing the different things that I planned instead of just thinking about it. Life here is pretty different and it will take a while for me to adjust, but I know that I will be able to do it. Tokyo is amazing and I look forward to everyday!

So the Sun Finally Begins to Rise

After what seemed like an eternity and the whole winter, which transformed magically into 80 degree summer weather, my study abroad to Japan will be starting in less than 2 weeks. At first, it kind of irritated me that while all the European and South-American students already left on their trips, I was still in the states twiddling my thumbs, but I suppose skipping the winter and staying till August, sounds pretty good. The Japanese see Spring as a new beginning, so that’s why they start the school year then. The Cherry Blossoms are also expected to bloom the day after I arrive, so this is something I am super looking forward to! I’ve already had my backpack prepared since like January and it is crammed filled with a ton of stuff ranging from electronics, guide books and some comical Japanese dictionaries that my friends gave me. Of course, they are also excited for me and for me to get them sweet souvenirs. My best friend wants a Yakult Swallows, Japanese equivalent of the Mets, Baseball Cap, his girlfriend wants a stylish tea cup and my other friend, the Disney maniac wants this female Disney teddy bear, they only sell in Asia, so plenty of quests to complete, but I enjoy souvenir shopping for myself and others.

My excitement for my trip is literally through the roof as I often start daydreaming about Japan and can’t help but grin with joy. I went to Tokyo during the summer of 2014 as part of the Cool Japan program through New Paltz, which itself was an amazing and fun trip, something that I recommend to everyone interested! I really do have to give a shoutout to Christian Wilwohl because even the hotel, that they arranged for us was really great, everyone go their own room, the hotel staff all spoke fluent English, Breakfast was included and was delicious, and the hotel was a five minute at best walk to the college and the amazing surrounding area. I swore I would return to Japan after such an amazing time and can now legitimately possess a Meiji University Pennant. Tokyo is a very unique city, the trains run like clockwork, everything is bright or shiny, and the city is unbelievably clean, literally cleaner than even the small town I live in. Though I can not fluently speak Japanese, let alone read it, everything is usually in English and I’m pretty good at body language. Also, food is incredibly cheap and delicious, so I will be enjoying my meals. I also want to go to as many shrines and temples as possible as well as participate in some festivals, I joined in one at a Buddhist temple last time and I had a blast, despite being a foreigner, I was welcomed by the Japanese people and it was an amazing experience. Despite popular belief, you will not see Giant Monsters attacking Tokyo, though I will be there for the release of the new Japanese Godzilla movie, who cares if I can’t really understand Japanese, its going to be an awesome giant monster movie and movie tickets seem to be pretty cheap.

I’ve pretty much bought everything I need for my trip and then some, I mean I’m going to be living there for over four months, so I want to have a comfortable stay. I got to start packing my suitcase, which is the largest size allowed by my Airline, wrote out my list and now I have to cram in as much stuff as possible. The dorm I’m staying at seems to be nice, I get my own room, which is great as I am an only child and like the privacy that entails, the dorm is close to the train station, so that’s a plus, it has a good amount of amenities including darts, a kitchen and a TV, because how can I enjoy Japan if I can’t watch its “distinct” programming, where else in the world will I see commercials involving Tommy Lee Jones, a talking dog and a random Japanese family fighting asteroids to advertise a bank or something?!, and there’s a 7-11 down the street, which in Japan has really good food and I have been told is actually the best bank for Americans to use, now that is a high standard! The area is called Katsushika and though its relatively quiet, Tokyo Disney isn’t too far away, so I definitely know what is in my near future. Odaiba is also nearby, the location of a site for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, formally the world’s tallest Ferris wheel and a 60 foot tall Giant Robot statue, which Japan promises they will have walking by 2019, just in time for the most awesome Olympic opening in recent memory. Of course, I intend to go all over the city, there’s 23 special wards, three major neighboring regions and a mountain, all crammed under the umbrella term of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area, so I’ll be plenty busy on adventures. And of course, I want to travel around the major areas of Japan like Kyoto, Osaka, Nagano and maybe Aizu, I have got to see a Japanese Castle!!!! But aside from the culture and heritage, there’s only one way to travel Japan and that’s by Shinkansen (Bullet Train)! I really wanted to travel on one the first time, but I didn’t have the chance, so I’m going to grab it this time, and as each bullet train is designed specially for their route, it means that they each offer their own unique experience.

I’m really thankful to my parents for supporting me on this journey, they told me that I am young with no commitments to weigh me down, and as I have always wanted to do this, I have to grab the opportunity, I know as they said, if I don’t take this adventure, I would regret it! It’s definitely going to an experience, just studying there and I know that after living abroad, I will definitely grow as a person. As the Vapors song goes, “I’m a stranger in a strange land”, but I know how to use chopsticks, navigate the Tokyo rail system and how to stay cool under pressure, so I’m as ready as I can be! Fortunately, I won’t be going alone, I will be accompanied by the wonderful, Miss Danielle White, who is as excited as I am about the adventure we are to undertake, so let’s do this! GET READY JAPAN CAUSE I’M COMING BACK AND THIS TIME, I’VE GOT PLENTY OF TIME TO REALLY SEE THE COUNTRY!!!

Cloudy with a chance of Nihon

My first international plane ride was alright considering I had the middle seat in the middle section of the plane. But it was spacious, I had plenty of leg room, the seats were comfortable, I was given a blanket and a neck pillow, and the TV in the seat was stocked will all the Oscar nominee movies. I was given two meals and two snacks and all the drinks that I wanted.

Beer and a brownie

And some fancy toilets were stocked on the plane. Bidets for days.

My flight though was delayed on the runway for about 2 hours. We were 18th in queue for take off. And then it was 14 hours in the air for a total of 16 hours of sitting on a plane. And once we touched down in Narita international airport, there was a bit of turbulence because of the cloud cover and the rain. Over all, a successful flight and little to no sleep on the plane.

7AM at JFK, waiting to check in

It didn’t really feel all the different setting foot off the plane, but once I starting to see the sign that said “Welcome to Japan” and pretty much ever sign was in Japanese, then it hit me. My dad and brother actually too the trip with me, and they stayed in Shinjuku for the whole week. Luckily enough, my friend Kazuki, who had studied abroad at New Paltz a year ago, works at Narita Airport. When he finished his shift at work he met us at the Starbucks in Narita, we all caught up and chatted and tried to figure out what was the best (and cheapest) way to get to their hotel. And we figured that the JR (Japan Railway) line would be the cheapest albeit a little longer along the lines of travel duration.

We needed to get to Okubo station, which is one stop after Shinjuku on the Soubu local line. It took about 2 hours and one transfer. Thankfully the trains not only announced the stops in Japanese but also in English, and the signs were posted in English as well so we didn’t get lost trying to find our station.

And a fun side-note: The stations play music, like an ice-cream truck on a merry-go-round kinda music, right before the doors close. And also, the seats on the train were heated. I’d take the JR line over the LIRR any day!

Shinjuku at night, from the 17th floor of the Hundred Stay hotel

So having been awake for over 24 hours, navigated the Japanese transportation system, and had a nice man on the street who spoke English very well helped us find our hotel midst the nighttime city life, my first day in Japan ended with me flopping onto the hotel bed, too tired and too late to check into my dorm. Which was around 8PM Japan time, which would have been 7AM EST. It was exhausting. I could have checked into my dorm that night since I contacted the International office letting them know about the delay and all, but it was dark, I was tired, and I didn’t want to lug around my bags trying to find a building somewhere I didn’t know.

The next day thought, I met up with my friend Rachel, who is also here from New Paltz, and we moved into the Tokyo Girls dorm together. I will be talking about my dorm and some of the beautiful sights my family, friends and I went to the week before orientation started.

Two free checked suitcases, yes please!

The one week mark approaches.

I was talking about studying abroad with my brother the other day on our drive to the post office (because no one can physically reach my mailbox with all this snow) to pick up my visa and other various forms of junk mail. If you had asked me months ago how I felt about studying abroad, I would have told you, “Shush, it’s not happening yet. I’ve got months. Calm down.”

Well, now I have almost a week left.

All my documents are in order. And the visa for Japan is gorgeous, it is pretty in pink with cherry blossoms making me long for spring & to go and see and take all the pictures of 花見 hanami (which translates to flower viewing)! I called up Bank of America to let them know that I will be out of the country so they don’t shut off the money flow thinking there is fraudulent activity afoot. Went to the doctors & dentist. Shopping for essentials like clothes and hygiene products and plug adapters. The essentials.

Took a trip up to New Paltz, saw friends before I left. Had a family dinner and said my goodbyes for five months.

New Paltz Reunion!

Surreal? Yes, sir.

Pressed for time? Hell yeah.

I am trying to shovel work (and snow), reading, language studies, and all the sleep that I can get into a short amount of days. And it’s kind of freaking me out. In a good way. But my stomach flip-flops when I think about getting on that 14 hour plane ride next week. Work does wonders in keeping me preoccupied and help feed the “Courtney Needs Money for Travel (and Food)” fund.

I have everything all booked with Japan Airlines, and this is my first international flight (2nd plane ride in my entire life). One of the things that is different from other study abroad experiences, is that Meiji does not send anyone to pick you up from the airport and show you where you are going to live for the next 5 months. Real life just hits you in the face once you touch down in Tokyo, Japan. But luckily, my dad and brother are taking the trip with me and staying in Shinjuku for a week. So I won’t get lost alone, at least.

Through Japan Airlines, I get two free checked bags and a free carry-on. Which is great because I have clothes galore to bring, and it gives me enough storage space for bringing back souvenirs and gifts and even more clothes that I buy throughout the duration of my trip! So A+ to Japan Airlines for being so awesome!

And another added bonus with JAL: Not only is alcohol served, it is free! 

Now I am left to count the days with that nervous/excited feeling taking root in my stomach for another week. It’s worth every moment. More pictures to come prior to departure~!

Here’s to Many Firsts

“Soon”. That’s the only word I’ve been thinking about as the day of my flight comes closer and closer. It has been a long 3 month winter break and while I am thankful for the long vacation, I’m ready to hop on the plane and go to Japan! It’s weird to think that this study abroad experience will allow me to do a lot of new things that I have never done before. My first two new experiences: getting on a plane and going out of the country. This is going to be the first time I have ever been on a plane, and so I’m pretty excited. Just buying the plane ticket was a whole new experience in itself and it was a task I was easily able to accomplish on my own. My flight is 14 hours long nonstop, so I’m basically going from zero experience to 14 hours worth of it all in one sitting. Thankfully, I will be traveling with a friend who is also apart of the same study abroad program, so the plane ride should pass by a little more quicker.

This final week is filled with last-minute hangouts and packing. For the most part, I have already finished packing but for some reason I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing a few things. I guess this is just a normal feeling for a lot of people, especially when traveling to a new country. You never know what you do and don’t need, so you try to pack everything even if it doesn’t seem logical to do so. But somehow, I was able to only fill up half my suitcase so maybe I can safely say that I didn’t over pack. So far, I only have one large suitcase and a duffle bag, and sticking to just those two things! I don’t want to have to carry a lot of luggage around Tokyo especially since we have to make to our dorms on our own. If there is ever a case where I need something, I’m better off trying to buy it while in Japan.

A surprise birthday party before I go lol

A surprise birthday party before I go lol

For the past couple of months, people have been asking me how I feel about this trip, but in all honesty I don’t really know how I feel. Maybe it’s a little bit of excitement mixed in with a little bit of nervousness, but I’m not entireIy sure. Studying abroad is suppose to be a growing process, and so I sure whatever I am feeling is just apart of that process. All I can say is that I’m in for a lot of new experiences and I can’t wait for it to start! If I had to commit to any feeling, it would be “Let me get on this plane already!”. 9 more days and counting!

One last movie night with the girls.

One last movie night with the girls.


Final Goodbye

The morning I left, I sent a text message to my host mum telling her about the fun I had in Kyoto and Tokyo and how, when I come back, we’ll eat lots of cake and have fun together again.

Studying in Japan was a dream come true, and something that used to be a figment of my imagination. I came to college determined to study abroad for a variety of personal, rather than academic, reasons. At the very end of this adventure, I grew up in the most personal aspect of my life. I don’t think it’s something that my friends or family will see, but just something that I alone will realize and that is good enough.

During my last few days in Nagasaki, a friend’s host dad who also attended the university had apparently told my friend that my Japanese had really improved. I think that I can do a lot better, but it’s extremely encouraging to hear. I can only hope that the next time I come to Nagasaki, I’ll be able to really speak to all of the people I’ve met here. The next time I hope to be back here, a lot of my friends in the JASIN program will have left, but I hope to see some of my Japanese friends.

I spoke to a student in the highest level of Japanese offered in our program, as well as a friend who began her study there as an international student but transferred to become a permanent student in the school, and there are so many things that I wasn’t able to learn. It’s sad, but also exciting news that pushes me to want to learn even more. I’m excited to come back to Japan and fill in all the holes that I wasn’t able to fill in this time.

Winter Vacation

Leaving Nagasaki was really hard for me. I cried multiple times the night before while doing last minute packing, and couldn’t accept it. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I had done in quite a long time. I remember I was standing in the middle of my room, holding clothes to be put away, when I just burst into tears for the third time that night.

The next morning, I mailed out more things, and my host mum drove me to the airport. We arrived early, and hung out with Alyssa’s host mum and host sister. I cried a lot at the airport too. Overall, I’m just a big ball of tears. Thankfully, at the end when we really had to say our goodbyes, we said ‘See you later’ instead of goodbye. I’m happy that our host parents believe that we’ll be back soon… and we will be! I have nothing but fond memories in Nagasaki, and headed out to Kyoto and Tokyo knowing that they would be places of wonder and excitement, but also knowing that they would never be able to replace Nagasaki in my heart.

Our first stop was Kyoto! We stayed at an Airbnb, and our host was this really nice lady named Rumi. We spent Christmas day shrine hopping, visiting Shimogamo, Yasaka and Fushimi Inari shrine!

We actually ended up visiting Fushimi Inari a total of three times during our stay in Kyoto since we kept arriving a bit towards sunset and couldn’t manage to get any nice photos…

We also went to Nara to feed deer! They’re quite frightening…

On our last day, we went to Mt. Kurama to enjoy the onsen there! There was also a temple there.

In Tokyo we went to a whole bunch of places like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Odaiba, and Akihabara! We did meet with quite a few friends here, some of them who are currently studying abroad at Meiji University! I want to go there next year, so they gave me some helpful tips…

I ended up buying a new scarf here for $15!! It’s super wide and warm and cozy~

Shibuya was high on my priority list because one of my favorite games takes place here. A friend of mine who studied abroad and visited Shibuya last year said the game’s map of Shibuya is highly accurate!! There’s a mural in the game that she found in real life but I didn’t find it… I did find this though!

(When we had trouble finding Hachiko my friend told me “Quick! Which direction did you go from here in the game?” Sadly it’s been years since I’ve played it… but there were only two directions you could choose from in the game and I ended up choosing the wrong way in real life…)


We also went to Meiji shrine to pray! We decided to go New Years Eve even though you’re supposed to go on New Years…

We also visited Harajuku! We came back at a later date and got crepes… I got one with Matcha ice cream and CHEESECAKE. It was the best thing on Earth.

I don’t like Gundams but I also visited the Gundam cafe for a friend! (We later found two more… one in Tokyo station and one in Odaiba behind the giant Gundam!)

It’s just a small glimpse of what I did…!

We really did cram quite a bit in during our last weeks here in Japan. It’s tough to say goodbye, but I’ll be back someday soon!




Penguins and Cocowalk Mall

Today we went to an aquarium! It was suuuuuper pretty!!

We decided to meet at Cocowalk Mall! I took the streetcar there with some friends.




Inside, I saw this.


I miss bubble tea so much… I used to drink it so much in the states haha!

Then we left to the penguin museum! It was quite a faraway trip, maybe about half an hour? It cost roughly 500yen to get there one way!

We got off here.



There was bit of a long path to get to the actual museum itself, but it was a super pretty walk! There were some scarecrows here hehe.



Here it is!!


We got in for free because of our resident cards eheh. If you ever come here, there are SO many places you can get into for free when you show your resident card!

When we walked in there were all these cute little fishes!! Then this huge tank full of huge fish!!



We kept laughing about how weird some of them looked lol.

There was also a huge tank for the penguins to swim in! They were kept on the second floor, there was only one swimming in here.



Then we went upstairs!

More fishies! And jellyfish! AND PENGUINS.


Tiny baby jellyfish!



This fella waddled over to us.



There were also these guys! Wonder what they were doing…


What an unfortunate looking fish…


I stepped outside because I saw a vending machine (with CALPIS written on the side. I thought it was a vending machine full of different flavored calpis drinks. I was completely wrong and mislead) but there was this GORGEOUS view!



Look at the kids with the penguins!!


We started getting hungry around now and went down another path, and saw more penguins!



The giftshop and food place were really expensive unfortunately lol. But they had narimo!


Then we went to go pet a penguin!! They’re a lot softer than I expected!!


It tried to nip at my friend…


After all of that, we decided that we were all hungry and went back to Cocowalk. One of our friends had never had okonomiyaki, so we went to an okonomiyaki restaurant in the mall! It was the kind where you took off your shoes.


We were a large group so were split into two tables. My table ordered 2 okonomiyaki, and a side dish. (Later we ordered one more okonomiyaki because we’re fatties…)







And this was our side dish. I can’t exactly remember what it was though! I do remember that it was delicious and amazing…


Afterwards we went to go get ice cream. They all Baskin Robbins here 31 flavors. Apparently both names are interchangable in the states (since they advertise having 31 flavors apparently), but in Japan everyone seems to just refer to it as 31 flavors and won’t know what you’re talking about when you mention Baskin Robbins… Funny though, since it says Baskin Robbins right on the logo too!

They had really cute display stuff.



I got matcha ice cream since it’s my favorite!


That was the end of it for today! I found out it costs me 300yen to go from Cocowalk all the way to my bus stop… sigh…

Classes so far…

Of course, one of the main reasons I came to Japan was also to study!

I’m taking 17 credits here, which really doesn’t seem like a lot, but amounts to about 8 classes over here! Most classes meet once a week, for 90 minutes. I knew about this prior to coming here from my Japanese friends, but it’s actually a lot harder to adjust than I thought it would be… In reality, I think adjusting to classes was one of the more harder things for me to adjust to…!

I was placed into Japanese 2, which was where I wanted to be. We picked up right where I left off in the States in our Genki textbook, and moved onto the second book of the series. I have three teachers for Japanese, who alter everyday. I thought it would be troubling, but there’s a really smooth flow everyday! There’s a bigger language barrier here than there is in the States (obviously), but my classmates and I are able to pick up on everything quickly (or if not, we help each other out!). It’s really enjoyable, and so far I’ve aced every single quiz! Can’t really say that about our first big quiz though… One of the most trouble aspects for me is that I unintentionally reply in short/casual form to my professors. Back in the States, I would avoid using short form as much as possible since we had first learned it and I just could barely grasp using it quickly. Here, I use short form a lot at home with my host mum, so it just carries over into class…

Besides Japanese… many classes were more or less of a letdown. There are several classes I’m taking that are some of the best, but the majority seem to be pretty… subpar… One professor even completely changed the syllabus on us when more than half the class dropped out…!! It seemed like she was blaming us for the change too, saying how she couldn’t stick to her original syllabus since she had planned it to work only if she had the original amount of students who signed up… A certain political class I was looking forward to the most seems like a reiteration of my Intro to International Politics class, sans focus and important information/views of each political theory…

But no more of that negativity!

A class that I didn’t anticipate taking was Japanese encounter with Christianity. It overlaps a bit with my history class, but goes way more into detail about Japan’s history with Christianity. I’m not very interested in religion, so I thought it wouldn’t be a good class to take. I decided to take it since I decided to drop another class with the previous professor, and still needed credit. Something I’ll never forget is when I came into this class for the first time and the professor handed out questionnaires to the students who just entered the class and told us “Please be honest about why you’re here. If you’re here because (so-and-so) class was terrible and you needed the credit, just write that. I know that feeling.” It was probably the first thing that made me decide that this class was probably going to be the best.

The professor is really what makes this class as amazing as it is. He’s bright and hilarious. Just by looking at him, you can tell his passion about the subject, which really makes the class a whole lot easier to sit through. He makes us laugh and is honest about a lot of the things he has to deal with. He feels more like a friend and makes the whole atmosphere very comfortable. When we finally started class, we started off learning about Christian theology, since many of us don’t have a background in it. It ended up being a lot more interesting than I thought it would be! Even though it’s the latest class I have, it’s something I always look forward to.

All in all, I do miss my classes at New Paltz. Mostly, I just can’t sit 90 minutes straight through a class. Around the 40 minute mark I always end up looking at the clock…! I honestly thought once a week classes would be better and easier, but now I know I definitely would much rather prefer 40 minute classes that meet several times a week.

There are some classes that I continue to go to because I simply need the credit, but then there are also some that are genuinely engaging and that I definitely take something from every time I leave.