♫Tokyo, I’m on my way♫ Wait… I’m here!!!

First of all, I have to say that Japanese Vending Machines and Toilets are incredible. I know that’s a weird way to start off, but they really caught my attention.


I’m FINALLY here!!! It was pretty surreal saying goodbye to my parents at the airport (with my mom crying the whole time), and I thought it would sink in once I stepped off the plane, but it really still feels like I’m in a dream. My friend picked me up at Narita airport on September 1st with her mom and one of her super tiny puppies.


They were kind enough to treat me to Sushi on my first day in Japan, and let me just say that we have GOT to get some Conveyor Belt Sushi places in New York. It’s basically a dollar a plate and it’s amazing I really don’t know why we don’t have these things back in the States.

kaiten zushi


I was lucky enough to relax and catch up for couple of days before I went to another friend’s house in the city of Nakano, right next to the campus I’ll be taking classes at. Naturally, we went and visited the campus, and it was incredible.

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meiji 2

meiji 3

I honestly didn’t expect it to be so nice and HUGE. We explored the building and my friend showed me what classes were where, where to go if I had any questions, and so on. Then we went into town, walked around and did some window shopping.

nakano 1

nakano 2

nakano 3

A few days later, I went to Shibuya and met up with one of my best friends from High School. She took me to all kinds of different places and stores around the city and it was so incredible. I had been to Shibuya once before, but I didn’t really get to do anything. This time, we went to the Hachiko statue, all kinds of stores, and even took some Purikura!

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(They make your eyes HUGE in these things)

After a few days of practice, I think I’ve gotten a better hang of the trains than I thought I would. Here the ticket costs depends on the distance, and you have to adjust the fare if you have to transfer. There’s something pretty similar to New York’s Metro card, but I don’t know much about it yet. Hopefully after I move in they can answer the questions I have about it.

Being a New Yorker in a place like Tokyo can be pretty strange, with how incredibly friendly the people are and how safe the city is. I thought it would be hard to get around without my smartphone or the map applications on it, but it’s much easier to ask someone for directions here than it is in New York, at least for me. That plus people leaving their bags and items unattended is definitely the biggest culture shock I’ve experienced so far. That being said, it’s not a bad one.

Today my friend who lives in Kichijoji, a few stations away from my dorm in Izumi, picked me up and took me to her house (I’m really lucky to have so many great friends here already). She said there’s a bunch of restaurants in town so we’re gonna go look now. It’s only, or rather, already, been a week since I got here, and I’ve been loving every minute of it apart from the muggy weather. I have a few more days before I move into my dorm and start orientation!!!

eri 4

Sightseeing in Nagasaki: Mt. Inasa and the Confucian Shrine

Since my trip to Korea, the past couple of weeks have been kind of boring. I’m sorry to say this, but it’s true. I’ve been focusing on school and doing a little bit of sightseeing around Nagasaki in my free time.
One of the first things I heard about when I got here, was the incredible night view of Nagasaki City from Mt. Inasa. I even brought a package of post cards and half of them were images of Nagasaki City from Mt. Inasa. So naturally I thought that I would have to experience this myself. I went with a few people and we climbed maybe a quarter of the mountain. We hadn’t planned on climbing it at all actually. We had originally wanted to take the ropeway up because it’s free and because it’s kind of hot here. But we ended up taking a bus halfway up the mountain instead.

The view did not disappoint!








When I first got here, during Orientation, there was a presentation on this history of Nagasaki. There are two things that I took away from that presentation. The first being that there is a long history of Chinese culture in Nagasaki, as China was one of the few countries that were allowed to trade with Japan during its period of isolation. Second that there is a great Catholic influence (there are several churches and other Christian sites). We have yet to hit all of these sights in Nagasaki, but we’re working on it. We did however get to see the Confucian Shrine, Chinatown, and what was the former Chinese settlement:










Golden Week (Nagasaki Ship Festival and Seoul, Korea)

I’m actually the worst at updating this thing because I keep meaning to update but then I always land up forgetting. So here’s a post, so I can catch you guys up on the last couple of weeks.
So the spring semester in Japan is from April until August. So while everyone else is done with school, I will be here all summer. Which is totally cool, but that means I’m gonna be posting throughout June and July!
During the last week of April, there was a festival in Nagasaki where there would be all different kinds of ships from different countries. It’s really pretty at night when the boats are all lit up. On Monday and Tuesday (April 28th and 29th) of that week, there were supposed to be fireworks signaling the opening of the festival. So a few friends and I went down to the harbor to see the ships and the fireworks on both nights. The ships weren’t very big but they were definitely impressive. They had all different kinds of ships, from places like Japan, Korea, Russia, and even America! Although I didn’t go on any of these ships (because I have an irrational fear of ships and boats) I heard that they were really cool on the inside. The whole experience was really cool because I got to hang out with some cool people, eat some great food, and meet a few new people. And plus, fireworks! Who doesn’t love those!
And I even managed to catch a few pictures of the festival:







From May 1st to May 7th, we had a few days off because of Golden Week (a holiday in Japan), so a few friends and I decided to go to Seoul, Korea. I was super excited because besides Japan, I hadn’t really traveled outside of the US. And here I was, in just a few months, traveling to another country in Asia!
It was honestly a great experience. I didn’t know what to expect when I first got to Korea, but it went beyond what I thought it was going to be. Seoul is a larger city than Nagasaki, so it was almost refreshing to get a change of scenery. We did a lot of things there, like trying new foods, shopping and sightseeing!
I had never really tried Korean food before (like maybe once or twice), but it was really cool to try different kinds of Korean food. The kimchi was amazing. But it was also pretty cool because they had things like pizza and Taco Bell (which I know aren’t very exciting, but after being in Nagasaki for so long, with only Japanese food really available, it was pretty great).




I also got to ride the subway quite a lot in Korea, which was pretty cool. Their subways are nothing like the ones in New York. They’re actually really clean (or so they seem) and pretty new-looking. I don’t ride the subway often in New York, in fact I avoid it unless I absolutely have to, and so I was a little nervous about riding it. Especially since I know absolutely NO Korean whatsoever. But it was actually very easy to figure out and a lot of the signs were in English.
We saw a lot of really amazing things while we were there. But two things that I need to mention are the Deoksugung Castle and the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple.
The castle was so impressive and absolutely gorgeous:
















The temple was also really cool to see. Especially since on the days that we visited we actually went on a holiday celebrating Buddha’s birthday! So we got to see the temple on one day and then the festival on the following day! My friends and I even made a wish that they hung on a lantern at the festival!
Here’s some of the pictures:













Overall it was a really cool experience and I would advise anyone who is planning on studying abroad to try and travel as much as they can. I don’t think I would have ever had this experience had I not already been studying abroad!



Nagasaki (with a little bit of food, too)!

I’ve lived on Long Island for most of my life, and in New York for all of it. I’ve been to other places, but not really outside of America or even off the east coast for that matter. So when I first arrived in Japan, I wasn’t really aware of how much of a different lifestyle is lived here. Starting with the fact that Nagasaki’s environment is completely different from New York’s. When I left New York it was snowing. I had my winter jacket, a scarf and boots. But when I arrived I was incredibly surprised by how warm and beautiful it was.  I guess you can consider Nagasaki to be a tropical environment. Its only April but I have found that the weather is usually sunny and warm, although it’s supposed to be very hot and humid during the summer.

I was absolutely exhausted from being on a plane for over fifteen hours when I first arrived. It was just after 10PM when I landed and nearly midnight by the time I arrived at the hotel. So being here didn’t really phase me until the following day, when we took a bus from Fukuoka to Nagasaki. That day was the first time that I interacted with the people in Japan. The language barrier is (and probably will be for the rest of the time I’m here) always an issue. But it’s not even just the speaking part that I found difficult, but the use of a completely different writing system (they have three different alphabets that are constantly used in signs and on menus and other things). I am constantly embarrassing myself because I don’t quite understand what people are saying to me!

Another thing. The food, obviously, is completely different here. But I don’t think anyone realizes just how different until you actually get here. Like everyone who has never been to Japan would think that our idea of sushi is what sushi really is. It’s not at all. Learned that the hard way. And I’ve found that the Japanese seem to have a strange love of mayonnaise and ketchup that I don’t think I can match to be honest. I like most of the food, but some of it I could do without. Two things that I absolutely cannot eat based on taste alone are mushrooms and fish, which for some reason seem to be included in absolutely every dish in Japan. I’m exaggerating of course, but trust me there’s a lot of these dishes here. The dorm’s food and the school’s food are okay, kind of like school food in general. But from what I can tell you about the restaurants here, the food is pretty great. I even had Champon/Chanpon (I have no idea how it’s spelled to be honest) which is a pretty big deal and had a pretty interesting history in Nagasaki. It was really good! I’ll talk about it more in a future post.

Bonus! Here are a few pictures that I did manage to take before eating.







I’ll do another post on food at some point, once I get more pictures. I don’t usually take pictures of my food before I eat it, but I guess I should start. But until then, thanks for reading!

Hello from Nagasaki, Japan!

First of all, I’d like to formally apologize for not posting sooner. I unfortunately forgot to bring a charger converter with me, and I only recently got one.

So I guess that means I’ve got to catch you guys up on a lot of things. I’ve been here for a little more than three weeks now, which may not seem like much time in the grand scheme of things (I’ll be here for about four months total), but I’ve done a lot of activities so far!

I’ll start with the months before I arrived in Japan. I left New York on March 25th (and arrived the next day on March 26th, got to love time zones!). That means that I had a little more than three months to prepare for my study abroad experience, go on an emotional roller coaster, and say goodbye to all of my friends, family and my home. I was really nervous to leave, but I was also really excited to experience something new.

In the months before my departure, a lot of people asked me why I had chosen to go to Japan. To be honest I didn’t know how to answer that question. As an Asian Studies major, academically it made sense for me to want to study abroad in Japan. And I’ve always been interested in the culture and arts of Japan, so why not. But to be honest I think I’m the type of person who just throws herself into things without thinking about it, and then just figures it out as she goes along. And I think that’s what I’m doing here.

I’m not experienced when it comes to travelling. I went to Puerto Rico with my family once, but that’s about as far as I’ve travelled. So I hadn’t really ever left the country before, let alone gone anywhere without the comfort of family or friends. I took two planes. The first was a little over twelve hours, and took me from JFK in New York to Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan. The second flight took only a little more than an hour and a half, and took me from Tokyo to Fukuoka. The next day all of the new students took a bus to Nagasaki, which is where I am currently. From the moment we arrived in Nagasaki we were thrown straight into orientation for the next two weeks!

I was extremely unprepared when I first got here. I didn’t pack until the night before my flight. Let me tell you that was such a mistake. Not only was I extremely stressed out, but I forgot so much stuff! My suitcase was 52lbs, but I still had to have my mom send me a package with important stuff as soon as I got here!

Not only was I unprepared physically, but I could barely remember any of the Japanese I had already learned (and I’ve been taking Japanese at New Paltz for at least three semesters, so that should’ve counted for something). I mean, I had brushed up on my Japanese a little here and there throughout February and March, but not nearly as much as I should have. I was a bit of a mess when I first got here, because I could only remember a few basic words and phrases. But I think I’ve got the hang of it now that I’m getting used to everything. The language barrier has to be the hardest part of studying abroad (but only in places where they don’t speak a language that you know). I’ve embarrassed myself on more than one occasion, but I think that’s just a part of learning a new language. Besides that, everyone is willing to help you when you put in the effort. I’ve made a bunch of new friends, learned a bunch of new things in Japanese and am really excited to experience new things that I never thought would be possible!

So I guess that’s it for now, but I’ll keep you guys updated on things in Japan!

Last Month and Beyond

The climax of my trip was during this month. Time went by fast and I was already at the last month. By then, I knew I needed to wrap up things I have not done.  One of which was travel. I completed my exploration of  Tokyo after going to Odaiba with my Canadian suite mate that month. We wanted to go somewhere together before I left.

A smaller Statue of Liberty at Odaiba
A smaller Statue of Liberty at Odaiba

I went outside of Tokyo four times this month as well. First, I took the bullet train to Osaka to visit my friend who goes to New Paltz for a few days.  Then my senior from high school stopped by Tokyo for four days. We went together to Mount Fuji on one of those days but never got to climb the mountain because it would require us to stay there for a night and I still had school. Then my suite and two people who from the unit across from us went to Yokohama together. We checked out the Chinatown there and somehow ended up riding a roller coaster by the end of the day. Finally I revisited Kawagoe to meet the friend who picked me up from the airport. I biked with him around Kawagoe, met his childhood friends, and went into the hot spring with him.

View of Mt.Fuji from Level 5

View of Mt.Fuji from Level 5

Another thing I had to do before leaving was basketball. One of my friends made a basketball club at the new campus. By the time the club was approved and formed, there was less than a month left of school. During that month, everyone was busy with their finals, so we could not play most of the time too. At least there was one day that we got to play some full court games with the team from the other Meiji campus.



During the summer in Japan, there are Hanabi Daikai or firework festivals all over Japan. I attended the biggest one at Sumidagawa with my yukata that I bought from Donki. We waited for hours until it began, and when it did, it rained soon after. It was a memorable day for me, but terrible for some of my friends. The train station was closed and we had to walk to the next train station.

I had less than 4 hours of sleep on my last two days. I spent a lot of time packing those two days too. I bought an extra small suitcase and still could not fit everything I had.  For my last meal in Japan, my unit and the unit across from us ate at a nearby Indian restaurant together. Before leaving, I locked up my bicycle so that I would always have something else in Japan besides my friends. I think of it as a proof of my existence there. One of my friends I met in Japan drove me to the airport. Thanks to him, I was able to spend a little more time with my friends. We were stuck in Tokyo traffic until we got to Chiba though.

So that ends my story in Japan. It took me a long time to get home because I had a 7 hour layover at Los Angeles. I still remain in daily contact with all my friends from dorm.My summer vacation has just begun, but it will end in two weeks. It makes up for my long winter vacation since school started later for me. Even though I will come back as a junior in New Paltz, I still feel like a sophomore. I have not seen my friends at New Paltz in half a year. There are some lost times that I need to make up for.

One last thing. Before leaving I saw a poster saying  “Tokyo: Olympic 2020 Candidate city.” Then I came up with the idea that if Tokyo is chosen to be the site for the Olympics in 2020, we should all meet again then. But now it does not matter if Tokyo is chosen because we will meet wherever the Olympic will be held. By then we will all be working and doing what we each aspire to become. As for me, I wanted to become a lawyer. Now I want to become an international lawyer.




One more month!

It has been 3 months since I have been in Japan. I am very glad to have lived here, but very soon I will say goodbye to my friends here and return to my normal life in American. Recently, when I was asked to write something to put in my neighbor unit’s wall, I wrote “only friends remain.” When we all return home, all we have left in Japan are our friends. The following day, one of my friends in that unit had taken of picture of my note on the wall and said it was really moving.

I had actually tried to extend my study abroad by a semester, but unfortunately I was not able to. The semester overlap for Meiji and New Paltz in the fall semester. Thus if anyone is thinking of studying for a year, start in the fall. Plus, because I only applied for scholarship funds for one semester, I will not be able to receive the same scholarships if I try to extend half-way through this semester. Thus, really consider if you want to do a semester or a year before studying abroad. For everyone, I recommend a year because a semester will go by quickly before you realize that there is not much time left.

When in Japan, I recommend going to a nomihoudai and tabehoudai, which are all-you-can-drink and all-you-can-eat for a set price and set time limit. I went twice with people from Meiji who have studied abroad at New Paltz. The second time I went, there was another student from New Paltz there who was visiting Japan for two weeks. Both times I ate yakisoba, okonomiyaki and monjya. I will cook those when I come back home if I ever miss the taste!

With friends from Meiji and visitor

At nomihoudai/tabehoudai

Unfortunately, my bicycle was taken away last week because I parked it by the train station. Usually in Japan, they will give illegal parked bicycles a red tag. After a day they would just take the bicycle. However, they cheated by putting both tags in one day. I had to go about 30 minutes away from where I lived and pay to get it back. My front wheel broke on the way home too. Once again I had to repair it. The sad part is that the money I put in for repairs and fine is more than how much I paid for the bicycle.

Recently, one of my friends ended up setting off the fire alarm at 8PM by baking pie. The whole time the alarm was ringing, but luckily my headset blocked off the noise for me. I was surprised to see that the unit next door had smoke blowing out of their door. Later I walked into that unit and opened the microwave to see for myself the charred pie. Everyone in the dorm was outside, and for the first time, there was a small sense of togetherness. Unlike the dorms in America, we do not have official events to connect each other. Thus, other people and me appreciated the fact that my friend set off the fire alarm. My friend was really unhappy because her mistake made police and firefighters come as well as disturbing everyone else. I attempted to cheer her up by inviting her to do fireworks. It might seem like a joke to invite her to something related to fire, but I really meant for it to be a way to remember what happened that day in a different way. After some persuasion and good timing, she eventually agreed to do fireworks with me and our friends and was not longer sad over about what happened.

That’s it for now, look forward to my next post!

-Sampson Bui


It’s already been two months since I studied abroad. I know that the school semester has already ended back at New Paltz. I hope my friends back in the States enjoys their summer break. There is still two months left of my semester, meaning my summer vacation will be only be two weeks long to make up for my long winter break. I have also just took some midterm exams and have some papers to work on. As of right now, I am mentally preparing myself for coming home.

I have not been updating this blog recently because a lot of things have been happening. My mood was also terrible for a while until a week ago. You can sort of tell how I felt by how looking at how messy my room was. I have cleaned my room, and the way it is now reflects how I feel now.  I am fine and will continue blogging! I expect a lot of happen by next week, so expect another entry soon.

As for life in Japan:

I bike to Don Quijote or “Donki” almost everyday by myself or with a friend sitting on the back to buy various things. Donki is a chain store in Japan that sells various things for probably the best prices in Japan. It helps to think of it as a Walmart. I just recently bought a mahjong set from there to play with my friends here. The irony is that we play mahjong with Chinese rules in Japan because none of us are familiar with the Japanese rules. Donki also sells fireworks, so my friends and I occasionally light them.

My favorite store in Japan!

The best supermarket chain in Japan is Seiyu. Usually, I go to the Seiyu a station stop away from where I live to buy groceries if I am looking to save some money. They reduce the price of meats that have been sitting for a while, so I tend to buy those and use them right away. Based on my experiences, Seiyu also sells the cheapest bananas in Tokyo! Fruits in general are very expensive in Japan because people have to subsidize the farmers.. For example, one apple costs around $1.50. One of these days, I will visit the country-side of Japan and buy fruits directly from farmers because they will be cheaper. Until then, I will be eating tons of bananas.

Rakuten is my recommended place for online shopping in Japan. You can use the website in English and other languages, but since the site uses a translation machine, you might not always get what you searched for. I learned from my Language and Culture class that the CEO of Rakuten has made it mandortory for their employees to speak English. The idea is that doing so would allow for Rakuten to expand its business and profits. Perhaps I might still use it when I come back home.

If I am not cooking at home, I am probably eating at my school’s cafeteria because it is cheap. The food there tastes better, but is much more limited than the food we eat at New Paltz.  The ladies serving the food at my campus are also very stingy, giving only one piece of meat or taking back rice because they gave a bit too much. The food at my school’s other campus tastes better and is cheaper than the one I go to unfortunately. They are all run by different companies. The choices are usually some form of Japanese noodles such as soba or udon, some form of Chinese noodles, Japanese curry, Halal style curry, pasta, and two different types of rice dishes. After a while, eating at the cafeteria gets tiring because the food is not accompanied by yogurt, or fruits. Also, it is starting to seem expensive because they are not giving enough meat! Although I always complain about Hasbrouck food, I appreciated the freedom that the dinning hall offers.

My seminar and me meeting up for dinner at the school cafeteria~

Ah~I am looking forward to coming home.

-Sampson Bui

Golden Week and After~

For my Golden Week break, I took a small trip to Seoul, Korea~!

I did a lot of sightseeing with my brother for two out of my four days there. I got to see some palaces, museums, the Nam San Tower and river, Lotte World, and various other places such as Gangnam and Myeondong. I also happened to come to Korea while it was hosting its friendship fair. So many countries were present, selling their national cuisines and products.

Korean Palace

Korean Palace

Because everything is cheaper in Korea than in Japan (taxi rides too), I ate a lot of Korean cuisines (such as cold noodles, and rice flakes), and did some shopping with my friend from high school who is studying abroad at Yonsei University. She took me around Korea for the rest of my stay there. We explored Dongdaemun, Ewha, Hondae, and Sinchon (where I stayed). I noticed that she become more mature after studying abroad. Anyways, we both are enjoying our semester abroad!

After returning to Japan, life just continued as it did for me before coming to Korea. The only change would be my hair and my ear. I got 2 earlobe piercings on my left ear in Korea for about 6 dollars. Back at my pediatrics, she does the same kind of clamp style piercings for 20 dollars each.

Getting a haircut in Japan can be cheap, but I believe that you pay for what you get for. Thus, I went to a well reviewed Hair salon with some English speaking stylists. I went there by bicycle (I got it fixed for 3,500 yen when I bought it for 8,000 yen…) and ended up getting mislead by one of the workers at the Family Mart near the salon. After an hour of getting lost, I ended up unknowingly returning to the same exact Family Mart. This time, the other employee used her iPhone to teach me the right directions.

When I got to “Assort”, I mostly used Japanese and occasionally used English to convey what I could not express in Japanese. Although the cut did not turn out the way I wanted it to, I got along well with my hair stylist. He offered to give me a free touch-up cut in 10 days. Although I was not required to pay tip in Japanese hair salons, I did so anyways.

My salon!

I had to meet my friend the same day I cut my hair. Since I came by bicycle, thinking I would have enough time to park it back at my dorm and then take the train, I ended up leaving it parked by the closest train station. My hair stylist told me that as long as I come back for it within 24 hours, the police won’t take my bike away. The next day I came back for my bicycle after class and tore the pink warning letter that the police issues when you illegally park your bicycle. On the way home, I took a different route since I wanted to meet up with my friend in Shibuya.

I always biked pasted Shibuya on my way to Harajuku and thought it would be easy to get back to where I lived from there. Well, after going deep into Shibuya, getting out was quite difficult because it is so densely populated and big. When I asked the employee working at a Family Mart there for directions to Meidaimae, she told me that it was impossible. I should stop asking people working in Family Mart for directions.

After heading in the wrong direction, I eventually was directed the right way to Meidaimae. On the way, I eventually got to a familiar street, the one I take to get to Harajuku. From that point on, I did not need to stop every 5 minutes to ask for directions.

Everything else that happened this week was nothing out of the ordinary~ so that’s it for this post!


Week 4 in Tokyo

I have been in Tokyo a little over a month now. Studying abroad here has been a great experience for me. Although it was difficult applying for Meiji University and scholarships with having classes to focus on, it all paid off at last! I expected myself to enjoy living in Japan, but I did not expect to enjoy it so much that  I would seriously consider living here one day. I already have a bank account here as well as several point cards too that I will bring back to America to remind me of the good time I had here.

Golden week has just begun in Japan. It’s a week with several Japanese holiday such as the Emperor’s birthday and Children’s Day. For Meiji University students, we only get 2 days off, in addition to our weekend, while students from other schools and workers get a full week off! We rarely get holidays off here in the Japanese academic calender. I realize how much I took American holidays for granted after coming here. For my holiday, I plan on visiting Korea while I still have the opportunity~

I got to visit  Tokyo University a few times because my friend works at a convenient store there. Tokyo University is Japan’s Harvard. It is really big and grandeur as expected of Japan’s top university. Besides students who study there, I saw many high school students and various people like me who are just visiting the school. It is distinguished by its Japanese style gate, where people often take pictures at.

the Lawson convenient store at Tokyo University where my friend works

I went to a Omatsuri, or festival last Sunday at Koenji, a station away from my school campus with the Meiji student who went to New Paltz last semester!  There, I got to see many performances throughout the area-from magic acts, comedy, juggling, diabolo, Chinese Opera, acrobatics on the street along with people enjoying the weekend with their friends and family. There were even performers from America and Canada at the Omatsuri. Despite being a festival,  it still felt fast paced because there are so many performances that all lasted half an hour. It was impossible to see everything we wanted to see in a day.

More of a Dancer than a Magician~the first performance I saw

More of a Dancer than a Magician~the first performance I saw

I do realize the order of this post does not flow right, but a lot has really happened. I am still processing everything I saw! Also, I already have a problem with my bicycle. I need to replace one of the tires already~It should be fixed by my next post!