Capsule Hotel and Flight Home

I don’t think I ever posted photos from my capsule hotel at Haneda and my flight home! Anyways, if you are interested here are some of my favorite flight photos and some photos of my hotel the night before I departed.

SEOUL

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FIGHT INFO

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In reality we went over a lot of Alaska. I got to see Juno!2014-08-01 10.27.49 2014-08-01 08.29.08

JAPAN!

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Japan!

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Going Over Alaska

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Seoul City

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Just a Dream

It feels like it was all a dream. Did I really go to Japan. Did I really live there for 4 months? It sure doesn’t feel like it. I fit so comfortably back into my old life that it doesn’t even feel like I left. And that really scares me.

The second I cam home, I re-entered my job, met up with friends, and started my everyday lifestyle as it was before I left. Much of it I really missed and was happy to return to, but a few things like the stress of work, commute, and feeding myself while trying to loose weight has made this past week pretty stressful. I can’t even believe that it’s on been a week! Seriously, things at home are moving so much slower yet becoming so much more stressful than my life in Japan. Mostly I think this because in Japan I never had a routine. I was always doing something new. But here it’s becoming routine everyday and that makes things move a bit slower than I’d like.

Hopefully once school starts in a few weeks and I can catch back up on my Japanese. I also really need to find a good Japanese podcast to practice in the car….

This hole week as been a whirlwind of happy returns, stress, and trying to remember everything I did in Japan. It’s crazy! Hopefully as things calm and can start to remember and collect all my thoughts from my adventure.

 

 

Un-Packing

Words of advice for unpacking…

JUST DO IT. It’s tedious and feels like a waste of your free time but the sooner it’s done the better. The first thought I had when I came home was that I had WAY To many clothes. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for four months so seeing everything I left behind made me glad I didn’t shop for clothes a lot in Japan. I already have WAY to many!! The one thing I did regret packing was more fun convenience food for my family and friends to try. Like Melon Bread and Dried Squid. I’m going to miss that food. 😦

Home

So I’ve been waiting a few days to make this post. I wasn’t really sure what to say or how to collect all my thoughts. I definitely have tons to say but I don’t know how much I really want to cover. Let’s start off with the trip home.

I had a one night stay at a capsule hotel in Haneda Airport before my flight. The place was pretty great. It had showers, a spa, and a nice lounge area. The only thing I could say is difficult about being in a capsule hotel is well… being in a capsule. Your not in a room so you can here EVERYONE around you. I tried going to bed at 6 because I had to be up at 2:00am but that didn’t happen. There was too many people going in and out of the hotel at that time. I ended up only sleeping for an hour or so. It wasn’t the best night but it was good for just a few hour stay and a place to store my luggage.

The next morning I had a layover in Korea (which look absolutely GORGEOUS from the plane), and then a 14 hour flight over Alaska and Canada all the way to Dulles Virginia. I guess I couldn’t sleep because I had so many things rushing through my head. When I got to the airport, my parents met me a drove me home. First thing I ate was Chipotle which I MUST write about.

The Chipotle Experience

The number one thing I wanted from home was mexican food. That’s one of the only things that was really hard to find in Japan. The second I walked in everything felt weird. I live near Baltimore City but also on a line of farms and more rural MD. There’s a huge variety in the types of people you see in my neighborhood. I will be super honest and say the first thing that hit me was the SIZE. Not just the food but the people. It’s been a while since I’ve seen an overweight person like I did at the base. It made me think about the two culture and why our society has such different trends in food styles. Also what types of foods are considered traditional and what foods are considered cheap.  When I got my food,  I ask for avocado and I swear the lady gave me an avocado scoop the size of a family pack you can eat at the grocery store! No one needs that much food in one portion. I could only finish half before I gave up and was too full.

The staff was also NOT was I was used to. The colloquial talk, the arguments with guest and managers, the flies sitting on the cash register. It all just made me feel bad. Luckily we ate outside so I could enjoy the much cooler and dry summer air.

Sleep

I’m still not on the best sleep schedule. I spent a good 24 hours awake on two different occasions this week. Mostly because of waking up randomly in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. Hopefully I’ll only need a few more days to adjust.

Other than those two things most of my life has gone back to it’s old routine fairly quickly. It’s not uncomfortable, or even difficult to re-adjust. It’s more like I notice a lot of differences now in my everyday routine and culture rather than struggle with making those changes…if that makes sense. I’ll post more little detailed post as things come up.

 

Greetings from Haneda

So I’m at the airport and I don’t like it.

This morning my host mom and I dropped off my roommate and I at Narita Airport. We didn’t have to be at Haneda until around 5 so we spent the day in Odiba. We went shopping in Diver Mall…well she went shopping, my luggage is too full 😦 Afterwards we went to the science museum and then she dropped me off here. We both teared up a little bit, her more than me. It was so sad. Everyday she cooked us dinner, listened to our elementary Japanese , took us on fun trips, taught us about Japan, and helped us in whatever ways we needed. And now we say good bye, not knowing if it’s forever or not. I don’t want it to be. It gives me a reason to keep learning Japanese. I fear becoming lazy and loosing my skills, which as a result means loosing my friends that I have met here. It makes me feel really sick. Not like illness sick but just an upset feeling in my stomach.

The anticipation of leaving is making me really anxious. I still have 13 hours in Japan, 2 hours to Seoul, and 14 hours to Virgina. That’s 29 hours of waiting.

And waiting.

And waiting.

I’ll probably write a few blog post tonight and on the plane. I will also most definitely be talking about my experience traveling back and dealing with reverse culture shock.

Ghibli

This past week I got an opportunity to go to Ghibli. I bought the ticket a month in advance just to get a chance to see the inside of the building. The inside was designed to look like an old house…you know…except for the giant movie theater, gift shop, and cafe. When you walked through the different parts of the museum it showed different pieces of art from the movies, the How To of Animation, and some really cool select videos that only guest can see inside the museum. I didn’t stay too long because I was alone ; all my friends got to go for free when I was on a hiking trip 😦 But it was still really peaceful and fun. I especially enjoyed looking at the old artwork for the creation of KiKi’s delivery service. KiKi’s really reminds me of my childhood. Not so much the story but just the remembrance of watching it with my Dad sometimes alone as a kid.

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If you’re into Ghibli films, then it’s a great place to check out. Just make sure you buy tickets super early!!

 

Return to Kawaguchiko

I returned to Kawaguchiko this past weekend to see Fuji for the last time. It was a great calm before the storm of emotions and crazy airport travels. I swear everytime I see Fuji it always looks like a painting in the sky. This time, I got up at 4 am to see the line of people going up the mountain. I also saw the sun rise on the tip of the summit. It was beautiful. My friends and I stayed in K’s House Hostel near the lake. It was really chill and quiet. I would definitely recommend them if you’re traveling around Japan… I don’t really have anything else to say so I’ll just post a bunch of photos 🙂

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Tips for Studying Abroad in Tokyo

1. Don’t be skeptical, only open. If you see something you think is “weird”, stop thinking that way. Such see it as different from the culture you were born into.

2. Try Everything. Don’t spend a DAY being lazy with nothing to do. Make plans and try everything because time will FLY.

3. Don’t be a vegetarian. You could do it, but its Japan and the food options will be an endless battle. Its much easier to survive and eat on an open palate. If that’s not possible preplan and memorize kanji for certain foods you can eat.

4. Pack light but bring shoes. A lot of things you can by in Tokyo, but shoes may not be one of the them. But DONT bring rainboots. I swear you wont need them. Biggest regret here.

5. Yes bring that extra american gift for your Japanese friends. They will love it. It also means you will have more space in your luggage on the way home.

6. Don’t be loud on trains and don’t block people s path on the right side of the escalator. Right side in Tokyo is for walking only.

7. Dont EVER forget your house key, residence card, or train pass All three are super important to have on a daily basis. Oh, also cash.

8. Don’t care too much about maintaining skinniness when there is someone inviting you out for drinks or a cafe lunch. It will be a good memory, promise.

9. If you have spare time between classes, go do something small. Walk around your neighborhood or eat someplace new. You never know what you’ll find. Also learn to do things on your own because everyone’s schedule is different and Tokyo is super safe and fun to explore.

10. Make a bucket list now and keep it with you. There will be times when everyone wants to do everything but doesn’t remember what. Have your list with you so you know exactly what’s next

11. Don’t drink your way through Tokyo. It’s expensive and not worth it in my own opinion.

12. If you plan on climbing Fuji, bring winter clothes and please DO NOT TAKE IT LIGHTLY. TRAIN FOR IT.

13. Do your homework but don’t spend too much time on its quality when you could be doing other things.

14. Don’t burn bridges. It’s only four months with other people, just deal with them because they may be a connection later.

15. Tokyo is expensive. Please accept it as such and be prepared to go way over budget.

16. Make both Japanese and Study Abroad friends. Making all Japanese friends will make it hard to find someone to relate to. Making all study abroad friends will make it hard to actually experience a big part of the Japanese culture, the people!

17. Have fun! Seriously. Your not here for intense schooling, you are here for SUBMERSION. So submerse yourself and it will be amazing.

Homestay vs. Residence

There are pros and cons to both home stay and dorm students. Obviously for me I would promote home stay, but I thought I would list my personal view of pros and cons to each in order to help others choose and understand the process.

Home-stay (Pros)

There are MANY reasons why I think a home stay is a great option. For one thing you have an entire family to help you in Japan and is taking care of you for the sole purpose of wanting get to know you. That in itself makes you feel pretty special. Also you are forced to use your new language skills everyday with a person who knows you are practicing and trying to improve. It relieves pressure and makes you learn fast! There’s also the added benefit of a cozier house, constant home cooked meals, and a family that wants to take you to cool local events. All these things combined can make you feel much more comfortable in a foreign country. I will also say once more, without my home-stay mom I WOULD NOT be able to speak as much Japanese as I can now. I give her all the credit. Home-stay does WONDERS on language ability. Wonders I tell you!

Home-stay (Cons)

For all wanting to  do home-stay, remember that the family you end up with is a gamble. Originally, I was not placed in my current family but a different family that had a sudden emergency before the trip started. I have no clue what that experience would have been like. The location of your home is up for gamble as well. It may be like mine where a 1 and 1/2 hour biking/train ride will be your daily commute. Or it may be shorter. It all depends. Also, your time must be more flexible. You have to give back and spend time with your family which means opening up your calendar to their events and schedule. If you end up in a house with children, they may see you as an extra caretaker and you will have to deal with the craziness of kids. You are apart of someone family which means being a good representation outside the house and obeying all costumes inside the house. Again, it’s all a gamble.

Residence (Pro)

Things that I found great for dorm students is the freedom. They could go wherever whenever because there was no one to call or check in with. This makes it much easier to go out, travel, spend time with friends, etc. Also cooking your own food can be great, especially from my perspective. I’ve gained 10 pounds of extra weight here in Japan. Half from biking/ hiking muscle and half fat.  It would have been much easier to maintain my weight if I could cook by myself and work out whenever I wanted to. There’s also the extra added benefit of not having to maintain room cleanliness and keeping to Japanese home customs. The dorm is much more chill and your room can be as messy as you’d like.

Residence (Con)

The dorm students can sometimes lack speaking abilities. I’ve heard from multiple friends that they do not really need their Japanese on a day-to-day basis like I do. Therefor it’s much easier for them to slip under that Japan radar and not use Japanese anywhere but in class. This can make language learning difficult. Also you lose connections. Having a home-stay family means having a person/reason to return to Japan. It gives you connection on the other side of the world that you may want to use on a later date. I don’t think you make as many long-lasting connections with Japanese people in the dorms. Maybe you make connections with other study abroad students, but not as much with Japanese people. And I think the reason I was more able to branch out and meet Japanese friends was because of my home stay and my ability to be more comfortable around the Japanese culture.

I think you need a mixture of both familiarity and cultural submersion in study abroad. Having both American and Japanese friends can really mold a study abroad experience into a great, long-lasting memory.  Choosing which option to take is hard, but from what I have seen as long as you are open to a new adventure, you will be happy with what ever decision made.