Japan is fourteen hours ahead of America in time. After an eleven hour flight from Narita Airport, Tokyo, Melissa and I arrived at Chicago O’Hare three hours before the time we left the ground in Japan on that same date.
Christmas, it seems, arrived early in the form of light illuminations, store-front window displays, Christmas music, and decorated evergreen trees. Sakae, one of the larger shopping districts in Nagoya, even has an ice skating rink. Advertisement posters deliver phrases like “Many Christmas,” “Happy Wonderful Xmas,” or “X-mas Party,” and shop employees have donned Santa-inspired uniforms.
With only about two weeks of classes left, the exchange students at Nanzan University have been busy studying, writing reports, and finishing up research projects. On top of all the written homework, students are busy working part-time jobs, volunteering at day-cares, conducting interviews, and of course making plans for the holidays or the return trip home. Classes are much busier for me as well. I would like to share a bit about the elective and lecture courses’ content, as well as study methods for Japanese language courses.
We are in the final stretch of not only classes at Nanzan University, but of our time in Japan. Thus far, my posts have covered exciting places and events, but not everything has been as easy as relaxing in the onsen or watching parades. Studying abroad in a new country, in a completely different culture, has its share of obstacles. These I would like to share with you.
My host family had been anticipating the trip since September. Almost every November, my host family, along with their long-time friends and relatives, spends a weekend at a well-known onsen up in the mountains of Nagano prefecture. This year, they invited Melissa and I along for the trip. Having never been to an onsen previously, I was unsure of what exactly to expect. In America there are no public bathing areas, after all. Nevertheless, I was eager to find out.
Fall has officially arrived in Nagoya, bringing not only beautiful foliage (kouyou) and cooler temperatures but also a whole new wave of autumn festivals (matsuri). I am enrolled in the Fieldwork Research Methods course here at Nanzan University. What’s especially rewarding about this class is the opportunity to attend field trips to more rural areas in Japan. During the past two weekends, classmates and I traveled together to Gifu Prefecture and Toyota, where we took part in traditional rituals and festivities associated with the local matsuri.
I made it to Nagoya after two perfect weeks in beautiful Kanagawa Prefecture. As I mentioned in my last post, I had spent the last couple weeks of summer vacation with friends whom I had met two years ago in Japan. Together we traveled just about everywhere, from the new Tokyo Sky Tree, to Asakusa’s Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate), to the beaches of Enoshima and Chigasaki, to Yokohama’s Chinatown, Hakone, and even to the fifth step of Mt. Fuji. We dressed up in summer yukata to view fireworks, attended the once-a-year, Hawaiian-themed festival at my friend’s apartment complex, had our fortunes read at temples, and hiked through several beautiful nature parks and an ice cave.