Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The End of the Journey

Well everyone, the four month journey has come to a close. I am now safely back home in America with my family.

Sunday (Japan time) I got up at 5:00 and had a final quick breakfast with my host family. Then we loaded up the car with my luggage and I said goodbye to the cats before my host family drove me to the airport. At the airport we met up with some others, Mal, Eric, Bethany, Michelle and Daniel. We all checked in our luggage and then it was time for me to say goodbye to my host family. We all hugged and said our last goodbyes to each other. It was pretty sad, I am going to miss my host family a lot. They were a lot of fun and my Okaasan and I did a lot together and had a lot of fun.

At 7:50 the plane left Chitose Airport and I said goodbye to Sapporo. This flight took us to Narita Airport in Japan. There we went through security before I said goodbye to Eric and Michelle, they were taking different flights. The rest of us went to the flight deck to catch our 11:20 flight to Chicago. This flight was about 11 hours. It wasn't too bad though, we got two meals and I watched a bunch of movies including Inception and Ooku, a Japanese movie.

We arrived at the Chicago airport Tuesday morning (Chicago time). We had to re-check our luggage and then go through customs. We had about a four hour lay over so Mal, Bethany and I just hung out by the flight gate and had some lunch. I also called my family and texted some friends. Eventually it was time to fly and we boarded the plane home. We got in around 4:15. I then went out and found my Mom, Dad, and brother waiting for me. It was nice to see them after four months. We talked and I told them all about my trip. We got my luggage and said goodbye to my friends before we drove home.

It is great to be home, but I definitely miss Japan, a lot. I had a great four months in Sapporo. I made many new friends who I will miss hanging out with and my host family I will miss seeing everyday. But I know that this won't be goodbye forever. I plan to go back to Japan someday and I will be sure to make a return trip to Sapporo. I also have some Japanese friends who really want to come to America, especially the East Coast. I really look forward to them coming here.

The past four months have been a great experience that I will never forget. My friends and host family were amazing and made me feel at home. I will greatly miss Sapporo and everyone there. Like I said I am sure I will see everyone again. This journey may be over, but I am sure more are to come.

Thanks for reading and following me the last four months. It was a great time and I am glad I was able to share it with you.

Thanks again,


Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Final Snowfall in Sapporo

Welcome back,

This is my last night in Japan and I have had a great time here. The past few days have been a lot of fun.

So to catch you all up on what has been happening recently:

On Wednesday I  did not have class so I spent most of the day with Okaasan. Today we went on one of my last sightseeing tours. We went to Hitsujigaoka Tenboudai. It is a place overlooking the city where there is a statue of a guy named Clark. Clark helped introduce forms of agriculture to Hokkaido. There we got to take pictures with the statue and also go to a snow festival museum. The museum had pictures of all of the past snow festivals. The snow festival, by the way, is a winter event is Sapporo where people build huge snow statues and things out of snow for people to see. It is really neat, unfortunately it doesn't start until January so I can't see it.

For lunch we went to a crab restaurant. This was a fancy restaurant where almost every food had crab in it, the soup, salad and the main course. For my main course I got a rice bowl covered in small and large chunks of crab. It was really good. Hokkaido is well known for its crabs, they are a little sweeter than the ones I am used to, but still really good.

Thursday was the last day of class, and that meant speeches. All of the international students had to give a speech about anything they wanted to talk about, in Japanese. I did my speech on Maryland. Everyone's speech was really good and we were all glad when it was finally over. It was pretty nerve racking at first because the speech was fully in Japanese, and we also had to do it in front of teachers, host families, and friends. Okaasan came to watch the speech and Shun and Daiki also stopped by.  Below are pictures of Eric, Mal, Euna, and Emily giving there speeches.

Once the speeches were done it was time to celebrate. For lunch a bunch of us went to Sama, a soup curry restaurant that we commonly go to. Soup curry is mainly only a Sapporo thing so we all wanted to enjoy it one last time before we left.

Then it was time for ice-skating. After some slight difficulty getting to the rink, we all went out and tried our best at skating. I have not done it for a long time so I was really bad, while everyone else was pretty good. Luckily Emily babysat me as I skated slowly near the wall most of the time. Towards the end though I was able to go a little faster and not have to touch the wall at all. Even with my struggling it was still a lot of fun and we all had a blast.

For dinner some of us went to Yakiniku, a place where you cook your own meat. There we met up with Daiki, Yatsu, and Yukina and got to eat with them. After eating we all went to karaoke for one last time. Unfortunately Euna, Daiki, and I had to leave early because we had to, literally, run for the last bus. Luckily we made it.

Friday was also a jam-packed day. It started with Me, Mal, and my host-family going to Euna's host family's house to see Euna off. Euna left Sapporo today, one of the first to head off. We all took lots of pictures together and waved goodbye as her host family drove her to the airport.

After saying our goodbyes, Mal and I met up with Eric and Emily to go see one final movie in Japan.  Today we saw Tron in Imax 3-D. It was a pretty good movie and the Imax and 3-D were great. After the movie I did some traveling to Shin Sapporo and Odori to do some last minute souvenir shopping and just to see some places we went to a lot one final time. Then I went to another station to meet some friends for a Christmas Party.

The Christmas party was at Ayami's house, the girl who gave us the tour of Otaru a few weeks ago. Over 30 people came and we had a lot of fun. We ate dinner there, which was great. We also played bingo where the prizes are presents that everyone brought. I also just got to hang out with friends which was great because it was the last time I would get to see some of these people. I got to hang out with Shun, Kimu, Monma, Kazuma, Ayami, and tons of other people who I am forgetting.

After the party I said my goodbyes to a lot of good friends. Hopefully we will be able to keep in touch and see each other again. I took the last bus home and Shun and Kimu came to see me off. I was really surprised and happy to be able to hang out with them for just a few more minutes. We have had a lot over the semester and I am really going to miss them.

Saturday, today, was my last full day in Sapporo. It snowed last night so this morning we were welcomed by the most snow we have had thus far. I went out and helped shovel the driveway and sidewalk with Okaasan.

For lunch I met Daiki and Yatsu at Mitsui for our final get-together. We went to a soup curry restaurant for lunch where I, really this time, had soup curry for the last time. After lunch we walked around Mitsui and just hung out for a while. Eventually it was time to go back home and I said my goodbyes to two other really good friends that I have had a lot of fun with over the semester.

For dinner I went out with my host family to a yakiniku restaurant. This was our last dinner together and we had a lot of fun. My host family has been really great the whole time I have been here and I will really miss seeing them everyday. After dinner we drove around town in search of houses with Christmas decorations. We found a lot and some of them went all out, probably more so than some American homes. It was a lot of fun and we all took a lot of pictures in front of the lights.

Well I am all packed and now I am probably going to hang out with my host family a little more and have some cake before going to bed. I have to get up at 5 tomorrow to catch my 7:50 flight. I have had such a great time here and am really going to miss Sapporo and all of the good friends I have made here.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The German Market in Japan

Hey Everyone!!

Well the journey is coming to a close pretty soon. Only a few more times to blog left and tons to talk about.

Where to start...

Well, on Friday I had my last official Japanese class here. The following days are all exams and a speech. After class there was a farewell Hi-C party. A bunch of Japanese students and some International students got together and we went to a Nabe restaurant in the city. Nabe is basically a meal that involves a big pot in the middle of a table where you can boil things like tofu, cabbage, mushrooms, meat, and other things together. It is pretty good. We all had a fun time. Daiki went and I had fun to talking with him. Many other Japanese students that I haven't really had a chance to talk to before went as well, so I got to talk with a few new people too.

Saturday was a very busy day. It started with my host family and I going out for ramen for lunch. Otousan and Daisuke have been talking about going to this famous ramen shop near by for awhile and we finally went. The ramen was basic ramen, but with lots and lots of meat. It was very big and wasn't able to finish it all. I thought it was pretty good, but Otousan and Daisuke seemed a little disappointed.

After lunch I met up with Mal, Euna, Daiki and Yatsu. Today we hung out and did a lot of stuff together because Mal, Euna and I will be leaving soon. We started by going to karaoke. I hadn't gone in a while so it was fun to go again. We all had a lot of fun singing different songs and a we even tried to sing some Japanese songs.

After karaoke we did some souvenir shopping at Shin Sapporo station, a very large subway station. Then it was time for dinner. We went to a restaurant called Donguri. It was my first time going there and it was pretty neat. It is a bread restaurant, but instead of ordering food, you can go and pick out assorted backed goods to eat. I go a chicken sandwich, a pizza type thing, and apple bread. It was all really good and very filling.
After dinner we met up with Daiki's girlfriend, Yukina, and then went bowling. We went to the same place that we went bowling before and had a blast. We did Japanese vs. Internationals and the Japanese won by a longshot. Daiki, Yatsu, and Yukina were all pretty good. I did about the same that I did last time, which isn't very good. Bowling was the last event for that long and fun day.

Sunday was the last time for Mal, Euna, and I to go to church at the Green Chapel. Today the people had a farewell party for us (we seem to be having a lot of those lately). They made curry for us and we all had a fun time. Eventually it was time to go and we said our goodbyes. Then it was studying time. The first part of this week is packed with exams so it will be very crazy.

On Monday I had my Japanese grammar/reading/listening exam. I think it went pretty well. I studied a lot for it so I felt pretty comfortable. After the exam I went to the student hall to study for my next exam. While I was studying I was approached by two Japanese students. Their names were Eiji and Shoko. They are students who are interested in making friends with international students. We talked for a while and had a lot of fun. We wanted to hang out some time, but it may be hard since I only have a few days left in Sapporo. If only we met sooner. Then it was time for my next exam. This exam was was for my Japanese Culture exam. the exam was a short answer exam and was pretty easy.

Today, Tuesday, I had a kanji exam. I studied a lot for this exam and I actually find kanji pretty interesting so I thought this exam was a little easy. After the kanji exam I am now completely done with my Japanese exams. All I have left now is a speech on Thursday.

Tuesday afternoon it started to snow. This was rather fitting because today Mal, Eric, Emily, and I went to the Munich Christmas Market in Sapporo. This is basically a market where German people come to Sapporo to sell hand-made Christmas things such as glass Santa's and wood carvings. Munich and Sapporo are sister cities. It was neat to walk through and see all of the different things. The market also sold a lot of different German food that we could try. Also part of the market was the White Illumination. A ton of Christmas lights were put up in the area. The lights decorated a park so we got to walk through the part and enjoy the lights while also doing some German shopping.
After exploring the market we walked through the city in search of this large Ferris wheel. We have seen the Ferris wheel almost every time we came to downtown Sapporo and have always talked about riding it. Well tonight we finally did. It was a lot of fun. We had a great view of all of Sapporo from up top. We could see the TV tower and Okura Yama sky jump. It was also beginning to snow harder so we got to see Sapporo in the snow from above which was neat.

Well, like I said before, the journey is unfortunately coming to a close soon. There are only a few more days left and I think they are all filled with activities so we all can enjoy Sapporo till the very end. Hopefully I get to hang out with all of the great friends that I have made here a few more times before I have to leave.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Way of Sushi

Welcome back everyone!

So the past few days have been a lot of fun and I have plenty to talk about.

On friday after classes, Hi-C, the international club, threw an okonomiyaki and yakisoba party. Only a few of the international students actually went, but a lot of Japanese people were there. Shun and Daiki went so I had some people to talk to. I also got to talk with some people I hadn't seen in a while and also meet some new people. All of the International students got spread out to different tables so we could talk with Japanese people. I sat with Daiki, my friend Saaya, Tom, and three other girls I didn't know too well. Two of the girls and I were in charge of making the Yakisoba while Daiki's group made the okonomiyaki. All of the food turned out pretty well, we made so much of it that we couldn't eat anymore by the end.

After eating I got to hang out and talk with Shun and some other friends which was nice because I haven't really had many chances to hang out recently, everyone has been really busy. Hopefully we will able be able to get together a few more times before I have to go back to America.

Saturday was also a pretty eventful day. It started with a host-family luncheon. This is where all of the host-families and their host-students (most of them anyway) went to hokusei and had lunch together. All of the international students had to give a speech in Japanese thanking their host-family and then we got to talk with other host-families and teachers.

After the luncheon, Emily, Eric, Mal, Euna, Tom, Michelle, and I got together and then went to Shin Sapporo so we could go to the Aquarium there. The aquarium was pretty small, but there were a lot of different kinds of fish and other animals there. It had seals, otters, eels, and even penguins. There was even a point where a penguin came out into the hall way and you could take pictures with him. We also got to stick our hands into a fish tank where the fish would go to your hand and eat up all of the dead skin. It felt really weird, but was pretty neat to experience.

After the aquarium we met up with Daiki and then went to go eat Ramen for dinner. We went to the place we went before where there are a ton of Ramen shops set up to like like an old-fashion town. We went to a different place this time, and I got Curry Ramen. It was really good, it tasted like soup curry, but with ramen noodles.

After dinner a few of us went to our friend Kazuma's apartment. There we hung out with some of his friends and had a little party. It was a lot of fun, but unfortunately I had to leave a little early in order to catch the last bus home.

On Sunday Euna and Mal once again came to my house for lunch. But today's lunch was not just any lunch, it was an intense sushi making experience. My Otousan decided to teach us how to properly make sushi. We first started by learning how to form the rice into nice rectangles. It is actually harder than it looks. You need to press firmly, but not too hard in order to make it into the proper shape. You also have to use the right amount of rice. 
Once we graduated from that level, we got to add fish and other seafood sashimi on top of the rice balls. This also had a trick to it, you want them to stick together and the riceball to fit perfectly under the sashimi. Once that was done you should have a beautiful array of sushi which you can arrange beautifully. . . and then eat.

The sushi was really good and we had a lot of fun making it. It is great to see Otousan having fun with us and wanting to teach us new things because he is usually very shy since he can't speak english well. But we had a blast.

Monday it was back to school. This starts the last week of classes here at Hokusei. Next week is all exams plus the speech that I have to give. I also have an exam on Thursday, so there should be lots of fun studying time to come. However even though I have a lot of school stuff going on, I want to make sure I have a great time in Sapporo with my friends while I can. I am sure we will come up with some fun stuff to do during the last 2 weeks here.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hokkaido Kaitaku no Mura

Alright I am back!

So on Saturday I went with Mal, Euna, Emily, Katie and Eric to 北海道開拓の村-->Hokkaido Kaitaku no Mura-->The historical village of Hokkaido. Unfortunately no Japanese friends could go so it was just us foreigners.

Hokkaido kaitaku no Mura is basically a village that was put together using building from different time periods of Hokkaido's history. There were so old fashioned Japanese style buildings as well as many western style buildings that were introduced during the meiji period where Japan was introduced to foreign influences. It was interesting to see the clash of cultures in the architecture.

We could enter all of the buildings and see the different rooms. Many of the rooms had props and manikins to show what the rooms were used for and also to give an idea of what would go on in certain places. Not all of the buildings where houses either. There was an old factory, a boat house, post office, church, newspaper, candy shop, and various other buildings. Apparently in the summer and fall there are actually people that are walking around and you can learn how to do old-fashioned things like making sandals and trying on different clothes. Unfortunately we went on the off-season so there wasn't really anyone there. Anyway we had a lot of fun exploring the village.

After going to the village we went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner. I got a crab pasta that had a whole crab shell in it. I even got to pick the crab somewhat. It was really good. After dinner we met up with Ayami and her friend Risa and we hung out before it was time to head back home.

On Sunday Euna and Mal came over to my house again for lunch. My host parents through a yakisoba/okonomiyaki party. Otoosan made the okonomiyaki and we got to help make the yakisoba. It was all really good and a lot of fun. After lunch some of Okaasan's friends came over and we talked with the a lot. They had a lot of questions about Korea and America for us. They also brought cream puffs and Okaasan brought out cake and clementines so we had plenty to eat.

Monday was back to school. We had two quizzes and a speech draft due today. At the end of the semester we have to give a speech, in Japanese. So now we are preparing and we have drafts due every week. Then after lunch it was time for Japanese culture. Luckily after a fun day of school it was time for actual fun. Today for dinner I met up with Shun, Mal, Emily, Eric, and two of Shun's friends, Mai and Rippy. Together we went to a yakiniku, which was actually a restaurant that Shun used to work at. A yakiniku by the way is a restaurant where you can grill your own meat over a little grill.

The food was really good and we all had a great time hanging out at the restaurant. We got to try different parts of a pig such as the stomach, intestines, neck, and tongue and it was actually all pretty good.

On Tuesday it was time for class again where I again had two more quizzes. So much fun. After class though it was frisbee time. Emily, Eric, Kimu, and I went outside to play frisbee. By the way it snowed Sunday-Tuesday so there was plenty of snow to run around in while we played frisbee. Frisbee also turned into
a snow ball fight at some points as we ran around chasing each other with snow balls and frisbees padded with snow.

Tuesday night Mal came over to my house to help with the cram school. After that Mal stayed over to have dinner. We had a lot of fun and ate a lot of food. Otoosan also seemed to have had a good time. He really enjoyed talking to the two of us and even wanted to teach us how to play a Japanese board game, but unfortunately Mal had to leave. So we will the board game lessons for next time.

Today, Wednesday, was my day off so I got to relax. I went with Okaasan to Shin Sapporo and I walked around and did some Christmas shopping. We also went to an Italian restaurant for lunch.

Well, unfortunately time is running short here. I only have about three weeks left. My friends and I are going to try to do as much as possible in the amount of time left so we can enjoy Sapporo. So this weekend is probably going to be fairly busy.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Return of Otaru

Hello everyone!

So Tuesday it was a national holiday so no one had any classes. So instead some of my Japanese friends put together a trip to Otaru for everyone! We met bright and early at school to board a bus that was ordered just for us. About 32 people went on the trip. It took about an hour to get to Otaru and once there we visited a couple of different places.

The first stop was a sake factory. It was a small factory where we got to see how sake was made and even see people making it. It was pretty neat to see and we all had fun walking through the factory. Outside was a fountain that apparently had some of the best water in Sapporo, it tasted pretty regular to me, but who knows.

The next stop was the streets of Otaru. We all got some free time to explore the city and check out different shops. I went with some friends to a glasswares shop and then a music box shop, the two things that Otaru is the most famous for. They were all pretty neat and it is interesting to see what people can do with glass an music boxes.

Next we went to a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was really cold and windy, but still cool to see the view over the cliff and the ocean. There was a lighthouse near by, but no one got to see that except for three guys who went running up the hill to go see it.

The final stop was to Kihinkan. This is a building in what used to be Aoyama Village. Now it is a historical spot that is owned by the family of the friend who put the whole trip together, Ayami. She took us to the building and we were given a tour of the whole place and told about it's long history. It was all pretty interesting and very fancy.

And as if the building was not fancy enough, we then got a very fancy lunch. There was a lot of different foods and it was all nicely prepared. It seemed to be fish/seafood themed and was all really good. While eating we had to give a self introduction so everyone could know who we are and what we like, there were a lot of people I did not know very well. This was all done in Japanese, so I am not 100% who everyone is or what exactly they all like, but I understood most of it.

After eating five of us then went to play a quick game of frisbee. Then it was time to board the bus and head back to Sapporo. Today was a lot of fun and it was great to hang out with everyone and also get to hang out with a lot of people I haven't really been able to hang out with much before.

Wednesday was also a lot of fun. For lunch I went with Mal, Euna, Emily, and Eric to a soup curry restaurant. You can probably tell by now that we all love soup curry. I tried the seafood curry which was pretty good, but I think I like the chicken better, chicken is cheaper too.

Wednesday night was movie night. Mal and I met my friend Shun at school and we then went to rent the movie "Frequency." This is an American movie that I saw a few years ago. It is pretty good and is apparently one of Shun's favorites. While in the movie rental shop we kind of got distracted looking at all of the movies, the place actually has quite a lot of foreign movies, maybe more than a place in the U.S. It was pretty surprising. But because we got distracted we were late to meet up with Emily, Eric, Kazuma and Natsumi. The movie party was at Kazuma's apartment and we walked there after picking up some snacks. Then we all watched the movie and tried to explain parts to each other, it is a somewhat confusing movie. The party was a lot of fun and we all had a great time watching the movie and hanging out.

Today it was back to school, it was kind of strange going back after not having class the past two days and doing so much. This weekend should be pretty exciting too. My friends and I are thinking about going to the historical village of hokkaido. It is this village that has old fashioned buildings and old activities that you can do. It should be pretty interesting.

Happy Thanksgiving!