In Japan they have a saying, “Ichigoichie,” which means, “once-in-a-lifetime encounter.” I can’t think of a more perfect phrase to sum up my entire experience in Japan. I made so many wonderful friends, had the chance to live as a Japanese person does, improved my Japanese language skills and so forth. The list could go on forever and ever. I know I’ve said this over and over again but I truly believe that the interactions I had with the people were truly the most amazing part of this entire study abroad experience, especially (you guessed it) my host family. So, I want to share a bit of the last conversation we had the night before I returned to America.

My host parents and I were all sitting at the table in silence with the slight chatter of the TV in the background. Finally, I let out a short sigh. “本当にアメリカに帰りたくない,” (English Translation: I really don’t want to go back to America.) I said, my voice already beginning and tears beginning to well up in my eyes. They looked at me with tear filled eyes. “私達もシエラに帰られたくない,” (English Translation: We don’t want you to leave either.) my host mom said.

As I said before in a previous post, I have never felt that feeling for home or family in my entire life. Growing up, when I would hear my friends talk about their families I never really understood why they were always so elated, until now. I can now say that I understand the value of family and why many view family as so dear to them. After having met my family I finally feel like I have people who I can depend on, who will give me endless love and comfort. The love of a family is so much more beautiful than I could have ever imagined and I am so eternally grateful for having met them because it truly changed my life.

We talked on and on for hours on end, reminiscing about memories made. At the end of the night, as I was about to make my way back to bed my host dad said one last thing that truly moved me, “Remember, your happiness will always be our happiness. You will always have a home here with us.”

One Last Family Outing

The time has come. We’re finally in the homestretch of the program. One. Week. Left. Crazy, right? With this in mind my host family decided we should have one more big family outing before I return to the USA, so off to an amusement park we went!

The amusement park was about three hours from Hakodate so we ended up going on a bit of a mini road trip. We bought snacks and then we were off! Honestly, I fell asleep for the first half of the ride so I’m entirely sure what happened then but I do know that when I woke up we were making a pit stop for some ice cream, yum! すごくおいしかったです。It was super delicious.


(My host sister Yuzuki! So adorable!)

After this we were off again and eventually we arrived at the amusement park, Resutsu Resort.

There are no words that can truly describe how much fun this day was so instead I will gift you all with a series of pictures that do all the explaining for me.

As you all know, my host family means the absolute world to me and this trip was no exception to how amazing of a time I have when I spend time with them. We spent the day riding various roller coasters, eating DELICIOUS food and ended the night with a magnificent fireworks display. I truly could not have asked for a more perfect day.

A Serious Talk: Perverts

As we know, all over the world there are issues with perverts. When thinking about Japan the first word that would often come to mind is safe. However, Japan is no exception to the pervert problem which I unfortunately experienced first hand.

It was a typical day after school. My friend and I were waiting at the bus station as we always had. As we sat there waiting we decided to watch a short three-minute video. Within this short time span a strange man dressed in all gray squatted near our bus stop and began recording us. In the beginning we did not realize this was even happening, but midway through the video my friend noticed. She turned more towards me and informed me of what was going on. I turned to look at the man, looking straight at him thinking he would stop when realizing he was caught. However, he didn’t. He didn’t care that we knew he was recording us. We quickly got up and moved away from him. After doing this the man stopped recording and ran off.

There were many things that were disturbing about this experience, but there are two in particular that really disturb me. First off, the fact that he did not care that we knew he was recording us. After this event happened we both made our way home together and informed out host families of what happened. During this time my host mother explained to me a bit more how things like this happen to women often in Japan and even shared her own experience of a pervert taking a picture of her. The fact that this happens so often that it is seen as normal is a problem to me. It did however clear up why the man had no issue continuing to record us despite our apparent awareness of his presence. It’s so normal in Japan that I believe he felt a sense of security. He knew that it didn’t matter if we saw him because more than likely nothing would be done. Furthermore, I believe it shows, in a way, Japan’s views on women at least in regards to perverts. In their eyes I truly believe that they view women as nothing but sexual objects, as all perverts do in the world but there is something about this  confidence in knowing he would not get caught and that the women he was recording were powerless and weak that disturbed me.

Secondly, although this event happened in a big and openly public space no one said anything.

There were many people at the bus station and the man wasn’t trying to hide the fact that he was recording us so I am almost certain that there were others who watched as the pervert recorded us and said absolutely nothing. This is undoubtedly a problem. In the USA, I believe there is a general consensus that if one views something bad happening to someone else then they try their best to do what they can to help them. That was not the case in Japan. I wasn’t expected anything extreme like someone to tackle the man or anything along those lines. However, a simple yell or tap on the shoulder to inform us of what was happening would have sufficed, yet nothing happened. No one did or said anything and that’s an issue. I also discussed this issue with my host mother and she explained to me that in Japan when those kinds of things happen people usually do not say anything because they often feel it isn’t their place to get involved. In addition to this, they also consider their own well being and just think it best not to get involved. Although I can understand to an extent the consideration of one’s well being I still believe that there is always something that can be done, specifically in situations like this. It truly disappointed me that out of a whole station of people no one said a word. Japan is a wonderful and beautiful country but every country has its issues, including Japan. Let this be a warning to those studying abroad in Japan. Japan is overall a wonderful place, but please stay alert and if you see anything like this happening I encourage you to please take action.

We’re Half Way There!

Hello all! We’re on week 5 of the HIF program here in Hakodate, Japan. There are so many things I’ve experienced already. I’ve met so many amazing people, seen so many amazing things and created so many wonderful memories. It’s pretty amazing comparing where I was mentally in the beginning of the program to where I am now. In the beginning, although I was (and still am)so grateful for the opportunity, I felt a bit out of place. Everything was new and foreign to me; even daily simple things such as eating and grocery shopping. It was almost a bit overwhelming and at times made me want to hop back on a plane back to the comfort of the USA. However, as the days go on I can feel myself become more and more attached to this lovely country and all it has to offer. Today though, was a pivotal moment that really showed me just how much I have come to love Japan as I visited the well-known Goryokaku Tower.

In Hakodate this tower is very well known for the beautiful view it offers when inside so my friend, Kathleen Lor, and I were thrilled that we finally had the time to visit. I remember walking in, the first floor swarming with locals and tourist. At first it just came off as a typical tourist spot: overflowing with people and excitement. After we purchased our tickets to enter the tower we headed towards an elevator that would take us all the way to the top to the viewing station. The gentle mumbles of visitors and the voice of the tour guide could be heard but all was drowned out by my excitement. I smiled with anticipation was we waiting to arrive at the final destination.

The doors opened and people flooded out. Kathleen and I quickly made our way to the edge of the room where the view of Goryokaku Park could best be seen.

I looked upon the park and entire view of Hakodate in awe. It was gorgeous. But then, as I was watching, tears began to well up in my eyes. I was quite taken aback. I knew they were tears of sadness, but I didn’t quite understand why I was sad. I stood there and reflected for a moment over the entire program thus far and then it hit me. I’m leaving in two weeks. Time was quickly passing and I realized I didn’t have much time left. There were still so many things I wanted to do and experience. Most of all, I didn’t want to leave my host family.

Of the time I have been in Japan so many amazing this have happened to me. But, of all those things I believe that meeting and connecting with my host family is by far the most amazing thing to have happened at this program. Growing up, it was often just my two siblings and I taking care of ourselves. As much as I love my siblings I never quite felt that complete feeling of family. That has all changed now. My host family not only makes me feel comfortable in being how I am but they make me want to expand my Japanese even more just so I can communicate and connect better with them. I know this is so much when taking into consideration that we have only been here a little over a month. I was surprised myself, but its true. I have come to love Japan and my host family so much more than I ever thought I would. Though it’s sad to think I am leaving soon, I can’t help but also smile and rejoice in the fact of how life changing this program has been for me.

Oh Hakodate!

I’ve been in Japan about two weeks now and I love it. The scenery is gorgeous and the town is full of culture. Although I love Japan, it is so different from what I ever imagined. I always assumed that I would just visit Japan and just feel right at home, no issues. However, that is not the case. From the moment I landed I find myself often comparing the things I see here in Japan to America. Living in a country like the USA, I think we often take for granted just how much diversity is encompassed within our country. It was not until I came to Japan that I realized and began to appreciate this fact. In Japan, the largest population of people is of course Japanese people. In America, although there are varying proportions of races, I still feel that I often encounter people of many races on a daily basis. It seems like something so simple but it really has made me appreciate the diversity within America. It also had another effect though. It made me want to know various Japanese people personally. In a country full of similar faces and same races, I could not wait to see what really makes up their individual personalities. And so, although I tend to be an extremely shy and awkward person, I wanted to push myself to talk more to Japanese people, starting with my host family. So far, so wonderful!

And So The Journey Begins

Ever since I was a little girl, it has always been my dream to visit Japan. With all the daily hassles of going to school and taking care of my siblings on my own, I always found solace in indulging in Japanese pop culture. However, as I’ve grown older that love for Japan has transformed into so much more. I want to learn and experience so many things in Japan. I want to talk to locals and participate in local festivals and events. I want to get to know people and their stories.

And so, the moment has come. The wheels of the plane begin to move, slowly picking up speed. I can hear the gentle shaking of the airplane windows. I close my eyes and imagine all the possibilities in Japan, the people I’ll meet and most importantly, the things I’ll learn. As the plane’s speed edges closer and closer to flight I close my eyes, hold my breath and really take in the moment. I listen to the roar of the turbines and the excited chatter. I wait patiently until I finally hear it: the rush of wind signaling flight. Here is where my journey begins.