All good things come to an end, as the saying goes. And sadly October brings the end of my super-duper, fantastic summer tour of Japan. I really can’t speak highly enough about how good it was to see all the different areas of this wonderful country. Japan is so much more than Tokyo and Kyoto, and unfortunately not enough tourists give it the time it deserves. I understand of course that it may seem a little daunting because of the language difference, but really it’s no different to any other foreign country that one may visit. There are plenty of English signs and English-speakers (even if they are shy) throughout the country, the Japanese people are very hospitable and friendly, and then there’s the brilliant Japan Rail pass that foreigners can use. All of this makes Japan a great place to travel in. I may be a little biased, but I highly recommend it.
My trip did wonders for my self-confidence, having to handle all the hassles and problems that come with travelling and coming out of it unscathed at the other end. It also significantly improved my Japanese. As I said not many foreign tourists travel Japan so the majority of the people I met were Japanese and we communicated in their language. It was very rewarding. I think I can finally say that I feel comfortable when conversing now; I don’t worry about not knowing a word because I can express myself in different ways and still get my meaning across. It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here.
I’m back in Hakodate now and straight back into my university work. Actually I only have four days at uni this semester (Fridays off!) and the rest of my days aren’t that busy class wise. It’s all the homework I get that keeps me busy, it’s piling up faster than I would like and I just can’t seem to get back into the swing of things. Most of my classes are Japanese now, except for my calligraphy class, I still do that. So that means a lot of language dissecting and analyzing and writing of reports etc. On top of all this I have my assignments for university back home to complete, maybe I’ll have to cut back on my karaoke time this semester. Maybe.
I’ve also taken on a couple of part-time jobs, because I didn’t think I was busy enough. Just joking, actually I just thought the extra cash every week would come in handy now that I’ve spent almost all of my savings. One of the down sides of travelling in Japan, it’s not exactly cheap. I’ve taken on a couple of jobs privately teaching English, to a junior high school girl and also a group of nurses at a local hospital. They’re a little outside of the centre which is fine at the moment as I can still ride my bike, but it’s going to be quite challenging once the snow starts. Which I don’t think is too far away.
The temperature is definitely starting to cool down, when I first got back there was a distinct difference in temperature between Tokyo and here, but it’s got a lot colder very fast. I can’t leave my dormitory without a jacket and I might even have to get out the scarf and gloves soon. Already the temperature is under 10 degrees by 7pm. The trees have all started to change colours and have turned into fantastic yellow, orange and reds. Back home we don’t really have four distinct seasons so it’s a really nice change to see them. The Japanese people seem to love the autumn leaves almost as much as the cherry blossoms, and so far I can’t disagree with them, they’re beautiful. I am looking forward to the snow fall though, as I only got to see the end of the season when I arrived at the beginning of the year. Call me crazy, but I’m excited.
I have a couple of exciting things coming up this month, firstly the university has arranged a trip to Sapporo for us exchange students. Sapporo is the capital of Hokkaido and the biggest city, but it’s about a 3 hour train ride away. We’re going to participate in the Hokkaido University of Education annual exchange student get together. Apparently there are four or five campuses of the university around Hokkaido (which I only just found out) and we all meet in Sapporo to get to know one another and do some Japanese cultural activities. I’m not too sure exactly what that means so I’ll let you know when I get back.
The thing I’m looking forward to the most though is participating in a real, formal tea ceremony. My tea ceremony teacher, Shishido Sensei got invited to one and she was asked if she wanted to bring anyone along. She thought it would be a good opportunity for me and my Chinese friend to participate also, so we were lucky enough to get an invitation too. I’m so excited! The lady hosting the ceremony is quite well-known in the area but she rarely hosts formal ceremonies anymore because she’s getting on in years apparently. Shishido Sensei says we are extremely lucky to have the opportunity. It’ll only be a small affair, 5 people I think, so I’ll really get to see how it works. I’m a little nervous too of course as I don’t want to make any mistakes and embarrass Shishido Sensei so I’ve been practicing as much as possible. Almost the best thing about the whole thing is that we have to wear real kimono, which of course I don’t have so Shishido Sensei is lending my friend and I one of hers. A real silk kimono! I can’t wait. It’s exactly the kind of experience I was hoping to have when I first came to Japan.
Alright, enough delaying. I better get to that stack of homework sitting on my desk.