My Japanese experience really started on the plane, as I was sitting in
between two Japanese men. There I had my first taste of trying to
communicate in a foreign language. The Airport wasn't that bad, and it was
just easy to go just go with the flow and go out to meet my Host Brother,
>From there we took a 6 hour train ride from Tokyo to Imizu city.
I love my first host family. My house sits on top of a tea shop that my
first host parents own. It's quaint, but by now it feels like home. We laugh
a lot, about so many things. Whether it's Otoo-san (Father) trying to
pronounce an English word he's asked about, or something else that's
happened, I am often brought to tears from laughter.
Honestly, most of this food would scare most Americans, but I much prefer
this diet to America's. They have the greatest seafood here, and it still
amazes me how Okaa-san (mom) gets sashimi everyday and the grocery store.
Everything's so fresh here! I also have a hard time slurping the noodles,
instead I inhale a lot of air to make the sound and kind of “push” the
noodles into my mouth with my chopsticks.
I remember my first Rotary club meeting. It was a Thursday night and it was
held at a VERY traditional Restaurant. First we were in a tatami mat room. I
had to introduce myself in Japanese. Then my sister (who had only gotten
back to Japan from an exchange in Australia a couple of months ago) had to
give a presentation on that. After this we “Partied” in the words of the
We ate dinner in a very traditional Japanese room, and we were served at
least ten courses of food varying from sea cucumber (I do NOT like it) to
sashimi and other traditional foods.
Thank goodness my sister was next to me because I accidentally put a piece
of chicken in my mouth. Japanese restaurants do NOT give you napkins, and I
don't eat chicken. She helped get me to a bathroom where I spit it out and
flushed it down the toilet.
The first few days were good, however I got VERY confused for the first
couple of nights. Otoo-san would tell me “Go take a bus.” I was confused,
but I accepted it and got my purse, thinking we were going to go somewhere.
It turns out that he was trying to say “Go take a BATH.” In Japanese, the th
sound doesn't exist, and instead sounds more like a s or a sh sound.
Sometimes I have no idea what people are telling me, even if they're
speaking English because their pronunciation is so bad.
I have figured out that Japanese can read English WAY better than they can
My first day of school hardly really counts, because between the opening
ceremony and the rotary meeting I had to go to, I only went to two classes.
At the opening ceremony I had to introduce myself and tell a little bit
about myself in English and Japanese in front of everyone in the school.
Thank goodness I'm not afraid of public speaking, so it went good.
My school, Daimon high school, is about 300 students. They're very friendly,
and I'm pretty sure everyone knows my name. The girls say “Hello!” to me
lot, and only recently are some of the guys greeting me. I help teach a lot
of English classes, for all 3 grades. The only real class I have is Math,
the rest are English, PE, music, computer, art, calligraphy and Chemistry
lab. I also spend at least one period every day in the Library. At first my
schedule wasn't set, and I was basically wherever they told me to be, but
now I have a schedule.
So far I have made one actual friend, but I have a lot of fun with the girls
in Chemistry lab. My friends name (that I call him) is Ryo. He's a third
year (equivalent of a senior) and is very nice. He's really the only person
to try and become my friend, and I am extremely grateful for that. School is
indeed very lonely right now with the language barrier and all. A girl named
Momi in my homeroom is also very nice and she often helps me in school.
I love helping in English class, and I enjoy teaching them things you can't
get out of a textbook like how to pronounce something.
I have been to a Festival. My counselor and my parents took me. I got to
wear a beautiful Kimono that Oba-san (Otoo-san's mother) was very kind and
gave it to me as a gift. I have learned about things about a kimono and I
will list them here:
1. Takes at least one other person to help put on
2. You can't slouch in a Kimono if you like breathing
3. You can't reach over a table of food
4. Is very hot
5. Not practical for stairs
6. Is not made for walking
Haha, besides that they're beautiful and I enjoy wearing one.
I got to see traditional Japanese dancing, singing and instrument playing,
as well as try some awesome foods. Takoyaki (octopus batter vegetable ball
thing) and grilled squid are really good.
Finally the last story I will tell you all is my trip to Kanazawa to hang
out with other exchange students. Exchange students tend to me some of the
coolest people, and are extremely friendly. We went shopping and had a
wonderful time. Kanazawa is WAY bigger than Imizu. Imizu is a small town
with about 94000 people. I got to buy some really cute Japanese clothes
(Japanese clothes are the CUTEST thing ever, and I happily take part in
buying some of the most girliest, frilliest clothes there are). That was the
first time I'd been to a Japanese McDonalds. Their beef patties are VERY
small compared to Americans, and they had a few Japanese things added to the
Things I have noticed about Japan:
1. Way safer than America, at a big shopping mall there were no bike racks,
and lots of bikes left unattended outside.
2. Japan was not built around roads.
3. People are very friendly, and will often help you.
4. They eat way more than Americans thought they ate.
5. Are more touchy than I had thought.
6. Engrish is hilarious and common.
7. Everything is smaller.
Me and Tetsuo-san
Traditional Japanese food
First club meeting party
My first host parents
A temple in Toyama
Me and my Counselor
December 31, 2011
So much has happened I have no idea how I could ever write even half of
it all down. During my stay here I have been to 4 festivals, traveled to two
large cities by train by myself countless times, bought way too many things
and have had too many great times at school and with friends to count.
I wish I could accurately tell you all about everything, the people, the
food, the things I've done but no amount of words can tell you how amazing
it all is.
I have moved from my first host family about a month ago, and I miss
them. The Fujioka's became my family, and that house had become my home. I
miss the weird things like how everyone would show their belly for no
apparent reason around the house. I miss all of our inside jokes and
laughing with Otoo-san(dad) as he would try and form and English sentences,
and I would always end up asking for him to say it to me in Japanese. I know
it's hard for someone who hasn't experienced this to understand, but that is
my mom, that is my dad, and that is my sister.
I'm not quite part of this new family yet, but I'm getting there. The
beginning here is way easier than the beginning at my first host family
because my Japanese is significantly better. My family situation here is a
litter weird, my host mom and dad have two daughters, both of which are
married. The eldest daughter lives here, have a two year old son(Yuusei, who
I call my little brother) and are currently pregnant. The youngest daughter
and her husband live in Kanazawa, and they come over every weekend. I love
my new host brother, it's my first experience with babies and he's adorable.
His Japanese is VERY hard to understand though. I am currently trying to
teach him patty cake, and it is way harder than I initially thought it would
be. He loves it, but isn't really learning how to do it yet. I will keep
I currently live in a temple that's 1000 years old. America's got nothing
on where I'm living now. It's really weird to find out that a Daibutsuu(1 of
5 famous statues of old giant Buddha scattered through out Japan) that I
found on Imizu's website before I came here is now currently in the building
I live in. I just have to walk down some halls and through a door or two to
get to the main room of temple where it is. I live in the temple because my
host dad is a monk that does a kindergarten, and the father of the two year
old is also a monk, although I'm not sure what he does.
Back in October, a rotary club around where I live took all of the
English speaking exchange students of district 2610(7 in all) to a really
big festival in Imizu(my city). We got to watch these beautiful giant carts
be pulled during the day, and at night, as well as we all got to help push
one ourselves! Their called hikiyama, which means pull-able mountain, and
I'll put pictures of them here. They're beautiful and at night are adorned
with paper lanterns. We got to play some festival games, like catching a
goldfish with this little net that you spin, and tossing a ring around a
prize that you want(I won this cute yellow bird pen!) During this festival I
got to meet the major again, and they took us to a museum with a whole bunch
of cool things like maps and a boat from old Japan.
I love trains, and I regularly use them. I can read the schedules myself
and I have memorized all of the stations between Toyama and Nichi-Kanazawa
(14 stations in all, and the two cities I go to are Toyama and Kanazawa,
which are at opposite ends). However, this does not mean I haven't had my
own difficulties with trains. I used to always be running late, and this has
gotten me into some interesting circumstances. Because I've messed up so
much is why I'm so good with trains now.
About a month or two ago I was running late when going to Kanzawa(a far away
and really BIG city), so I ran down the stairs to get to my platform, to
find a train just about to leave, so I of course ran onto it. Everything was
normal until two stations later, where we just stopped for about fifteen
minutes. I knew it wasn't unusual for trains to stop there in Takaoka for
various reasons, but I should have figured it out when they started talking
about Toyama and Kosugi(my station) that are both in the opposite direction.
The doors finally close, and the train starts moving. In the other
direction. So I get back off at my station, and when I'm there I notice a
train is at the other platform. I go up the stairs to get to the other
platform(there are two platforms, one goes one way, the other the other way)
and go to the train schedule to find the next train. I look at the schedule,
and see that there was a train scheduled to leave about a minute ago. That
train I saw was the next train to Kanazawa, and the next train wouldn't come
for about 45 minutes. I did finally make it to Kanazawa, over an hour late,
and I have since then definitely learned my lesson. It's so bad now, I am
always at least 15 minutes early for my train now, and it's not uncommon for
me to be 30 minutes early. I am soooooooooooo paranoid now. Japan has
definitely gotten me into the habit of being early.
Last thing I want to talk about now is Christmas in Japan. Christmas
isn't a big holiday here, but is celebrated a bit. I have learned that the
traditional Christmas dinner here in Japan consists of KFC(yes, the one and
only Kentucky Fried Chicken) and Christmas cake. They do give out presents
but not like it is in America. I celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve with
a big dinner here, and my Rotary club also had a Christmas party. By far the
best present I got was from my current host family. They got me a Kimono for
New Years! I can't wait to wear it tomorrow(New years day) As well as
experience New Years in Japan, which is a BIG deal.
Oh, and there's snow! Every where! And it's cold! Everyday! It's really
cool that I get to experience all four seasons, but everyone keeps telling
me that I won't feel so excited with snow at the end of February. We'll see
about that, haha. It doesn't get that cold here. The average coldest is
14F(freezing for Florida, hehe) but I've already adjusted well to the cold.
At least, around freezing because it hasn't gotten much colder than that
during the day yet.
new little brother Yuusei
second host parents
Hikiyama Day time
Hikiyama night time
Hikiyama night time
Japan district 2610 English speaking exchange students including me
I guess the first thing I'll confess is that I've always been
kinda clueless as to what to put in this journal. It's not that I'm not
doing things, or having new experiences, I just am not sure how I can
possible accurately describe what I have experienced. So I've just been
putting what I think other people want to hear about.
To me, this journal
is just like that question that I, and all other exchange students, are
asked. “So how's (insert country here)? What have you done?”
How can I
possibly accurately describe to you the place that has become my home?
The people, like my family? Well, I could tell you that my current (and
last) host family consists of my 16 year old sister who's going to go on a
exchange in Iowa soon, my 14 year old brother, the cousin who lives with us,
dad, grandma and grandpa. But how am I supposed to describe to you with
words the way my host brother so much like a kid. How he hasn't actually
said anything to me except for the time where he almost walked out of the
bathroom without pants on(I'm assuming he didn't think anyone was outside
waiting for the bathroom), and through his embarrassment managed to say
“it's okay(granted a bad translation for daijyobu in this situation, but
it's the best I can think of) as he quickly walked past me. Or the way
Grandma scolds him for things like not eating his vegetables or having his
head buried in his phone when we're out for dinner.
Or the way it has practically become an inside joke that people tell grandma
to slow down when she talks to me because she speaks so impossibly fast that
it's difficult for me to keep up.
Or like the people in my school. I know
I can't explain to you just how shy a lot of these kids are. Shyness like
this does not exist in America, and I know it can be hard to wrap your head
around the fact that a lot of these kids are so shy that they won't even
reply to you when you say or ask them something. To watch some of these kids
flounder in anxiety at the expectancy to have to say something still, to
this day, amazes and appalls me.
The teachers, three of which I work with on a daily basis to teach English,
and what they're like. Mr. Yokka, who was put in charge of me, who's always
making jokes. Mrs. Onoda, my previous homeroom teacher who I've have so many
wonderful conversations about Japan, America, and English with. My current
homeroom teacher, who seems to be amazed at everything I do. I remember 4
months (keep this time in mind) into my exchange I was in class eating my
lunch with chopsticks (I normally eat with chopsticks here of course, and I
actually like them better than silverware now), when she came in and saw me
the first things our of her mouth was “Miranda! Chopsticks! You're so
skillful with them!” Hahaha, After four months she was amazed I could use
chopsticks (Japanese people are convinced people outside of Asians countries
never use them.) But you still can't imagine what my daily life school life
How can I accurately describe my hometown, Kosugi? I can tell you
about wonderful Toyama weather which is best summed up as “precipitation”. I
can tell you about how people stare at me because I'm a foreigner. I can
count on my hands the amount of white people living in Kosugi, half of which
is a family that's from some non-English speaking country. I could tell you
about how all you have to do to make people stop staring is make eye contact
because in Japan eye contact can be considered aggressive. And I could tell
you about the two exceptions to this rule. Little kids are too innocent to
know any better, and I have concluded over my time in Japan that elderly
people here have balls of steel. If you look them in the eyes they will
continue staring with no shame, and some will even start up a conversation
with you. I could tell you about Japan's stunning like of grass and wild
animals, and how all of the buildings, and even roads here in Toyama pre
fecture, seem to be rusty, but you'll still be unable to picture the small
town that has become my home.
I know I have talked about the fashion here
in lieu of an actual idea of what to talk about here, but I know you still
don't understand. I can tell you that I fit in WAY better here than in
America, since it's normal for girls to wear heels and a skirt, and I can
tell you that it's much more conservative, with a lack of actual shape. But
you still won't be able to picture the borderline eccentric skirts and
adorable tops often adorned with lace and other little details you can never
find in America. Or could you ever comprehend the epidemic that is the
horrible English that decorates and exists in Japan. Like my gray sweater I
used as pajamas in the winter that says “YOU and hideandseek let's enjoy
with me!!” Or the Itarian(yes, Itarian, not Italian, it actually says this
next to the name) cafe in front of my train station.
I could tell you
about my numerous trips to Kanazawa with other exchange students, a big city
in the prefecture over, which often contains karaoke (which is filled with
numerous Disney songs and anything else we can find that hilarious to sing
(me and Stuart can do a mean Barbie Girl)) and dinner at our favorite Indian
restaurant. But you still can't see the laughs, and you still can't see the
numerous favorite places and activities that I have grown to love over my 8+
You can't see the smiles of those I have grown to love. You
can't see the buildings I have grown to love. You can't taste food I have
grown to love. And you can't possibly comprehend the festivals, school,
cities, hot springs, shops, convenience stores, bakeries, temples, houses,
and so many other things that has become my life.
Let me tell you what an
Exchange is. It is leaving your entire life beyond for an entirely new one
in a new country (and for Florida Rotary exchange student, a new language).
And lastly, you can't feel the love in me that has grown for this small and
humble prefecture in Japan. You can't see how I change when I speak my new
language, you can't see the changes that have happened in me, and you can't
feel the lump in my throat and the tears in my eyes that come with the
realization of the hard fact that I have to leave it all. That I have to
leave my home and return to one that I have already learned to live without.
One I always knew I would return to.
I know I can never return to my life
here, and with that thought alone I am crying.
Maybe it's just my writing skills that fail, but I apologize. I'm sorry
because I know I can't describe to you what it's like, and believe me, I
wish I could. I wish I could so much because it's all so amazing. So
wonderfully amazing that I (like I am sure every other successful exchange
student would) would do it again without second thought. Despite I know the
utter heart break that comes to at the end of the year, I would do it all
again in a heart beat, and, if I could I would prolong my stay here.
Wouldn't you do the same for your home? For your family? For your friends?
Because that's what this is. My home. My families. My friends. My school. My
And that's the best description I can come up with for you to understand
what it's like to be here, in Japan, on an Exchange. It doesn't feel like an
Exchange at all, that implies almost like I'm just trying out a country, and
that's just not what it feels like.
This feels like home, and I hope with
this simple reply for “How's (insert country here)?” that you come as close
to understanding what it's really like as possible.
A temple in a a nearby city called Takaoka
My Exchange student group in Osaka for our Rotary trip
A famous shrine in Nara
The kaiwomaru in my city of Imizu at night
The kaiwomaru in my city of Imizu at night
My School, Daimon high school