Semester in Florence, Italy

Ciao!

My name is Victoria Marino and I’m studying in Florence, Italy this Spring semester! Florence is the capital of the region Tuscany, and is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance I’m attending classes at Florence University of the Arts (FUA) and I’ll be staying in an apartment located in the heart of Florence, near the Ponte Vecchio. At USF I’m a third year Gerontology student. While I hope to continue to learn about aging in Italy, I will be taking mostly elective classes while here. I chose to come to Italy for many reasons. My family is from Italy and I felt that coming here would help me connect with who I am and where I come from. Italy is also a beautiful place with a fascinating history and culture. The school itself drew me in as well, as it is a school where I would be able to take classes that are outside of my usual area of study as well as get in touch with my own creativity. I took one semester of Italian before I left to help prepare myself for the trip, and will be studying the language in and out of the classroom while here as well. I hope to travel as much as possible this semester, and experience as many different things as possible. I am so excited for the next 4 months that lay ahead and can’t wait to tell you all about it!

Take a Journey Through Japan With Me!

皆さん、こんにちは!(Hello everyone!)

My name is Jacob Smith and I am a Junior at USF. I am currently majoring in English Education and minoring in business. Last semester I received wonderful news that I had been selected to study abroad in Japan at Kansai Gaidai University along with three other students. It has been my dream to teach English in Japan for a long time now and this experience will give me further insight as to what it is like to live in Japan. I had done a self study of Japanese for 1 year before taking a placement test at USF. I was placed into Japanese III for the fall semester of 2014. I will be participating in homestay for my semester at Kansai Gaidai. I also signed up to have a language partner program that was offered on their website. I am really looking forward to meeting everyone!

To be honest, I was unaware of how much paperwork and time I would have to spend getting prepared study abroad. I am going to write an extra blog about the whole process for those who are interested in applying for this program. Sometimes it was quite hectic but it has already been worth it! One thing I will stress to everyone is to pack as little luggage as possible. I purchased a large travel backpack and a roller suitcase. I was able to fit 2 weeks worth of clothing along with other amenities.  I left for Japan on the 14th of January so I could do some sight seeing before I start my semester at Kansai Gaidai. I flew into Haneda airport with three of my friends who were also were picked for study abroad. We all parted our separate ways but have kept in touch via LINE (application for free international texts and calls). As a foreigner, one of the most difficult aspects of Japan is understanding the train schedules. It can be very challenging at times but everyone here is so nice and will be glad to help if you have questions. I first went to Niigata to see snow and meet with my Japanese friends. I went with her family to an 温泉(Japanese hot-spring) which was very interesting. I was very embarrassed the first time because you don’t wear any clothing into the spring.

This was taken right outside of the hotspring:

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I stayed at her families house for three days. We went to many interesting restaurants and I tried many new dishes. On my last day there we all went over to her grandmother and grandfathers house. It was such a nice experience but very difficult for me at times because they spoke so fast in Japanese that it was hard to understand the conversation. According to her grandfather, I am the first American to come to their house in 65 years. I was pretty shocked to hear that.  I left by 新幹線 (Bullet train) in the afternoon and arrived in tokyo 3 hours later.

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After arriving in Yokohama at Shounandai station, I found a Taiyaki shop (fish shaped pancake filled with bean jam) near my hotel. It was my first time eating one and it was delicious!20150121_103208

1/20/15 Today I woke up around 8 a.m to go to my friend’s college. I sat near the college cafeteria and studied Japanese while I waited for her to finish her class. I think I startled a student this morning when I asked if I could sit in the chair next to him in Japanese. His expression was priceless when he looked up to see who was talking to him! For the three hours I was at her college, I didn’t see any other foreigners. After meeting with her, she showed me around her college and we had lunch. It was really interesting to see the differences between USF and a college in Japan.

Oh…another thing that I found very interesting was something that happened after we finished lunch. As we were exiting the building, I held the door open for two girls and a guy. Their expressions were that of astonishment followed by smiles and slight laughter. Well, now that confused me…so I asked my friend what just happened and she told me that it is not usualy for people to hold doors open for the next person in Japan. She also stated that part of the reason may have been because I was a foreigner as well.

1/21/15 I was invited to a 鍋 (Nabe) party by my friend. 7 people met including me at her college and we all went to the super market from there. After we bought all of our ingredients we went back to Kyuuri’s apartment and started cooking. We stayed at his house from 6:30 pm until 12 am. All of the people who attended could speak English and practiced speaking with me. I had such a good time last night. Tomorrow will be my last day in the Yokohama area before going to Osaka to stay in my dorm for orientation week. I am really looking forward to starting the semester and meeting my homestay family!20150121_202844

This is 鍋:

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I am also planning on making some videos during my study abroad experience so be sure to check back every once in a while to see my new blogs!

またお会いしましょう!

さようなら!私のブログを読んでくださてありがとうございました!(Goodbye, thanks so much for reading my blog)

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Well, the semester is over for me, and I’m currently writing this entry from the dwellings of my new home in the USA. When I was off exploring and learning in Japan, my family moved into a new house. It’s been an adjustment when I can’t find anything of mine to take back my apartment at USF next spring, but it’s worth missing moving all of that stuff.  Everything seems to be settling down now however. This is going to be my last blog post for you guys this year. I hope that you’ve all had fun tagging alongside me in my journey as I discovered new adventures in Japan. I would have stayed another semester at Kansai, but the credits for me are limited (especially with the excess credit law in Florida, but that’s another story).

Before I was forced to sit down to complete two Japanese finals, write two papers, and finish up another lecture class, I was able to get two of my friends (see the trend here, two, I don’t know why that is) to accompany me to climb up Mt. Atago, only a 924 meter mountain in Kyoto, the highest in the city. It took about 2.5 hours to climb up and about 1 to come down. To get here, we took the trains to Hankyu Arashiyama Station, and then took the Kyoto Bus to Kiyotoki, where the mountain trek begins. There’s a shrine on top of the mountain which dates back hundreds of years. I bought a nice little boar omamori for my brother, since he was born in the year of the boar/pig.

Mt. Atago, Kyoto

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Katrina and I walking towards the beginning (photo credit to Stephen Kahlow)

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The view about half-way up

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Another secret entrance way to the old cable car path. A girl online did the hike and said it was awesome. I didn’t have time though.

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Daimonjiyama (Again) 

The day before I had to leave for the airport, I wanted to climb Mt. Daimonjiyama because I wanted to see the sunset over Kyoto. My friend Katrina, accompanied me because she is my unofficial climbing bud. Little did we know that the small amounts of snow that day would accumulate on the mountain to be a death trap. I fell almost 17 times on that mountain! Didn’t get one scratch though, only a bruise on my shin. I did give Katrina a heart-attack though. I wasn’t trained for this type of weather, it gets about 60 F outside, and it’s the Apocalypse in Florida. Nevertheless, it was fun for us.

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September

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December

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Party After

After Katrina and I returned from purgatory on the mountain, we got ready for our Seminar House 1 Party. People made food from their countries, and everything was delicious! It was great spending time with everyone this semester and meeting people from so many countries. I learned so much about the world, and hopefully I shared that Americans can be cool too. I’ll miss the comrade that I shared with these people, from breakfast time, to sports festival time, to even hall talk. It was great, thanks everyone!

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P.S. Tomodachippoi 

If future Kansai-Gaiders are reading this, say hello to the little nice black cat on the way to Makino Station for me. I named her Tomodachippoi because she was so friendly. “Tomodachi” means friend and “Ppoi” just means “something like” or along those lines. So basically, I just named her “Friend-like”. I’m pretty sure she has a home and may or may not be pregnant right now, I’m not sure. :/

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Additional Information for Future Kansai-Gaidaiers 

So, here’s some information for people who are probably reading this blog for their own adventures.

1. When you come to Kansai Gaidai, even if you are homestay, you have to stay in the seminar houses for orientation. The catch: they don’t let you cook or use utensils. So, people had to eat out or buy bento boxes. Be prepared. A good place I went to for food is SANKO, which is the opposite direction towards the school, walk past the park and keep going till you reach it. If your level is high enough, or someone is with you, ask to get a card. It was 200 yen, less than a buck, to sign up and I received discounts with it for buying stuff. They always ask for it, too. Also, I got a card from Lawson, but it’s tricky online and in all Japanese, have one of the RAs help you. I got points for buying stuff from them and then coupons too. Also made it easier to reserve spots online for events, like in Tokyo. 7-11 and Family Mart both have cards too.

2. You have to register your residence card that you received at the airport. Basically just take a bus from the Kansai Gaidai stop to the end, which is the station. Go out left, not towards the Karaoke places but towards the fancy looking buildings. Walk until you reach the town-hall and read the signs.

3. Get an ICOCA card. You can get it at the ticket stations at the station. You also load money on it at the station and can use it on the bus and trains, and in some stores, as a type of debit card. Saves A LOT of time, and you slow down your friends if you have to pay for tickets all the time. :/

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4. The WIFI isn’t good. Especially split between all of us. They have computer labs at the CIE lounge and in the Seminar Houses, they work fine enough and you need to use them to print. I guess just go out and explore rather than sit around. I did load an anime all day and came back to the house as a treat for myself though. ;)

5. Hyperdia. It’s a cool website to show you how to get to a certain station. You input your station and then the final one and it gives you detailed instructions. DON’T TRUST GOOGLE MAPS.

6. Don’t be afraid to have your own adventures. If people want to do something you don’t want to do, check out, do your own thing. Often, I put together trips of my own and invited people to go hiking. But sometimes, people couldn’t go, so I just went by myself.

7. If you have any questions Bulls, or just curious about something, I’ll be around campus, feel free to stop me and be like “Hey, Japan-Girl, right?”. I’ll be happy to help.

Thanks so much for reading my blog guys. ありがとうみな!Happy New Year! (I would say 新年おめでとうございます but you can’t actually use this phrase until the next year has begun)

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Shelby Thomas

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My Experience in South Korea

If I have calculated this correctly, this should be my very last blog post. I thought it would be fitting to do an overview of my entire experience while studying abroad in South Korea this fall. I have had the absolute best time and experience of my life. I can not encourage or express enough just how impactful studying abroad has been for my life and how I view myself as a person. Study abroad is an amazing program which will challenge you and educate you. You will learn more about yourself, friendships, life, love, culture, and everything in between in such a short time that it is just unbelievable.

I have made so many unforgettable and unique friends this semester alone. It surprises me every time I think about just how close I have grown to the people I became friends with this semester; no one would ever think that someone could become close enough to you to feel like a family member within 4 months alone, but I can say that it is quite possible. After having made friends from all around the world it has certainly extended my understanding of other countries, cultures, languages, and broadened my view of the world. I can now officially say that I cam a global citizen and global student, a fact that I take a lot of pride in.

This experience has been an eyeopener for me and one which has changed the direction in which I take my studies and personal life. I now plan to become a study abroad ambassador and promote study abroad through USF, I will be pursuing a masters degree (after graduating with my bachelors degree in one semester) in Germany, and I will be taking advantage of other opportunities which I may not have considered before study abroad (most of which required someone to travel or temporarily move to another country).

I am sitting in the airport in New York waiting for my connecting flight to Florida to arrive as I write this blog post and I can not explain or put into words how I currently feel after experiencing living and studying in South Korea and now having to come back home. I feel as if it was much like a dream but I have plenty pictures and memories which state otherwise. I think that this feeling of it having been a lovely and extensive dream is occurring because I experienced so much and it was such an impactful and intense experience in such a short time. As my closing, if you have the chance to study abroad then do not hesitate to do it. I can honestly say that this was the best choice that I have made my entire life and that I would have dearly regretted it had I not taken the chance and studied abroad. I do regret that I did not start studying abroad sooner but at least having gone once in my life I can say that it is an experience of a life time that is truly unforgettable.

Skiing In South Korea

Just this last weekend I had the opportunity to go skiing in South Korea. I have not skied in over 7 years so just the idea of the putting skis back on my feet and fighting the grip of snow in order to stay on my feet had me very nervous. I decided to go skiing after several friends convinced me to go though and I can’t say that I regret it. I had an enjoyable time and it was just another activity that I participated it which made my study abroad trip to South Korea more memorable. For the skii trip, international students from several different universities came together and formed a small program: chartered buses, one night spent in a condo, free meals, and cheap ski rentals. For the trip we all went to a ski resort in the Eastern part of South Korea called Pheonix Park Ski Resort.

In anticipation of the ski group growing quite large the hosts allowed for the students to group into smaller sets of 6 or 9. I was lucky enough to have exactly 5 other friends going on the trip with me: a Swede, two Danish, a German, and a friend from Holland. We had exactly 6 members and were able to have a condo room all to ourselves; mind you is very rare in gender conscious South Korea. After arriving to the resort my group and I went and rented our skis and received our ski passes before eating lunch. Lunch was a different experience as it was set up in an elementary school type cafeteria fashion (long line, questionable cafeteria plates, and rude people who skip the line, and everything in between). The food being free was offered to the residents of the ski resort from breakfast until midnight, which we all found to be quite enjoyable as we could eat when we wanted and as much as we wanted after skiing.

After settling into our condos we strapped our skis on and took to the mountain. I was extremely nervous after not having skied in 7 years but I am quite proud to say that I did not fair quite as badly as I thought I would. I only fell once the entire time we were skiing and was able to keep up with everyone else who had went skiing in their own countries before coming to Korea. Though we only had one day, night, and the early hours of the next morning to ski we all made the most of the trip. I got to experience night skiing as well for the first time. I’m not sure if they allow night skiing in the U.S. as most of the resorts I went to in the past only day time skiing was allowed and during the night the mountain was reserved for sledding.

After the first night of skiing my group and I decided to celebrate our time together by having a movie night. We bought snacks and sodas and just pigged-out on all the junk food in the living room. It was quite enjoyable and relaxing. I enjoyed myself very much, though I wish I could have stayed at the resort longer than one night. Many events like this one was hosted through Yonsei, so for anyone else traveling to South Korean as a study abroad student you will have plenty opportunity to explore places outside of Seoul or to take part in cultural activities.

End of Semester Abroad, start of vacation!

I have finished my last exam, checked out of the apartment, got on a train and am now in Paris until my honeymoon begins tomorrow!  The semester was an interesting experience to say the least.  While I was different than most of the students here, I didn’t go out or travel anywhere while I was in Rennes.  Instead I saved my money for my vacation now so that I could have more fun now.  The best aspect of ESC-Rennes was possibly the mashing of different cultures together into one school.  There were people from North America, South America, Africa, Middle East, Russia, China, Taiwan, the only continents not represented were Australia and Antarctica.  While many students were treating the semester abroad as one continuous party, there were a lot of very driven and intelligent people in each class.  It was these mashing of cultures that made French Culture an extremely interesting course.  We were able to look at hot button issues from the angles of many different cultures and it was truly an eye opening experience.

If I had one complaint about the entire process, if I had to choose only one, it would be the fact that you don’t know how you did on your exams or in your classes for months after completing them.  I won’t find out anything until February or March, and that is at the earliest.  If I were to of failed any of my exams or classes, I would have to come back to Rennes to resit for the exams.  So for two or three months I won’t know if I will have to come back or not.  While I highly doubt that I would have to do that, I studied and feel comfortable with all of my questions that I answered, it is still a bit unnerving to have to start another semester without having known how I did on the last one.

Of course, the way they have courses lined up is difficult to wrap your head around coming from our system.  Some classes meet only once a month!  I had one course where I had two weekends in the entire semester and that was it.  Ten hours of the same class, Friday and Saturday is quite difficult.  Also, the language course selection process was also quite aggravating, it seemed to be unorganized, but once in the courses the first week of confusion was no longer an issue.  As with every college experience, you truly get out of it what you put in.  If you wish to party and skate by until exams, then you may not get as much from the courses as intended.  However, if you study and do your own research in the topics and truly put forth an effort in each course it is a very beneficial experience, one I highly recommend.  Maybe other people should have a happy medium of studying and partying as opposed to my only studying, but that’s for each to determine on their own.  If you are going to go to ESC-Rennes, I highly recommend taking European Geopolitics.  It is an incredibly difficult course, especially coming from the US without any prior background information into the EU or its history, but also extremely worthwhile especially so for International Business students that would like to work in Europe.  The professor is demanding, but that is how you get the best out of your students.  Just as an example, my final exam for that course I wrote nine pages on three topics.  Almost three pages per topic.  It was tough, but I know much more than I did going in.

I hope more US students find this small business school in Rennes and attend it, it is a nice hidden gem in France.

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Wrapping Up

First and most importantly, wow. The end of term really snuck up on me, and its weird to know that its over now.

Exeter has really become to feel like home, the weird things people say started to become normal, and now knowing that its going to change gives me a weird feeling as I tried really hard to assimilate into the British culture.

Overall, I really feel that the past 4 months have really shaped me and have allowed me to grow as a student, and as an individual. Before leaving, I had always lived on campus, and was still in that campus/school mentality, always on campus. Now that I finally got a flat outside of campus in the middle of town, having to do a lot of grocery shopping, cookings, and walking all the way up the hill that is Exeter to campus really gave me the feeling of being away from it all.

As far as school goes, I really tried to take modules that interested me, as I was free to choose any modules I wanted as all I need to graduate are electives. I decided to take economics electives as it is very interesting, and can be applied to my major coursework. The most interesting module I took was called International Political Economy, where the bulk of the class was discussing why different ideologies were valid and invalid, and was a really interesting course, even though the reading could be dry at times, as reading about the economy of mid 1800s, and the impact it had on different classes based on a plethora of increasingly complex lenses can’t be spiced up too much.

I also took two classes online, so I was pretty busy with work most of the semester. However, I still made sure to make time for walking around town, and my main traveling around Europe.

As for the time between now and the beginning of January, I will be traveling around Europe on my last trip. I will then finish the term properly by going to London for New Years.

I will be in Italy for a week, visiting Rome, Florence, Pisa, Venice & Milan. Then, I’m off to Krakow Poland to go snowboarding, and then off to Berlin. After Berlin, I’ll be finishing the mainland Europe trip in Barcelona before returning to Exeter for a day before New Years. I’m not sure what I’ll do in Exeter on my last day, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. After watching the fireworks in London, I’ll be in London for a day before returning to the magical land of Chipotle.

Returning to my favorite fast food places will be a trip on its own the first week I return. Honestly, the McDonald’s here is a lot better, so I will have less of a desire to eat there once I return.

After moving into my new apartment in Tampa, I’ll have to take my three exams during the first week of classes. I was pretty worried before because UK assessments are different in that they are usually made up of 2-3 essays in a two hour session. But, after getting pretty decent scores on my mid term essays, I feel more confident, and have a better understanding of what the professors are looking for.

There aren’t a lot of things I would change of the past few months. All the awkward moments where I either did not understand the lingo of some Londoner, or completely went full Disney-Tourist and started using hand motions while using native tongue while trying to interact with people in Paris, it was all a learning experience.

Anyone considering to travel abroad, especially study abroad should totally take any opportunity to do so. It may seem daunting and expensive when you plan it all out, but with some scholarships and frugalness, all of the amazing experiences of living abroad and being able to travel to London and Paris in a few hours on train are accessible.

I feel like this entire experience has been for the best, and it has really been the best time of my life.

I feel that now, having travelled for a long time at a young age, I will be able to better focus on school and my career once I get back.

 

For the last time,

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Last Blog

 

Three More Weeks

Today I attended my last class at Exeter, therefore, signaling the end of my journey here in England. Although I am done with classes, I will not be heading home until December 31st. Please do not ask me what I was thinking when I was purchasing this ticket. But the goal is for me to make it home to my family for the New Year. To celebrate the end of classes, I will be traveling to London on Thursday and from there heading to Paris!!! Although I have been through London more than four times, I have not yet visited. Besides traveling, I will be studying for finals, which I will be taking back home on January 7th.

My Trip Overall

Studying abroad has been one of the best experiences of my life. I had the opportunity to travel, make memories with great friends, and most importantly learn about myself. As I have previously mentioned in my blog, it was a long journey but I am glad I did not give up along the way because it was all worth it. The journey to England has taught me to be persistent, and most importantly to rely on my faith. I will recommend to any college student to study abroad because it is a great opportunity to learn about yourself, travel, and of course study!!!

Outcome:

1) I was never one to believe that distance makes the heart grow fonder but this trip has taught me otherwise. I have never missed my family and friends this much. Therefore, I am looking forward to seeing them.

2) I learned to enjoy my own company. This does not sound as bad as you think. The fact I did not know anyone when I first came to England, I learned to actually enjoy spending time alone.

3) I realized all the things I took for granted at home such as the Bullrunner. I never climbed so many hills in my life.

4) During my exchange program, a lot of students were amazed at the fact that I was from the States. Soon after learning I was from the States, they often asked questions like, “Have you been to LA?” When I told them that I have never been to LA, they were so shocked. Their reaction made me realize that I should visit what is in my own “backyard”. There are many places in the States that I wish to visit upon my return.

 

I Will Be Missing ….

So today I was thinking about the things that I will miss about my trip and it is sad to say that 89.9 percent of my list consist of food names/ restaurants. I will definitely miss touring different countries and the life that I had in the UK. Although I was only here for about 4 months, I started having a routine, which made it start feeling like home. I will also miss the people I have met at Exeter.

 

Thanks for reading my blog :)

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Tokyo!

So my travels to Tokyo were amazing. I went with a group of eight girls so we had an entire hostel room to ourselves and it only cost about 30 dollars per person per night. When going to Tokyo, you cannot get much better than that. It made it even better that we were in the middle of Asakusa, which is an area that has plenty of places to go and is easy to travel to other areas within Tokyo. I would recommend spending more than four days in Tokyo though. We were rushing each day in order to fit everything in and we were still not able to do anything. One thing about Japan is that you can spend months exploring night and day the country and never see everything. There are enough temples, natural beauties, shopping, and food that can keep you occupied for your entire life. However, we were able to do quite a bit!

We arrived to Tokyo later in the evening so we decided to go to the Skytree in Asakusa. This building is one of the largest in the world and makes all the business buildings around it look like children. I did not go into the building because I have a pretty large fear of heights and it was about 2000 yen to go to the middle, an addition 1000 yen to go to the top. One of the girls went though, and the rest of us got Coldstone (finding a Coldstone was an amazing discovery to us all) and took pictures of the surrounding Christmas town. It is fun to see the decorations in Japan for Christmas even though it is not really a big holiday.

The next day me and a couple other girls went to the Square Enix café in Shinjuku (Since I am such a huge fan of Final Fantasy), explored the area and then headed over to Roppongi to shop at the Pokemon center which had a large selection of products and Pokemon fans in it. For people who love Pokemon, this is definitely the place to be. But not if you do not have any money. After that we walked over to see Tokyo Tower which is built to look like the Eifel tower and also a temple that was relatively close to the tower. It was kind of funny since a tree was planted at this particular temple, thanks to a Mr. George Bush…

The third day we got sushi! This was my favorite part because I got to try some top-quality sushi which was amazing! I tried many new types of fish as well such as horse mackerel. My favorite was the different types of tuna though. The fatty tuna is definitely a must try because it quite literally just melts in your mouth. Delicious! After that we went to Shibuya to see the famous crossing, Yoyogi park which is a large park in the middle of busy Tokyo that is quiet and peaceful. It is amazing to walk in there because you would never think you were in a city with all the trees and families playing there. There are plenty of street performances as well. We saw a mime, street artist, and a bunch of greasers dancing. Yes I said greasers… Such as from grease. We also went to Harajuku which has a large area of shops which specializes in Lolita, punk, and “gangster” clothing.

Overall the trip was exhausting but very much worth it! I wish I had more time! Also We were interviewed twice by a Japanese TV show while we were there haha….OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 20141130_120119 20141129_190657

日本に住んでいるなら、東京に行かなくてはいけないものですよ!(While you’re living in Japan, it is common knowledge that one must go to Tokyo, you know)

Although I never advise skipping school, especially when your Japanese classes take attendance for a grade, there’s just some places you have to go when the school never gives you holidays off. My friends: Maria, Giada, and I saved up our days for the end of November into the beginning of December. It was the Goldilocks Time for taking time off, since we always seemed to have tests, quizzes, or papers due. There’s no way we were going to leave Japan without visiting this city. Yes. The place we were set on exploring was the capital of the country, Tokyo.

We bought a ticket through the airline Peach, only costing us about $80 round trip. We took the express train to the Kansai Airport (foreshadowing for the next month :( ) to get there. The terminal was extremely small but comfy.

heading off

Getting ready to board the airplane

We arrived in Tokyo around 5 pm but in Japan this time of year means that it already feels like 10 pm. After eating gyoza at a restaurant and checking into our hostel, we headed to the Tokyo Tower. They had a Christmas display going on right below it as well. It’s not that expensive to go up (compared with the Skytree). We even got our picture taken for free in front of the Christmas display in the tower.

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This same night we headed to Odaiba, an artificial island in Tokyo. Maria was set on seeing the FujiTV Buidling (due to the fact that is it destroyed in a Digimon Movie). I actually saw a miniature Statute of Liberty there, for reasons….

odaiba

View from the island

New York?!

New York?!

The next day we headed to Sunshine City (a shopping place) to go to J-World. Here you can experience exhibits, games, and the actual (dressed-up) characters of your favorite shonen manga. This includes the big hitters like Naruto, Bleach, One-Piece, Dragon Ball and Haikyuu. I saw some stuff from the current anime I’m watching, World Trigger, as well.

Cute little display at Sunshine City

Cute little display at Sunshine City

j-world

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After this, it was raining so we looked at some anime shops, ate lunch, and saw Kiseijuu: The Movie at a cinema near us. We have watch parties for this anime back at the Seminar House, because it is so great to watch with friends. Once we left, it got a little darker outside and we headed onto Artnia: The Square Enix Shop.

artnia

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listen

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pancakes

Giada ordered the Caramel Pancakes

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The Chocolate Parfait (with Cloud’s Buster Sword)

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The Chocolate Buster Sword

The next day we all went to Harujuku and Shibuya. We saw the Hachiko statue that commemorates his loyalty. If you don’t know the story of Hachiko, here’s a link: http://www.gojapango.com/tokyo/shibuya_hachiko_statue.htm.

We shopped around a bit before I left the others for my reservation at the Final Fantasy Cafe: Eorzea in Akihabara. I had to reserve a spot early through Lawson, a 7-11 type of chain in Japan, because the spots were filing up fast. I made an account on Lawson and actually got a points card from them and used this to reserve my ticket. The reservation comes up with a drink from the cafe. This cafe is a conjunction between Square-Enix and Pasela Resorts.

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Eorzea

When I came with my reservation I received a menu and my choice of a character-based coaster. I chose Warrior because this class is my favorite. The cool thing about the cafe is that every time you order something though, you get another coaster. These coasters are nice too, not flimsy at all. The cafe only does 4 segments 2 hours each a day and it’s a cross between a tour and a restaurant because of this. I got in the 2:00 pm one and listened to the instructions about the cafe. I could take photos, but no videos for copyright reasons.

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The Pasela Resorts where the Eorzea Cafe is

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The beautiful Eorzea Menu

One could actually play Final Fantasy 14 while they ate as well. Here’s some of the decorations below:

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With my complementary drink I  got from my ticket, I ordered the Petrification Drink. This one was great because once you drink it:

 

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You get to this on the bottom:

 

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Here’s some of the other things I ordered:

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The Chocobo Quiche

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High Elixir Drink (had some jello like substance in it)

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The High Potion (was actually really sweet)

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The Cactuar Dessert with Green Tea Mochi and Sherbert

The guys at the bar let my take photos of their food too. One guy literally ordered almost everything off of the menu.

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The Explosion Dessert

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Moogle Honey Toast

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Leviathan Themed Blue Ramen

After my solo adventure I met up with Giada and Maria again and explored Akihabara till we got exhausted and went back to the hostel.

It was another rainy day and our last full one in Tokyo. We headed to the Sensoji Temple and its market. Giada raved about the Taiyaki she tried here a couple of years ago so we ordered some. I got the chocolate one, and it was delicious! Taiyaki is a Japanese fish-shaped cake usually filled with something like azuki beans, custard, or chocolate but it’s not limited to just that. After this we had fun and shopped around a bit more till it was time to head off to the Studio Ghibli Museum.

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We arrived at Studio Ghibli in Mikata (outside of Tokyo) rather easily.  For those of you that don’t know Studio Ghibli makes animated movies, some famous being ones being Spirited Away, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Totoro, and Princess Monoke. I grew up watching these movies so it was nostalgic for me. Again, I reserved my tickets ahead of time through the Lawson ticket machine. This is a good idea if you plan to go too.  You can’t take any pictures or movies inside the Museum but can outside. Also, we got to see an original 12 minute film by Studio Ghibli about an Egg Princess and her Protector Breadman. It sounds weird, I know, but it was cute. I grabbed myself a pin at the gift store, squeezed my way out of the crowd, and with my friends headed to the Straw Hat Cafe there. It serves all organic food and I decided to get the walnut latte and whole grain bread.

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Well thanks for sticking with my so far. If it was a lot for you, it definitely was for me! Till next time! まってね!

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