Sunday, November 30, 2014

Trip to Japan 2014

This past summer, I was given the amazing chance of becoming an American ambassador/exchange student to Japan. I basically achieved one of my life dreams! In July, me and eight other people flew to Kashiwa, Japan in the Chiba prefecture and stayed for three weeks, living with host families, trying new food, and exploring an entirely different country. The experience was a dream come true. Here's a recap of some of the stuff I did!

My first host family took me on a day trip to a planetarium in Tsukuba. It was also the day I first rode a Japanese train, an event that may seem simple but was actually super exciting! The planetarium was filled with cute little kids either with their families or on a school field trip. There were also cute little rooms with interactive science experiments. 

On one of the days, the delegates and I explored hot spots in Tokyo, namely the Sky Tree tower and the shrine in Asakusa. Sky Tree is the tallest tower in Tokyo, but we didn't get to climb the tower. Instead, we went in the 32 foot mall right next to it! There were lots of super cute shops and delicious foods. The Asakusa temple was the most tourist-y area we went to, but it was still fun to explore. There were a LOT of street vendors trying to sell rip-off souvenirs to other visitors. This is a god spot to go, but all of the people made the experience somewhat stuffy and annoying. 

For three days, we took a trip to Kyoto and Hiroshima! The top picture is me in front of the Kinkakujin, the famous gold temple. There were A TON of shrines in Kyoto that we visited, but the gold shrine and the meditation rock garden (also shown above), were among my favorites! We meditated in the garden and it felt so peaceful being there; although the number of mosquitoes was very unsettling. One of the biggest highlight in Hiroshima was the famous okonomiyaki! For those who don't know, okonomiyaki is something of a noodle and potato pancake. Trust me, it tastes incredible. We went to a small food court where there tons of vendors like that one, and I love how in all of them, the chefs prepare the okonomiyaki right in front of you! 

Probably one of my favorite days was when we visited Tokyo Disney Sea! It's basically the equivalent of California Adventure in Anaheim. The park was somewhat small (we lapped it quite a few times), but the experience was still super fun! There were some Japan exclusive rides like Journey to the Center of the Earth and Aquatopia, but they surprisingly had Toy Story Mania and Tower of Terror. One of my favorite parts of the park was the super cute accessories that they sold! EVERYONE had some kind of Disney gear on, whether it was a towel, cape, ears, or Minnie Mouse sunglasses. I bought Minnie ears with adorable pink lace, and I've received so many compliments for them! I definitely would love to go back and buy more cute accessories~ 

One of our final day trips was a visit to Nikko, a place famous for the native monkeys and being in a high mountain. Atop the mountain was a beautiful lake that we rode a ferry across. The weather in the town was much cooler compared to how humid it had usually been. The views were absolutely breathtaking! While driving, we even saw a family of monkeys! 

Of course, we couldn't leave Japan in the summer without visiting a local matsuri, or festival in English. My group competed in a dance competition for a traditional dance called the Kashiwa Odori. Many different groups also competed, some with their own variations. We didn't get a top spot in the results, but we still got a trophy for being an international team! The matsuri itself was absolutely insane and fun. There were so many people there! During the event, we walked around, trying food at vendors, specifically takoyaki and crepes, and playing some games. There were some girls dressed in yukatas, which I thought was amazing because by the end of the day, my friends and I were dying from the heat and pain in our legs. 

Finally, a picture of me with my wonderful host families. They treated me like one of their own, and I could not stop crying on the day we left. Japan was absolutely an amazing experience and I am definitely going to either live or visit here again some day~!