Monday, January 9, 2012

The Return

So by the way, I'm back in the USA now and got back just after midnight, the morning of December 24th. For the couple days leading up to that, I stayed at my host family's house, packed, went out to eat a couple times, and did a little last minute shopping.

At a crab restaurant

At a yakiniku restaurant the night before I left

Played a game of shogi with Kotaro

All packed and ready to go

After that, we went to the airport and ate at a tempura restaurant that once again busted the myth of small portion sizes in Japan. We had weighed my luggage ahead of time and thankfully there were no problems getting it checked in. A few other students on the other hand, found that their bags were far overweight and had to get through by paying fees, begging desperately, and having their host parents send them at a later time. Then there were lots of tearful goodbyes and hugs that for me were cut a bit short by the approaching departure time, probably for the better.

From there, the trip went pretty smoothly, from Sapporo to South Korea to Chicago to Washington DC. It was just very long. In the airport in Korea we walked by a small parade of people in traditional garb, marching to music. Apart for that and a big Doraemon themed area at the Sapporo airport, not much of interest happened and I made it home safely. As for reverse culture shock, the biggest difference was that there were more rude employees at American airports and that there was much more variety in the appearance of people in the US. But overall, it felt good to be home.

So I suppose this will be the last blog post. I don't know if or when I'll return to Japan, but I definitely have to thank my host family for making this trip a good one. In the midst of it, I was pretty stressed and bogged down with schoolwork, but now, in retrospect, I have a lot of good memories, experiences, and stories to tell, all neatly recorded in this blog. I made new friends and improved my Japanese language skills significantly and I intend to continue my studies in the future. I'll be graduating this spring and from there, who knows where I might end up.

Thanks for reading and if you want more, there are loads of pictures not used in the blog that you can view in the web albums to the right or right here.


Monday, January 2, 2012

(12/21) Nara: Deer and Big Buddha

On the last day of our Honshu trip, Wednesday the 21st, we went to Nara. We went by bus to our first stop, Todaiji, a really big temple with a giant statue of the Buddha Vairocana in it (there's more than one Buddha nowadays). But outside the temple we saw the other thing that Nara is famous for: wild deer.

And there were a lot of deer all over the place, not just at that temple either. You could also buy little crackers to feed the deer and if you held them up in the air in front of them, they'd give you a polite bow as if asking for the biscuit. On the other hand, they weren't really that polite because they tended to surround you and butt you in the butt if you weren't paying attention to them.

After feeding the deer, we made our way into the temple and saw the main giant building which housed the giant Buddha statue.

There were also a few other statues if you walked around the statue and models of what the temple looked like before, since it had burned down twice in its history. There was also a small hole that was the size of the Buddha statue's nostril and if you were able to crawl through it, you got good luck or something.

Our other stop for the day was Kasuga Grand Shrine which was very close and also had wild deer roaming around. It was more of a normal shrine except that it had a buttload of stone lanterns leading up to it, making the already pretty area even nicer looking.

We grabbed a bite to eat near the shrine and then went back to the bus to be driven back to the airport and fly back home to Sapporo for our last couple days before returning to America.