Welcome back! This is part 2 of a series of Q&A posts where I am obliged to spill everything about my trip to Japan. If you missed part one, I highly suggest checking it out. Especially if you like food!
Before we jump into the questions, let me introduce myself again:
My name is Crimson and I have done two short-term study abroad programs. My first was in 2015 when I was a junior and I ended up going to Okinawa, Japan. My most recent one was last year (2018) and I went to Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, Japan! Both trips focused on World War II, specifically the Asia-Pacific War, and as an art major, I have focused on the art aspect of things for my finals. My favorite color is orange and stationery is my weakness, so please keep all your empty notebooks close at hand before takeoff!
betweentheshelves7 wants to know –
- a) what inspired you to choose the countries that you did?
For both my trips I’ve gone to Japan. My family thinks I should have picked a different place the second time I did a study abroad trip, but I don’t regret going to Japan twice. The first time I visited I mainly just wanted to go because I love anime and otaku culture, and what better place for all the beautiful merch than Japan? The second time I still chose Japan because I was still a major nerd, Japan was a beautiful location (as I had discovered in 2015), I was longing to return, and I’ve always had a fascination with the World Wars. In a way, Japan ticked all my interests
- b) best strategies for navigating when you might not have cell service?
Oh man, this is a good question. When I went to Okinawa we mostly traveled by taxi or bus with our class, which is not really the best way to travel on your own, but this second time we did more public transportation. If you’re going with a class, chances are you might be provided with bus passes and a JR Rail Pass. However, if you’re going alone, I say invest in these as they’re really handy.
So some tips would be:
- Remember the names of important streets. I had a habit of carrying around a notebook and wrote down the names of major streets. If I ever got lost I would just ask someone for the street I needed. No, I don’t speak Japanese, but I know that if I end something with [-ka (か)] I am asking a question. From there pointing helps.
- Make a little map. This is actually something fun I did. It helped me navigate and I ended up using it as part of my journal
- Download a local map via Google when you have wifi connection. It works offline after that (I did this when I visited Canada. Lifesaver!)
- Explore with someone who is good at navigating.
- Find a landmark. When we were in Kyoto, our hotel was right in front of the train station and Kyoto Tower, so I just looked for the tower if I ever got lost. In Hiroshima, we had the Atomic Dome. In Nagasaki, it was traffic signs to the train station (and a shopping center with the words You Me on it).
- Invest in a pocket wifi (AKA. The best thing ever when traveling abroad). Then you don’t have to worry about not having cellphone service.
I would also do some research if you want to visit some places. Google Maps is your friend!
- c) what items are must-haves when you’re in another country?
Another good question! If we’re talking about technology I would say a pocket WiFi, a way to take pictures and video (I had my phone but a nicer camera would have been nice as well), and a journal. I especially recommend keeping a journal to jot down your feelings at the end of the day and as a way to document your experience. I didn’t do this when I went to Okinawa and it’s hard for me to really remember how I felt or what places I visited.
Aside from these things I think it really depends on where you go but here are some ideas for Japan:
- Some sort of medicine for stomach aches and colds
- A compact umbrella and coat. It was pretty cold in the early hours and night (I would also say a scarf if you’re going to Nagasaki. It was really windy!)
- An extra bag for souvenirs. You will be super grateful for this. We were allowed 2 checked bags, 1 carry on, and 1 backpack or purse at no additional cost. Even if you think you might not use it, take an extra duffle bag (or two, if you’re like me).
- U.S. deodorant and other hygiene products. Everyone (including you) will appreciate this. People in Japan don’t have very strong products because they don’t sweat or smell as strongly as we do.
- Comfortable walking shoes. Unless you are Professor Miyamoto, you can’t survive Japan in just heels.
Those are just some things I can think of off the top of my head.
lightofthebookworm wants to know –
What souvenirs did you bring home?
Did I already mention that I’m an anime and book junkie? Yes? Well, that’s basically what I brought home from both trips. In 2015, I brought home books and a ton of Attack on Titan merchandise. This last year I had better control of myself and I only bought some books from my favorite series and, once I was closer to the end of our trip, some onigiri and treats to share with the family. Everyone loved the salmon onigiri and the matcha Kit Kats were a hit too! Poor treats didn’t even last 24 hours.
I also tried to bring alcohol, but I forgot to put it in my checked bag and both bottles were confiscated in California when I passed through security. I was DEVASTATED!
Who was the first friend you made whilst studying abroad?
My roommate. I think my class was a little…cold? Awkward? Distant?…while we were in the classroom. Everything was done very “professionally,” but then we spent so much time together traveling (plane, bus, plane, bus), followed by a restless night, and our class began to loosen up. My roommate, in particular, was just very agreeable and we had the same opinion about this trip (gotta make the best of it and try ALL THE FOOD) so we spent a lot of time together. I think she was my first friend on this trip. After this, I slowly got closer to all my classmates and even some of the students from Japan, who we met somewhere in the second third of our trip.
Krystallina wants to know –
Was two weeks a good amount of time, or was it too much/little for what your goals were?
I think the first time I went to Japan I thought it was a decent amount. It was enough to explore, learn new things, and meet new people, but also enough to not get homesick. The second time I went I felt it was too little! I think it may have something to do with how we visited three different cities in those two weeks. We stayed in Kyoto for only 2 days (it would be more accurate to say 1.5 since we traveled on the second day), which was such a short amount of time for such a beautiful location. We were in Hiroshima and Nagasaki for about 6 days each. While the time in Nagasaki felt like it dragged a little (courtesy of the cooler weather and less nearby entertainment), our time in Hiroshima felt too short (courtesy of the fun we had with the Hiroshima students).
My goals were mainly to explore and to try to do some art stuff. I’d say I completed about a quarter of these things. I didn’t do anything artsy like I wanted because I always felt like I didn’t have enough time (we had a packed itinerary), and just when I thought I’d explored enough, Japan would throw something at me and be like, did you check this out? Hmm?
I would love to stay a month or even term long (or longer, I don’t mind, adopt me!)
Well, this marks the end of the Q&A series (unless you guys decide to send me more questions). I still have a couple things I’d like to share, which I hope will be entertaining so be on the lookout.