Friday, July 18, 2014

Japan Day 55: The Last Day

Today is my last day in Japan, as I am departing at 5:50pm from Narita Airport to go back to Philadelphia. I don't want to go, but all good things must come to an end. I think that I was able to accomplish all that I've wanted to and more on this trip. As I hurriedly packed my suitcase, I've realized that it was very difficult for me to fit all of my belongs into my luggage. When I first came to Japan, my suitcase was pretty empty, but, as time went on, it slowing began filling up with souvenirs from friends and other meaningful items I have collected. As a reflection on my time in this country, like my suitcase, many things in Japan have become a part of me. As I travel back home, the memories and happiness that I have experienced here will continue to stay inside me, and I have truly grown from this international experience. 

Japan Day 54: Not Goodbyes

Today, I was able to catch a glimpse of my final gnome (floating in the koi pond). If you can remember, there is an urban legend at Showa Women's University that states that, if you can see all seven gnomes in one day, one of your wishes will come true. Before today, I was only able to see six, and I found it interesting that I saw my last gnome on my final day at Showa. Even though I did not see them all on the same day, I hope that my wish of being able to return to Japan will come true.
Later at lunch, many of the friends I made during my trip came to visit and wish me a good trip home. We took pictures, laughed, and promised that our paths will cross again in the future.
At the end of the workday, the office also threw us (the other intern and I) a farewell party with cake and presents/cards signed by everyone in the office. I was very touched by the gesture, and I'm so happy that I was able to work with such great people.
Some more friends visited us at the office and we exchanged gifts of fruit (fancy ones), cookies, and more promises to stay in touch. 
When worked ended, I had my last dinner in Tokyo with my homestay host and other friends. It was so nostalgic to reflect on how much I have learned in Japan and the fun that I experienced. I know that I said a lot of goodbyes today, but now that I think about it, they are not goodbyes. Instead, I think that I made more promises to return to Japan and see all the sights and friends again. さようならじゃない! 日本, またね!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Japan Day 53: Last Meals and the Movies

I had one of my last meals in Sophia (Showa's school cafeteria) today, and I ordered some pretty Chinese dishes– hot and sour noodles and annin tofu (or almond jelly). Both were pretty good, but I am sad that I will be leaving this cafeteria behind. The food was a lot better than my normal college food and cheap too!
After work, we went to visit our regular soba shop for the last time this summer. Kikui-san gave us some melon as service and much noodles in my noodle soup that I could not even finish! We told her we had to go back to America, and she gave us our meals for half price! I also left her with a gift of some maple syrup pudding, which she said she liked. Next time I visit Japan, I definitely have to come back to this shop!
Later that night, I went with a friend to see "Maleficent" at Toho Theatre (near Shibuya Station). I thought that the movie was very good because of the effects. The plot-line was a bit predictable, but it is a classic story so I suppose it can't be helped. The theater also sold various movie memorabilia outside, which was a practice I had never seen before. The quality of the movie seemed to be a lot higher in Japan than the U.S. and the seats were so spacious and comfy! I had a great time there!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Japan Day 52: Brazilian Barbecue

After work today, I went out to eat Brazilian barbecue with some Japanese friends! It was a very fun meal (with tons of meat and warm pineapple with cinnamon as dessert), and we spent a lot of time talking about funny things. I found that I had surprisingly learned a lot of Japanese while I have been here. The most used phrase that I can think of is やばい (yabai), which is like OMG in English (and it can have either a positive or negative connotation). The meal was definitely a great way to spend one night of my last week in Japan. I will miss all of the people I have met here, and I hope to see them again! Next time, I promise that my Japanese will be better!
After eating way too much meat, we went to get some ice cream at Baskin Robbins. I got the Papa Coconut flavor (pineapple and coconut), which was very good. I thought I was very full, but it seems like there is always room in one's stomach for ice cream! We bonded some more over ice cream, and parted ways, promising to remain in contact!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Japan Day 51: A 45-Story View

After a slow day at work, I visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory, which has been on my bucket list for a while. The building comprises of two parts, each of which has an observation deck that is about 200 meters high. It is very popular with tourists since it is free (which is why I wanted to go)! There seemed to be many tourists from China; I heard a lot of people speaking Chinese there. I think this deck is a better alternative to the Skytree or Tokyo Tower viewing platforms, whose prices can be quite hefty. The elevator for tourists basically just has three buttons (for the 1st, 2nd, and 45th floors), and the view at the top is indeed pretty incredible (though it was somewhat cloudy today)!
After visiting the observatory, I went to visit my friend at her workplace in the nearby area of Shinjuku. She works at a pretty European-themed restaurant– very chic. I ordered the Spicy Hawaiian sausage, but it seemed more German to be because of the sauerkraut it was accompanied by. Still, it was delicious and a great way to end the day!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Japan Day 50: Cookies and Summer Festival

Today was the first day after the end of the program going back to office work. Daytime was pretty uneventful, but I went to visit my friend tonight at her workplace! She works part-time at a shop near Harajuku Station called Cookie Time, which has its origins in New Zealand. We were able to eat delicious cookies, and the store was full of memorable cookie-themed paraphernalia! (I got the lemon white chocolate flavor!) There was also a cookie car in the store, where you could take photos! 
After my friend got off of work, we went to a summer festival– matsuri (祭)! The lanterns that lined the festival stalls were really pretty, and many people were dressed up in yukata (浴衣/summer kimono). I really felt the feeling of summer there! We only stayed for a short while because we arrived at the festival's end, but I was able to eat some takoyaki (蛸焼/octopus pancake balls)–the quintessential summer festival food. It was my first time having it in Japan, and it was very delicious though a bit hot! I had so much fun today!

Japan Day 49: Night Lights

Today, I went to a salon in Shibuya called "The Eight Hair Salon" to get a haircut and a perm. It took a very long time (since the staff did not really know any English), but I now have slightly curly hair! Later, I went to Miraikan on Odaiba for a special exhibition about poo! I think the purpose of it was to explain to children how they should not be embarrassed about pooping. In any case, the exhibit was surprisingly popular. The waiting time outside was 40 minutes, and the line inside for the giant toilet slide was just as long. We decided to skip that part of the exhibit, but we were greeted by singing toilets at the end of the tour!
Later, we went to a Japanese fusion reataurant, where I had foie gras (fatty duck liver that is a delicacy) and shabu shabu for the first time! Shabu shabu is kind of like hotpot, except you just cook strips of meat on the spot and then dip it in sauce. It was so good and fresh, and the foie gras was also very delicious (tasted like peking duck)! 
Afterward, we walked around Odaiba at night, and we rode the rainbow ferris wheel and saw the Gundam show at Diver City Plaza. Reaching the top of the ferris wheel was actually pretty scary, especially with the wind! However, the view of Tokyo was worth it!
We were able to see a beautiful view of the city, including Tokyo Tower in the distance! Later, we went to the beach, where I touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time! The water was not cold, and the sand felt great between my toes. The lights at night were especially beautiful from the buildings to the ferries to the Rainbow bridge. It was like being in a movie!