Thursday, January 17, 2013

Adventure to Japan

Hello Everyone,

First off I'd like to start off with a little story. A year ago, I had the best/worst night of my life. I partied too hard, got mixed up in the wrong situation, and ended up with 16 stiches in my face. It was the scariest night/morning of my life and I can't imagine how incredibly lucky I got. Much worse things could have happened and I consider myself lucky. However, it was the best night because it made me realize how I have to stop mucking around and apply myself better. It pushed me to want to expand my horizons and take advantage of my situation and better myself as a person. Looking back I realized how much I have changed and grown up in just a year and I owe it all to that night. God was watching over me and knew that if I could turn myself around I would make the impact that I inspire to do. Just had to mention that quick because it means a lot to me how much of a difference just a year has made. On that note.....

Japan. So flew into Osaka on Wed the second. Jack got me from the airport and I had my first experience with the infuriating train system. It is terrible. I thought I was pretty skilled at public transport from living in Seoul but no, Japan's train system is ridiculous. If Jack was not directing us (or the smartphone capabilities) I would have missed so many trains. Anyways, get to Osaka and meet his host family. His host family consists of: Mom, Dad, Grandma, one sister and two little brothers. Wonderful people and wonderful family.
The first night we went to his grandparent’s house. This was quite the wake-up call. We had a traditional Japanese dinner with about 15 people and no one spoke English. It was really a “well I am in Japan” moment. I highly enjoyed it though and I think they had a fun time with me being there. The following 5 days we spent in the Osaka area. This included a trip to both Nara and Kyoto. We went to Nara on 1-4 and had a great time there. There were many cool temples to see and also a bunch of street vendors and such. A unique thing about Nara is that they have these deer all over place that like to be fed. I thought it would be fun to feed them and eventually they started attacking me trying to get my food. Like literally slamming their heads into my legs. I just threw my crackers up and got the F out of there haha.
Had some sushi afterwards and another great dinner at grandpa’s house that night. Never once did I have a bad dinner in Japan. Friday we went to Osaka castle and relaxed most of the day. It was Jack’s host sister Cocoro’s birthday so we made her a cake and had a good evening at home. Saturday we went to Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan. There were literally hundreds of temples here but they are so spread apart that it’s hard to hit every one. We went to three and were exhausted by the end of it. My favorite temple was the second one we went to. There were thousands and thousands of these orange Torris there.
Jack and I didn’t even walk through all of them because there were sooooo many. Our assumption is that you can “buy” a torri to be put in there with your family’s name on it. Saturday night we went out and had some beers and such with a couple of Jack’s classmates. We had a great time but came very very close to missing the last train which would mean we would either have to walk for 3 hours, wait tell 6 for the next one, or pay 80 dollars for a taxi. All terrible options. Sunday morning we watched the Packers beat the Vikings (!) and took care of some stuff at home. We figured out that we would have to be sleeping at the airport Sunday night to catch our flight to Nagasaki on Monday morning. I believe everyone should sleep in the airport at least one night haha it was quite the experience. On to Nagasaki. We got to our hostel around 11 exhausted, yet they did not have our beds ready. So we decided to do some extra sight-seeing. What we quickly found out was: Nagasaki is relatively small and you can walk everywhere and it is incredibly beautiful. I found out a lot of history about Nagasaki including the fact that it was the first Japanese port open to the Chinese and Westerners. It really has a tourism feel and you can see the influence of both Chinese and Dutch culture in the city. It is in a wharf so the houses are built up the mountain. If you visit Japan you must stop in Nagasaki and if you ever decide to live or teach English in Japan I highly HIGHLY suggest doing it in Nagasaki; you will not be disappointed.
This was the view from the top of the gondola ride. Apparently it is rated one of the top 3 views in Japan. So Monday and Tuesday we did all the sight-seeing stuff and saved the bomb stuff for Wed. This is because we knew it would be super heavy so saving it for the last day seemed appropriate. The museum itself was amazing. Jack and I took about 2 hours walking through it and didn’t say a word to each other. It really hits you how immense this bomb was. You don’t really understand it until you are in the city and can visually see the effects of it. They kept some monuments from pre-1945 and you can see how the stone is burned black from the bomb. The best part of the museum was they exhibit advocating for peace and the destruction of all nuclear weapons. We should take a lesson from this city and its people and understand the terror that comes from nuclear weapons. I could write an essay on this but I am going to stop before I ramble on too much. Anyways, we ended our last night in Nagasaki with a birthday party in our hostel. Great time to meet some different people and had a very special ending! From Nagasaki we went to Okinawa, home of Jack’s grandfather and the hometown of his mother. His aunt, Chikako, also lives with his grandfather including her husband, an American Marine, Andy (great guy, A+) and their two kids. It was interesting being in Okinawa because it has such a strong influence from the American military. Now whether you think it’s right or wrong is beside the point but it was very interesting seeing the effect the American military had. For one, they had huge amounts of land space compared to the local Okinawans. Also they have had problems with the nightlife because of some Americans causing trouble. It’s also interesting to see the effect it has had on interracial marriage and the influx of English. On my trip I got a healthy dose of both American culture and the local Okinawan culture. First we had two American-made meals: hamburgers and tacos. Oh my god was it amazing. I have not had a good hamburger in sooooo long. We also got to enjoy local Okinawan culture. On Monday Jack’s childhood friend took us around Okinawa. We made some Okinawan glass mugs that I will be using back home.
We ended the night with a great dinner that had some crazy Okinawan food and many different kinds of drinks. Next day we went back to Osaka for my final night with Jack’s host family. Jack and I took them out to dinner and afterwards had a few drinks back at the house. They were really wonderful people and Jack is immensely lucky to have them as a family.

I had a great time in Japan and made some wonderful memories. It was also nice being with jack again for two weeks, familiar faces are hard to come by. Tomorrow I leave to Bali for 9 days which will be very nice to enjoy the sun and the beach. While it will be great, I will be excited for the last day when I fly home. This is because my mother is coming to Korea that day! I am beyond excited to see her and show her around the city I have called home the last five months. I may be writing another blog before heading to Vietnam in Feb, but either way I will be posting pictures before I go. Hope everyone’s break is going well and remember Gusties when you are walking to class with that wind at your face, I will be basking in the sun on the beach  :D.     My best,