Homestay & Matsushima~

Hi friends welcome to my blog~ I’m LinChen and I had the pleasure of staying at Amano-san’s home – Kame House along with the Fushimi Girls (Jennie, Jenny, and Rosemary) for Saturday night.

Amano-san was an absolutely AMAZING host!! She prepared wonderful food for us and catered to all of the dietary restrictions of the group. Amano-san is such a cool person. She left the bustling Tokyo to settle in Ishinomaki, she used to run a restaurant and is now an architect, she is renovating Kame House all by herself and running it as a homestay, and she is a great mom to her dogs, おこげ(Okoge) and ゆず(Yuzu), who can be quite a handful!!

Kame House is located on the hill so Jennie, Jenny, Rosemary and I decided to take advantage of that to watch the sunrise. We had to wake up at 4:14 AM to catch a glimpse of the rising sun, but the view from our room was definitely worth it.

It was the last weekend (so soon!) before the last project week and the Brightmaki Festival and so I really wanted to explore more of the surrounding area of Ishinomaki. One places that kept coming up during my research and also recommended by Amano-san was Matsushima. Matsushima is a seaside town around 40 minutes away via the Senseki line which is approximately halfway between Ishinomaki and Sendai. It is one of the Three Views of Japan and renowned for the pine-clad islands on the bay and the many temples and shrines built during the 1600s. Since most people went to Sendai, only Ariana, Estella and I went to Matsushima together.

Even though Matsushima was quite close to Ishinomaki, the effects of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake were less severe. The day we went also coincided with the Matsushima Park Festival, thus, the seaside town was especially lively with live music playing and many people walking around. A very different atmosphere from Ishinomaki.

Although the shade was comfortable, the second we step outside, the scorching high noon sun not kind to us. And so, we ran to catch the train (we forgot to check the train schedule) back to Ishinomaki at 3:04 PM.

Later at night, Ariana, Estella, Harrison, Linh and I checked out an Izakaya called スイスイ(Suisui). On Sundays, Suisui has a buffet to finish off the ingredients for 800 yen. The owner was running the restaurant all by herself, it was so impressive. She kept dishing out amazing food not even found on the menu and I could not stop myself trying each new dish even when I was full.

As more and more of the schedule gets highlighted, I can’t help but feel sad that the program is coming to an end. Although I wish there is more time here at Ishinomaki, I know we are only short-term visitors here and bound to leave at some point. But I sincerely thank all the people I have met here. Their hospitality, resilience, and positivity will continue to inspire me long after I depart from this country.

-LinChen Yu

ラジオ石巻 Fun。

Heyyo everyone~ My name is Andy Ye and this is my first time making a post on this site and I’m excited to share with everyone how May 25th, 2019 went for me 🙂 I’ll also be reflecting a little bit about myself and what this trip meant for me so please enjoy this rollercoaster of emotions that is my blog post~ ALSO, for anyone who’s interested or curious I’ve also been keeping a blog of my own that I try to update every day since I’ve arrived in Japan. Click here if curious! Side note: I have so much to share but I know a lot has been covered by my wonderful friends on this trip so I’ll try not to too much!

ご安全に: Said by the locals when leaving similar to “safe travels” 🙂 OH and I’m the Asian in the center bottom holding the phone up for the selfie haha

So I start almost every morning by waking up at 6 AM and running up and joining a group of elderly locals up on Hiyoriyama Park. We do basic stretches that go for about 15 minutes and it honestly is so refreshing and immediately wakes me up! Since coming to Japan I wanted to befriend the locals in an effort to understand Ishinomaki better and to practice my Japanese. I wanted to put the one year of studying Japanese at UofM to use and build on the foundations of the language. I think this morning group is the locals that I’ve been looking and I’ve learned so much already just from observing their interactions with each other and with us. Like, JAPANESE PEOPLE ARE SO NICE! Now, I’m not saying that everyone else is cold-hearted but there’s just something about the respect and culture here in Japan that is so fascinating and is the reason why I want to learn more about it. All the people that I’ve met here in Ishinomaki have their own unique stories to share and their motivation/drive to move forward is really something to admire and learn from. It is very important to never forget what has happened and to learn from it and move forward with your head held high. It is easier said than done, and that’s why I respect the locals here so much :’) I’m just going on a random tantrum now but I want to type what I’m thinking so I hope this is comprehensible! Now… ONTO BREAKFAST!

As stated earlier in a different post, the breakfast at Ishinomaki Grand Hotel is amazing. Honestly, I have yet to be disappointed by the food selection here in Japan. I’m going to be really sad after I return back to the states and realize how overpriced everything is again -__- but I’ll save that negativity for a different day- only good vibes here! In the above picture, there’s a soft boiled egg (near raw) and a bowl of plain rice. Estella introduced me to one of my favorite food that I’ve tried here in Japan: tamago kake gohan. It’s basically white rice with a raw egg and soy sauce bowl 🙂 I was hesitant at first to try it but man was that a tasty bowl. It’s so easy to make so please give it a try! Google into it more though, because I don’t know how safe it is to just eat the raw egg like this haha. But let’s move forward to why I titled this post “ラジオ石巻” which translates to “Radio Ishinomaki” 🙂

Wow you can see how tan I’ve gotten since getting here :’)

So pictured from left to right is Maica, Jennie Frost (hehe), myself, and Estella~ All of their Japanese is 100 times better than mine but I’m so grateful to still have the chance to sit in the radio room (is that what it’s called?) and have the amazing opportunity to share what Brightmaki Night Festival is about and what we’ve been doing. THANK YOU BRAD AND THE WHOLE TEAM FOR THE OPPORTUNITY! But basically the whole interview was live broadcasted in Ishinomaki on FM76.4 and let me tell you, I WAS SO NERVOUS. Like, in the end, I knew I was going to make mistakes but I would learn a lot from this experience so I was able to relax a little. Like one of the interviewers asked me a specific question (in Japanese) like “How many lamps are you making for the event?” and I choked and said “Yes”. One of the things that I learned from this is that I really need to study Japanese more! Another thing that I learned is that just how amazing the people of Ishinomaki is. They were willing to take in a group of foreigners and allowed us to express ourselves LIVE to the whole community (that’s a lot of trust haha). When explaining the festival, I took that chance to really reflect on what we’re doing here in Ishinomaki up to this point. Although in broad terms, our impact is small and we can’t really help the people of Ishinomaki in their efforts to get people to return/ live in Ishinomaki, I think that’s okay This trip isn’t about being the heroes and coming into a different country and saving the people. The people THEMSELVES have been making incredible progress and their approach to how to solve the issue of declining population in Ishinomaki is truly amazing and unique and I have full faith it will work over time 🙂 I like to believe that our presence here is one where everyone can learn from each other. I’ve learned a lot during my time here and I feel like that just communicating with the locals (as foreigners) is something that doesn’t happen everyday and that I hope we can brighten their days a little bit. I hope to take what I’ve learned back to the states and try my best to share my experiences with everyone because honestly, it’s sad how little people know about the efforts being done in Ishinomaki and Detroit. I really hope all this is making sense because I have so much to share and I really don’t know where to start but let’s continue 🙂

I spent the rest of the afternoon chilling and catching up on some work in the info center that was nearby. This is a random picture but I wanted to take the time to address how much I love this trip. There’s always something to do/ to learn from every day on this trip and no matter how busy we are, there’s always time to also sit down and really reflect on our experiences.

Oh, and I also had a taiyaki! I know much praise have already been given to Taiseien but I just wanted to reaffirm how AMAZING Mitsu-san and Chi-san are! They are the cutest couple and the nicest people I’ve ever met. Taking the time to remember all our names is so heartwarming :’)

Alright, I’m going to wrap this up real quick but I just wanted to share what I had for dinner! From the pictures, you can probably tell what we had but I just wanted to say how DELICIOUS THE FOOD WAS and it was all at a very good price! So this was a group dinner with Rebekeh and Chiba-san and the Ishinomaki lab group (Nick, Rhianna, Linh, Shayaan, and I). Linchen (Fish) couldn’t make it tonight because he had a homestay (mines tonight and I’m so excited). I love Ishinomaki Laboratory so much. Their goals are so beautiful and the origin of the company is so crazy to imagine and I can’t help but get emotional sometimes thinking about how far everyone has come since 2011. Rebekeh, Chiba-san, and the whole team have been very nice to us and I am so grateful to be able to work and help out in the same environment as them. We went to this one bar called スイスイ and omg I highly recommend. They do this thing where on Sundays it costs 800 yen (around $8) to get in and then she just starts making random dishes to finish off the week’s ingredients. We could only plan to go on a Saturday but maybe next time I’ll come myself :’) We are planning to have another group dinner (with Fish this time as well) on Tuesday at Chiba-san’s dad’s sushi restaurant and I can’t wait! But I think that covers about everything 🙂

I just wanted to take this final chance to thank everyone on this trip with me. It’s been a crazy journey experiencing Japan with everyone. I’ve learned so much from each of you guys that I’m going to be really sad when this program ends :'( But I am confident that we will stay connected once we all return to Ann Arbor and so heres to the future!~ じゃまた 🙂

Team Flake

I came to Japan with high expectations on myself. I was going to be involved in the Ishinomaki community, interact with the locals, and practice and improve my Japanese as much as possible.

I became so focused on pursuing relationships with the locals and complaining about not having enough opportunities to talk with them to the point where I forgot to treasure the other friends I had–the friends that I had come with. Today, I was given the chance to step back and realize how wonderful the people in this program are.

Today was the day of the taiyaki workshop. In the afternoon, half of the group (Andy, Fish, Estella, Rhianna, Grant, and Shayaan) walked to Taiseien, regarded OBJECTIVELY as the shop with the most delicious taiyaki. The owners Mitsu-san and Chi-san patiently showed us how to use the fish-shaped pans, fry the bread, and tuck our fillings inside. Looking around the cramped kitchen, I saw everyone experimenting with taiyaki flavors, joking around and laughing, and having a good time. It encouraged me to see how happy and close we had grown. (Shoutout to Mitsu-san and Chi-san for being the sweetest people I have ever met. They made an effort to remember our names, always smiled when they saw us, and gave us gift bags with thoughtful notes. I love them!)

Later in the day, the group decided to experience a Japanese onsen. Me and my roommates, Rosemary and Jenny, had the hardest time deciding whether or not to go. It took us 20 minutes to weigh the pros and cons, and by the time we actually gathered up the motivation to walk out the door, it was too late to catch the train. Though those 20 minutes were stressful, it was the most entertaining and silly incident we Fushimi gals had, and it made me appreciate the three of us and our flakiness even more.

Oh my gosh, we’re so cute

In the evening, I hung out with some of the group (Maica, Ally, Rhianna, Shayaan, Harrison, Gabe, Arianna, and my roomies) in room 436 where we watched a traumatizing horror movie, Don’t Breathe. And though it was terrifying, being able to scream, jump, and harshly criticize the idiotic characters together was a great bonding moment.

I don’t know what Gabe is doing; sorry Ally got cut. Wow, I suck at taking pictures.

Looking back on today, I’ve realized that a large reason why I’m having so much fun throughout this program is because of my fellow group mates and our coordinators Brad and Nick. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely important and meaningful to reach out to the Ishinomaki locals (who are the sweetest and most amazing people), but I know that I also need to cherish my GIEU friends and not take them for granted. After all, after returning to the US, when I grow nostalgic and want to recount the experiences I had in Ishinomaki, who else will share similar stories and be able to understand my feelings other than these 16 amazing companions?

For starters, I’m going to need to stop flaking out on every event that we plan. Oof.

Hiyoriyama Park:

On May 12, my GIEU group visited Hiyoriyama Park, which overlooks the Kadonowaki district of Ishinomaki. The trip to the park involves scaling a very steep hill, and at the apex is a stone Torii which frames the view of the district below. Thus, the park is situated such that the effects of the 2011 tsunami can be seen more clearly than in any other place I’ve been in the city. Pictures of a once-packed residential area line railings overlooking the area. Those houses are now gone, the coastline deemed unsuitable for safe living. Current construction projects will culminate in a nature reserve that fills the vacant stretch of land with greenery; only time will tell how well these large scale projects will camouflage the losses that Ishinomaki sustained. The line between recovery and covering-up is a hard one to distinguish. How much money does a municipality have to shuffle around before a disaster has been “fixed”? Crisis may loom invisible long before any alarms are rung, and long after sympathy (and with it, a stream of volunteers and donations) runs dry. I felt that I should return to see Kadonowaki again.

And so, a few students and I decided that we would run back up that very steep hill to Hiyoriyama Park every day, weather permitting.  It’s always hard to say whether a burst of motivation to exercise, which often accompanies the start of a new phase of the year, will stand the test of time. For me, something about a sudden change in environment or schedule signals an opportunity to introduce new and exciting elements into a stagnant routine, and I find a sudden drive to get fit, only to drop the routine weeks later. The line between a real lifestyle change and just another short health kick is a hard one to distinguish. Regardless, the feeling of besting the terrain is undeniably great, and well rewarded by a scenic finish line. The first day I ran the hill it seemed to stretch on for an unreasonable amount of time. Today I can manage to scale the hill from bottom to top without stopping. A group of elderly men and women meet at the park early every morning to do basic stretching and mobility exercises, and we join them after our runs. The camaraderie among them is palpable and freely shared. They let us in on their 15 minutes of fun and exercise and send us off with small candies at the end of every session.

Day by day the view of Kadonowaki changes before us, re-construction resembling terraforming. Nearly ten years after the tsunami, the recovery efforts continue to evolve along with the land. I hope that I’ll be able to visit again in a few years, and see the nature reserve. If I continue to run every morning, perhaps I’ll still be able to scale the hill from bottom to top without stopping when I return. I wonder if I’ll find some of the same friendly faces waiting at the top; I wonder if the line between recovery and covering-up will become any easier to distinguish

Forever

Before coming to Japan, I was eager to see what life would be like on the other side of the world. However, as a vegetarian that was unable to speak, write, or understand Japanese, I was also nervous and ambivalent about what my experience would be like. Luckily, these feelings of uneasiness subsided immediately after I had arrived — the friendliness of the people of Japan and my peers in the program helped make Ishinomaki feel like home.

This past month has been filled with new ideas, new friends, and new memories.

Here are some of my favorites:

GOBANSHO PARK // CIVIC PRIDE

Gobansho Park with the GIEU crew

Heading to Gobansho Park was one of our first excursions in Ishinomaki. My jaw literally dropped as soon as I saw the view. We all walked around the park, had lunch, and engaged in a discussion revolving around civic pride. Ishinomaki 2.0 ‘s main goal is to “make the most interesting city in the world.” In doing this, they hope to make its residents proud to live in Ishinomaki. To this day, I am still baffled that a substantial lack of civic pride coexists in such a beautiful place.

How could they not feel proud when they have something so beautiful?

THE WORLD’S BEST TAIYAKI

The owners of Taiseien and my taiyaki-making workshop group in a group hug!!!

Taiseien is home to objectively the best taiyaki in the world. The taiyaki-making workshop we participated in most definitely proved this to be true, as the taiyaki I made was unfortunately nowhere near as good as theirs.

The owners, Mitsu-san and Chi-san, learned all of our names within our first couple weeks in Ishinomaki. As a result of that, I felt that we were able to form some kind of a connection with them. This connection amazed me — the fact that we were able to interact with locals on a personal level in spite of the language barrier was an achievement. It allowed me to realize that you do not need to speak the same language in order to have an impact on an individual.

ISHINOMAKI x MICHIGAN FOREVER

The view from our homestay experience (Kame House)

As our time in Ishinomaki comes to an end, I have realized that this experience has truly been like no other. Being able to interact with such a welcoming community while having the opportunity to make a difference in other’s lives has been incredible. I am so excited to see how Ishinomaki progresses in the future, and am grateful to share this lifelong memory with an amazing group of people. Ishinomaki x Michigan forever!

じゃあ、また。

Everyday

We began our day at ITNAV as usual working on our projection mapping workshop and displays for the Brightmaki Festival. Eventually shifting gears to roaming around the city to ask storefronts to hang our posters, we visited ‘THE Kimono Shop‘ to be sat down and enjoy yet another cup of tea and snacks. I literally aspire to be like the owners someday… their kindness and vitality brightens my day!

Pictures we took from our first visit! Sorry for blocking you in the last one Rosemary…. (∩︵∩)

Finishing up our afternoon shift, we collectively agreed we just had to visit a local fruit store for its aesthetics and more than enticing ice cream posters. Harrison, Rosemary, and I ended up getting black sesame ice cream here and WOW was it oishii!

Soft serve is an absolute must in Japan!

Later this day we held a projection mapping workshop for two students, 7 and 12 years old. 30 minutes leading up to the event, Arianna and I were scrambling to purchase taiyaki filling (I love you Taiseien) and blank certificate paper. I ended up running across the train station (again!) to make it in time for the workshop. Despite being worse than illiterate (having the bare minimum survival skills to speak, read, or write in Japanese), the warmth, enthusiasm, and sense of community I felt during the activity remains one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had from this trip thus far. It was an absolute privilege to work with ITNAV on this project and with the bright and adorable students!

Workshop in action with ITNAV members UK, Nana, and Yotsu.

All day we found ourselves inching closer towards our program goals but also spontaneously exploring Ishinomaki… but writing this blog post made me realize this is our everyday. Each decision we made led to an added memory to keep with us from this experience that had been accentuated by the people we meet and unexpected obstacles we overcame. To this moment thinking about the ‘end’ makes my heart ache… but remembering the little spurts of spontaneity everyday motivates me to ensure the connections we forged during this trip never ends along with it.

May 22, 2019

Breezy Day in the Ville

Today started out like any other Monday; pretty dull and regular. There wasn’t anything too interesting happening in the morning as the woodworking crew had a later start than usual, but Andy and the regular morning running crew have convinced me to go with them at 6:15am starting tomorrow to do yoga with the local community members so i’m looking forward to that!

The day at Ishinomaki Lab went very smoothly too. We’ve finally started building towards the lamps and lanterns and all five of us (Andy, Linchen, Linh, Rhianna and I) made some great progress. We’ve got a long road ahead of us, and with less than 10 days to go before the festival we have to keep up the fast pace. Nick suggested that in the evening we should all go out to the field and basketball courts by the Manga Museum and play some soccer and which ended up to be a great time! It was extremely windy which added for entertainment while playing. The river looked serene with the wind creating waves and was a great summation of the day.

Views from the Manga Museum

To end it on a high note some of the group members decided to go to dinner nearby. We initially decided to go to a ramen and gyoza place but that was closed, so we ended up at Kuishinbo, a restaurant which served up some delicious beef stew, skewers, and other hearty dishes. Overall i’d say it was a great day and i’m looking forward to see what these next few weeks holds in store for us!

We hate otoshi!

Dogs, Parks, and Kokeshi

After a late start to the day, Jenny, Jennie, Arianna, Estella, Maica, Gabe, Andy, LinChen, and I made a trip to the park near the Manga museum to check out the dog festival being held there. We sat down to eat lunch and observe before interacting with the locals. It was surprising to see the turn out for the festival, I never thought I would see so many people gathering in Ishinomaki. Before attending the festival the largest group I’ve seen in this city is our GIEU crew, so it was a pleasant change in atmosphere (plus there were dogs everywhere).

We made our way around taking a look at all of the local stands, petting puppers, and taking lots of pictures. Eventually we took a moment to enjoy the playfulness of the kiddos running around on the play scape. Some of us joined in on the activities of the playground, letting our inner kid come back to life. Amongst the joy of playing, all of us met a little friend who was brave enough to be leading around a group of giant Americans. As all of the other kids watched in fear, (as well as a few parents), she led us to a special place where we found the treasure of “white diamonds,” truly magical.

Later in the day, Arianna, Gabe, Maica, Estella, Jenny, Rosemary, Andy, LinChen and I had our opportunity to make Kokeshi dolls at Tree Tree Ishinomaki. When I heard we were painting dolls I was ready to be focused and relaxed, and while I was focused, relaxation was not an emotion I was feeling. After seeing these dolls and learning about their origin in Northeast Japan, I put so much pressure on myself to make the perfect doll. This was a once in a lifetime activity and I could not mess it up, which made the whole process rather stressful. We started by using a spinning machine to paint lines onto the cylindrical base of the doll. The easiest part of the process. Next came the face…yikes. If you don’t have calligraphy skills (aka me) good luck. The strokes are precise and you only get one shot to draw on the doll. Hayashi, our instructor, made it all look so easy, telling us to hold our breath to be focused, but it only made my hand shake more. After the face came the fish, which for me was one of my favorite parts. You could see the final product coming through as you add the fish in between each of the lines that we had painted before, plus the strokes to make the fish were by far the simplest thing we painted by hand. Overall, I was pleased with my final product and at the end of the day, thankful to have learned about the Japanese culture and interacted with the people of Ishinomaki.

Trip to 田代島, the cat island

We finally visited the famous cat island. We had learned about it from Brad and Nick way back in Ann Arbor, but since we got here, pretty much every local has had something to say about the island, making it a must in our places to visit. However, the trip proved hard to fit in, with an hour long ferry ride in each direction and a plenty of walking to do once there, we had to find a day with more than half a day free of scheduled activities. Furthemore, to increase the complexity of the issue, ferries to and from the island only run at specific times a couple times a day, which meant any other events could easily result in a conflict. However, with Rhianna’s birthday as an inspiration, we realized that an early start this past Friday would work.

At 6am Andy woke me up to hit the road with the running crew. Unfortunately, the night before I had gone to bed too late, so I was in no mood to run, just like everybody else. Nevertheless, Andy persevered and continued his daily ritual. To my surprise, once he got back and we were getting breakfast, he told me about his unexpected encounter. It turns out that a group of locals that practice Yoga at the top of the hill every morning and he was decided to practice his Japanese to talk to them. It is interesting how the trip allowed Andy to find this people and change his routine, since then the running squad has left earlier every day.

As we walked into breakfast at 7:45, we met all the other people that were gonna come on the trip. Unfortunately, not everyone found the time or the cost worth the visit, but everyone coming was in the buffet an hour earlier than usual. Nick had offered to buy us some Conbini lunch before we left and we had to catch the 9am ferry, so we were all supposed to be ready to go by 8:15. We turned out to be a couple of minutes late, but after a quick Mini stop, we were on our way to get on the ferry. After a cold an exciting ride on the deck, we had arrived.

In the boat we came up with a game, we were gonna uniquely name (or rename) every cat we met, so as we got off the boat and we observed our first couple cats we got to meet Jasper and Domino. Below you can see some of the cute cats we met as we walked around!

The island was amazing. It wasn’t overly developed, it consisted of a few roads, some of which were just dirt roads and some trails or walkways. However, it is filled with some mini places that are very fun to visit. We went to the Manga museum, which is filled with cat pictures and Manga collections of several artist that have also visited the island. We walked around the south coast, a 7km walk with some pretty spectacular views. Last but not least we saw the Cat shrine, a small place filled with mini cat statues that served as a temple were fisherman would ask for cat’s blessing before each fishing season (or so I heard).

First Rule of Fight Club? Don’t Talk about Fight Club.

For months leading up to my departure, I was asked by family and friends how I felt about studying abroad. For months leading up to my departure, I absently responded with, “I am excited and nervous.” Here we are, ten days into the trip, and I still don’t believe that I am here.

After overcoming a very exhaustive bout of jet-lag, I felt like I was in a weird version of some of the towns that I vacationed in as a child; specifically, Lake City, MI; Charlevoix, MI; and Traverse City, MI. Ishinomaki reminds me of up north in that it’s cleaner, brighter, and happier.

Unlike the Sakura Nippori Hotel, the Ishinomaki Grand Hotel affords Rhianna, Maica, and I a Western-style room. Growing up, my family didn’t stay in hotels often, so the housing itself is a treat. We found a food court on the first night of our stay in Ishinomaki. All fifteen of us sat down to a family dinner, and I had the most amazing noodle dish.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the hotel breakfast is a high point in the day. We had a wonderful surprise on the first morning in Ishinomaki when we saw the buffet: french toast, salmon, fish cakes, fruit, coffee, and so much more. After breakfast, it was time to begin preparations for Michigan Night at Fukko Bar. Rosemary, Shayaan, and I walked to a grocery store and found soda, cheese, and “butter.” As it turns out, the butter was actually more cheese. However, we still had a great Michigan Night, and I was very proud of our grilled cheeses and Shirley Temples. During the day, we had a presentation about Ishinomaki 2.0, a community revitalization project focusing on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake. From the presentation, it became very clear that the citizens are passionate about seeing the comeuppance of the city. This is a very special ideal to me, as it reminds me heavily of the culture in Detroit, Michigan.

Maica, Rhianna, and I made a friend – “Superman Joe”

Unlike Detroit, the convenience stores here are amazing. I am used to avoiding convenience store food at all costs. Here, I can’t get enough. I am trying at least one new food item every day, and I don’t think there’s been one thing that I’ve disliked. Last night, we went for another family dinner to a diner called Gusto. Every time I chat with the students in this cohort, I realize how lucky I am to be here.

On Sunday, a group of people ran up a hill nearby the hotel. At the top, there’s a melancholy view of the Pacific. It’s beautiful yet heartbreaking to see the rebuilding after the tsunami. On Monday, the group got larger, including myself. At the top of the hill, after the walk, I led everyone in a sun salutation overlooking the ocean. That has been one of the best moments of my entire life.

After a long day of working, exploring, and meandering around, we have found that it’s quite nice to have a movie night. Much like morning runs, it’s blossomed into a family event. First, we watched Good Will Hunting (yes, I cried). Since then, we have watched Her (yes, I cringed) and we started Fight Club (yes, I broke the first rule).

It’s been ten days and I don’t feel like I’m really in Japan. It’s been ten days and I’ve already made fourteen great friends. It’s been ten days and I’ve continued to make the most of everyday. It’s been ten days, and I can’t wait for day eleven.

Family Photo