Saturday, August 30, 2014

As I Begin My Journey... (Chris)

As I begin my journey, I feel nervous, but also excited. I have wanted for so long to go to Japan.   I realize that in about 11 hours, I will be boarding a plane to Japan.  Specifically, I will be in the city of Hirakata near Osaka and Kyoto. There I will be studying and living Japanese culture. The excitement is there. But, I am nervous. Nervous about normal things such as, “will my luggage arrive with me” or “will I miss my flight?” But, there are other things to be nervous about as I take my first steps in going to Japan. This is my first time traveling alone via airplane, and my second time leaving North America. This experience is new to me, and I do not really know what to expect. When I finally arrive in Japan, will I be able to get to my bus? But, putting all of my worries aside there is much to look back upon to see what has lead me to this point in my life.

First sight of Osaka from my airplane.

My interest in Japanese culture started when I was in middle school. My hometown of Red Wing had a sister city program with a town in Japan. I was selected to go to Japan as a student ambassador. But, the trip to Japan that year was cancelled due to the H1N1 epidemic. I graduated from high school, and went to Beloit College. I decided to take Japanese and further increase my interest in Japanese culture. I have since then studied the Japanese language for two years, took a course on samurai literature, and have done a summer language course to further prepare me for going to Japan. It has been a rough two years, and now I get to see the fruits of my studies and spend a semester in Japan.  I am excited and I know that I will have fun studying, exploring, and making new friends all in Japan. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Looking Ahead (Crystal)

As I set out on this journey, sitting at a gate at O’Hare, having just heard that my flight is going to be delayed, I roll my eyes. Great. Another problem to add to my list.

This isn’t my first time around the block. It’s my third semester of study abroad, so I approached it feeling pretty confident. As long as my residence has hot water (unlike Senegal) and a lack of cockroaches (unlike Martinique), I’m up for pretty much anything.

That said, it’s been a pretty inauspicious start. About six hours before my flight, I ended up banging my toe so hard that I honestly feared it might be broken for a few hours. Listening to NPR on the way to the airport, I heard about a landslide that killed fifty people in Hiroshima, not too far from where I’ll be staying (okay, it’s four hours away, but still).

I managed to make it through security and to my gate with about 45 minutes to spare, but then came the announcement: There’s been an earthquake in San Francisco (where I’m to make a connection to Osaka), and my flight is going to be delayed “at least an hour or two”. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were closer to five. Of course, the whole airport is shut down, so my connection might also be delayed in enough time for me to make it! Unfortunately, the pickup service I arranged with the university is set to leave two hours after my flight arrives, so I’m almost certainly going to have to make my way from KIX to Hirakata (NOT a short journey), lugging around a 45-pound suitcase (with a not-quite-broken toe).

As daunting as that sounds -

And…. Wow. It turns out we’re boarding in five minutes.

I was going to say: As daunting as that sounds, I can’t help but take it all pretty lightly. Comparing it to the night before I left for my first semester abroad, I seem like a completely different person. This time last year, I was stress-crying about everything from my French skills to whether or not people would like me. And honestly, my first few days in Martinique were terrible. But I got through them. And now, looking forward to my first few days in Japan, I’m pretty sure it can hardly get worse. But even if it does, even if I have to end up figuring out Japanese public transportation while suffering jetlag, at least it’ll be a way of thrusting myself headfirst into the culture. What will come will come, and even if I get stressed out in the moment, in another month it’ll be a distant memory.

But now we’re boarding. I guess things turn around, eh? Maybe this day isn’t so unlucky after all.

A Street in Osaka

Update: My plane left only 10 minutes behind schedule, and I was able to make my connection, meet the pickup service, and arrive safely.

Monday, August 25, 2014


This a blog written by Beloit College students who are studying abroad in Japan in fall 2014. Some of us are living in Akita, the capital city of Akita prefecture, a regional city of about 320,000 people, surrounded by rice paddies and mountains in northern Japan. Others of us are living and studying in the Kansai region with easy access to two of Japan's largest cities: Kyoto (population approx. 1.5 million) and Osaka (2.7 million). Though we've all ventured from Beloit to Japan this fall, we know we will have vastly different experiences. This blog is our conversation about that -- a space where we can think and talk about the regional and urban spaces in which we live.

Each week we will write posts in response to a series of writing prompts that ask us to explore the city as concept, the city in practice, and the city as imagined by its inhabitants. We're glad you're here and hope you enjoy hearing about our experiences.