The week after we got back from Spring Break was our midterms and it was a busy week. The Japanese midterms weren’t too hard although the 8 minute oral did made me quite nervous. Other lecture courses usually have papers due instead of a traditional test to give students a break, which we did appreciate. For sumi-e we were to compose a painting of whatever you like so I did a plum blossom branch over a pond with two swiming koi fish.
One of the things that I’ve looked forward to most before coming here was how I am able to spend my 21st birthday in Japan. Being here it was even more exciting that there were so many birthdays around April that we decided to celebrate together by going to Universal Studio in Osaka.
This is the first time I’ve been to any kind of theme parks in years so I was extremely excited. Despite the hefty ticket price, I felt that I had the right to splurge a little. Being that it was me and Kathy’s birthday, we got a birthday sticker which didn’t quite stick, but for the time that it did, all the staff greeted us with Happy Birthdays. To be honest, I have never been on a real rollercoaster and so I was determined to enjoy all the rides that were there. The Dreamliner was the closest thing to a rollercoaster at USJ and for roller coaster fanatics it might not have sufficed them but for me it was the perfect beginner’s ride. All the rides were actually really awesome, and despite being twenty year-olds, we really enjoyed the park, even at the kids section of Snoopy and Hello Kitty teacup rides.
April is a special month here in Japan because of the famous HANAMI! The flower-viewing activity is taken very seriously here and you can see posters on the trains and on the streets about all the Hanami events that were taking place in the Kansai region. I spent Sunday morning with my homevisit partner family at Osaka Castle, a famous place for viewing sakura. That night, a friend and I went to Kiyomizudera to catch one of the last night-lighting of cherry blossoms and it was beautiful even though they have yet to fully bloomed. The next day, getting out of class early, we went to Kyoto’s famous Maruyama Park for another hanami. Despite being a Monday, it was very crowded with families, company workers, couples, and tourists. The blossoms were beautiful but the atmosphere really made it special. People were chatting and sitting on the grass, eating bento, or other foods they bought from the numerous vendors around, while drinking sake under the pink trees. It was truly one of those moment that is unique to Japan.
Coming back home that day, my friends surprised me with a birthday cake and presents. I was so touched by their affections, I couldn’t have wish for a better birthday than to spend it here in this culturally-rich country with the wonderful friends I’ve made.