Mid-program update: my time in Japan has been going swimmingly. Besides becoming a little too aware of how much Japanese I need to learn to attain fluency, I’ve been improving and trying my best to work hard during in class practice and the loads of homework after class. I believe I’m working well toward my goals of language acquisition, even if it doesn’t feel quite so linear.
Of course, I’ve also had the time to have fun and experience new things in Kyoto. One weekend, I went on a day trip to Nara, a city near Kyoto known for the many deer that roam within it. For over a thousand years, the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals that protect the city. Today, tourists can feed them crackers from the numerous stalls in the parks of Nara, and the deer even know how to bow to receive those crackers! Nara was very beautiful and unique, with towering Buddhist temples, one of which called Toudai-ji was the largest wooden building in the world from the 700’s until 1998!
During one long weekend, I was able to visit a friend from my university who’s also studying abroad in Tokyo. I took the bullet train for the first time, and navigating transportation was a lot smoother than I thought it would be. The first night I was there, my friend and I got dinner near Shibuya crossing. The sheer number of people walking the streets of Tokyo was awe-inspiring to me, if not a bit exhausting to think about the lives of people who live there full-time. On my last day there, I geeked out at Ikebukuro, an area known for various anime-related stores and cafes, specifically targeting the female demographic of anime, manga, and video game fans. The Animate, a popular chain anime merch store, was nine floors tall and it took a good chunk of my day just to explore it all.