When I was younger, I saw my first Hayao Miyazaki movie, Spirited Away. Ever since then, I knew that I someday wanted to travel to Japan. For the past two weeks, I have been living in Nagoya, Japan with a wonderful host family. Each day has been full of experiences, both terrifying and exciting, which have allowed me to explore the beauty and the depth of Japanese culture.

Japan is filled with many unique opportunities. Within the first four days, I went on an orientation trip to the prefecture of Nagoya, called Inuyama. Inuyama is most known for the Inuyama Castle, once inhabited by samurai. The castle is placed on a hill, overlooking the city, surrounded by mountains and a beautiful river. While in Inuyama, I had access to an onsen, also known as a hot spring. People go to the onsen to relax and reflect; the only catch is that you must go in naked, quite the liberating experience!

After leaving Inuyama, I met my host family and they have been the highlight of my experience in Japan. Going to sing karaoke is something that is a huge activity in Japan. On a snowy weekend day, my host parents brought me to karaoke and it was a ton of fun! It was a great way to bond and we shared a lot of laughs.

Nagoya is not a city one usually hears about, but there always seems to be a wide variety of things to do and places to see. One place in particular is called Sakae. Sakae is a large subway station filled with various unique places to buy omiyage (souvenirs) and an assortment of delicious food stores. The most incredible store there, in my opinion, is the Studio Ghibli store where I was able to fan-girl and appreciate the movies that initially sparked my interest in Japan. There is also a Pokémon center a few minutes away from the station, for all of you Pokémon fans out there. As a Pokémon fan myself, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit.

Overall, the first two weeks of my semester abroad in Japan have been very enriching and I am extremely grateful to be here. Although I am finding communicating in Japanese pretty difficult, I am viewing it as an opportunity to get to know myself when put in interesting situations.

I have been noticing that often when someone asks me a question in Japanese, I tend to respond with “arigatou,” which means “thank you” instead of answering the question just out of the mere panic of not being able to understand what was asked. I have been learning that it is okay to not always have the answer. Despite feeling somewhat lost most of the time, looking at the bright side of things has really helped me overcome the challenges of living in a foreign country. I look forward to what the rest of the semester will bring and continuing my quest for knowledge about both the Japanese language and the Japanese culture.