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Gap Year Abroad

2 posts from November 2015


Spooky Days


         Originally I had assumed that Halloween wouldn’t be a big thing around here, and in some ways I was right. Pumpkin carving isn’t really done. Dressing in costumes in uncommon (unless you’re in certain areas). And Trick or Treating is just doesn’t happen. Knowing all of theses things ahead of time, I was worried I would not be able to celebrate in the way I would back home.

            Though we weren’t sure exactly what we would be doing on the actual day, our CIEE group decided to dress up anyway. Some of us went with a “gothic Lolita” theme, while others did their own thing. No matter what, just the excitement of dressing up was enough to get us pumped for Halloween.

          In addition to the group plans, I also attended a couple Halloween parties with my host family! The first party took place about a week before actual Halloween day. This party was for all of my Host mom’s students. There were games and pumpkin carving (which I helped out with!), and everyone dressed up.


(My Lolita costume wasn’t quite finished yet, so I went as Tigger.)

        The best part about the party was the Trick or Treating! Walking in a long line we stopped at different stores and shops were snacks were handed out in true (American) Halloween fashion. It was fun to see the kids to experience Halloween traditions that I had grown up with.


The finished Jack-O-Lanterns! (Mine is the on the right.)

        Halloween day was very exciting albeit very busy! After waking up to “Spooky Scary Skeletons” to put me in the Halloween spirit (no pun intended), I spent the first part of the day meeting up with friends and finishing our costumes. Once our makeup was done I left the group briefly to go to The Church Halloween party with my family. The party was another wonderful throwback to my childhood. They even had Trunk-or-Treating (where the trunks of cars are decorated and you walk around the parking lot gathering candy), which had always been my favorite thing about the church parties at home! There were also piñatas and lots of sandwiches! I had a lot of fun.

        After the party was over, I re-joined the rest of the group in Shibuya. We had heard that Shibuya was one of the most popular places to go on Halloween, and not wanting to miss out we decided that this would be our best bet. The first thing I noticed when I left the station was the people. now i've been to Shibuya a couple of times before and it was always pretty busy, but I never seen it like this. 


Halloween selfie with the crowd.

        Once I was able to meet up with the rest of the group, we decided to try and cross the street. Now this crosswalk is known as the busiest crosswalk in the world, and that's on a normal day. We all held onto each others hands or back-packs as we started to make our way across the street. It was intense, I don't think I could accurately describe what happened. We were moving but we weren't walking. The crowd was pressed so close to us that it was all we could do to not get ripped away from each other. Once we reached the other side of the street we tried to make it to a less populated area, but the mass of people kept growing. That was when we all got separated. My hand was pulled away from Jack's backpack as I lost sight of my friends in front if me. We spent the next hour in small groups, clinging on to each other for dear life while trying to somehow find a way out of the crowd. Some of us ducked into subways while others went into department stores. Using the subway station to get us back to where be began, we were able to regroup and breathe again.

        After that adventure we decided to call it a night. While it may not have been the celebration had expected and planed on, it will definitely be an extremely memorable Halloween. 

Until next time, 



Weekend Getaway


The Rainbow Bridge


    It has been a crazy couple of weeks! Settling into our new homes, attending CIEE core classes and activities, and just plain adjusting to living in Japan. On top of all of this, our language classes (taken at the Intercultural Institute of Japan) just started. Over all it's been pretty mind blowing. So, even though we have only been here for about a month. . . It was time for a vacation.

            When planning the trip, we originally had two things in mind: onsen* and kayaking. Up until the night before we left, our main focus of the trip was to go kayaking. Unfortunately, due to pricing and weather, we (and by “we,” I mean Lee, who basically planned everything and did a super awesome job) decided to go ahead and just make it a full-on onsen trip. We chose Oedo Onsen in Odaiba, a man made island resort town about 45 minutes south of Tokyo.

            We left for Odaiba on Saturday, after my group finished volunteering in Ueno. Meeting up with group A, we took the Yurikamome (the special elevated train specific to Odaiba) there, which was exciting. It took us over Rainbow Bridge and we got a great view of the island. After arriving we checked into our hotel. The hotel was beautiful! After settling in, we went out to find dinner and then explored around for a bit.


Famous Gundam statue (Deborah for scale)


The side of the Fuji TV building in Odaiba had light shows that played every half-hour. (Taken from our balcony)


The next morning was cloudy and cold; a perfect onsen day. After leaving the hotel we found a delicious American-style breakfast.


My pancakes <3


Once breakfast was finished, we headed for Oedo Onsen. Once we all checked in and given our locker keys and yukata* we went into the locker rooms to change.


Gorgeous yukata selfie featuring Deborah


Once we were all traditionally dressed, we were able to enter the main room.

Decorated with scenery from the Edo period, the large main room had many restaurants, shops and games. different paths lead off to dining areas, nap rooms, the spa, an outdoor foot bath area, and of course the onsen itself. We decided to enter the onsen first. The baths were gender separate, so we headed off to our own respective changing rooms. onsens are super fun and relaxing, but they can be a little bit awkward for someone who has never done it before. In a traditional onsen, no clothes are allowed in the bathhouse. So basically everyone goes commando. Once we got used to it, it was really enjoyable! There were baths both inside and outside, hot baths, cold baths, baths with big bubbles, baths with little bubbles, baths that made it look like you were sitting is the middle of a pond, and even baths that were inside of barrels. I had a lot of fun, and enjoyed trying the different types. After soaking for a while, we decided it was time for lunch. Re-emerging in the main room with our comfortable yukatas back on, we met up with the guys and found some food, then explored around a bit more.


The beautiful outside foot bath area

The footbaths later in the evening


    I hung around the footbaths a lot, it was super relaxing even if I kept dropping the bottom of my yukata in the water). There was even a separate foot bath area with fish that would eat the dead skin off of your feet, it was so ticklish! After that a few of us got massages, which felt amazing! Once we had finished, we decided to close out our day and go back to the hotel. On the way back we stopped at a buffet style restaurant for dinner. It was delicious. Plus there was a chocolate fountain, which was the best thing ever! Overall, it was an absolutely fantastic day.

            After checking out of the hotel the next morning, we had breakfast and then went exploring. It was Monday, but it was a national holiday so we had no classes, meaning we could stay in Odaiba as long as wanted. Lee had learned of a place that possibly rented kayaks*, so we went to go check it out. We found the place, but it only had two kayaks available. Lee and Dan ended up taking the kayaks while I decided to rent a paddleboard. I was super pumped because even though I had seen paddleboards being ridden before, I had never personally used one. I figured this was probably the best time to try it out. Everyone else went exploring or just hung out on the beach.


The paddleboard.


Selfie in the middle of the bay with Dan and Lee.

Paddleboarding was super fun! I, of course, thought that I did not need to change into a bathing suit because; “I have good balance” and “I won’t fall in. . .”

You can guess what happened.

After hanging out on the water for a while, we decided to go back in to change, (and eat ice cream!) and shortly after returned home.

            Odaiba was wonderful! I’m so glad everything worked out well and that we were able to have our own little getaway before school really sets in, because I know when it does I’ll be looking a lot like this:


Adorable dog we saw in a Odaiba pet store

Until next time,


* Onsen - traditional Japanese bath house.

*Yukata - traditional Japanese robe-like garment.

* A kayak is a traditional Japanese… haha just kidding, but seriously though you should know what a kayak is.

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