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Gap Year Abroad

92 posts categorized "Japan"


A little Bit of Everything


Wow have I been busy! As language classes have been coming to an end, life has been a swarm of homework, classwork, and studying for the final test (as well as the multiple smaller tests that we will still have even when the final is over). As well as day-trips, volunteering, museum visits, and preparing our final CIEE core class projects. In all of this madness it’s been hard to find a time to write all of it down, but now that I have a chance, boy am I going to try!

So here we go, the speed round of blogging. What have we done exactly? Well…


    We made dessert! 

…or rather, we made Wagashi. Wagashi is a type of traditional Japanese confection
 often served with tea. While Wagashi can be made with a variety of ingredients, the sweets we crafted used only Anko (sweet bean paste) and a little bit of mochi. We were taught by a professional Wagashi maker, who was very patient with us when we obviously had no idea what we were doing. I really enjoyed making my Wagashi, although it was really hard not to eat it all before I was done!



My finished Wagashi flowers.


    We took a trip to Kobe!

            Our first day we visited nearby Himeji. We went to a museum and walked around beautiful gardens. We explored Himeji Castle, which was a blast! We were lucky enough to get a tour of the castle and surrounding grounds, which were beautiful, not to mention huge! The Castle itself was amazing. It was first constructed by Akamatsu Sadanori (the son of a local clan leader) in 1346. Over the next several hundred years the castle changed hands multiple times and was constantly being added onto, until it became the 8 building behemoth you can see today. The main building way my favorite! With 7 floors (including a secret floor to confuse enemy invaders) there was a lot to see and do!


The whole squad with Himeji Castle in the background.


The weathercock house.

            On day 2 of Kobe we visited the Weathercock house and other famous western style buildings. These houses were built by foreigners who moved to Japan in the early 1900s. I loved seeing all of the old but familiar architecture and decorating styles! I also partook in a ridiculous amount of selfie taking with some of the characters I found around the property.


This jazz trumpetist was really enjoying the warm sunshine.


This dude was super tall and a little creepy.


“The things I’ve seen.”


I liked this one, she looked like something out of Skyrim.


I really have no idea what this is.


… And of course the obligatory mirror selfie featuring Joel!


    We Wore Kimonos and blew glass in Kawagowe! 

            Kawagoe was a blast! Many of the buildings there were fashioned in Edo period style, making waking around a fun sight-seeing experience! There were also many fun stores and vendors to see.

            After eating at an impressive buffet (chocolate fountain included) we took an adorable old-fashion bus to our first adventure. At the shop we chose our soon-to-be flower vase’s color scheme, and then with the help of a few of the workers, we cut, blew, and shaped our glass into the correct shape. I had seen glass being blown before, but until now I had never had the experience myself. I really enjoyed the process! With the acquired wisdom of glass blowing behind, us we set out for the next adventure.


Ever since I first came to Japan I have been looking forward to wearing a kimono. I'd seen many people around Tokyo wearing them and I knew I had to try it at least once. And now was my chance!

            Upon entering the small shop, we were taken to pick out our Yuki (robe) and Obi (decorative sash). We were then taken into the dressing rooms were we were helped in to the many layers that make up the full kimono. Once finished we were taken to get our hair done, then we were ready to go! We walked around the town for about 2 hours taking pictures and shopping. I was surprised at how many people stopped and complemented us. It was a really fun day full of new experiences!



    It’s been a crazy roller-coaster time, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s almost done. I feel like I still have so much to do, but at the same time I am excited for whatever will happen next. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences and I’ve become so accustom to my life here, I don’t quite know how it will feel to leave. Even though it’s getting close, one things for sure

It’s not over yet.

Until next time、



When the whole squads lookin' fresh.

Photo Gallery : Kamogawa Seaworld Day Trip

    On Friday about two weeks ago, instead of having classes, my language school classmates and I took a day trip to Chiba to visit Kamogawa Seaworld and then go strawberry picking; even though we had to wake up really early to get on the bus, it was a really enjoyable trip! It really took me back to field trips during elementary school; ”懐かしかったです!” (Natsukashikattadesu) would be the Japanese expression, meaning "It was nostalgic!"

Now, please enjoy these pictures and videos (click the links) over my rambling for a change!~


Snapped! Fuji-san in a distance from the rest stop.



Me and my much-needed coffee.



When you remember that Japan is an Archipelago. 




*LaaaDeeeDaaa INTRO*




Under da seaaaa ♫♪♬


 *Click here for a fish video!*




Too cool for "school" (fish puns)



Quite the resemblance. Instant friends.



I have a bestie who is obsessed with jellyfish.




 *They were my favorite <3*




Me and my friend. Oh, and Dan. 


*What a Show!*


*Wait for itttttt...*





*Furbies' Second Cousin*

~Thank You~


    See you on the next Rising Sunbeam!



Cafe Da(ys)ZE

Let's talk cafes. 

 First of all, I am from Minnesota, so when someone says "Let's go to a cafe!" They're just using fancy-language to refer to coffee shops. Additionally, said coffee shop is nine times out of ten either the Starbucks just-around-the-corner, or the Caribou coffee right-at-the-end-of-the-road. If you still cannot find one there, simply turn around 180 degrees and walk 100 paces back and then 75 paces East. (If you ever go to good-ol' MN, you can join the relationship-rupturing debate of Caribou v. Sbuxs for yourself, but now is not the time for that.) 

Likewise, in big metropolitan areas like Tokyo, cafes are an essential element to any and all streets, and they are as prevalent and conspicuous as fur on the black sweater of your neighborhood cat lady. Fear not; never will you lack a place to buy overpriced, caffeinated drinks in Tokyo. The difference, though, (the mystical, intriguing difference) from the Starbucks ghost that haunts the street corners in the U.S. is the variety.




Say hello to my friend, Grumpy Cat's Angrier Step Brother. 


This was the first thing I saw in the window of the cat cafe I went to with a friend. (I am quite surprised they allowed Angry Cat to sit, scowling at passerby, in the shop window. I cannot image it is great for business.) REGARDLESS. You read that correctly; I wrote, "Cat cafe." As in a cafe whose main attraction, rather than coffee or pastries, is the numerous cats lazily lounging around the room, whom you attempt to coax from various beds or tall carpeted platforms for a designated amount of time.




One of my apathetic friends.


My own experience at a cat cafe went something like this:

At the door, we were initially asked to wait for twenty minutes because the cafe was too crowded to accommodate anymore customers. (It was a ちょっとせまい <choto semai i.e. slightly narrow> shop, after all.) When we came back, we had to decide at the entrance how long we were going to stay (thirty, sixty, or ninety minutes; we decided thirty minutes was time enough), and were directed to a tiny counter at back of the shop, where both my friend and I were required to order a drink.  After that, we were asked to wash our hands, and then given a book that had pictures and cute/ interesting descriptions of all the cats that had at one point been at the store (including the ones who had "graduated" because they were too wild, and the ones who had passed away). 




Mom, I am doing well here in Japan. Look! Selfies with my friends.



My friend, Alex, and his disgruntled buddy. 


Cat toys lined the walls, and from the counter in the back, we had the option to purchase treats or tuna to feed to the cats. Then, for the rest of our thirty minutes, we were allowed to lounge around on the floor or chairs next to the cats, petting them, playing with them, or engaging in wary, sleep-eyed stare downs. 




A Word to my Cat Lover followers: Buy the tuna.


I can honestly say that before coming to Japan I never thought I would pay money to be sassily ignored by felines. What an interesting experience. 


But it doesn't end there! There are a bunch of different kinds of animal cafes in Japan: bird cafes, dog cafes, bunny cafes, even goat, reptile, and owl cafes! (I really want to go to an owl cafe; it's high up on the bucket list.) When I was talking to my Nana about animal cafes, she gave her opinion in her kind but straightforward way, "That's very... odd." True. I thought so, too. So when I had one of my CORE classes (Cultural Observation Reflection and Evaluation), I brought it up with my mentor, and we discussed why such cafes might exist. We arrived at a similar hypothesis that my Nana had suggested, perhaps the reason is because it is often too difficult for people living in Tokyo to keep pets. Maybe its because the spaces are small, and/ or perhaps keeping a pet means paying a higher rent, which some people might not be able to afford. Regardless, such cafes give animal lovers a place to go to relax beside the creatures they adore. 


FURTHERMORE, there are plenty of other different types of cafes, too. Theme cafes, such as the ガンダム (Gundam) or AKB48 cafes located right next to the JR Akihabara station, celebrate pop culture and popular interests. I have also heard stories and/or see the store fronts of manga cafes, internet cafes, and even maid/ butler cafes; though, I have yet to actually go into any of those places myself. Down a more familiar road, there are also classy, expensive roof-top cafes, French cafes, tiny sandwich and coffee cafes, and, yes, there is even the occasional Starbucks. Cafes in Japan are more than just your standard expensive coffee (though, you can definitely find those places, if that is what you enjoy); cafes are places of entertainment, places to relax. Cafes can be strange and unique experiences, or calming, quiet spaces to study. If you don't like the atmosphere of one, you can always walk out the door, and pace down three store fronts into the next one. 

I love Tokyo; there is so much interesting everywhere you go.



Catch you on the rays of a later sunrise!


 P.S.- I apologize for the few sideways pictures. I don't know how to fix it, so I hope it doesn't bother anyone too much!


FOOD ft. Story Time: Restaurant Edition

"I hope you like seafood!"

"You're going to eat nothing but fish and rice for three months!"

"Aren't you going to miss normal food?"

    It seems like much of the concern I received from friends and family when they learned of my plan to live and study in Japan for three months centered around my food options. I suppose the concern is somewhat reasonable considering that up until a few years ago I pretty much only ever ate three things when we went out to eat: caesar salad, sirloin steak, or chicken Alfredo. Only recently have I discovered that I quite enjoy the mouth-tingling sensation of spicy food, that vegetables are not actually the downfall of modern society, and that tomatoes are not necessarily satan's curse on humanity. Regardless, though, of my newly born openness to different foods, my family and friends seemed concerned that the only things I would be eating in Japan for the extent of my time were raw fish, rice, and ramen. Unfortunately (or maybe, rest assured?), this is a misled and slightly stereotypical train of thought. 

Allow me to explain. 

Tourism is a large industry in Japan, and especially in recent years, the industry has been rapidly increasing. Thus, despite its sea-bound geographical location, Japan has a rather large variety of food options. Of course, rice and fish are traditional staples in a Japanese diet so I'm not denying the high probability of eating a variety of dishes containing these foods and eating them often, but there are plenty of other options available, too! 

I usually eat breakfast and dinner at my homestay everyday, except for the special days when I eat out with friends. A typical breakfast for me here consists of granola, yogurt, and honey, or milk and cereal. Not that different from what I eat in the states. True, the cereal is not the normal brands I am used to that contain tons of sugar and are mostly wheat-based, but I think that makes it all the better. Recently, for dinner we have been eating different types of nabe1 a lot, which is amazing in the cold weather. However, typically, dinner includes salad, rice, some type of meat, fish or tofu, and a lot of vegetables.


Simple, but delicious! I love the food at my house. 


Then again, a few nights ago, we had beef prepared in a cream, wine, and mushroom sauce. Regardless, of what we have though, it is always delicious. I am extremely lucky to have found myself in a home with very good cooks. 

You might now be thinking, "That certainly sounds like a fish and rice based diet... what was your point again?" Fair enough. Home cooking is typically Japanese food; after all, this is Japan. Beef is a lot less likely to show up on your plate everyday because it is more expensive, but the variety outside the home is a whole different story. 

Of course, there are ramen, soba, and udon shops galore, and plenty of places to go to find amazing sushi.


RAMEEEEEEEN. Way better than the cup noodle, or boxed kind you can find in the states. I paid for a half size of extra noodles when I went.



 My little sister and I after eating 28 plates of sushi with the help of お父さん (Dad, i.e. my host dad). Each plate only had two pieces of sushi on it, though, unlike the sushi rolls in America.

Additionally, though, curry rice is a hugely popular Japanese dish (one of my new favorites), even though I had always previously related curry with Indian food.


Really good curry rice with chicken cutlet, from a restaurant with a gorilla logo near Akihabara station, Electric town exit.


Chinese food, Indian food, and Korean food places can be found quite easily. As well as plenty of burger joints, including McDonalds, or マック (Makku), as it is often called here. Personally, I have also been to an Italian restaurant and Taco Bell (where they happened to offered a Japanese special of shrimp tacos). Also, I have seen way more Denny's here than I have ever seen in my life, let alone in America. There are so many meat restaurants, where you can go to just straight up order plates of beef and cook it yourself, whether on a grill in front of you in the table or by dunking it in boiling water (shabu-shabu). 

Let us not forget one of my favorite things about Japan so far... the large abundance of delicious パン屋 ( pan-ya)! Freshly baked breads, rolls, cakes, and sweet treats. The bakeries here are the best I have ever experienced (though I am only really able to compare them to the ones in the states), and they're probably what I'll miss most of all.  Honestly, they will probably always be one of first things I think back on while remembering food in Japan. Though that could just be me since I really love my freshly baked sweet breads, and cream puffs.  


Completely unrelated to what I'm currently talking about. But this was konbini (convenience store) lunch one day: milk coffee (my fav), peanut butter bread, and veggie sticks with ginger dressing. Yuuuum <& cheap ;)>

Anyways! There is a ton of places to get a variety of foods. I have a friend on this trip, who came as an all year student, and she is allergic to seafood. Everyone is shocked when she tells them, and people always wonder why she chose to come to Japan. But she has been here for probably around four months now, and she is getting along just find. So, worry not. I am pretty sure I have eaten a larger variety of food here in the last three weeks than in any similar three weeks spent in America.


It's Story Time~~

The name of today's story is At the Italian Restaurant. But first, a bit of background. 

If you come to Japan without any understanding of Japanese syllabary, hiragana and katakana, you are probably going to find yourself struggling. I knew both the hiragana and katakana syllabary charts before coming here, and it has still been pretty difficult for me, especially in restaurants. A majority of foreign words that are adapted to Japanese are written in katakana, so when you go into foreign restaurants or cafes, majority of the time the menu will be written in katakana. It is always interesting ordering food at a new restaurant. For the most part, my strategy has been to look at the pictures and when the waiter/ waitress takes my order I point at it and say, "Korewa, onegaishimasu." (This, please.) If that fails, because of lack of pictures or lack of interest in the foods pictured, my friends and I always have a good time sounding out the katakana. Then, from that, I will either hesitantly mumble the katakana, while pointing at the word, and attach an onegaishimasu to the end for good measure. Usually, it is pretty easy to figure out what katakana words mean because, if they are taken from English, they just sound like English words with a Japanese speech pattern. For example,  アイスクリーム (pronounced ai-su-ku-ri-mu) is ice cream. It is easy to guess the English word by reading and pronouncing the katakana. 

That said.

My friends and I decided one night that we wanted to go out to see a light show in Shiodome. Shiodome is a fancier, more business-y part of the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. There are a lot of TV stations and beautifully constructed buildings, and a lot less hustle and bustle of convenience stores, super markets, restaurants, and goods shops everywhere you look like the area that surrounds my school and where I spend a lot of time. However, one of my friends had done some google-mapping (yes, I used that as a verb), and found that there was an Italian town, with a bunch of Italian restaurants not too far from the station. We agreed that sounded good, and off we went. This was actually my first experience eating in a restaurant in Japan. When we got there, at around 5:30 or 6 o'clock, there weren't any other customers. This didn't come as a surprise to any my friends (all of whom are year long students) because, they told me, as far as they had observed dinner time seemed to typically fall between 7 and 8. Basically, we were early.

Anyways, the headings of the different menu sections (Salad, Pasta, Fish, etc.) were written in Italian, but the menu items themselves were written in a mix of katakana with the occasional kanjis just to make life that much more difficult. I was feeling a salad that night, mostly because they were cheap and had the least intimidating names on the menu. So, I went with the top choice, which after sounding out the katakana was something like su-te-ku sa-ra-da, i.e. steak salad. Or so I thought. 

This is what I got.


A giant bowl of ice with sticks of vegetables. It was very pretty, and also completely unexpected. 

Unfortunately, I had made a mistake reading the katakana. It was actually something like this: スティークサラダ, or su-ti-ku sa-ra-da. Stick salad. Wow. 

We all had a good laugh, though, and the veggies were fresh, chilled, and delicious. So I would say it was a great experience. 

That's all I have for you today! Catch you on the other side of the Land of the Rising Sun! 


イヴァ (Eva)


1. Nabe technically means pot, but in this sense it often refers to a dish also known as hot pot. All the ingredients and thrown into a pot with broth, and the pot is put over a fire. Then, when it is time to eat, the pot is placed in the center of the table and everyone takes what they want from the pot and puts it in the own small bowl to eat. It is a enjoyable communal dish and especially nice in the winter for fighting off the chilly temperatures.

2. Pan-ya literally translates to 'bread shop,' i.e. bakery. If you ever come to Japan, you have to stop by one of the bakeries! Try to find a small local one rather than a big chain one if you can! It makes the experience that much more memorable. 




Photo Creds to my lil sis. Hi.~


 Hajimemashite! (Nice to meet you!) My name is Eva Horstman, and I have been in Japan for about three weeks now. Doozo Yoroshikuonegaishimasu. (Please take care of me from now on.) Sorry, that this post is so long, and doesn't really have any introduction. I was having a little trouble deciding what to write about. Food, though, is something, I love in general, and all the food I have had here so far has been so delicious that I just decided to jump right in. Also, after being in Japan for this long already it seemed silly to retrace all the way to the beginning and just summarize my time so far. However! I would be more than happy to do that if anyone expresses their interest in hearing about it! Let me know what you think about my blog in the comments, and if you have any questions about my time here, send them my way! 



Here's part 2 of The CIEE Study Tour, Miyajima.

I hope you guys enjoy it!





This blog is going to be a little different, but i'm really excited about it! A little while ago we, together with the Study Abroad students, had our CIEE Study Tour to Hiroshima and Miyajima. We spent the 2 ½ days with museum visits, walking tours, hikes, boat rides, castle visits, shrine visits, and of course lots, of restaurant visits:) I've done so much that I couldn't possibly put everything i've done, seen, and felt into one blog post. So for this blog entry I decided to make a slide show, (or rather 2 slide shows) instead of your more traditional blog. I had a lot of fun making this and I really hope you all enjoy it! The Miyajima one is coming soon, as well as a more traditional blog about updates and Christmas! But for now, enjoy!


Until next time,



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.


I’m in Japan?

Bright and early, Monday, the 14th of September, I walked into LAX International Airport. I was full of anticipation and excitement, ready to start my once-in-a-lifetime journey. About 5 minuets later I realized I was in the wrong part of the airport and walked right back out.  It was only when I had boarded my plane, (and then off that plane and onto my larger and more international second plane) that I started to realize just what exactly I was doing.

And it was a little bit terrifying… 

IMG_1061Monkey performer in Asakusa.

    After getting off out the plane 10 hours (and apparently a full day later because time difference is a thing) I went through customs, collected and shipped my luggage off to my homestay family, and then sat in the airport and introduced myself to the others, as we waited for the hotel shuttle to come pick us up.

 Once we arrived at the hotel, we were given our schedule packets, name tags and room keys. And then we were set loose. After scoping out our rooms, we spent the rest of the day finding food, exploring, and looking for a 7-11 (which at this point I am convinced does not exist). was our first full day in Japan. We awoke early, and very jet-lagged. We participated in our first CIEE orientation where we were introduced to the people we hadn’t already met. We were given our schedules, and then went over some important rules and guidelines. After all this, we boarded a bus for Narita-san Shinshoji Temple.

IMG_0938Somon, the main gate to the temple.


            Narita-san temple was the first Japanese temple I had ever seen in person, and it was extremely exciting!  History has always been a big interest of mine, and walking on over a thousand year old grounds is an amazing opportunity the one does not experience every day!

IMG_0942The path leading up to the temple. 

The temple itself was very large and ornate. After entering, we threw coins into the large box provided, then prayed for our wishes. Exploring the temple grounds also gave us more time to get to know each other, and after a while it was hard to believe that we had only arrived the day before. After we left the temple we went to lunch and then to Sophia University, where we were introduced to the CIEE Study Center and had our first orientation about homestay. Once the orientation finished, we were taken to our hotel in Tokyo. After getting settled in, a group of us went out into the rain (which had started around the time we entered the city) for dinner. We ate at a small Korean restaurant where many of us had to experience ordering food in Japanese for the first time. It was a bit rough, but luckily we were, for the most part, able to order what we wanted.


            The next day was Thursday, the day we were going to we met our host families. I was very nervous about this; I knew a little bit about them from a packet we were given the day before. Even still, we went through the day, and I kept wondering and worrying. We started the day by going back to the Study Center in Sophia for a couple more orientations. The rain that had begun the night before continued, and was falling harder as we walked toward The Intercultural Institute of Japan, where we would be studying Japanese in a few weeks’ time. After visiting Intercult we headed back to Sophia to meet our host families. Some of us met their families on campus, while others, (me included) met their families at their homes. Meeting my host family was really exciting, but at the same time a little scary. But as I settled in I felt more at ease. I am very happy to have become a part of this family! 


            Friday, we were given the day off to get to know our families. Being a year long student, my host mom brought me to the city hall to enroll in Japanese National Health Insurance. After all of my legal work was finished, my host mom took me on a test run to Intercult to help me become more familiar with the route I would be taking. It was very helpful, as I felt more comfortable with the idea of finding my way to the school by myself. It also gave me time to get to know my host mom more! The next day we met up at the Study Center to listen to a guest speaker from the American Embassy in Tokyo. After the speaker we had some classes and then participated in a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt was a great competition to get more familiar with Tokyo as well as well as become more acquainted with our teammates. (Group B = Group Bae!)


            Sunday, my host family and I went to church. I really enjoyed it, even though most of the service was in Japanese!  Our CIEE core classes started on Tuesday, but we were given Monday off. My host family had planned a trip to Asakusa for sightseeing. Meeting up with a family friend, we traveled by train to the Shitamanchi distinct where our destination was. Everywhere we went, it was very crowded and almost impossible to not get separated, as foreigners and natives alike tried to navigate the busy streets. As we made our way to the Kaminarimon, a group of American tourists passed us all in a row, holding onto each other’s backpacks so they wouldn’t get lost. My family joked that I could join the end of their line and they probably would even notice!

  IMG_1003 (2)Chillin’ in front of the Kaminarimon or Kaminari gate.

After passing through the large gate we found ourselves walking along the Nakamise shopping street.

IMG_1005Nakamise shopping street, also very crowded.

 Stopping for snacks and lunch all along the way we follows the path - and the hordes of people - to Sensoji temple. 

  IMG_1026This beautiful picture was taken in front of Sensoji Temple.

Sensoji Temple was, in some ways, different from Narita-san. It was a bit bigger and the style was different. However, there was a fountain for purification, and inside the temple itself was the same large box to throw money in for luck. Which I did of course, I need all the luck I can get!

IMG_1033The fountain had dragons!

  Next to the large Sensoji Temple there was a smaller shrine. Even though it was a bit smaller, it was still very beautiful. There was a monkey performing outside of the shrine, it was adorable!

It has been a crazy week, and I can’t wait to see what will happen next.  In times like these where you can’t even imagine what to expect next, it is always good to remember this piece of advice from my new friend Jack, “Don’t Japanic”!

Until next time!


IMG_1099Me and my host family in font of the gate leading to Sensoji Temple.



A Short Introduction:

Hi all, I’m Maddy. I have never been to Japan before, but I am extremely excited, as well as a little terrified, to be living in Japan. My Japanese skills are quite limited, but I am very excited to learn as much as I can; I hope my blog will be just as entertaining as my life as I find myself in a foreign country for a year.

 Here we go.



Dawn of the first day ~72 hours remain~

 My major project these last couple of days has been packing. Now you’re probably thinking, “You still have like, 3 days left. You don’t need to pack yet, you should be doing more important things like sleeping!!” While I may still have 3 days until my real adventure begins, I am leaving my hometown of Atkinson, New Hampshire tomorrow, and traveling to Los Angeles, California to stay with my relatives for about 2 days. I will then board the rather large airplane which will take me to my final destination. So yeah, I need to finish packing like, now.    

Packing was, and is, a bit of a challenge. I’m not one to take my entire closet with me ,but trying to fit clothes for the entire year into one duffle suitcase under 50 pounds is proving to be a little harder then I had originally anticipated. Plus there are so many random little extras that need to be packed: toothpaste, nail clippers, soap, band-aids, etcetera. Of course I could, and most likely will, buy these types of things one I get to Japan, I want to be as prepared when I first arrive so I have less to worry about.

And then I’ve got my carry-on. The beauty of the carry-on is there is no weight limit so you could bring a pile of bricks and no one would care. (Don’t do that though, that’s dumb) I, while not bringing bricks, have a stack of books weigh about as much.  In addition my carry-on has my shoe supply. Pro tip: when traveling to Japan the largest women’s shoe size they keep in stores is 25 cm or American size 8. (Men’s largest shoe size is 28 cm).  So if you happen to have feet larger than that, I suggest you don’t plan on buying any shoes while you’re away. I have the unfortunate gift of very large feet (size 10) I need to bring any shoes I think I’ll need. Overall it is probably a good thing that they don’t weigh check carry-ons because mine is probably going to be heavier than my entire suitcase!

 Random interjection:

My CIEE Package just came!!! I was sitting in my kitchen blogging whilst wrapped in a blanket when I heard my doorbell ring. I woke up about an hour ago, my hair was not brushed and I was wearing my pajamas.  I looked like I had just come out of hibernation. And that is how I answered the door. (The Fedex guy was pretty chill though). I opened the package right away of course. In the package was my CIEE t-shirt, folder, orange notebook, carabineer and the super cool Backpack!



I’m so pumped

  I should probably get back to packing, so I can make sure everything is ready to go, but I will leave you with one last thought:

 Have you ever noticed that the thingy on top of the “i” in the CIEE logo looks like a macaroni noodle? Because that’s all I can think about.

Until next time,




Gap Bloggers

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  • Maddy - Gap Year Abroad in Japan
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