This entire journey of being in Japan just keeps handing out the best experiences. Just like every other month, this one has been just amazing. My family came to visit, we had another sports festival at school, and spring break started! I’ve been super excited about spring coming so that I can get out there and really see Asahikawa again.
The first exciting thing that happened this month was on March 3rd and it was the graduation party for the 3rd years that are in kendo club. The 1st and 2nd years did dances and speeches, including me for the 3rd years and it was a lot of fun. We also took a lot of pictures and I got to say goodbye to all of the my coaches and friends because I probably won’t be able to see them on this trip. I hope one day I’ll be able to see them again.
That whole next week I was getting ready and super excited for my parents to arrive. We had such an amazing time and they got to meet my family here, which was really special to me. They arrived pretty late on a Friday night so all they really wanted to do was eat food and then go to bed.
Saturday for lunch, we had a welcome party with the Sister Cities committee. I had to act as translator for it, but I guess I’m going to have to do a lot of that one day so I used it as a learning experience. We then walked around downtown for about an hour or so and then ate dinner. That night we went to Sounkyo for the ice cave festival. It started becoming warm about the week before we went so the caves were kind of melted on the outside. While I was there, I felt like I found my adventurous self again and have been trying to find adventurous things to do. The caves were all made out of ice and there were some sculptures, and little crevices that you could climb into. They also had a stage where people danced and fireworks. They also had a climbing wall, but it closed before I had a chance to climb it. It was another late night, but one I’ll never forget.
On Sunday, we went to the zoo for my host sister’s birthday. We saw the penguin watch, which is one of the most popular things in all of Japan, and all of the other amazing animals at the zoo. We ate lunch at the restaurant at the zoo and my family got to try some more Japanese food. It was another amazing memory that I will never forget. That night, we went to the church that I’ve been going to for the past couple of months.
I was able to take Monday and Wednesday off from school, so I spent both of those days with them. We mostly just went shopping on those 2 days. We went to the Feeeal building, which has a bunch of stores until you get to the 7th floor which has tables for studying and the international relations office. They met my friend Daniel, Doreen, and Mr. Shudo who is the head of international relations while there. Next we went to the biggest mall in Asahikawa. we didn’t spend a lot of time there because we were going to be picked up to go a restaurant for dinner. It was a really nice French restaurant which was designed like a lodge. The food was absolutely delicious and we gave presents to my host family.
On Tuesday my family came to visit my school and see kendo practice. The whole day I was really excited about them coming and a lot of my classmates kept asking me about them. They visited my last period, got a tour around school, met the principal of my school, and then went to the first half of practice. When they came to visit my class, my parents passed out jelly beans to all of my classmates and then we all sang the school song for them. Kendo practice was just a regular day pretty much. We didn’t do many special things besides put me close to my family, so they could see me, and take some pictures. I was really exhausted after practice, but I went to a ramen shop with my family. The ramen shop was really good, and might actually be my favorite shop here. It was another really late night, but I was looking forward to spending another full day with them.
On Wednesday we pretty much spent the whole day at the science museum. The science museum is kind of like the Children’s Discovery Museum and has a lot of interactive science experiments and stuff like that, but also has a planetarium and an observatory. We had a lot of fun doing all of the activities that are at the museum. For dinner we went to a Japanese burger place. Japanese hamburgers are somewhat different than what Americans are used to. It still has a beef patty, of course, but instead of bread, it has rice underneath or as a side. It was really good food. We were all exhausted because of how busy the last few days were, so I went back home to try and prepare my room and some other things for my family to come over the next day. My school’s sports festival was on the Thursday and Friday that my family was here, but thankfully it was just in the mornings so I could spend more time with them on Thursday.
The sports festival was a lot of fun. The events were volleyball for the boys, basketball for the girls, and everybody was able to compete in dodge ball. I entered in both volley ball and dodge ball. We were able to get to day 2 of volley ball, but lost pretty quickly in dodge ball. After school I went to meet up with my family and was picked up by my host family. We first went to a sweets shop and bought some sweets for people back in Bloomington. We then went to my host family’s house and we stayed there for a couple hours. My host family gave my family presents, we showed them around the house, and played some games. My family really wanted to try a conveyor belt sushi so that’s where we went for dinner. We weren’t able to sit next to my host family, but we still had a great time there. Since I had to go to school on Friday and my parents were leaving Friday morning, I stayed Thursday night at the hotel with them. We didn’t really talk much because we were all tired and they had to pack for the return trip.
We all woke up on Friday, packed up all our stuff and then went to eat breakfast. Pretty much right after breakfast I had to get to my bus stop so I could go to school. It was kind of sad to say goodbye to them, but I know that it won’t be long before I see them again. At the festival we started off playing a game were you have to try and kick a ball into some hoops to score points, but we didn’t do so well. We then continued to play where we left off. Our class’s basketball team got really close to winning the whole event, but both of the volleyball team from my class lost. I had a lot of fun hanging out and competing with all of my friends at the sports festival. It was my last sports festival so I really wanted to try and work hard and make it the better of the 2 sports festivals. Throughout the time that I’ve spent with my family and host family, the more I’ve realized that my host family is the perfect match for me. They continue to be the nicest family and I’ve only grown closer to them over the past month.
The next event of the month was the going away party for the junior high school kids that came to Bloomington-Normal this year. I met the student that my parents are hosting and his mom at the party. I talked with some of the parents about what they should bring as host family gifts. I also watched and participated in the dance that they did at the welcome party when they arrived in Bloomington-Normal. It was all around a fun day.
The week after my parents came was the last week of school before spring break. It feels like not much time has pasted since winter break, but I was glad it came. Mostly because I got sick for the first little bit of spring break. The whole time I’ve been on spring break I’ve just wanted to go out and do something, but there is still some snow that hasn’t melted so I’m still going to have to wait a bit. I also went to my host siblings’ end of school kids club party. As soon as I walked in, I heard a lot of kids say my name and it was a little intimidating, but the party wasn’t bad and I surprisingly didn’t have a lot of kids try to talk to me.
Over the past months that I’ve been here I’ve learned a lot about the kind of person that I want to be. I’ve been learning how to really push myself and leave my comfort zone and learn how to connect with people even if there is a language barrier. I’ve really been trying to study hard so that I can continue to understand the people around me, and I’ve been really confident about my Japanese lately. I still want to pursue my dream of living in Japan and I will probably become an English teacher. I still have about a year of thinking and figuring out what college I want to go to and my degree, but I have been thinking a lot about it. I will absolutely study Japanese and try to do exchange programs while I’m in college, and once I graduate I am planning on doing the JET program and an ALT. I’ve really been pushing myself to just go beyond what I think I can do and I feel like it has paid off quite a bit.