I noticed you looking at the CIEE blog, so I thought I'd introduce myself. I'm Nick Powers, a native of Chapel Hill, NC, and a junior at the University of Southern California, majoring in East Asian Area Studies.
Shibuya at night. Shibuya is a popular place for shopping and nightlife, and a short walk from Harajuku, the clothing Mecca of Tokyo. They're my two favorite parts of Tokyo so far.
I took an "Exploratory Japanese" class in sixth grade for one semester, and thought it was interesting, so when I found out my local high school offered a full 4-year Japanese program, I decided to keep up with it. In eighth grade, I bought myself "Teach Yourself: Japanese," and started chugging through it, to little avail if any.
It's difficult to teach yourself a language.
Sakura mascarpone mousse cake in Shibuya. I'm still having trouble figuring out the sakura flavor. Around this time of year, you can find cherry blossom-flavored and cherry blossom-shaped pastries on every street corner, as the cherry blossoms are now in full bloom.
I took Japanese my freshman year in high school, and felt very comfortable in class. The lessons seemed simple, and the points came relatively easily. Not only that, but I found I really enjoyed that one hour each day when I could experience a culture outside my own, when I could challenge myself to another point of view. From my freshman year on, I knew I wanted to study Japanese forever, and maybe other languages, as well, and someday to become an interpreter (we'll see.)
Fried sakura mochi. The frying adds an interesting flavor to the mochi.
We stumbled upon a street of food vendors in Ueno Park during our o-hanami. They had fried mochi, fish on sticks, tako-yaki, etc. This, so far, has been my favorite stumble-upon of the semester.
My host sister teaching me about Ueno Park and the Shinto shrine inside. You have to rinse each hand, your mouth, and the ladle before entering.
In Shibuya the first week to explore. We'll be coming back very often. We're all planning to do karaoke in Shinjuku tomorrow night.
I came to college and declared East Asian Area Studies as my major, knowing all the while that I would spend a semester in Japan. It was my dream. It is my dream, and it's happening right now!
My mind wants me to say things that might not be appropriate, because I get to live in my favorite city for 4 months, and I know the exploration that awaits is more than I'd ever be able to consume entirely in that time.
I'm a foodie, and I love reading about men's fashion. My uncles work in the fashion industry, and come to Japan often for work, and I've been trying desperately to make myself look like a model in GQ or Details (to absolutely no positive result). I spent my first two weeks mostly in Shibuya and Harajuku, with the intent of coming back to the States the best dressed of all my friends. I'm determined to find the good clothes for reasonable prices.
The cherry blossoms were finally "mankai," meaning "fully opened," in their most beautiful state. I went to Ueno Park with my host sister and her friend, but the flowers hadn't bloomed yet. They taught me about cherry blossoms, o-hanami (flower viewing picnics), and anmitsu, my first authentic Japanese dessert.
Anmitsu is a bowl of seaweed-based jelly, sweet syrup (mitsu), black bean paste (anko), fruits, ice creams, and other sweet toppings. On the left is cherry blossom anmitsu, and the right is "kogura anmitsu," my favorite, with red bean ice cream. I'm a sucker for a good red bean. This place, Mihashi, is supposedly the best anmitsu in Japan. There's another confectionery near my house that makes anmitsu, so I'll have to expand my horizons a little.
This was on the grounds of a temple in Kamakura. I enjoy being inside the temple grounds, where the smell of incense and the distance from urban life helps me collect myself, but I find that Japan really isn't a stressful place. Maybe I just love being here too much.
I'm also a pastry fiend. My sweet tooth knows no bounds, and Japan is one of the best countries in the world for pastries, possibly contending with France, Austria, or Italy. I even made a list of the most famous pastry shops in Tokyo, and I intend to learn all there is to know about Japanese confections. I found an amazing pastry cookbook the other day in Ikebukuro with nearly every Japanese pastry I've ever heard of, in Japanese, for $20. Prepare yourself for the food.
Kaiten-zushi, conveyer belt sushi. Each plate was 100 yen ($1.25), and some of the sushi was killer. They also had cake and mochi. I enjoyed pulling off random plates and seeing what I got. I found so many new favorites that way. Japan is the kind of place where you have to take risks to fully appreciate the culture.