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8 posts categorized "Cherice Osaki"

07/29/2012

Japanese Matsuri Fun and Bittersweet Nostalgia

I can't believe I'm already leaving Japan in less than a week! It frightens me  to think of all the amazing things and all the fantastic people I'll be leaving behind here, but I do know that the bonds that have been made that were the most important will somehow end up lasting despite time and distance. My former host families from here have certainly proven that to me with how wonderfully we've kept in touch and how we continue to meet even though they've had many homestays after me!

Today I got to go to a matsuri (festival) in Harajuku with one of my old host families and three of their current homestay students, and it was really fun for all of us! It was a more local matsuri where everyone participating was from the immediately surrounding neighborhood, so everyone knew each other there and it felt very safe and comfortable.

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I brought my former host sister a stuffed animal panda--her favorite animal--from China as a souvenir! It was wonderful being reunited and getting to put on yukata together!

 

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Before the Matsuri my former host mother had me come back to their apartment and dressed me in one of her old yukata (summer robe) and gave me geta (traditional shoes) to wear and even did my hair for me with some of her hair pieces!

 

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Delicious yakisoba being made!

 

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Me and my former host mom eating kakigori (shaved ice)! Mine is matcha and peach flavored!

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A traditional yosakoi dance performed by Harajuku's special team.

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After the yosakoi performance, other performers came out doing more familiar and less complex dances that everyone could feel free to participate in! The other homestay girls and I jumped at the opportunityーwe even did AKB48's "Heavy Rotation," a dance that I already know from my circle at Sophia University!

 

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A group photo of me, two of the current host girls, my host mom, and my adorable little host sister.

 

I love you, Japan, and will be back soon. <3

 

07/06/2012

Home is where the family is

In less than a month, I will be on a plane back to the United States. In exactly a month, I will be in my small, suburban hometown staring out the window at the California sunshine and wondering how long ago the fast-paced, bustling Tokyo life was. In a month and a few days, I will be back at USC going through RA training and preparing for the next school year.

Where did the time go? With less than a month left in Japan, people are becoming more resolved to go out and do things. 「せっかく日本に来ました」(Coming to Japan with much effort) takes on a new meaning when one realizes that there's only so much time to accomplish everything one had wanted to.

Despite all the hustle and rushing around, I'm very thankful that there's still time for crazy things: like my entire family coming to visit me while I'm here in Japan!

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Introducing my Osaki family to the DK House Nerima dorm family! :) Worlds colliding!

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My youngest sister, Janelle, made some new best friends with two of the Japanese who live in our dorm.


IMG_4319The view from my family's hotel room in Shibuyaーis Tokyo not the most beautiful city ever?

 

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Enjoying the view of the city together.

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Even Mount Fuji was apparent from the hotel window!

 
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A delicious ramen place called 九州じゃんがら that I took my family to! Mmm the marinated pork in this is heavenly~

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We dropped by the Design Festa museum in Harajukuーthere wasn't much on display there because it was Wednesdya, but pictures with graffitti art are ALWAYS a plus!

 
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The most fascinating sink EVER. It contains automatic wash, soap, AND dryer options! The sink is functioning as a hand dryer in the above photo, and my sister is using it!



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Milky Way in Ikebukuro has parfaits that are some of my favorite desserts in Japan. Being able to share that love with my family makes it all the better!

 

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My family came to visit Sophia University as well, where they got to meet many of my friends, classmates, a professor, and experience 上智's food options! Karaage (fried chicken) onigiri (rice balls) are always delicious, and my most favorite thingーthe iced coffeeーdeserved a picture! :)



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Family visiting Sophia University. :) My brother even bought swag at the gift store!

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Doner kebabs! Kind of amazing and delicious. As silly as it may sound, the last nine people who have visited me in Japan have all been taken to eat kebabs! ^^; It may not be technically Japanese food, but it's definitely a delicious food experience! The friendly Turkish men who work there, the generous portions of meat, and the surprisingly yummy cherry and apricot juices all make this a fun lunch stop!


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One thing that my little sisters had been begging me to take them to do was go to a rabbit cafe. I took them to the same one I've been to twice alreadyーRAAFG (see Hana Rudolph's blog for more about the cafe)ーand it was probably their most favorite thing in all of Japan. After the hour of petting and feeding these fluffy creatures, my youngest sister was running around Harajuku exclaiming, "BEST DAY EVERRRR!!!"


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Is any trip to Harajuku complete without a crepe? Mmm mmm good!



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We headed out on a weekend trip to Hitachi in Ibaraki Prefectureーwhere the remainder my dad's Japanese relatives who haven't moved to the States live. We had a wonderful time of reuniting with them!

 
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Hitachi. The harbor view is much prettier, but I didn't have one from the hotel window! >_<

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Making a visit to my dad's cousin's grave. My Japanese family has Anglican roots, so my great uncle led us in prayer when we went.

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My "Auntie" Masako who passed away a few years ago from breast cancer. In my first blog post, I mentioned that this wonderful woman was the reason for my sparked interest in Japan. I wouldn't be here in this country learning this language if not for her! 

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Many of my second (third?) cousins have, since we last saw them, gotten married and had cute little Japanese babies! I kind of want to claim this one as mine, she's so adorable. :)

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The cutie is walking! :)

 
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Group picture with the baby cousins!

 
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Awwwh adorable!

After visiting Hitachi, we took a train back to Tokyo and headed straight to my home church in JapanーNew Hope Tokyo in Ochanomizu. I was blessed to have a couple friends from Sophia and from my dorm come and visit church together with me! :)

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A group picture of the best of all my worlds colliding. My church family, my Christian volunteer group that goes up to Tohoku, my immediate family, and people from my Sophia and dorm family as well! :) So thankful for the opportunity to spend 5 months abroad in this wonderful, magical, special country!

06/25/2012

Tohoku Volunteer ー oysters, mussels, wakame, oh my!

Hello all!

As the semester here comes closer and closer to an end, it gets harder and harder to figure out what to do with what little time is left here! One thing that I was very blessed to get to do last week was go up to Tohoku(東北), the area affected by the tsunami and earthquake last year, to do some volunteer work with my church!

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Hope JapanーMy wonderful volunteer team <3

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We drove up to Tohoku (Ishinomaki City) on a Friday night, and then stayed over at the church photographed above. We did ministry throughout that Saturday, and then Sunday morning we drove back down to Tokyo.


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We helped out at an oyster farm up in Tohokuーthe process of preparing oysters for harvest is so fascinating!

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The shells that the oysters grow on securely fastened to the ropesーthey will throw these into the ocean, and the oysters will be ready to eat in about two years!

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Snack time! :) The people we were helping out were so incredibly generousーeven though they lost everything only a year ago, they were so fast to stuff us with bananas, oranges, vitamin drinks, cream roll cakes, and candies! I feel like there's no way that what we did to help out could amount to how much they blessed us in return!

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My new best friend <3

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The kids were helping out with the work as well!

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Before we left, the people we were helping out gave us a HUGE box filled with oystersーand a bag of mussels!! We were so surprised by their generosity. I hope that God was able to use us to encourage them at least half as much as they were able to encourage us!

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Chowing down on the delicious, fresh seafood later :) :) :) Yum!

06/02/2012

Homeless Ministry in Yoyogi Park

Hello all :)

This will be a short post because I have one very specific thing on my heart that I want to share! I've been blessed with the opportunity to join an amazing group of people on Saturday mornings who have a heart and put together bags of food and pour coffee for the homeless in Japan: a group of people whose size has growing as the economy declines. The ministry takes place in Yoyogi Park (代々木公園), a large green right next to Harajuku Station(原宿駅)on Saturdays at 7 AM.

AdmittedーI don't go nearly as often as I'd like to. Things like getting sick and not being in Tokyo over the weekend have stopped me. And...as much as I'd hate to admit it...the snooze button on my alarm has stopped me on at least one occasion. And yesterday (June 2nd) morning, as I jolted awake and realized that I had inadvertently been hitting "snooze," I was tempted to go back to sleep instead of throwing on my clothes and bolting out within the 10 minutes I had to get out the door. But I didn't go back to sleep, and I have absolutely no regrets because God is cool and it was an amazing day! :)

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The food varies from day to day. This particular Saturday we had different kinds of bread to work with.


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A group of YWAM (Youth With a Mission) students from the States come faithfully to the ministry to help serve food to and encourage the homeless who come weekly.


Around 8 AM, we're just about set up and people start coming in. The first time I went to this ministry, I remember being amazed by the gratitude and humility the people we were serving showed and was really surprised by how organized everything was and how well everyone worked together.

 

Photo(34)Because the number of people who come is so large, we break everyone up into small groups in which we can serve them coffee and give them food. During this time, different group leaders share some encouraging words with the people there from the Bible, pray with them, and all talk and get to know each other.

 

It was a wonderful day in which I was blessed to get to know some of these people better. Even though we had over 100 people there, the women's group was composed of only 3 people besides the ones there serving, and it made it easy to get to know them and engage in conversation. We talked about everything from prayer requests to the meaning of their names in Kanji and Japan's low birth rate. One of the coolest things from this day, however, was when a Japanese girl passing by asked what we were doing and decided to join and help us.

 


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Our new friend helping organizing the bags of food.

 

The young woman had actually come by Yoyogi Park for a very unpleasant reasonーshe had her wallet stolen from her by a foreigner! She was searching the area in which she knew she had been robbed from, but when she looked at us we sparked her curiosity and she came over to see what we were doing. Upon the invitation to join us, she brightened up and dove right in.
    「財布が盗まれて良かったね!みんなに会えたから!」
    "I'm almost glad my wallet my wallet was stolen," She told us with a smile. "Otherwise I wouldn't have gotten to meet all of you!"

After we finished for the morning, a group of us walked to a nearby Starbucks and got coffee together. She joined us, and we treated her to a drink. :) I pray that her missing wallet turns up soon! But God is good with taking an awful situation and making something good out of itーI'm very, very thankful for my adorable new friend!

 


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Getting to know each other over coffee after ministryーcan't think of a better way to spend a morning! <3

05/25/2012

Perfectly Speechless!

Finally a blog post about circles (clubs) at Sophia!

I know I promised this a long time ago, and I apologize for the delay!  I'll do a brief overview of the サークル that I've joined, but with special emphasis on one called SPH48: a girl dance group at Sophia University that dances to songs by popular Japanese group AKB48.

 

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We wear 制服 (school uniforms) for our dance routines!

 

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Practice with SPH48 is always fun!

 

The group has multiple dance performancesーmost of which us 留学生 (study abroad students) won't be around for, but Hana and I were fortunate enough to get the chance to participate in a promotion event at a CD shop! In honor of a new single that AKB48 came out with, our group danced for about 5 hours in front of a store (Muto) in 高田馬場 (Takadanobaba), a busy college area of Tokyo. 


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Waiting in the back room of the CD shop for our dance shift!

 

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Some of the guys who worked at the shop were scarily good at dancing to AKB songs! This one surprised us by running out in his own uniform and joining us for a few numbers!


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Dancing to 完璧〜ぐのね (Perfectly Speechless)!

 

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Out of the crowd watching, these two gaijin may have been my favorite audience xD


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A couple people stop by to take a few pictures and videos.

 

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Everybody join in!

 

Besides SPH48, I've joined a few other groups at Sophia University: notably KGK (Japan's version of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship) and Sophia Wandervogel (Hiking) clubs!

 

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Group photo from KGK's welcome party!


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食べ放題(All-you-can-eatyakiniku with the Wandervogel club!

 

This might just be an overdose of photos, so I'll stop myself here. But there will be more to come soon! :)

05/19/2012

Was Golden Week really that long ago?

皆さん今日は!久しぶりですね... >_< Hello all, it's been awhile!

It's hard to believe that we're already almost finished with the month of May! Time passes way too quickly on this side of the world. I feel like it was just Golden Week and I just left Izu (see Halee Haggerton's blog posts for pictures of that trip!) and crazily packed my bags for my weekend trip in Osaka!

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Standing in front of the Sun Tower(太陽の塔/taiyou no tou) at Expo Park (万博記念公園/bankpaku kinen kouen)with my travel buddies, Julie and Jessica!

I left Tokyo later than the other two, and got down to Osaka by means of night bus, which was a crazy experience all in itself! The rest stops along the way are pure magicーin Japan, a travel rest stop basically constitutes a clean bathroom (sometimes even with heated toilet seats), food stalls, drink vending machines that give you a straw and put the lid on your beverage for you, restaurants, you-are-here blinking maps with information on where traffic is bad, souvenir stalls, and maybe even a Starbucks or another foreign establishment!

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The night bus I rode for 12 straight hours.

 

Although sleeping through transportation is a great way to save time, I was pretty tired upon arriving in Osaka. No time to rest for the adventurers that we are, however! :) We managed to hit the 大阪海遊館 (a popular aquarium that had a whale shark), various souvenir shops, street vendors, アメリカ村 (America town), Dotonburi, and a lot more in the first day!

 

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Bonsai Guest House was our abode for the weekend! It's a wonderful place with super friendly and multilingual staff! :) I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a reasonable place to stay at in Osaka!

 

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In front of a supposed emblem of Osaka. :)


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Grabbing takoyaki from a local stall in Dotonburi. We ate from multiple establishments in the same night because food is that important and delicious here!


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We went to a Kaiyukan, a famous aquarium in Osaka! The animals were fantastic...but I may have been more charmed by the adorable Japanese children swarming the place! ^^

 

Our second day in Osaka we decided we wanted to do something for Children's Day, so we went to a huge park called "Expo Park" that was recommended to us by the staff at the hostel. We spent a long afternoon there wandering the park and checking out the different activities available for the day! After this, we explored the area around Osaka Station and ate lots of delicious food. Our trip to SpaWorld, a sort of onsen theme park, at the end of the day was particularly memorable and fun, but for obvious reasons I have no pictures from that segment! >< We ended the day with a delicious fugu dinner and omiyage shopping. :)

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Arriving in Expo Park makes one jump for joy!

 

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The weather in Osaka was simply beautiful while we were thereーperfect weather for getting soft serve ice cream while wandering around!


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Beause we were in Osaka for Children's Day, there were many activities oriented to kids there. Here a large crowd of children sing 勇気100%(100% Courage)! xD


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A busy tourist street in Dobutsuenmae and the outside of the fugu restaurant we chose to eat at.


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Ready to devour the fugu (pufferfish)!! :)

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Gazing out over the mini-view from the top of SpaWorld.

All in all, we left Osaka far too soon, and I look forward to the next opportunity to go back! Hopefully next time I can also make a trip to Goboーan area 2 hours outside of Osaka that apparently my grandpa's side of the Japanese family originates from!

04/26/2012

I'm a Sucker for the Sakura Season <3

A whole month has passed since we first arrived here! So much has happened in such a short timeーclasses have started, we've starting joining some Japanese college clubs (サークル), we've formed some amazing friendships, and...

...we were here during cherry blossom, or sakura (桜),  season. This beautiful flower blossoms between the end of March and mid April and has an incredibly short life span of about two weeks.

In the spirit of the season, this post will be entirely dedicated to sakura. :) I'll be sure to post about the club meetings, new Japanese friends, delicious foods and interesting experiences soon! But for now, sit back and enjoy the beauty of Japanese springtime:

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The sakura flowers were just starting to bloom when we visited Kamakura for a program trip.


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While wandering in Ikebukuro later that day, we found some sakura that were more fully in bloom.

 

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We went hanami (花見)with some Japanese from our dorm a few weeks ago. At the park, these adorable little Japanese girls gave a beautiful Hawaiian-themed hula performance beneath the flowering trees.

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Doing "hanami" is basically going on a picnic beneath sakura trees. Here is one of the fellow Japanese dorm residents and my new long-lost "cousin," Momoko-chan! :)


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Trying our hand at jumping in the fluttering sakura petals between classes at Sophia University!

 

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Meguro is famous for the sakura that adorn the sides of its river, Meguro-gawa. I took a stroll down here one evening after a scholarship dinner I had that was in the same general area!

 

This time of year sakura is not just present in basically every shred of green landscape in Tokyo, but also in much of the food and drink!!

 

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Reading my Bible while sipping on a sakura latte at Doutor Cafeーnothing could be more relaxing :)

 

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A sakura macaroon that I picked up at a Seibu Department store with a friend visiting from Taiwan! Yummy!

 

There are many, many more foods, drinks, and beautiful sakura photographs I could show, but I'll leave these choice few...for now! :) Sadly the season has ended, but the memories still live on in my heart! <3

 

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These are not technically sakura, but the ongoing presence of these pretty flowers did much to ease my pain when the real blossoms rapidly disappeared! 

04/06/2012

Hello, Japan!

Hi all! My name is Cherise Osaki. I am a 20-year-old college PR major at USC in California, and am blessed with the incredible opportunity to study for a semester at one of the most prestigous universities in JapanーSophia University (上智大学)!

My father is a second-generation Japanese American, so I grew up only speaking English at home. Many things spurred my interest in my Japanese heritage, from the delicious foods and fascinating folklore to the fun fashions and very distinctive culture, but who most affected my love for the Japanese was my dad's cousin, Masako, who came to live with my family in the U.S. for 3 years when I was just a child.

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My "Aunt" Masako with my brother and me

My interest in Japanese culture was first sparked through my "Aunt" Masako.  I was fascinated by different books she would read to me about Japanese folklore, the delicious Japanese snacks she would give me, and the stories she would tell me about her home country.  I vowed to someday experience what her Japan was all about, and got my wish in 2009.  Tragically, before I could even board the train from Tokyo to her hometown in Ibaraki Prefecture, she passed away unexpectedly from breast cancer.  I was heartbroken, but more determined than ever to fulfill my vow to live in Japan, and eclipse the painful memories of Masako’s passing with new memories of the Japan that she loved. Remembering her gives me the desire to love the people around me in Japan, and reminds me to seize every opportunity God gives me to bless others.

Already two weeks have eclipsed since the CIEE spring term students' arrival in Japan, and it's simply unfathomable to me! Too many wonderful adventures and exciting opportunities have surfaced in this short amount of time, but below are some of the highlights!

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The first purikura (プリクラ)of my trip here with some wonderful fellow dorm students on the program!

Purikura (short for "print club") machines are basically photo booths with a twistーthe machines are designed to enlarge your eyes and make your skin whiter and clearer! Some machines will even make your face more heart-shaped, oval-shaped, or square-shaped if you would like. After the photos are taken, you can decorate them with glitter, hearts, pictures, expressions, words, and just about anything you can think of!

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We spontaneously decided to watch a Japanese movie (the poster of the film is the one with pink colors and characters in school uniforms)!

This film, called "Ouran High School Host Club" ( 桜蘭高校ホスト部), is about a poor girl at a rich and prestigious prep school who accidentally breaks an expensive vase and is coerced into dressing as a host to pay back the money. The film is extremely entertaining and contains the most ridiculous characters and hilarious exaggerations of stereotypical personalities!

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We ate okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) at a small, basement shop in Ikebukuro(池袋). The kind shop owner taught us how to mix and fry our food, and we all had a great time!

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Desserts at Milkway Way

If you walk out of Ikebukuro's east exit(池袋の東口) and walk toward Sunshine City, you will notice an adorable dessert shop on the second floor of a busy building that has blue-colored stars pasted around it. This constellation-themed dessert shop is called the Milky Way. The desserts are not cheapーabout 800 yen per parfaitーbut are they amazing and worth it?? Yes!!

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Ham sandwiches from Spain and a cute pet flying squirrel!

The relatives of my mom's Japanese friend were kind enough to invite me over to their home for lunch last weekend!! They are the most wonderful people with the most amazing skills (like pottery, painting, jewelry-making, etc.) and the most amazing travel experiences (Spain, the UK, Thailand, Indonesiaーyou name it!). On top of all this...they have a pet flying squirrel (モモンガ) that we fed dried fruit to! Is that not simply the cutest thing ever?!

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I attended an open market (flea market) in Meiji-Jingu Park last Sunday (明治公園), and it was the most amazing experience ever! People brought various goods to sell, from traditional Japanese clothing to western dresses and stuffed animals! I bought a pair of shoes from here for 400円...and then saw the exact same pair of shoes in Harajuku later that evening for 4,000円! Ten times cheaper? Talk about a good deal!

 

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Our new favorite doner kebab place!

When we were exploring Harajuku (原宿), we popped into this Turkish doner kebab restaurant and absolutely loved it! The people who worked there were also super friendly, giving those who weren't that hungry free food samples and letting us try fun things like the cherry juice they served there!

 

Making homemade gyoza in our huuuuge dorm kitchen! :D

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 Voila! 餃子 is actually much easier to make than you would think! It just requires lots of chopping vegetables and time.

 

All spring semester CIEE students took a day trip to Kamakura(鎌倉) earlier this week!! 

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My team (we're separated into about 12 teams of six people each) with our wonderful tour guide, Kanda-san, and the beautiful view of the ocean!

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The cherry blossoms (sakura/桜) are not quite in bloom yet in Kamakuraーbut they are still beautiful nonetheless!

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We were even able to see a traditional Japanese wedding! :D

 

So far, so great! Classes haven't even started yet, but already the time spent here has been so enriching! I am beyond excited for the experiences that will come when school DOES start this upcoming Thursday, and am excited to share the highlights of my experiences with all of you!