Monday, April 4, 2011

The Final Days..

I’ve been meaning to write the last blog of my trip for a while now. I was so busy in July as it was all going on, and everything was coming to an end. In August when I was at home, I was so depressed I just didn’t even want to talk about the fact I wasn’t in japan anymore. September rolled around, and University started. At first I didn’t really want to be here in Canada. My class from Japan sent me an incredible package of 30 letters, all with the cutest spongebob envelopes and other various adorable Japanese characters. It was so hard reading letter from my friends in Japan, seeing the puri I wasn’t in and the pictures of all the times they hung out together and I wasn’t there. But, well, I’m getting over it. My mother saw my life in Japan, and she knew how important my entire life there was. When I was in Japan my friends at school and all of the teachers kept telling me I should come back for the graduation ceremony in March. I knew I would have a break from University around that time, but I didn’t want to make any promises. So anyway, my mother knew how important and how amazing it would be for me to go back to Japan and see all of my best friends before they all finished school and went to different places for university.

So guess where I am right now? I’m sitting on a plane, flying over Alaska at the moment I believe. I’m headed to JAPAN! My friends, in just less that 6 hours (I’ve already been on the plane foreeeeeever) are coming to pick me up at Narita airport in Tokyo! The last time I was there, it was such a sad occasion.. I was traveling back from Japan in my sailor school uniform with way too much heavy luggage, and a broken heart.

This trip will be amazing – I’m staying in Japan for three weeks. For the first week, starting very very soon, I will be in Tokyo! A great bunch of kids from a university in Tokyo came to my University in first semester to study. They were so wonderful, but sadly they had to leave in December. I’m glad I got to meet them and become really good friends with them, and it was at the perfect timing too. Hanging out with them in Canada definitely made me feel better about not being in Japan. Anyway, I’m so excited! After Tokyo, I’m headed back to my beloved town of Kanazawa! Well, the city of Kanazawa. I’ve already e-mailed all my friends and one of my teachers printed out a letter from me to them saying how I would be there in a few short weeks. I have so many plans! I have so many people to see and so many things to do! Not to mention a ton of Japanese food to eat! I will post all about my trip, and I’m thinking of making a “flikr” account to host all of my photos from Japan. I will let you know!

Anyway, I wanted to finish off my blog. Like, I wanted to write about all the last things I did in Japan since that other post from July down there. My last two weeks in Japan was the busiest time of my life! So many goodbyes…

I hung out with my friends everyday afterschool. I went out for dinner and chatted with so many people. It’s amazing to think that when I got to Japan a year ago, I couldn’t understand if they were asking me my name or if they were asking me do I like to eat rice. I’m going to be honest, I think it’s so cool how I got to know people so well, that I never would have met or had the chance to know if I didn’t learn Japanese and have the amazing opportunity from Rotary.

But yeah, so in the last few weeks of being in Japan, do you know much purikura I took? I spent way too much money on that, that’s for sure! But that’s Japanese schoolgirl culture for you, and I don’t regret how much I spent on the silly little sticker pictures. I made good memories.

I went to karaoke with my exchange student friends, and I went to say goodbye to my calligraphy teacher. I didn’t know how much I really liked her until it was time to say goodbye! I’ve planned to meet up with her when I’m in Kanazawa next week.

My final host family was really helpful in the process of getting ready to leave Japan. My host mom helped me send packages and she drove me to school when I was sick – because I wasn’t sleeping enough because I was so busy. I kind of regret not being able to become super close with this family, but I barely had time in the last month for anything at all! I ate so many matcha green tea donuts in July you wouldn’t believe. They only come out in the summer – so I’m not going to be able to have any on this trip either. But that’s okay, I definitely still have them lurking around in my fat cells ahahaha.

The last days of school were really sad. Sometimes my friends would just look at me and break out crying, it broke my heart. I hated seeing them cry, and it made me cry. I took so many pictures over the last few days and I made all of my best friends huge cards with nice long letters I wrote myself in Japanese. One of the English teachers, Hirata Sensei, made everyone write a letter to me in English during one of the classes. As I’ve told you before, they can’t speak English. I didn’t read the letters until I was on the plane ride. I’m glad I read them then, they made me laugh.

I stayed over at my friends’ house one time before I went home, and I also saw “toy story 3” with one of my other best friends. We had been planning to see it forever, and it was the saddest movie I’ve ever seen – probably because it really applied to my life at that time. Going off to university, and leaving people and loved ones behind. Let’s just say the whole theatre was silent but you could hear us bawling our eyes out loud and clear. For my birthday last month, that friend actually sent me a copy of Toy Story 3 in Japanese! She’s the greatest.

My rotary goodbye party was where it hit me. Rotary had it for me about a week before I was set to get on a plane and head back to Canada. Seeing all of my host families in one room and listening to them all make a speech about our time together was so hard to hear. I really loved my host families; I was truly blessed for the chance of meeting them all, and becoming that close with all of them. I think about them often.

My school principal made everyone chant 頑張れ頑張れアシュリー (ganbare ganbare Ashleigh) at the party. It basically means “fight” or “do your best”. There’s really no English translation, but I learned the meaning of it over the year I was in Japan, and I often say it to myself for inspiration. Honestly, Yugakkan, my highschool was the best highschool in the world. Its sometime difficult to explain, and I didn’t really realize until after I left, but I learned a lot from that school and everyone there.

My last day of school was actually the worst day of my life. My host mom drove me to school and I walked in completely somber. As I entered my classroom my friends just took pictures with me, but none of us were really smiling. I had to do a speech in front of the whole school that day, but that’s no problem. I’m glad I was able to, one of my friends from another school actually never got to do a speech. It was nerve wracking standing alone in front of a thousand kids with straight black hair. I read my speech kind of off of a paper, but that’s okay. I was almost crying by the end of it. When I did end, my class actually yelled something incredible, 『アシュリー、ありがとう!』Which means “Ashleigh, thank you!” I just felt to loved at that moment, and I left the stage almost in tears. What brought me to tears was talking to my homeroom teacher outside the gymnasium, just the same way we had done a year prior – the only difference was that it was in English a year ago and now it was only in Japanese. My teacher was the best teacher in the world, she helped me with everything. When we were standing outside talking waiting for the assembly to end, she told me that the class needed a few minutes to prepare something for me in the classroom. She told me to just wait in the teachers lounge until someone came to get me. I waited about 15 minutes there, all the teachers walking by me and saying goodbye. It was really hard to do.. Then my best friend Mirai came down, and she just grabbed my hand and we ran through the hallways to our classroom where I found my class lined up infront of the chalkboard with beautiful writing all over it. And then, they sang. They sang my favourite song, the only song I knew when I first got to Japan. The song is called “Gift” and the lyrics tell a beautiful tale of how precious the gifts in life are, and how you could never ever ever forget the precious memories made – there couldn’t have been a song more applicable to me at that time. Needless to say, I dropped to the floor crying – ive never felt my heart break in half before and I hope I never have to feel that again. As they were singing this song, they were all crying too, it was the saddest thing to experience, but I’ll never forget it. They made me a scrap book, everyone made one page by themselves. It was filled with pictures and letters and my best friend Mirai even got all of the teachers to write out little letters too. It was the greatest gift I have ever received.

After all this, obviously I was crying my eyes out – and so were 99% of the people in my class. I’ve never been so sad…… We took a bunch of pictures and exchanged goodbyes. It was the worst day of my entire life……

That evening, my friend Gami who’s family owns a traditional kimono store, invited me to her house with our other good friend Risa. Her mother dressed us in beautiful Yukata’s and we went to the riverside of the old Geisha district and had a fireworks festival of out own. I will never get to do that again, and it was the coolest experience – such a Japanese tradition. Gami and I had many fights over the year, she didn’t understand my culture and I didn’t understand hers for a very long time either. But all and all, because we had so many fights, we became really good friends.

The next day was d-day. The day I was going to Canada. I headed to the airport with my family, wearing my school uniform and carrying bags that were doomed to be too heavy. Well, they were like 20lbs overweight in each of them but I feel that the combination of me being a Japanese speaking crying foreigner wearing a school uniform allowed me to pay zero cents extra, so that was nice. A ton of my friends showed up at the airport, and even my school dance teachers! I wasn’t expecting them! It was such a good surprise! Some of my host families, some of my best friends and even some of the Rotarians whom I had spent a lot of time with.

I yelled “行ってきます!as I was leaving, and I get to say ただ〜いま today! (for all of you non Japanese speakers, that basically translates to “I’m leaving!” and “I’m back!”

As my plane flew up and over the airport, I saw my friends on the top of the viewing area waving my Canadian flag I gave them. I couldn’t stop crying until I reached Canada almost two days later……

So, there you have it. It’s something I don’t want to admit but, my exchange is over. A year seemed like such a long time before I went away, but now I see that a year is such a short time, and it certainly wasn't enough time. I think of my exchange, Japan, my friends and families everyday and the whole experience changed me forever. I have a very good life.

I will tell you all about this trip as soon as I can. I also plan on taking pictures of EVERYTHING! Especially everything I eat!

Thanks again for reading,


Saturday, July 3, 2010

I was re-reading my blog and I am going to stop complaining about how sad I am to be leaving, and start talking about all the amazing opportunities that I have had!

Well, let's see.. what have I done since the end of April? A lot.

I moved out of my 5th host family just about three weeks ago. It's a blessing in disguise how once you leave someone, you
come to realize how much you really liked them. I didn't do very much with that family - we didn't go on any trips or go out to dinner all the time but it was definitely a great experience. My host parents were really caring and helped
me with everything. They taught me a lot of Japanese and were just like my real parents if not better. I would stay up taking to my host mom for hours and hours every night. I really miss being able to do that. I really liked that family!
I've moved in with another family - they volunteered to host me, so they're also a good family, really sweet. But, you can't help but have favourites, and this one isn't in the top rankings. I guess it just kind of bothers me how I'm going to be going home so soon and I don't really want to think about it - but they keep bringing it up. That, and the fact that they keep inserting English words into the conversations. That may seem good, but no, it's annoying. It's truly annoying. I've lived here for 10 and a half months now and I understand Japanese now a days. I don't really need you to make me even more confused and put oddly pronounced English words into your
Japanese. I will stop complaining.

In May, my real mother came for a trip to Japan for two weeks! My host family at that time was super awesome and offered to drive us around everywhere and take us places. My mom came to my city, Kanazawa, for one week. We got to put on kimonos and do a tea ceremony. I took her to all the tourist places in my city such as the geisha district, kenrokuen garden and the samurai district. We ate a ton of matcha ice cream whenever it was available and had a lot of fun. I have the pictures on my facebook if you want to check it out, here's the link to the album:
My Rotary club hosted a lunch for my mom to meet all of my families. It was really amazing to be able to have the people I love most in the world all in the same room!

For the second week, the two of us went on a trip to Tokyo!
It was my only time that I've ever been to Tokyo this year.
Here's a link to the pictures so you can follow along:
I've wanted to go since I was a kind and am really glad I got to go! It was so much fun!
We went to Shibuya, Harajuku, Asakusa. Shibuya was packed with people. We watched the shibuya crosswalk from the third story window of a starbucks. It was really cool to get to go there! I've only ever seen pictures! Harajuku is usually packed with people but we went on a Tuesday night so it wasn't full at all. Not the true Japanese experience but I guess it's better than not even being able to breathe. When we went to Asakua, a lot of people took my picture. They said "sugoi kirei gaijin". This would be fine if it wasn't that like 15 of them were old men. Kind of creepy. In the next days we went to Yokohama, where there have a big ferris wheel and a lot of shopping malls. They also have one of the biggest China town's in Japan, hahahaha. We also went to Kamakura where they have the second biggest buddah in Japan - the biggest is in Nara where I went on the Rotary Trip. We also went to Shizouka, where we saw Mount Fuji from a train and had some delicious tea. The trip was fun, I think my mom enjoyed it as well.

In May I also started a new Saturday course at school. I used to take cooking, but now I take Hip-Hop. It's not anything traditional, but it's so much fun. Or should I say, it WAS so much fun. It ended last week. The sensei was amazing at dance, and other university dance students helped teach too. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it. It was also fun because the senseis always talked to me and i even ran into them once downtown at a festival. We were going to have a goodbye party, but it turns out that the courses at the university for Saturday school had to end a week earlier for some reason, so we never got around to that. But i enjoyed that course, it made waking up on saturday mornings at 6:30 way better.

In June we had a Rotary orientation. It was average. I would tell you more about if it I could recall, but I can't. I love my exchange students.

In June, Japanese high schools have their sports festivals. We spent a month practicing for it. But we weren't practicing sports, oh no. We were practicing cheerleading. The way the day went was that there were random events such as tug-o-war and re-lay races but the big event of the day was the cheers. I'm a third year student in class number 8 so the teams were set up as the same class number or all three years. First years, Second years and Third years 8 class were all the "yellow team". Our cheer was to the music of a really popular manga. I've never read it or ever will read it, but my class made me one of the main characters because he has "blonde hair". My hair is apparently blonde. It was a ton of fun, but it was SO hot that day and my outfit for my character happened to be wearing black pants and a black jacket. It was HOT.
We didn't end up winning but we had a ton of fun. My whole class cried when the day was over because we put so much work into the day and we really enjoyed it and was sad that it was over.

In June my dearest Sandy left Japan. We also lost Michael and Andrew. It's crazy that exchange is ending! It went by really really fast, but it's been an amazing experience, that's for sure.
I have two more weeks in Japan and every day until the day I leave is packed with plans. For the past two weeks my school friends has testing so they couldn't hang out, so I'm hanging out with a majority of them in the next two weeks. It's going to be super busy, and I'm going to be poor by the end of it - taking purikura with each of them. I was looking through my purikura book the other day and counting how much I have spend on purikura in the past 10 months, and it equals over 125 dollars. After this week I bet it will be 150. Such a crazy passtime, but it's so much fun. My Japanese friends were astonished when I said that we don't have purikura in Canada. They asked, "but what do you do for fun if you don't have purikura?!"

I hung out with two friends from school yesterday.
The one girl's family owns a kimono shop. How Japanese is that! So we went and we tried on a bunch of kimonos.
We're planning to have a "花火", which in English means fireworks, sometime over the next two weeks in our kimonos. It's traditional in Japan that in the summer you get dressed in your summer kimonos and you do fireworks. There's actually a big fireworks show in July, but I'm going to miss it, so my friends are going to do one with me.
The picture to the right is a picture of the kimono I bought!

I have two more weeks left - a lot to pack, a lot of people to hang out with, a lot of food to eat, but its just not enough time. I wish I had more time! It's been the experience of a lifetime. There's no way I can express in words how grateful I am for this experience this year Rotary gave me!

Monday, June 7, 2010


i don't even want to talk about how upsetting it is to think I'M LEAVING JAPAN IN A MONTH AND ONE WEEK.
that is absurd. i feel like i just got here. it was just yesterday when i was still going through interviews to get into the exchange program!
im so sad to be going back to canada, but it's purely for the fact that i just wish this year wouldn't stop. it's been the best year of my life so far and i just dont want to stop making memories with all the people i've had the pleasure and opportunities of meeting.
i don't know what else to say. i don't even really want to think about it more than i have to..

Sunday, May 9, 2010


"often the greatest enemy of present happiness is past happiness too well remembered"


i've been thinking a lot lately..
i also wish i would have wrote down all my thoughts about every single thing interesting or new that i found in japan, and all the feelings i've had over the past few months. i know it's a little late, but let me start with this list about what i've been thinking about lately:
1. i can't believe how fast time has gone. it's almost time to go home! my plane ticket has been bought and i am going to be back in canada this july 18th.. my heart broke into pieces after reading the confirmation e-mail from the travel agent..
2. being away from your family and traditions for such a long time makes you miss the stuff you thought you hated, and also makes you wish you had spend more time with your loved ones and didn't complain so much about things you could have fought your way through.
3. i'm going to miss the friends i've made here so much. i don't think they realize how much they mean to me, and i wish they did. i want to hang out with my friends from school more and i've been trying to stress that i only have two more months in japan, but it's difficult to make finalized plans with japanese people i find..
4. i haven't been accepted to the universities that i really want to go to yet. that's a problem. i don't really want to go to the other universities i'm already accepted at.. what am i going to do with my life? all i want to do is move to tokyo, go clubbing in osaka, and dress up like the crazy japanese girls do - for every day of my life. i don't want to go back to the country of jeans and a t-shirt!

Friday, April 23, 2010

april fools

Time has really flown by. It seems like I've only been here a couple weeks - but yet it feels like I've lived a lifetime. I've lived in Japan for 8 months now. I'm living with my fifth host family right now, and it's already that time in exchange where the countdown to going back to Canada is ticking down..

My fourth host family was absolutely amazing. I was their first exchange student, so they tried to give me a really good experience in Japan while not having any rules or past experiences to live up to. They were great and so caring, and now that I'm living in a new host family, I realize how much I miss them. Not to say that this new host family is bad, but I've lived here 3 weeks and haven't done anything with them yet. I have two host siblings - both don't talk to me. Nor to eachother really so I guess I shouldn't be that concerned. My new host dad owns a famous company of Japanese sake - and my host mom is just a sweetheart. I have my first real Japanese style bedroom where I have paper sliding walls and a traditional futon bed that I have to take out of the closet every night. It's cool, it's a new experience.

April has gone by really fast. I went on the Rotary trip at the end of March with all of the exchange students. We went to Miyama Jinja, Hiroshima, Osaka, Nara. We saw a lot of great traditional / touristy things in Japan. We also had a lot of late nights and about 8 hours of sleep total over the 4 days. I would expand on those goings on, but I'm not going to. hahaha. But the trip was an overall success I would say - despite having to sleep for 3 days straight after coming home.

School started up again. I had a fight with my classmates the day before Spring break, but they sort of forgot about it over the two weeks that we had for vacation. Now I am a 3年生(a third year student). Our classes changed, but it’s not like they got harder. Now we have arts and crafts class, and music class where we learn children’s songs. It’s because over half the class want to be kindergarten teachers.. This past Friday we spend class at a kindergarten playing with kids. It kind of sucks how I couldn’t answer some of the 3 year olds questions because I’m not fluent in Japanese..
School is fun, BUT I feel like my brain is melting a little bit from not actually doing anything at school anymore..

April was a beautiful season in Japan. The cherry blossoms bloomed! I went out many times to see the flowers, it was absolutely beautiful! There were a ton of tourists around in April, but no wonder, the country was so gorgeous.

My Rotary club had a special dinner in honour of the cherry blossoms – in Japanese they’re called sakura. There were geisha’s and I got to do taiko with the geisha’s on the stage which was pretty cool!

At school this week we had a third year student barbeque. It was sort of raining and chilly so that kind of sucked, but it was fun. We made yakisoba and roasted marshmallows. T’was a good time.

I probably should update this more often. Life is actually way more interesting that this blog makes it seem, I swear! Sorry. I will update more in the next few months. Can you believe it? I go home in less than 3!

This month was easter - but not it Japan. My mom sent me a couple cadbury cream eggs from Canada and the dogs in this family legit broke into my room, into the box and ate the chocolate. Totally was afraid they committed suicide in my room - but they're okay. They just ate my easter. no big.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

i'm not very creative with these titles..

Wow, time goes by really fast. I keep wanting to update this blog but I can never find any time. And that isn't very good because I'm always doing stuff and after a months worth of adventures, I end up sort of forgetting a lot of the good stuff I had worth saying. But anyway, here it goes.

Since last February 14th, I moved in with a new host family. The parents are only 28 and 33, really young. maybe the youngest in rotary host family history?
but it's so fun living here, they have no kids - it's just the three of us. they're so great with wanting to give me a good experience while in japan! they've taken me out to a bunch of local historical spots, and in the start of my March Break they even took me for a two day trip to Kyoto! That was awesome, because I got to see a lot of great and famous places, and it's always nice to go with people whose company you enjoy. Life seriously turns around when you have a great host family! I am sad to say I'm moving out on April 4th.. It will be exciting to have another new host family, but I am really content living here! My host "parents" feel more like siblings, and I feel so at ease. Well, I guess that's the life of an exchange student, moving on..

I went on my school trip to Kyuushu at the beginning of March! That was something I was looking forwards to since the beginning of my exchange -
a 6 day trip with my friends from school. I can't believe it's over.. On the calendar in my mind, once the school trip is over means that it's almost time to go home to Canada.. and it is! There's only about 4 more months! That seems like a lot, but it's oh so very short. Anyway, my school trip was wicked. We took a bus to osaka, rode a plane, then rode in more busses. It ended up being that for the 6 days we mostly rode in busses. They would let us out for like 10 minutes at a famous place then stick us back on. We drove in a crammed humid coach bus all the way through the bottom island of japan (kyuushu) from kagoshima airport to nagasaki. We had a day trip in Nagasaki and saw the atomic bomb site, we saw Kumamoto Castle, we ate a ton of food, and even went to universal studios japan for the last day.
It was a good trip, a lot of fun! I also had my first onsen?
In Japan it's totally legit to bathe with everyone in a hot spring. It may not have been so bad if it wasn't with a group of your skinny school friends? My teacher told me I didn't have to do it, on account of the culture is so different - so I didn't do it the first night. But the second night, I took the plunge and did it. It ended up being a lot of fun! The weird thing was that they brought their camera's and were totally fine about taking pictures of eachother? That's apparently not normal - so don't be frightened, it's just my weird school.
Speaking of weird school.. In Japan, school ends in March and the new school year starts in April. The last day of school is usually a sports tournament. My school's sports day was fun, but everyone was acting weird and immature and the day ended up with me yelling at my entire class for how immature and mean they all are - and me storming out of the class on the note that I was going back to Canada. Apparently I'm a horrible person in their eyes because I have a lot of guy friends. It's apparenlty a horrible thing for a girl in Japan to have a lot of guy friends. It's not my fault if the guys are more friendly and act their age in compared to many of the minnie mouse loving girls in highschool who act like they are 10. It was about time I yelled at them. Yeah, I know I'm in the wrong for doing it - that's their culture, but the amount they bully eachother and the way they act towards each other .. it was about time I called them up on it. Can't take it back now either - what's been done has been done. I guess it was good timing, now they have a 2 week break to forget about it and we will all return back to school in April in a new grade and with the adventures of spring break on our minds.

I just want to point out that I'm not getting an average look at the average japanese teenager. My school is for very, let's say, "not so smart" students. And because of that, they are all very immature and it doesn't truly show me the japanese highschool student culture - although my school is fantastically fun! I believe normal japanese highschool students study a lot, go to cram school after school and all of that which we would imagine. But my school is different, I don't even want to imagine them trying to take a test that I took in highschool.. I don't think this school even gets homework! It's crazy, but fun. I enjoy it.

See? I forget everything that's happened. I guess when I remember or have something new to talk about, I will re-update. Oh, well, I am going on a Rotary trip this saturday for 4 days - kind of exciting! I will update about that afterwards.

Questions? Feedback? Anything? Send it my way!