I shouldn’t be scared. I really, really shouldn’t. To be frank, I’m no stranger to international travel– I’ve lived in Omsk, Russia, Wuxi (Jiangsu Province), China, and I’ve already even done a three-month stint at a private all-girls high-school in Hiroshima, Japan, so why do my relatively short knees knock at the prospect of hopping on a plane to Japan in 16 days? I can speak the language– in the loosest form of the word ‘speak’– and I’m a pretty dab hand at kanji when I want to be, thanks to three years of learning Mandarin. What’s the deal?
I’m about to head to Hirosaki, Aomori to study at Hirosaki University for around 5 months as part of my New Zealand university’s exchange programme, and to complete my double honours (honours, schmonours) degree in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese. 5 months. I even looked it up– it’s 142 days. 3408 hours. Man, that’s a long time when you minimize it. All on my lonesome, in a city roughly the same size population as my own one in New Zealand, Dunedin. Hirosaki’s 100,000 vs. Dunedin’s 130,000 will be, well, as close a change as I’m going to get, I suppose, other than the rather glaring fact that everyone will be speaking in a completely different language.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited! (I think.) But when I innocently grabbed a plane to Osaka, then a super awesome shinkansen to Hiroshima when I was 15, everything was arranged for me and my two wee high-school partners in crime. There was someone to meet us at the airport. Someone to take us to the right train. Someone to watch our luggage when we took an impromptu nap, not quite understanding the true evil of jet lag. This time? I’m on my own, now 21, and still rather geographically challenged. I had trouble even navigating Sydney last year– what makes me think I can frolick around Tokyo for two weeks before heading north? What if I run out of money? What if I can’t remember how to get home? And my biggest Japan fear– what if I catch the wrong train?!
Well, that’s what happens when you grow up. No-one’s there to make sure you’re on the bus going the right way up the country, they’re not there to apologize for the fact you accidentally just spoke to the high-school principal in plain form and thoroughly insulted him, and they’re not there to measure your school skirt to make sure you haven’t hitched it up a few inches for the locals.
After agonizing over sad looking bank statements, trying to book all my transport and hotels so that I know I have somewhere to sleep every night, I took a step back and had a think. This is how we have adventures!
So, this blog was born. The Japan Bucket List.
Many people have a bucket list, or at least a list of things they’d like to do at some point– so I’m going to try and employ the bucket list tactic for my time in Japan, to get the most out of my time in wee Hirosaki. Some of the list will be planned, and I imagine a lot of the experiences I tack on won’t be, but that’s the beauty of travel! The unexpected!
March 19th, I’m so ready for you. Qantas, get me out of here!