Dennis and I arrived at the O’Hare airport bright and early at 2am. Having been to Japan last summer and loved it, I was incredibly excited to return, but much less excited for the two long flights ahead of us. However, I had no reason to be worried – check-in and security went fine, and before we knew it we were above cloud level on our way to Vancouver. The Vancouver airport is lovely. There were totems that appeared to be of Native tribe design and an aquarium in the central area. Seeing the wide array of nationalities, including Canadian, Chinese, and Japanese, made it really click for me that I was about to embark on an adventure in foreign lands. The second flight was much longer, about 9 hours, but there were no disturbances. Upon arrival, I was quickly reminded that the 2020 Olympics would be hosted in Japan. Of course, in that trademarked Japanese cutesy style, they proudly displayed two adorable mascots in the Narita airport. Dennis, Nicole, and I were absolutely drained when we landed, but seeing Sasaki-san, a funny and wonderful Japanese teacher I had met last year, brightened the moment. He drove us to Ashikaga. Jet-lagged as we were, the rest of the night was mostly a blur, but I remember eating pizza and learning some beginner Chinese from Sasaki-san.
Despite some restless sleep, I felt surprisingly alert Monday morning. We went to Ashikaga University where we met the other students, who had just returned from their homestays. I was happy to meet my homestay mother from last year, Ayako-san. We caught up with each other, and I learned that her son had a baby recently, making her a new grandmother! I was again struck by how lovely Ashikaga is, full of greenery and pleasant residents. In a weird way, I felt like I’d arrived at my second home! That night we had karaoke which was crazy fun, and I met a nice Japanese student our age named Seishirou. Melissa, Francesca, and I had some drinks with him down by the river near our hotel later that night. We learned that Seishirou is coming to our college in Springfield later this year, and agreed to hang out when he does.
Tuesday, we had a language class. We learned a lot of new things, but unfortunately my memory of hiragana and katakana (Japanese phonetic alphabets) was abysmal. We went to Kyudo, traditional Japanese archery, and had an absolute blast. The Kyudo masters there were very old, but had an experienced and wise aura about them. One obstacle for me was that I am left-handed, but Kyudo tradition requires everyone to shoot right-handed and with very particular form. It took a bit to get the hang of it, but in my last shot I was actually able to hit the target! I definitely just got lucky, but I’ll certainly take it. Later that night we had Mexican food, which was better than expected given how far we are from Mexico. All in all, these first three days in Japan were a wonderful start to our East Asian exploration.
P.S. This is missing pictures, I still need to figure that out. Once I do I will edit them in.