I had the opportunity to study abroad when I was in college. I stayed in Hikone Japan which is about 40 minutes by train northeast of Kyoto in the Kansai region of Japan. I enrolled in the summer intensive course at Japan Center for Michigan Universities in 1998. It was an experience I really can't describe. I made so many friends and tried so many different things. I traveled to one end of the country and back. I went to as many temples as I could find. I explored back roads and the countryside. I broke into abandoned buildings. I sprained my ankle pretty bad. I lived in a home stay with amazing host parents. I biked through downpours and desensitized myself to dangerously close traffic while bike riding. I karaoked with friends in a room above a bowling alley. I got homesick to the point that I'd had enough of Japan. I was only 22 years old at the time.
It was always my intention to return to Japan, be it through the means of work or vacation. I had to make an important decision in my final year of college. Either try to teach English in Japan for awhile, or finish my Computer Science degree. I could always try to get a job in Japan. I could also just vacation there at some other point in life. I decided to finish my degree which would hopefully put myself in a position to return at a later time. I did have to pay my parents for the loan they took out for this trip after all. I always kept my eyes open for flights but things didn't work out for one reason or another.
Flash forward to 2008. I had about 2 months of vacation saved at work and enough frequent flyer miles to pay for half of the trip. Everything seemed to fall in place for the first time in 10 years! A couple of things were different this time. I hadn't used my Japanese speaking or reading skills in 10 years. My understanding and growth were somewhat stuck at the skill level and experience I had when I graduated college in 2000. I had lived in Hikone, which is small town. I had never lived in a city.
This trip was about living in a city, Tokyo to be exact. I'm more comfortable with Japanese surroundings now that I've been there. I had traveled from as far south as Nagasaki and as far east as Sendai. I knew how to navigate the rail system. I knew what to expect in terms of cultural differences. I knew how to function in Japanese society. I have also developed as an individual. I am a bit more outgoing and open-minded about things. These past experiences will definitely help on my trip to Tokyo.
My plan was to document this trip in a special way. I also hoped to regain some of elements of myself that I left behind 10 years ago. I hope you find this book entertaining as well as informative.
I do have to say, if I had this book before I returned to Japan, things would've been way easier for me.