We're coming out of winter here in Tochigi now, and I'm happy to say I survived my first winter in Japan with no major problems! Well, I did majorly sprain my ankle in November, and 3 months later it's still not 100%, but it's not a biggie. It also got pretty cold, and we had three weekends in a row where I woke up to a fresh blanket of snow on Saturday morning. When the first snow fell, I decided to try out my kotatsu. Needless to say, we are now inseparable...the problem now is that if I sit down at the kotatsu, I know I'm not getting up again for the rest of the night, hahaha. It's happened far too much lately!
Students having a snowfight at school recently.
I had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's, because my parents came to visit me. A lot of JETs get pretty lonely over Christmas. Everything's unfamiliar, and it can be difficult getting out to catch up and socialise with the bad winter weather. Luckily, I managed to avoid that. My parents and I went on a trip around the south of Honshu. We visited Hiroshima, Kobe, Nara and Kyoto. My favourite prefecture was Hiroshima. It's just a beautiful place, easy to navigate, and with some truly powerful history.
The view from the top level of our hotel in Hiroshima.
A rainy day in Hiroshima.
The A-Bomb Dome, Peace Memorial Park, Hiroshima.
Part of the Kobe Christmas illuminations.
very xmas. much santa. so cute. wow.
The carousel at Disney.
New year's prayers at Todai-ji temple.
Todai-ji temple, where we went on New Year's day.
My dad stayed for three weeks, and my mum stayed for five. My mum was here for my birthday, so that was also really nice. We spent my birthday weekend in Tokyo. There were a couple of mishaps on that trip, but it was still fantastic! There's nothing like celebrating your birthday with a glass of champagne, overlooking the massive city of Tokyo. It's something I'll never forget!
I think my parents really enjoyed Japan, and I loved sharing it with them. Just before my mum left, I made the decision to stay in Japan on the JET Programme for a second year. I'm not going to lie, at the time it was a very wrought decision. I love living here, and I really feel like I'm growing as a person by having this experience. But obviously, there was a lot pulling me back home too - my family, boyfriend, and friends, and the potential to try and get a job primary teaching. But in the end, I just couldn't say goodbye to Japan so soon. There's still so much I want to do and see here! Now that I've definitely signed on to stay, and had time to get used to the idea, I can't imagine having decided to go back. It was definitely the right decision.
It was pretty sad saying goodbye to my parents when they went back to NZ, but I've gotten used to living alone again. Before they came, I didn't really do much with my free time, but since they left I've been more productive. Around November, I signed up to a Language Exchange website. I posted a short message on the Tochigi forum saying I'm in Utsunomiya and want to learn Japanese, in exchange for helping someone practice their English. At first I didn't get much of a response, but suddenly I got lots of messages! To date I've met two Japanese guys who live in Utsunomiya from the website, and I'm meeting another one tonight. Usually we just get something to eat and chat. Because my Japanese is so poor, we usually mostly talk in English, but I'm still always able to learn something by hanging out with them. Also, they've all been incredibly kind and helpful! It's pretty good just having someone to meet and hang out with as well. I'm still emailing a couple of others who I haven't met yet, so I might meet more in the future, too. It really encourages me to study Japanese more, even though I'm terrible at it and the grammar gives me headaches, haha.
My boyfriend is coming to visit in 3 weeks today, so that'll be pretty cool. I wonder how it will be seeing him for the first time in 7 months! NZ is only 4 hours ahead of Japan (during the NZ summer anyway, which it is now) and although that seems like a convenient time difference, it's still pretty difficult to keep in touch with people back home. So it'll be nice to see him properly. We're also going to go to Taiwan to visit his sister who lives there, so that should be really cool, and it's a chance to brush up on my rarely-used Chinese. After he comes, one of my brothers is coming to stay! It'll be so cool to explore Japan with him! Unfortunately I might not be able to take much time off when he comes, but I'm hoping for the best. THEN, after my brother leaves, one of my oldest friends is coming to stay! So I have a really busy, guest-filled time coming up! I'm looking forward to it a lot, because visitors keep me from getting too lonely. ^-^
Well that's about all the updates from my life, lately! Hopefully I'll be better at updating this blog from now on, haha.