I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that in less than twenty-four hours I'll be departing from LAX and taking a twelve-hour flight to Tokyo, where I'll be staying for the next four months studying Japanese language and culture. I’m lucky enough that I can say this isn’t the first time I’ve been to Japan—my mom grew up in Yokohama and we used to visit her parents every so often when I was younger. However, this is the first time I’ll be traveling there alone and, armed with mediocre language skills and an open mind, I’m hoping this experience will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of growth and exploration.
Everyone knows their own personal must-haves when it comes to taking a long trip or a vacation, whether it be a comfy neck pillow for a long flight or a polaroid camera to capture fond memories in hipster fashion. Perhaps a fewer number have spent as long as us IES Abroad students will in our new host countries, but nevertheless, I’ve gathered a list of the three most important things in my suitcase and backpack that will (hopefully) make this the trip of a lifetime.
#1. Headphones—I don’t think I would be able to survive the daily one-hour commute from my apartment to the university campus without music. I’ve never owned headphones before but I specifically searched for a pair with a good noise-canceling function, hopefully enough to drown out the clacking of the train cars. It might sound strange, but I’m looking forward to the experience of commuting like an average student or working adult. Is it a little too dramatic to imagine myself listening to Lo-fi music while the scenery blurs past me as I glance out the train window?
#2. PASMO Card—I have memories at fourteen years old of my mom handing my sister and me our own PASSMO cards, which allowed us to enter and leave train stations efficiently and hassle-free. Even though I’ll have a commuter pass from my apartment’s nearest train station to the station by the university, I’m hoping this small credit card-like pass will come in handy when I want to take excursions into the city or if I decide to travel to other prefectures.
#3. Walking Shoes—Los Angeles is known for the kind of traffic that causes people to roll down their windows and shout angrily at the strangers that cut them off on the freeway. In other words, we’re a city whose people’s lives are built around cars, so walking long distances as a part of a daily routine is less common. I’m bringing along a reliable pair of shoes that will (fingers crossed) make walking a lot less horrible, whether it be to the train station or exploring the city.
My suitcase is naturally filled to the brim with more than just these items, but I can absolutely see them becoming staples of my everyday life in Japan. As I’m zipping up my luggage I can’t help but feel as if I’m missing something…but I guess I’ll just have to wait and see when I land in Tokyo.
More Blogs From This Author
<p>One of my favorite activities since I was a child is playing the piano, which I picked up when I was about eight years old when I begged my mom to let me take piano lessons. I continued with it all the way up until I was twelve before I eventually gave up because I'd grown tired of being forced to play exclusively classical pieces by long-deceased men. However, I've still continued to play on my own but, because I've lost the ability to read music properly, I learn how to play songs by watching YouTube "synthesia" videos of people playing those songs and following along with the hand positions.</p>