During spring semester in Japan there is this wonderful week called Golden Week that is kind of the equivalent of spring break in the US. You get the entire week off of classes (and many people get lots of days off from work as well) so it is the perfect time to travel and explore parts of Japan that are typically too far away for a weekend trip.
For Golden Week, I went to Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara. I know of a lot of other people that also went to places like Yokohama, Hiroshima, and Miyajima. Someone on our program even hopped over to South Korea for a little bit, which I'm impressed by.
I had an amazing time during Golden Week traveling with my friends. We took the night bus from Tokyo to Osaka on the way there, then from Kyoto back to Tokyo at the end of the trip. Both times the drive took about 9 hours or so. While the night buses aren’t my favorite way to travel (not very comfortable to sleep on), they are definitely a lot less expensive than the Shinkansen (bullet train) and they travel all night so you don’t waste any daylight.
I really liked being able to see a different part of Japan because it’s interesting to note the regional differences. For one, there’s a dialect that is specific to the Kansai area, which includes Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. This is slightly different from the Tokyo speech which is the universally understood dialect in Japan. Apparently the Kansai accent is considered much cuter to native Japanese speakers; personally, I couldn’t really tell the difference but I’ve also only been studying Japanese for about two years now. Another regional difference that surprised me was that escalator manners in the Kansai region are exactly the opposite of those in Tokyo. This may seem trivial but it definitely threw me off the first day since I’m so used to Tokyo manners.
Here are some of the highlights from my adventures during Golden Week:
· Finding a random café in Osaka because it was the only place open at 7:30 AM and having some of the best toast ever.
· Discovering what America Town in Osaka actually is. Honestly not all that impressive or even very American. It’s really just a bunch of stores selling street style clothing. The most American things we found were a statue of Uncle Sam and a McDonalds literally 100 feet from a Burger King.
· Having an old lady from Kyushu randomly walk up to us in the train station and tell us at least 40 times how cute our friend Sareece was. It was pretty funny.
· Walking through the famous 1,000 gates at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto. Apparently it’s supposed to bring good luck and it’s also really beautiful. If we had the chance we would have liked to hike to the top of the mountain also.
· Getting to literally spear a bad fortune I got at a shrine on a metal spike nearby. I had never seen that before but it was pretty cool.
· Seeing the Giant Buddha statue at Tōdai-ji in Nara. Words cannot possibly describe how massive that statue is. It’s definitely worth going to see.
· Finding corn on the cob at a random street cart in Nara. Another thing that I had never seen before during my time here in Japan.
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<p>Mikaela is a junior at Indiana University majoring in International Studies and East Asian Languages & Cultures. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she has spent the past few years enjoying life as a Hoosier while dreaming of the day she finally got to go abroad. Traveling is one of her greatest passions and she looks forward to exploring not only Tokyo but as much of Japan as possible during her semester abroad. She is actively involved in both her sorority and International Studies Honor Society, and enjoys reading, hiking, and drinking tea in her free time. She is so excited for the adventure that lies ahead and can’t wait to share it with everyone!</p>