My year in Japan has gone by so fast! I will never forget the people I met in Yakumo, the places I traveled, or the things I learned about Japanese culture.
Over the last two weeks I have been saying many goodbyes: to the Yakumo English circle, town staff, friends, and every junior high school.
I want to say thank you and I will miss you to everyone I met in Yakumo! Thank you for speaking English with me, too.
I will return to Minnesota on August 1st. I hope to visit Yakumo again someday, and I hope that you'll visit me in America!
Thank you very much!
Last time on my blog, I told you about the many people who I have brought to Yakumo. I have also sent many postcards to people all over the world from Yakumo. I use the website Postcrossing. Here is a picture of some of my favorite postcards.
The goal of this project is to allow people to receive postcards from all over the world, for free. Well, almost free! The main idea is that: if you send a postcard, you will receive one back from a random person from somewhere in the world. I have gotten postcards from 19 countries: Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Russia, Finland, and more! Here is a map of all the places I have sent (red line) and recieved (blue line) postcards.
Sending postcards is a good way to practice your English reading and writing skills. Read more about the Postcrossing project in Japanese here: http://www.postcrossing.com/about/JP.
Over the last year, I have brought people from all over the world to Yakumo. I met them through a website called Couchsurfing. It allows travelers to save money and meet local people. People from Taiwan, Italy, Korea, France, Norway, Germany, and Argentina all visited Yakumo!
This is Simon from Germany. He had a disability and he couldn't feel his lower legs, but still he was biking the length of Japan. He was very interesting.
This is Teo. He is a motorcyclist from Italy. He enjoyed the Japanese garden in Yakumo. Although he had been in Japan for many weeks before coming to Yakumo, he ate ramen for the first time with me!
And this is Sofie. She is from Norway. We enjoyed Goryokaku Park together. We both tried the Snow Burger at Lucky Pierrot in Hakodate too.
This year, I enjoyed meeting so many new people, learning about new cultures, and sharing Yakumo with many foreigners!
Today is Independence Day in America. Independence day is celebrated every year on the fourth of July.
It is a national holiday which celebrates the signing of the Declaration of Independence:
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
In America, people celebrate by having barbeques and by watching parades, baseball games, and fireworks. Every year, I go to a family reunion and Fourth of July celebration in Minnesota. I always play BINGO and eat funnel cake. Here is a picture of funnel cake. It is fried dough with powdered sugar, fruit, and whipped cream.
I am going to tell you about two of my friends, the English teachers in Otobe and Mori.
This is Maureen. She is the AET in Otobe. She is also from Minnesota, USA. Actually, we both went to Macalester College and graduated in 2010, but we didn't know each other then. Now, we both live in Hokkaido! Her major was Japanese and she speaks Japanese very well! She practices kendo and likes knitting.
This is Dori, the AET in Mori. She is from Kansas, USA. She came to the shrine festival last weekend. We enjoyed the elementary school sumo tournament, especially because Dori has participated in the women-only sumo tournament in Fukushima, Hokkaido! We ate at Alphorn Swiss Restaurant in Yakumo, too. It was delicious!
Maureen and Dori are really friendly and I hope you get the chance to meet them sometime!
Last Sunday, some members of the town English circle and I dressed up in kimonos. This was my first time wearing a kimono.
It was a very interesting experience! A woman from the community kimono dressing class helped me put it on because I didn't know what to do. I was surprised by how many layers and ropes are used. To wear a kimono, I had to stand up very straight and hold my breath. Although they look comfortable, I think they are a little tight, but maybe just for me because I am a large American.
I was also surprised that men can wear kimonos too! I enjoyed seeing my husband in kimono, but walking in geta was very difficult for him. We really enjoyed wearing kimonos!
During Golden Week, my husband and I went to Okinawa. It was my first visit to a tropical place. My home state in America, Minnesota, is far from the ocean, so it was very exciting for me.
The weather was warm in Okinawa. It was about 72 degrees Farenheit or 22 degrees Celcius. I enjoyed relaxing on the beach. We saw many beautiful flowers and birds. We even saw some deer on the beach! We stayed on Aka Island in the Kerama Islands which is famous for its clear water and many deer.
I think ocean views are beautiful, but at first I was scared to swim because of sharks, jellyfish, and sting rays. I still tried snorkeling and I swam with a baby sea turtle! My favorite Okinawan food is the Blue Seal sweet potato ice cream and Okinawa soba.
In English, hanami means "cherry blossom viewing." This spring, I saw cherry blossoms in Japan for the first time.
On May 18th I visited Goryokaku Park in Hakodate. There were so many people there!
I enjoyed walking around, eating sakura ice cream, and seeing the beautiful flowers. I will always remember this experience!
This weekend I went to Yakumo Junior High School and Otoshibe Junior High School for Sports Day!
I was surprised by the creative and fun events like the mukade race, team jump rope, and the games for children and parents.
You might be wondering if we have Sports Day in America. We have Track and Field Day, when students compete in events like relays and races. Track and Field Day helps students with sportsmanship, and teamwork.
I think Sports Day is so fun!
My husband's parents are my father in-law and my mother in-law and together I call them my inlaws. Their names are Don and Vanessa. They came to Japan last week to see where we live. They visited Yakumo, Hakodate, Noboribetsu, Otaru, and Sapporo! I enjoyed sharing Japan with them. I will tell you about their visit.
In Yakumo we saw Panorama Park, ate at Harvester, and went to the town museum. We went shopping at the red brick warehouses in Hakodate. Then, we took the ropeway. Then next morning, we ate at Asa Ichi morning market.
In other towns we visited an onsen, went shopping, saw some shrines and temples, and went bowling! It was a long and exciting visit. It was my first time to visit Otaru and I enjoyed the canal and shopping.
They can't speak Japanese, but my father in-law has an iPhone 5 with a great application. He speaks in English and the phone translates to Japanese. After one week, they learned how to say good morning, good afternoon, thank you, and many other words. Also, my mother in-law was nervous to use chopsticks, but now she is very good!
I liked sharing everything I have learned about Japan with them. They enjoyed Hokkaido very much.