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Spring Break Stories: Goodbye China, Hello Japan

My second semester in Beijing has continued to be full of surprises. I am still meeting new people, experiencing new places and foods. It may be too early to say, but I am enjoying my second semester with the TBC program even more than the last. This semester’s TBC students blend together especially well, which is almost too good to be true. This semester I even have two fellow stags, Lauren Jachimcyzk (18’) and Debra Chevalier (18’) to accompany me along this once in a lifetime journey.

A few weeks ago, Lauren, as well as another TBC student named Greg planned a weekend trip to Japan. Lauren had always wanted to visit Japan, while Greg and I were ready for an exciting new trip and a small break from our normal routine. We flew into Osaka International Airport, then boarded one of Japan’s incredibly high-speed bullet trains to Kyoto, a neighboring city, where we spent the majority of our weekend. Our first step out of the airport in Osaka, we instantly noticed that the streets of Japan were completely spotless. We were also surprised at how many people spoke English. In China very few people speak English, therefore utilizing one’s Chinese language skills is necessary. In Japan, most people spoke enough English in order to help us out with questions, directions, schedules etc. This was incredibly helpful seeing that between the three of us, the only Japanese phrases we knew were Konnichiwa こんにちは (hello ), Arigato ありがとう (thankyou), Sayonara さようなら (goodbye).

We stayed at a guest house in Kyoto, which was recommended to us by current Fairfield senior Jasmine Rashghundan (17’) who studied abroad in Japan during spring 2016.  The guest house was in a central part of the city, and was walking distance from a popular shopping district, Foodie Street, and several ancient temples. After settling into our rooms, we explored the food streets and shopping district to satisfy our empty tummies and yearning for Japanese goodies. Greg and Lauren were incredibly excited for all of the fresh sushi that was readily available everywhere in Japan. One could even find fresh sushi at any street vendor or snack stand. For me, it was sometimes hard to find food to eat because I am not particularly attracted to seafood. Regardless, the food in Japan did not disappoint. In fact, on our last night I was served a stewed lamb and onion dish that was paired with steamed white rice. It was by far the best meal I had in Japan and one that I still have cravings for. Thankfully I can also find this dish in China, or I would never be able to satisfy my cravings.

Besides Osaka and Kyoto, as per Lauren’s request, we also explored Nara; another city in Japan famous for its free roaming deer that interact with people walking the streets. If anyone knows Lauren, they would be well aware of her obsession with animals. However, if anyone knows me, they would know me to be the opposite. I get very nervous when large animals get too close to me therefore I usually try to keep my distance, which was all but impossible in Nara. There were several stands selling biscuits that we were able to feed to the deer for about 150 Japanese Yen (JPY) equivalent to about USD 1.3. Although afraid, I took a moment to breathe and really think about the situation. I was in Japan, surrounded by deer and good company. When would I ever experience this again? I paid for some biscuits and decided I should not waste this opportunity. Instantly I regretted my decision when several deer began to approach me for the biscuits. I tried to keep myself calm, but they were so impatient that some began pushing with the tops of their heads and even biting my sweater so that I would feed them faster. The tears I shed were inevitable. I began crying in the street as Lauren laughed and took my deer biscuits to continue feeding the other deer.

I could say that the deer ruined our day trip to Nara (they did), but the rest of the day made it all worthwhile: we also explored a Bamboo Forest. I had never seen bamboo up close before, so this was quite an experience. I remember tapping the bamboo and the insides sounded really hollow. I would look up, and it seemed like they continued on forever, into the sky. The forest immediately made me forget about the hungry deer that I found to be a little too aggressive. If you’re like Lauren and love animals, you should definitely visit Nara. If you’re like me, skip the deer and head to the bamboo forest, it’s epic!