My Beautiful Campus – Summer Edition

When I first stepped foot on the ICU campus, I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of the environment.  Located in a park-like “forest”, the ICU campus is a nature lover’s haven.

The incredible variety of flora and abundant shades of green made me feel almost as if I were in a Miyazaki movie.  Simply unreal!

With such a humid summer climate, it really gets very green around here. And not just ICU. All of Japan is bursting green with life. Trees, leaves, moss and everything in between. Having grown up in desert-dry SoCal, I’ve never seen so much green in my life!


Especially with all the wild insect noises, you really begin to question whether you’re in Japan or the Amazon Rain Forest.


First Night: A Hotel!

On my first night in Japan, I stayed in a hotel before moving into my dorm the next day.  The hotel had been booked for me in advance, on behalf of my exchange program, UCEAP.

It was a tiny little thing, with rooms for 1 person.  So cozy and private. And the staff were so polite, always bowing to me each time I entered or exited the lobby.

Here’s a video of Musashi-Sakai Station, where the hotel was located. Listen to those summer insects!



“Do you speak Japanese?”

Despite having formally studied for 1 year, it wasn’t long after I arrived in Japan that I had to face the harsh reality of how little Japanese I knew. 

In the 4 weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve been asked that deceitful question countless times. And each time, the conversation that followed has resembled a rather similar pattern:

[Upon first meeting]

日本人 (Japanese person):  日本語をしゃべりますか (Do you speak Japanese?)

Me:  [hesitantly mutters]  ちょっと… (little)  [gestures a pinch of air to indicate amount]

日本人:  ちょっと? そうですか。 [proceeds to speak in Japanese]

Me:  [understands nothing]  [stares blankly, embarrassed]

日本人:  [beginning to feel dumb]

Me:  [beginning to feel dumber]

日本人:  [reluctantly attempts poor English]

Me:  [feeling like sh*t]  [relieved to hear words that can understand]

日本人:  [glad communication was (somewhat) successful]

Me:  [still feeling like sh*t]

Although I’ve now accepted this as simply life, and not anyone’s fault, it was initially stressful to go through these experiences.  Being someone who is naturally independent and who tries to inconvenience others as little as absolutely possible, I really felt bad about my subpar Japanese ability.  Claiming that I could understand Japanese and then repeatedly proving that I couldn’t really made me feel like a waste of people’s time.

If there’s anything that really grinds my gears about living in Japan, it’s moments like these when I just can’t communicate in my daily life, and it’s just a dagger through the heart because I really do want to connect with Japanese people, I really do.

Coolest Souvenir

Truth be told, I didn’t write anything during my first two weeks in Japan because I was worried sick about my ankle and couldn’t concentrate on more positive things.  Why my ankle?  Well…for some (yet) unknown reason, my left ankle swelled up like a balloon after my first night in Japan.  I tried to rest it for a week, but even after that, it didn’t seem to show evident signs of healing.  That’s when I finally decided it was time to find a doctor.

The health office at my school didn’t know what to make of it, so they referred me to a local orthopedics clinic, just a few blocks from campus.  Thanks to their handy directions, I was able to easily find my way to the clinic later that day.  Now remember that this happened just after 1 week in Japan!  Getting to new places and talking to people in Japanese was overwhelming enough as it was.  Adding a mysterious ailment to the mix just made me feel all the more vulnerable.  But anyway, long story short, the clinic did some tests, sent me home with a cozy bandage, some medication, and said come back in a week.  And by the time I went back, almost all of the swelling had subdued, they said the tests results were normal, and everything was だじょうぶ (👌🏼)!

Now I haven’t even mentioned the best part of this story:

In Japan, they have national health insurance that everyone (including me) is required to pay for.  This insurance covered 70% of my medical expenses, leaving only 30% for me to pay!  Which means that it was all very affordable!

[+1 for Japan!]