(This is part 2 of an ongoing series about my adventures while studying at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan, along with the lessons I’ve learned along the way. You can read the first part here.)
Hello again. Sorry for the wait; so many things have happened in the past few weeks, which is why this post is as late as it is. But the important thing is that I’m back and ready to regale more of the story of my time here in Japan.
As I said last time, my decision to study abroad like this came with a great deal of criticism from those around me for any number of reasons. I also said that choosing not to listen to them was one of (if not the) best decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life. It’s shown me how important it is to sometimes throw caution to the wind and take amazing opportunities as they surface, even if they cause some setbacks.
But wait. What setbacks?
Well, for one thing, taking this semester abroad has cost me a lot of money. Not a fortune per se, but a significant amount. I know I’m going to have some student debt for quite some time, and I shouldn’t plan on living beyond meager means for the next few years.
Also, I’m going to have to take an extra semester as a result of this journey. I’ll have to sit on the sidelines and watch as most of my friends walk across the stage to get their diplomas at graduation, ready to (hopefully) set sail on some new chapter in their lives.
And I won’t be able to get that $300 rebate, regrettably. Egads, the horror, what an outrage.
But it’ll have been worth it in the end. No, it HAS been worth it so far. And we’ve still got a couple of weeks left (and maybe two or three more entries, including a post-mortem of sorts).
This was shot on the plane ride over here, a little before landing at Kansai International Airport. See? Already started paying dividends before I even set foot on Japanese land.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime, and for me it’s come at exactly the right time in my life. I’ve needed this adventure. It’s made me see the world from a completely different perspective, one that has shown me that most of the things I thought I hated about myself have actually been my greatest strengths.
Take, for example, my deep knowledge of pop culture, as seen in this picture with two Persona 4 cosplayers at TGS. To the Japanese, I’m not really a “nerd” because I like this stuff; I’m just cultured.
I’ve met so many people, some of whom are like me, and plenty of others who are not, and I’d like to think that I’ve learned at least something from each of them.
Pictured: East meeting West with Michael Jackson costumes at Halloween. The dude on the right, my friend Miio, actually did teach me a step or two. My moonwalk’s still pretty sloppy, though.
And I’ve gone to places where I’d only dreamed of going before, particularly during my two trips to Tokyo.
Places like Akihabara.
This is a Club Sega arcade. Two doors down from here, there’s another, bigger Club Sega. I was in heaven here.
This is me next to the statue of Hachiko, a dog who was so loyal to his owner that he waited for him at Shibuya Station every day for many years after the man had died. It has a minor role to play in the Nintendo DS game “The World Ends With You.”
This is the “scramble crosswalk” that pretty much sums up everyone’s mental image of Tokyo. It’s the place you always seem to see in movies that are set in modern day Japan.
And of course, Tokyo Disney.
Cinderella’s Castle at night. It, like everything else in the park, was decked out for the Christmas season.
I figured I had to pay tribute to the King of Pop somehow, so that’s me, doing an extremely poor impression of one of Michael Jackson’s dance moves in front of Captain Eo, which is best described as a “4-D” version of a really stupid Michael Jackson video. (Though for the record, the song in the video, “We Are Here to Change the World,” is pretty dope.)
All of the Disney cast members at Tokyo Disney spoke Japanese, and very few knew a lot of English. Still, I was able to practice my Japanese in one of the best possible ways: “Watashi to watashi no otou-san wa, Goofy-san ga suki desu.” (“My Dad and I really like you, Goofy!”) It’s a pretty simple sentence, all things considered, but the cast members were all pretty impressed. Consider that as proof that I’ve learned some Japanese while here, if nothing else…
These are the things that money can’t buy, whose value transcends monetary value. In the long run, this trip will pay dividends for the rest of my life, because it’s allowed me to see the world from a completely different perspective. Forgotten lessons from the past have popped up once again, particularly in the wake of my Disney trip (which we’ll delve a bit more into next time).
All that being said, I must say that studying abroad is not for everyone. It’s not for those who want to go to another country just to have a vacation; you have to work hard both in and out of the classroom to properly adjust to the cultural and academic stylings of your country of choice. Furthermore, you have to be willing to accept that your country’s values will often clash with others’, and be willing to reconcile those differences when they emerge. You can party and have fun (and believe me when I say, I totally have), but you’ve also got to remember that, like it or not, you represent your country in one way or another, and depending on the culture, your actions serve as representations of your culture as a whole. If you’re rude, then everyone in America is rude. And if you think that’s unfair, tough luck; just because it goes against your values doesn’t mean it isn’t right.
In summation, here’s a quote from Pokemon X (which, convieniently enough, was released in the middle of this semester, so I got to see its impact in Japan directly). One of the characters, Professor Sycamore, says a quote that is hands down the most relevant and insightful thing I’ve heard and/or read this entire semester (I’ve bolded the important bits):
“Now listen. If you visit many different places to complete the Pokedex, you will probably see Pokemon with many ways of living and meet people with many ways of thinking. First, accept the ways of living and thinking that sometimes conflict with your own. And think about what’s really important—this will truly broaden your horizons.”
Couldn’t have put it better myself, Professor.
Anyway, that’s all for now. As I said above, I’ll talk a bit more about my adventures at Tokyo Disney next time. Until then, sayonara!