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  • kimuchee 2:26 pm on December 25, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , different languages, , japan, ,   

    Lessons Learned 

    1) Communication is an amazing thing.

    Being in a country that speaks a language with absolutely no connection to yours except a couple of loan words can be quite a frustrating experience. I took understanding a person and having a person understand me for granted. It sounds silly but the fact that you can understand me now and the ideas that I am trying to portray is a beautiful thing. But when someone finally does understand me I get this ridiculous elation. It’s like my eyes have just been opened to the fact that the human species is amazing. That there are different languages and cultures is amazing. I wish I could find words that could express this enlightenment properly but unfortunately I wasn’t gifted with the power of eloquence.

    While on this trip I’ve also had a new-found respect for those people from non-English countries that attend our school, whether it be for a semester or four years. Talking about complicated concepts in a language that you were not born with is no joke!

    2) Distance makes the Heart grow fonder.

    This has proven to be true throughout my college experience in regards to my family and has proven to be even more true in Japan where I am away from my family and friends. I have resolved to go back and really make sure to treasure those bonds that I do have and to put effort into every relationship that I engage in.

    3) Try everything, even when it makes you queasy.

    My first adventure with queasy inducing food in japan has been with natto. Natto is essentially fermented beans with soy sauce. I had been warned about the dish and had been crazy to try it ever since. Of course it was everything  they said it would be. Stinky and Cheese link. I was told then that it is and acquired taste and most Japanese young people don’t like it. Needless to say I didn’t like the food but my host family found pleasure in my willingness to try out new foods. My second adventure was with a dish called Sukiyaki. This dish consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef) which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside tofu, cabbage, mushrooms, and other miscellaneous delicious things. It doesn’t sound bad does it? Imagine my surprise when my host family proceeded to show me how to eat it. I  could feel my eyes getting nigger as they went on to scramble a raw egg in their bowl and dip the meat and vegetables in before eating them. That had to be one of my biggest adventures and I was well rewarded for my effort! It was absolutely delicious!!! I just couldn’t think too much about the fact that I was eating raw egg or I would start to feel queasy.

    4) Traveling is beautiful.

    There are of course difficult times that you experience when traveling but for all of those experiences there are three times as much wonderful experiences. After a while you even being to appreciate the tough times because they make the wonderful times stand out even more. You meet all kinds of people as well! I can’t ever see myself getting tired of the thrill that comes from traveling.

    5) Japanese is hard.

    Of course I knew this before my trip to Japan but studying Japanese and being fluent in Japanese are two completely different things, but on this trip I have come to realize that becoming fluent in Japanese is now a goal in my life. It is something that I wish to pursue no matter what career I ultimately end up choosing. The director of JCMU told us in our opening ceremony that the way you can tell if you have become fluent in a language is if you can understand their jokes. Not only do you understand the grammar, and vocabulary, but you understand the culture behind the joke as well. This is the measurement that I wish to abide by. Until I can understand jokes in Japanese I don’t want to stop learning it!

  • kimuchee 1:24 am on December 18, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: anime, , japan, latin american culture, music   

    Mi Bachata En Fukuoka (My Bachata in Fukuoka) 

    Sekai Itchi Hatsukoi (The World’s Greatest First Love). I believe that this phrase adequately represents my relationship with Japanese language and culture. My love for Japan really blossomed during my childhood years. I can still recall the countless days I would wake up at 6AM during middle school just to watch Sailor Moon.

    Through watching ridiculous amounts of anime (Japanese animation) I found that this strange world called Japan was extremely beautiful. From their attention to detail, to their meticulous cleaning habits, to the pink sakura trees, I just couldn’t get enough. It seemed so different from the world of Latin American culture that I was so used to. One of the happiest moments of my life was when I realized that a very famous Dominican artist named Juan Luis Guerra made a song dedicated to his visit to Japan. It is called “Bachata en Fukuoka.” Never in a million years would I have thought that these two completely separate worlds of mine would collide and work so well together. But to hear him speak Japanese in a bachata, a genre of music that originated in Dominican Republic,  warmed my heart. All I could think was: “I’m not alone! There is a native of Dominican Republic that loves Japanese culture like I do!” Here is the link to the music video:


    And so I decided that my last few days in Japan would be spent in Fukuoka. I took the Shinkansen bullet train from Maibara and arrived there in 4 hours. The first thing that I realized was that it was much warmer than Hikone. (Thank goodness for that it’s freezing over there!) The second thing I realized was that they have a different way of speaking over here! I had just gotten used to hearing Kansai-ben in Hikone, only to come to realize that it is completely different from Fukuoka-ben. Needless to say I was surprised upon getting there.

    The reason why I really wanted to go there besides the sight-seeing was so that I could play that song and be in Fukuoka. When I actually did play the song, it was very surreal. “How many times have I wished this?”, I thought to myself. It was an amazing moment for me. And it was the best way that I could end my trip in Japan.

    My love for Japan has only grown since my childhood years and through my history and Japanese classes I have come to appreciate it even more. Don’t get me wrong though, it has not been a walk in the park.  We have been through some rough patches and there have been times where I wanted to quit but like all love it required hard work and dedication. I have been dedicated to my studies of Japan since my first year at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and I have no intention of stopping.

    Japan, I am sincerely going to miss you.

    Now, off to South Korea!!! 🙂

  • kimuchee 1:12 pm on December 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , japan, ,   

    Challenge 8! 

    The one application that I know I could not live with out at this point is MIDORI.


    Midori is a Japanese-English library application. It costs $9.99. Why should you buy this particular $10 application you ask? It is the best out there so far that I have tried out. Not only does this application let you search for a word in English and Japanese (hiragana, kanji, and romaji) this application allows you to draw the kanji in order to find out its meaning!!!


    I literally can’t even begin to describe how 便利 (convenient) and life saving this application is! It has saved me countless times when I was talking with my host family and friends or simply trying to order something at a restaurant. (It’s all in kanji I can’t read!) It is a MUST for every student studying Japanese. Seriously.

    And on top of all of this it also gives you the stroke order of the kanji, flash cards to test your kanji with AND the conjugation of verbs. As a student of Japanese conjugation is one part of the grammar that I have a lot of trouble with so it was very reassuring to know that I could just go on my i-pod real quick to check that I conjugated the verb correctly. I can’t even begin to describe how excited I was to find out that there was even such an app that existed! I did none of my homework without it and had my i-pod on me at all times.

    Another really cool aspect of this app is that it also provides example sentences in which the word you are searching for appears.

    And last but not least it: this app requires no internet connection! I know your minds are absolutely blown right?! Don’t worry I understand. Mine was too.

    For anyone going abroad to Japan next year:  Before buying a suitcase, before getting a plane ticket, BUY THIS APP!!! I could go on and on about how awesome this app is, but please, rather than listening to me babble, go get it!


  • kimuchee 7:59 am on November 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , home stay, japan,   

    Living Abroad 

    It’s hard to believe that I have been in Japan for two months now. But I have. It was only a couple of months ago that I was busy working and commuting to work in order to make this dream of mine possible. It’s so crazy. Even now I don’t think that I have accepted the fact that I am here. I have dreamed of being in Japan even since I was 12 years old. 8 years ago I made a promise to myself. A promise to come to this country that fills me with such wonder and excitement and I did it. Who knew it would be so difficult?

    I came here to learn more about Japan and the people of Japan but I don’t even think I have begun to scratch the surface. There are little pockets of culture every where I go and it’s so difficult to even be introduced to them when my language is so limited. There is a culture around high school, restaurants, prefectures, you name it. Everywhere I go is different, with a new set of vocabulary and actions to go with it. How am I supposed to keep up?

    Traveling is wonderful.

    Staying and living in a foreign place is hard.

    For these past two months I have been living with a host family here in Japan and it has not been easy. But then again this experience is supposed to be challenging so I have embraced all the awkward moments as well as the happy ones.

    I am currently in the process of writing an essay in Japanese about my host family and here is a little snippet about the dogs that I live with:

    犬はプリンとバニラと言います。にひきはプードルで、バニラは男の子それからプリンは女の子です。じつは、プリンは私のこ とが大きらい見たいです!いつも家に帰った時にプリンは「ワン、ワン、ワン」とはえます。よく分かりませんけどはじめて見た時からプリンは私が好きじゃな かったかもしれません。

    It reads:

    The dogs are called Pudding and Vanilla. Both of them are Poodles; Vanilla is a boy and Pudding a girl. Actually, Pudding looks like she hates me! Everytime I come home she barks: “Woof, woof, woof!” (The Japanese sound for this is “Wan, Wan, Wan.”) I do not really understand why but she has not liked me since see first saw me.

    A very rough translation but true. Here is a picture of Vanilla!

    He is the cutest poodle ever!

    I would include a picture of Pudding but as I said before, she hates me and would never let me get that close to her!

    I’ll be sure to write more about my host family experience in the next post!

  • kimuchee 8:57 pm on September 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , japan, ,   

    Kindness goes a long way… 

    I had been hoping to put up a posting before I left to Japan, but unfortunately it never came to be. But I am posting on my second day in Japan! I am actually writing this at 4:15 A.M. I have come to realize that Jet Lag is no joke. So I’ll use this post to talk about my trip here.

    I checked in to JFK 2 and 1/2 hours before my flight. Everything was really smooth. I decided to eat lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings. It was the most American thing I could think of at the moment and it was my way of saying goodbye to the states. Lo and behold we didn’t actually fly off to Japan until 5:30, 2 and 1/2 hours later than scheduled. The plane ride was long and exhausting. But when we landed it didn’t seem so long anymore. It wasn’t until I landed that it really hit me: “I’m going to be in Japan for 3 and 1/2 months!”

    The instant I got off that plane I experienced the humidity of Osaka. It does not compare to the humidity I might feel in NYC. It’s so much more powerful and encompassing, it’s really hard to explain. Nevertheless I knew it was going to be a challenge. Me and heat don’t get along very well.

    My first experience of the kindness of Japanese people occurred at Customs. I gave my customs declaration to the immigration officer by mistake and had no paper to give to the man at customs. He proceeded to kindly give me a customs sheet and tried to help me out even with my terribly broken Japanese. Its a really small gesture but to a newcomer like me it meant something. I didn’t have to be afraid to make mistakes. My next experience of kindness was when I was boarding the JR Rail Pass in order to go to Bishoen, which is where my Ryokan (Japanese Style Inn) was. After I got the ticket I had no idea where to go or which train was the right one, so I asked the closest train conductor, again with my very broken Japanese. She tells me that this is the right train and so I board it. A couple of stops into the train ride she comes up to me and hands me a piece of paper and goes on to tell me exactly where I should get off to transfer and at what time that transfer would come.

    The paper she gave me. :)

    I can’t explain to you how moved I was by her actions. She owed me nothing and she went out of her way to do this for me. It might seem like an exaggeration but when you are in a country, by yourself, and you still can’t understand the language very well every act of kindness by others is a big deal. It is something that I will treasure and appreciate forever. I made up my mind. Next time a tourist asks me for directions of any kind in NYC I will go that extra mile and pay it forward.

    My next challenge was to actually find the place.  Now, when I booked it the site said that it was a minute walk from the station to the ryokan. After wandering for 15 minutes with really heavy baggage I decided that I was utterly lost. I had to ask for directions. I spotted a gasoline station and figured that was a good bet. So I walk in, greet the man at the counter, and proceed to ask him where this ryokan is. He starts looking for it on his computer and he prints out a map for me. He then went on to tell me how far it was and what direction I should take. I thanked him profusely.

    When I finally get to the place all I could do was laugh. It was literally 30 seconds from the train station. It was at the end of a street that really looked like an alley so I didn’t think to venture in. (See picture below and imagine it at night.)

      ODORI Guest House

    So in the end the only reason I made it here was due to the kindness of others. Although it was a long and grueling trip I know that it is experiences like these that make it all worth it.

    • kimeegee 10:46 pm on September 1, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Reblogged this on Sekai Itchi Hatsukoi.

    • thegeographicallyblind 11:44 am on September 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Hi. I will be going to Osaka in two months and I had also booked guest house odori. May I know what is your comment on that ryokan. Thanks.

      • thegeographicallyblind 1:08 pm on September 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        And also, are there any good restaurants nearby? Thanks.

        • kimeegee 6:02 am on November 20, 2012 Permalink

          It was a great place to stay at! Really beautiful little place and the staff was very nice. As for restaurants I didn’t go to many but I highly reccomend going to the bakery that is next to Bisyoen Staion. It was delicious!

    • Hannah 4:05 pm on September 4, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      KIMKIM. This sounds so much like when I arrived in Hong Kong. People are so nice, and go out of their way to make sure that you’re okay. I hope you survive the oppressive heat! In BeiJing the humidity was only oppressive for a week or so, so hopefully it’s similar there.
      Have fun!!!

  • genkim 5:58 pm on July 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: japan   


    Hi asiapod readers,

    From June 2 to June 16, I had visited Japan through a trip organized by Hobart and William Smith Colleges in connection with Technos College, a Japanese college in Tokyo.  I had blogged about my various experiences in Japan on this blog: http://genkim.wordpress.com

    The trip was designed to be an exposure to Japanese culture both modern and traditional; activities ranged from meetings on the Technos College campus to short trips in rural Japan, and plenty of free time for doing other things.  If anyone wants to read a few posts about my trip to Japan, feel free to check out my blog.  (scroll all the way down to start from the beginning, of course.)

  • viennamf 7:30 pm on April 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , japan, , ,   

    Finally, A Reflection 

    I see Japan everyday. It’s been over four months since I returned from Hikone and not a day goes by that I don’t have some memory of my time there. It’s a little sad but they are all good memories. It’s a pleasant haunting.


    I meant to write a final blog post for AsiaPod a long time ago but as per usual, all sorts of other things got in the way.  My study abroad in Japan was the best experience I could have wanted.  Of course, there are always a few regrets but nothing that substantially mars my experience. I have tried to keep in some contact with the people I met there, both Japanese and American, and Facebook is especially helpful with this.

    In the days following my return to the States, I remember feeling odd.  It was definitely weird to be back in a place where the dominant language was English and I didn’t have to struggle to come up with a sentence, but this was actually a lot less strange than I had anticipated.  The weirdest part was the realization that nothing had changed since I had been gone. I had undergone a profound change and had had all these experiences in another place, but everyone at home had just been living their regular lives.  I felt like I didn’t fit into my American life anymore, but there was an expectation for me to just pick up where I left off. The first few weeks home were hazy and I felt disconnected.  It took me about a month to fully recover from the jetlag.

    I think coming back to school grounded me.  The structure of college life and classes gave me a framework to reintegrate into and some of the people I live with had just come back from abroad as well. This meant that we could all talk incessantly about being abroad without worrying that we were boring the other person.

    There are many parts of my study abroad that have stuck with me, but perhaps the most eye opening experience was learning what it felt like to be living in a country where you could not easily communicate. I have a new appreciation for the struggles that immigrants and international students face.  I think it can be difficult to fully understand why some people don’t learn to speak English when they come to the US if you haven’t experience the difficulty of learning an entirely new language first hand.  Your brain starts to hurt after awhile and eventually you want to take a break and just be around those who speak the same language as you.  That is not to say that I did not like learning and living in another language; being able to practice my Japanese was a challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    My iPod Touch was actually an invaluable resource for my language study in Japan and it continues to help me with my language study here on campus.


    My favorite app was Kotoba!, a Japanese-English dictionary. It was free and I use(d) it constantly. You can look up words in both Roman characters and in Japanese characters as well as search for kanji.  It also allows you to save lists of words and this made a great reference tool. I do not know what I would have done without it.


    The other language app that I liked and continue to use was a Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) study app called JLPT Study.  You can download a free version, or get the full app for about $5. I bought it and used it to learn new vocab and kanji.  I am sure that I could have gotten by without the iPod but it made my life so much easier. (Thanks so much, AsiaPod!)

    I really miss Japan and I plan to go back there one day. How and when I do not yet know but it would be foolish to not try to get back.

    • jhboisselle 6:29 pm on April 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Vienna, thanks much for sharing concrete suggestions for apps! And, of course, thanks for capturing your transition thoughts in writing and sharing them outward. Readers, current and future, will appreciate the glimpse into your experiences.

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