My semester at Sophia University in Tokyo was an amazing experience and is now coming to an end. Through language barriers, unique customs, and unfamiliar traditions, I discovered the power of empathy and understanding in bridging the gaps between people from different backgrounds. Among the moments during my semester, a few stood out as true highlights. Each neighborhood of Tokyo offers a distinct atmosphere and its own hidden treasures. Exploring the neighborhoods of Okubo and Shimokitazawa stuck out to me with their fusions of old and new influences.
One week of my study abroad experience was made even more memorable when my sister came to visit. Sharing Tokyo with my loved ones was an incredible joy. We saw the view of the city skyline from Shibuya Sky, strolled through Ueno Park, and indulged in lots of Japanese foods and desserts. One of our favorite things during her trip was our visit to an Owl Café in Harajuku. We got to feed and hold owls of all sizes. They were so sweet and their caretakers were extremely knowledgeable about their animals. It was great to share my favorite spots with my family and give them a taste of my life these past few months.
This past week I took a weekend trip to Osaka. Known for its vibrant street food scene, castles, and energetic community, Osaka provided a contrast to Tokyo. I was surprised by how different the people and atmosphere were. Even the Japanese language and social customs are slightly different in Osaka. I really loved exploring the Dotonbori district where restaurants, shop and street vendors line the river. While in Osaka I visited the Ghibli Park in Nagoya, a park dedicated to the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli. I got to see attractions, posters and art of some of my favorite movies. The trip to Osaka further enriched my understanding of Japanese culture and allowed me to appreciate the regional diversity within the country.
Another recent trip from Tokyo I took recently was to the island of Enoshima. Just a short train ride from Tokyo, this island offered a tropical escape from the city. The island is small, and you can walk the entire coastline. There were caves, bridges and beaches to explore as well as lots of seafood, ice cream and souvenir shops. It seemed like a popular vacation spot for Japanese locals as the summer heat takes over.
I’ve had the most amazing semester in Japan and have really fallen in love with Tokyo. With fond memories and a new outlook I feel ready to return home in a few weeks. I feel so grateful for my time here and everything I got to learn and experience.