Japan in 12 Photos: A second year in review

Welcome to the second installment of a the year in review, you can see the first here.

Today marks two years that I’ve been in Japan. It’s hard to wrap my head around it. In some ways it feels like I just got here and in others it seems like a lifetime. I think back to my first night in Japan, lying awake in the hotel room and wondering what I was doing. I couldn’t have known what was in store for me and that one day Toyama’s mountain range would become a familiar and comforting sight.

August: Canada

Going home to Canada was a little surreal and also wonderful. We traveled all the way up to Montreal and back, I got to go to New York, and most importantly my aunt was able to visit Canada for the first time. It was an interesting experience to see my home through a new lens after being away for a year.


September: School Stuff

September (and most of October actually) revolved totally around school. There were two big events, the speech contest and the debate tournament. Weekdays were spent staying late at school coaching students through arguments, pronunciation, and gestures. A year later I can probably still recite most of Maya Angelou’s “Still I rise”. Weekends were full of committee meetings and fortunately a million school festivals which only happen once every three years.

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October: Maibara

In October I used the long weekend to go to Maibara and saw their Kabuki festival, one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Not only was I immensely impressed that kids under the age of 12 were able to wake up at 4 and perform traditional theatre all day, the community and spirit were really nice to be a part of.


November: Osaka

In November I went to Osaka and had an awesome long weekend. It was crazy busy in the area because everyone was going to see the fall leaves. I missed out on that, but I did go to see Big Bang and had the time of my life… we were seated right next to one of the stage’s walkways that come down into the audience. We got noticed by two of the members and even caught a towel (but gave it away to the two girls in front of us).


December: Bali

I escaped the cold of Japan’s winter to go to Bali for about a week. I climbed a mountain and went scuba-diving – two things I wasn’t sure I could do but that I ended up loving. I loved the trip and had some wonderful experiences, made even sweeter that when I got back to Toyama I felt like I was coming home.


January: Snowboard Season

I started going snowboarding semi-regularly and thanks to a friend who pushed me (not literally) my abilities and confidence really grew. I stopped being scared of the hill and learned to love powder. I’m lucky that Toyama has some great ski hills relatively close to where I live, and even luckier to have nice people to go with.

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February: … a blur and Ramen

February is always a month that I never remember. The fall is feels so structured, anchored by the season and the same annual events. Then January comes and the winter / spring feels like a blur. But the highlight of February for me was the ramen festival again. It makes me feel like I’m part of the community here while also eating amazing ramen… I can’t think of anything better.


March: Shinkansen comes to Toyama!

I’m nowhere near to being a Train Otaku, but the arrival of the Shinkansen felt like a really big deal. It was exciting to see the construction that had been taking place almost since I arrived to result in this big, beautiful, fancy station. One day I will take it to Tokyo…


April: Nagoya and Sakura

I went to Nagoya to meet the cool people of Asian Pacific Islander AJET and hang out a little. Trips to Nagoya are always so chill and relaxing. I love the bus ride and its view and the laid back atmosphere of the city. I caught the tail end of the cherry blossoms, which are always pretty but are extra special with a castle added in.


May: Tokyo

I went to Tokyo for Golden Week, we were lucky to have 5 days this year. I had great Korean food, slept in the park, and went to Disney Sea (which is maybe better than Disney Land :O).


June: the TRAM

Technically this isn’t a photo – but there are plenty of photos inside! In June I spent a lot of time working on my first project in layout / creative design. It took a lot of time and learning but I’m really happy with the end result especially since it’s created by people in Toyama.

July: Yukata

In July I bought and learned how to put on a Yukata for the first time (I wore it on August 1st, but that’s a technicality…). It was really nice of my teachers to take the time to show me how to do it and let me practice. I’m happy to say I can do it by myself now! I love summer festivals in Japan, they’re so laid back and have great food, but seeing everyone dressed up always makes it feel like a special occasion.

Out and about in Toyama city

It’s been a weird past month and a half, one of the busiest times I’ve had in a while. For a bit I felt like I did in school, starved for sleep and cramming something into every second of the day. I enjoyed it, or at least thrived off of it in University and I still do now, despite the fact that it isn’t healthy. But this past week or so has been more relaxed and I’ve gotten back into the swing of things. Sunday was my school’s first baseball game of the summer tournament. We won, thankfully, although it broke my heart to see the other team walking by us with tears streaming down their faces. Like most baseball games it was held at a baseball stadium in the middle of nowhere (for someone without a car). I was able to take the bus there with my school and then walked from the stadium, took two trains, and finally made it into Toyama city to see a teacher’s orchestra perform. I spent the rest of the sunny afternoon wandering around the city and refilling my water bottle whenever I got the chance. I love Toyama city in all it’s quietness.

A Sunday in Nagoya

Although it’s the fourth biggest city in Japan, Nagoya always feels incredibly peaceful to me. Even on the weekend and in some fairly popular tourist spots. It’s a nice three and a half hour drive by bus from Toyama, winding through the Japanese alps. I’m a big fan of sleeping on buses, and that plus Nagoya’s laid-back atmosphere means it’s a nice weekend (or even day) trip. A few weeks ago I went to Nagoya and ended up spending the Sunday by myself. I didn’t have much of a solid plan, but I wandered around and went to Ohsu Kannon, the science museum, and the castle. Not bad for a Sunday. Although I like traveling with friends, spending time alone in a city like Nagoya can be a nice escape.   _DSC0213 _DSC0214 _DSC0219 _DSC0221 _DSC0270 _DSC0228 _DSC0241 _DSC0257 _DSC0288 _DSC0306

Japan in Twelve Photos: A year in review

Twelve months have gone by faster than I thought could be possible (time flies, and all that). Looking back at all the pictures I’ve accumulated brings me back to so many great memories and experiences I know could only be possible in Japan.  I’ve pulled some of my favourites in a sort of visual memory of the past year.

August: Obon, Kamiichi

I left from Toronto arrived in Tokyo // sweat alot // drank 2L bottles of water sitting on my tatami floor. Obon happened and the office was empty. I went to a  festival in Kamiichi Town, went to a beach party and (sortof) climbed Tateyama.


September: Osu Kannon, Nagoya

I started to figure everything out a bit more. I started teaching and meeting students. I took my first trip, going to Nagoya. I have this very distinct memory of being half awake and watching the Japanese Alps from the bus window as we drove through. I spent a lot time after school helping students prepare for a speech competition.


October: Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

While my family was eating Thanksgiving dinner I was in Kyoto for the first time, eating burnt Ramen and visiting a cat cafe. I went to a Halloween party and to the speech competition. I learned that Kit-Kats are given for good luck.

November: Kurobe Gorge 

The seasons changed later than I expected. I went up to the Kurobe Gorge in a rainy, cold, and fantastic train ride up the mountain. One of the most beautiful places I’ve been to in Japan.


December: Maki-Chan in Japan

In December my sister visited Japan. We went to as many places as we could from an English camp in Toyama to Nagoya, Tokyo, all over Kansai (Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), and finally Maibara. It was strange to suddenly have a piece of home in Japan. I went about 4 weeks without classes and missed it a lot.


January: Hakuba, Nagano

I shivered at work and shivered in my apartment.  I went to Nagano to go snowboarding and loved every minute of the breathtaking mountains.


February: Kenrokuen Gardens, Kanazawa

It was cold. The third years finished classes. I went to Kanazawa21 and and saw an amazingly cool exhibition and ate lots of ramen to keep warm.



March: Dohtonbori Osaka

The school year ended, and it was really sad. My first fully-fledged trip to Osaka was incredibly fun, I ate a lot, walked a lot, and saw a lot. Omiyage was weirdly difficult to find. I saw sumo. I lost a contact lens. It was great.


April: Sakura at Matsukawa River

Cherry Blossoms lived up to their hype and more. Outside my school, around the river, in Osaka, and in backyards, these trees were so soft and pretty I felt like I was in a dreamland.


May: YG Concert in Tokyo 

Golden week was four days of pure awesomeness, the most “Tokyo” experience I’ve had, by going to a concert, the robot restaurant, and getting swept up in the energy of the city.


June: Uozu Port 

It became summer, like fully summer with high humidity and blue skies. I spent a lot of time getting sunburned and riding my bike around. I don’t mind the cold winter, but summer is the best for exploring  the city and feeling re-energized.
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July: Tatemon Festival 

TECHNICALLY this photo is from August but I’m using for July for the sake of relevance. I participated in the Tatemon festival, which was an absolute blast. High energy, lots of people, and a really wonderful culmination to the long season of festivals and fireworks of the summer and to the year in Japan.