Our time in Japan has come to an end and I have so many mixed emotions. I am excited to get home and see my friends, fellow TABers, and cuddle with my fur-babies. Getting back to my normal lifestyle will be an adjustment, but I think I will find comfort in welcoming my old routine. My time in Japan has brought me so many different challenging and exciting experiences and has allowed me to grow both professionally and personally. I know that there will be many things that I will miss about Japan and I hope it will not be too long before I visit again.
During my short time in Japan, and especially Kushiro, we met so many wonderful people, sharing stories and opinions over food and drinks. I never knew how easy it would be to create such meaningful connections with people on the other side of the world. We discussed our ideas about education and our hopes and dreams of how both education and we, ourselves, could grow.
Kushiro is considered to be one of the top three places in the world to watch the sunset, and I could not disagree. What made this detail even sweeter was the fact that we had a front row seat to watch the setting sun from our place of residence while in Kushiro. I could not believe how lucky we were the first time I noticed the beautiful setting sun. Hot pinks and oranges lit up the night skies and our 4 pm early setting sun became a welcomed experience in our hearts. Being an island, we were never too far from the ocean. While in Sapporo my homestay family took me out to the ocean, where I was able to dip my feet into the cold and salty waters; it had been years since I had been in the ocean and Japan had so many beautiful places for great views. Fall in Hokkaido was similar to that of my home in Ontario. Although Calgary does have a short but still beautiful fall, the fall colours that occur in Japan cannot be beat and made me feel at home. Shades of red, orange, yellow, and green are everywhere you looked and it was mesmerizing. I am glad that I got to experience fall in Japan – it is my favourite time of year.
Being in a foreign country, especially one of relatively little diversity, we would often find people were surprised by our presence. This was most notable during our school visits, particularly with the junior high girls. The students would often see us and cover their mouths with their hands while gasping in disbelief, turning to their friends to get their attention on us and whispers and giggles would ensue. Sometimes when this occurred we would greet them by saying “hello” or “konichiwa” which would raise more whispers and giggles and usually a response of “kawaii” which means ‘cute’. We thought their reactions were kawaii. It has been an interesting experience having this celebrity status as with the diversity in Canada, we would never be seen in this light; so if we hadn’t experienced it already, that was our 15 minutes of fame! One of the biggest perks about having this status was that it intrigued people to want to get to know us, so it was one of the ways we were able to connect with people in Japan and develop friendships.
Though we had some very real and challenging times with the natural disasters at the beginning of TAB, we had many other wonderful experiences to make up for the rocky start. Some of the highlights for me were: sumo wrestling, school festivals, seeing the different colours of fall, small-scale schools, sunsets, fireworks festival, food, behind the scenes at the local zoo, talks about education with staff and students, and the friends that we made. I am looking forward to my next field experience and taking with me all the experiences and things I have learned while in Japan.