A Short Stay in Gunma

Last weekend, I went on an overnight trip to an onsen town in the Gunma prefecture. Known for their scenic mountains and natural hot springs, Gunma is a very relaxing and beautiful part of Japan to explore. Though the trip was fairly short, it was still a nice time and a great way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. 

Our first stop on the trip was at a daruma doll shop where we got to meet a daruma ‘master’ who has spent years of his life painting the faces of these cute dolls. If you’re unfamiliar with daruma dolls, they are circular, wooden toys that represent luck and supposedly have the ability to grant wishes. Surmise to say, they’re a very interesting aspect of Japanese culture.

While at this shop, we were able to paint our own daruma doll to take home. Though my daruma painting skills need some work, it was still fun giving it a try. 

https://flic.kr/p/2nW9Esj – The Daruma Workshop

Following the daruma shop, we stopped at a rest area to enjoy a hearty lunch of vegetable udon before arriving at a beautiful, mountainside shrine. Though we didn’t stay for long, it was a peaceful location and a great place to view the autumn leaves. 

https://flic.kr/p/2nW9EvR – Some tasty udon!

https://flic.kr/p/2nW8JAF – A picture from the mountainside shrine. Very pretty!

It wasn’t long before we arrived at our hotel in Ikaho, a small countryside town in the heart of Gunma. The hotel was fairly large, and the rooms were an interesting blend of western and traditional. To add to this traditional feeling, there were comfy yukatas available for us to pick up in the main lobby too. They were nice to wear after going to the onsen that was connected to the hotel.

To put it simply, onsens are bathing areas typically separated by gender. The two main rules for onsens are that you’re expected to wash off before going in and that you can’t wear any clothes or bathing suits inside. I’ve never done anything like this so it was a bit of an intimidating experience for me. Nonetheless, the water was very relaxing and I enjoyed my time. 

https://flic.kr/p/2nW8JAv – The Ikaho Steps, a popular spot in the town.

https://flic.kr/p/2nW4Hwx – Our hotel room, complete with tatami mats and futons to sleep on.

https://flic.kr/p/2nW9EtM – An early morning view from our hotel room. Gunma is very scenic!

Amidst all of these fun moments, I allowed myself to reflect a bit more over my time so far. It’s an understatement to say that the past few months have flown by. However, I’m very grateful for my experiences because doing something new like this pushes me out of my comfort zone a little bit. I’m not sure how the rest of my semester will be, but I’m hopeful it’ll be as great as my time in Gunma. 


A Reflection at the Halfway Point

In my mind, I haven’t been in Tokyo for long. Two months in, and I still feel as if I just stepped off the airplane in late August. 

I suppose it’s a good thing that time is flying, since that probably means I’m doing enough to warrant busy days. Despite this fact, I still feel a ball of sadness in my stomach when I think about my semester abroad coming to an end. 

In the past month or so, I’ve noticed a lot of changing feelings. At first, I started to feel more comfortable speaking with my host mom and talking to my peers in class. Then, I noticed how better situated I was to address my culture shock that I was feeling for quite some time. Even now, I see ways in which I could continue to grow as a student overseas, and it makes me sad to think that I may not have more opportunities to do so before my time is up.

This first half of the semester hasn’t been perfect. In fact, I’ve struggled with my fair share of anxiety and loneliness. On the surface level, I’m very happy to be in Japan, and I love all the opportunities I’ve had available to me. Deeper than that though, I’ve been struggling with my personal reflection and motivation.

Being abroad gives me the opportunity to work on adapting to changes more independently. However, it also means having to rebuild a support system by myself. At this point, I feel better situated to address any issues that may pop up, but I still feel uncertain much of the time. 

I love being able to study in Japan and experience a different way of life. I’m already so sad thinking of having to say goodbye to this little part of the world that I’ve temporarily made into my home. However, I think it’s important to realize that, like all things in life, it isn’t without its flaws. It makes me happy though, seeing as I’m able to grow from these moments of uncertainty. I’m grateful to be where I’m at now, and I’m happy to see how I’ve changed even in this short time. Come December, I hope that I’ll have plenty more things to reflect positively on too.

As of now though, I have lots of fun memories and pictures to enjoy! If you’re interested in seeing some of my recent favorite photos, feel free to take a look at the links below!

https://flic.kr/p/2nVvC3n / https://flic.kr/p/2nVufeS – Tokyo seems to have vending machines on every corner. Not only are they convenient, but they’re enjoyable to look at too!