In July of 2008, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Japan with People to People Student Ambassadors. Of course, I couldn’t pass up this once in a lifetime experience because I have a passion for traveling, so I signed up and headed out on an eighteen hour plane ride to Japan for 14 days. This trip was my most memorable experience because I lived the Japanese lifestyle first hand such as staying with a host family, eating new unique foods, and shopping in the local street markets.
First of all, my host family experience wasn’t quite what I had expected, yet I still am so thankful for the opportunity. I figured that I would stay in a house will a mom, dad, and one or two kids my age; I thought wrong. I lived with a single, older mom and her 22 year old son. I also had an idea that I would be able to cook dinner with my host mom at night; I thought wrong again. My host mother wanted me to stay in my room to rest for most of the day, and then come down for dinner. My favorite memory from my host family experience is the day the three of us went to the city aquarium. I saw hundreds of species of animals, as well as watch an outdoor dolphin show. I reminisce on my times in the little city of Fukuoka, and have many positive memories.
Furthermore, my range of food dramatically widened during my stay in Japan. In Florida, I mainly eat “southern food” such as chicken, corn, black eyes peas, etc. but in Japan I was usually offered pork, tofu, rice, and seafood. By no means at all am I a picky eater, so I appreciated all of the new foods I was able to try. I will never forget the night I watched the locals in Gifu catch their dinner. Most people would believe fish are caught on a fishing rod or in a net, but the locals in Gifu use a technique called Cormorant fishing. Cormorants are a type of bird raised by the locals to catch fish, but the fish are not swallowed. The bird has a neckband around its throat which prevents the Cormorant from swallowing the fish and the fisherman pulls the fish out of the bird’s throat. Although this technique may be strange to any person who isn’t from Japan, I am grateful to have seen this cultural tradition.
Lastly, my favorite aspect of Japan was visiting and purchasing goods at the local shopping markets. In these markets people shop for anything such as fruits, vegetables, shoes, or umbrellas. The market which I enjoyed the most was about a mile long, and each store was underground; the entrance to the store was accessible from the street, and a flight of stairs took me down to the store. I enjoyed bargaining with the locals and purchasing souvenirs such as t-shirts, Japanese games, and a purse. Shopping is a hobby of mine, and I am glad I could continue this hobby in a foreign country.
All in all, my 14 day trip to Japan with People to People Student Ambassadors is one of my most memorable vacations. The exotic cuisine, trendy street markets, and home stay experience put the icing on the cake of my trip. Simply staying in a hotel and shopping would have made the trip fun, but my unique experiences made it extraordinary. Traveling is a passion of mine and I hope to continue viewing the world, one country at a time.
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