After traveling for twelve hours in a cramped airplane, my parents and I arrived into a country half way around the world Japan. Little did I know how exciting and exuberating the next three weeks of my life would be. My father, who teaches at USM, was invited to Japan along with two other people from the University of Southern Maine, as a faculty exchange with Rissho University in Tokyo, Japan. My mother and I joined my father on this thrilling adventure to Japan.

Although we stayed in Tokyo most of the time, we were able to make many day trips, visiting well-known sites. We saw two large Buddha statues, shrines, castles, parks, a zoo and even Tokyo Disneyland. We were able to experience three different types of Christian church services. In Nara, wild deer flocked to people who had food to feed them. My favorite place to visit was a town called Nikko. This quaint town is situated in the Japan Alps with a beautiful lake and waterfall very close to it.

The Japanese food is very unique. Usually, a meal is started with the appetizer of sushi, which is raw fish or seaweed with rice, or sashimi, which is just raw fish. I enjoyed trying the different foods, and liked most of them, except octopus. It was just a little too rubbery! Eating with chopsticks was quite an experience, and after using them for three weeks, I got the idea of how to bring the food from the plate and into my mouth without dropping every piece of rice. The Japanese drink a lot of green tea without sugar. Although it is rather bitter, I eventually grew to tolerate it. A dish called shabu-shabu was one of my favorites. We were served raw paper-thin beef and a plate of vegetables. We cooked the meat and vegetables in flavored boiling water, dipped them in sauce, and then ate them. Quite appetizing! After this big meal, the waitress added noodles to the boiling water, and we ate the noodles and broth as a soup. As you can well imagine, we were very full after that meal. Another favorite was hoto noodle soup. This soup is made from a wide variety of vegetables and hoto noodles in a very delicious flavorful broth. The Mt. Fugi area is known for their hoto noodles.

The Japanese people intrigued me the most. Having a serene air about them, they are a very quiet people. For instance, in the rush hour train traffic, everyone would be squished onto the trains to the point that everyone was leaning on everyone else just to stay standing. It was as if the people were sardines packed into a can. As we traveled along, I noticed that instead of people talking and carrying on conversations, people were unbelievably quiet. It was as if everyone were meditating and did not want to disturb the silence.

The Japanese children were very cute and picturesque, tempting me to take pictures of every one I saw. Another intrigue was all the kids from elementary grades to high school wore school uniforms to the public schools instead of just normal clothing.

I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Japan. We knew a little Japanese, but most people spoke broken English. We felt safe all the time and enjoyed the challenge of trying to get around the city. This fabulous experience of traveling to Japan opened up a whole new culture to me, and I can now understand the Japanese people a lot more than I had ever imagined.

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