So long, and thanks for all the fish

I’ve returned, America! After a long journey home, I’m beginning to settle back into my normal routine. I’ll put the emphasis on “beginning to” since jet lag has me feeling a little run down. I’m having to adapt pretty quickly though, since our last semester of graduate school is already in full swing. Before life gets too busy again, I wanted to finish off this summer of blogging with a reflections post. I’ll try my best to keep things short and sweet.

I’d have to say that the most memorable experiences this summer were the unexpected ones. While I encourage anyone who visits Japan to prepare in advance (more on that in just a few paragraphs), it’s amazing how spontaneity can easily creep up on you in this country. For example, the weather was unbearably hot during the latter part of my stay. As a result, I was given a lovely reality check of what it’s like to live without certain amenities, since my sharehouse didn’t have any air conditioning. Luckily, I was able to escape the Niigata heat by walking just ten minutes to the beach. It was even luckier that a quaint little beach shack was stationed right near my side of the sand. The owner of this shop spoke a bit of English and upon my second visit to his establishment, I was offered a ride on one of his many jet skis along with several other young beachgoers. I’ve never been on a jet ski before and was not expecting Japan to be my first time by any means. I’m pretty confident that I’ll never forget holding on for dear life as we raced along the Sea of Japan.

*Rest assured, I was given a life jacket as were all other riders.

The UltraSuperNew conference room

The UltraSuperNew conference room

As for a more educational experience, I have to point to my second adventure in Tokyo where I managed to squeeze in a last-minute stop at a creative agency. Based in the Harajuku district, UltraSuperNew helps international clients (Red Bull and Electronic Arts, just to name a few) establish a brand presence in Japan. In their own words, the team aims to “close the gap between global vision and local activation,” a process that will certainly sound familiar to my fellow colleagues in the graduate cohort. One of the USN founders, Marc Wesseling, graciously let me stop by to learn a little more about what they do. He offered some incredibly interesting insight on not only how the agency was able to find success in such a difficult market but also touched on the unique challenges that accompany communication efforts in the country. Outside of our conversation, I had the chance to explore the office and meet members of his staff. The team exuded a terrific energy, and I look forward to connecting again in the future!

A favorite Japanese language book among many learners

A favorite Japanese language book among many learners

This summer made me feel fairly qualified to help those who plan to spend extended time in the Japan, especially with the amount of exploring I did on my own. To impart the most accurate wisdom for setting off on similar adventures and assimilating into Japanese culture, I’m going to borrow the famous Scout Motto – “Be Prepared.” While Japan is a highly industrialized country, it’s still a completely foreign locale. And with limited options when it comes to wireless connectivity for tourists, you can’t always rely on Google search for any issues that might arise. I personally recommend planning in advance using a website called Japan Guide. Travel blogs are also great, since the authors tend to offer helpful tips direct from the source. This is how I discovered an easy and inexpensive way to purchase baseball tickets from the local convenience store. My last recommendation (and probably the most essential part of preparing for visiting or living in Japan) is pretty obvious. Make a genuine effort with the language – no matter how small. I became a little lazy about studying Japanese toward the end of my trip, but I certainly learned the value of understanding basic phrases for daily interactions. In addition to generally making life easier, new language learners will find the simplest exchanges to be incredibly satisfying.

Overall, I was able to fit quite a lot of fun and learning into my two and half months in Japan. I sincerely hope that I was able to extend even just a little bit of this to all of you. I know that life won’t keep me away from Japan for very long. For now, I can look back on my summer experience as one of the best in my life.

-Sarah

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