Monday, May 26, 2014

My Second Home

Hey there! It's been awhile and a lot has happened. We'll see if everything fits...

The traditional Japanese inn that I lived in for two months had a hot spring. This was one of them with a great view of the river.

My host dad is a flower arranging teacher. I got to sit in on one of his classes!

My flowers...

I went skating with the Tani family and a bunch of friends of theirs from college. Papa's brother and niece also came along. This is Rene

Everyone put their money together and they rented out a dome for a couple hours.

Michimoto-san took my friend Mika and I to see Awaji Island which is located in Osaka Bay and is connected to the main island of Japan by the biggest suspension bridge in the world.


A botanical garden

It must be a fantastic product...

Evening on the ocean.

I went with my host parents (the Yamasaki family) to the Sakai city hall. It's 21 stories and has a small restaurant at the top. The cool thing about Sakai is that there are a lot of ancient tombs located around the city. The biggest one in Sakai is also the biggest tomb in the world.

The restaurant in the city all serves curry in the shape of the tomb.

The entrance to the tomb. You can't go in because it is a sacred site. It is also surrounded by three different moats.

Feral cats


Still some snow.

I was invited by my friend Mika's family to make udon with them! 

This is a museum near their house that is modeled after a wooden ship.

Mika's host mom and dog!

We went to view displays of the festival for girls, ひな祭り, at an old house.

Rolling out the udon dough.

Cutting the noodles.


I was able to go hiking on my own for three or four hours. I missed the mountains!

This is a smoking/relaxation room in the hotel.

Tani Jiji invited some of his customers and I to go and watch the Mizudori Festival at Toudaiji Temple in Nara Prefecture.

I got see some friends.

The sunset was incredible! The building in the picture houses the largest Buddha statue in Japan.

In the festival, young men carry long bamboo poles with burning pine branches on the end of it. They hold the pole way out over a balcony and then run. If the sparks from the burning pine land on someone below, that person will not have an illness in the following year.

Here's a video of it:

The city from the temple.

I went with my friend Mika's family to Kyoto. This temple hosts a bow and arrow shooting contest annually. The competitors have to shoot their arrows the length of this pebble garden.

Traditional Japanese meal


Japanese plum blossoms

Matcha ice cream!

I bought my own Aikido uniform. This says "Wesley" in Japanese.

I went and hung out with my next host family for a day. This is Ryuji. He's 21 and loves reggae.

A package from home! Yummy!

I went with my host mom to see Gagaku, traditional Japanese music and dance. I think it was written to put the listener to sleep.

Putting out a fire at a safety demonstration.

My friend Ron's last day at school. He went home to Australia after living in Japan with his family for three or four years.

I explored Osaka with Okada. He studied at Carleton College in Northfield for a couple months last summer. 

The Yamasaki family and I went out for yakiniku with a former exchange student of theirs. This is cow tongue. It's so good!

The bags are packed to move...

My class! 1-7

I stayed at my counselor's house for a couple nights because the Yamasaki's were busy and the Tawada family wasn't ready for me. This is the view from the very large apartment building my counselor lives in. 

A temple in Kawachinagano

The tani family invited me to go skiing in Fukui prefecture.

So much fun! Nanako and I snowboarded while Mitsuki and Papa skied.

Her first time and she's amazing!!!

A little break

Papa and I went up the mountain a little bit to have more of a hill.

All of the inbound and outbound exchange students and ROTEX went to Osaka Castle together.

Miyuki (on the left) is going to Minnesota next year!


I moved to the Tawada family's house. This is my room and bed.

Pet turtles!

My aunt and cousin have 15 cats living in their apartment...This is the most friendly one.

This is Nanami, one of little cousins.

Huge koi!

Dressed like warriors!!!

Japanese garden


A bonsai tree

My host sister, Momoka, is on exchange in Minnesota right now. Her best friend, Natsumi, and I went out to eat okonomiyaki and to see the movie Frozen. So much fun!

"Big" and "small"

Family day-trip to Wakayama

The most southern point on Honshu, the biggest island of Japan.

Drinking water for a long life.

A giant fortune teller

The cherry blossoms are out!

Climbing through a tree for good luck

It's about 800 years old

Soba noodle flavored ice cream

Hanging out with school friends. This character is based off of an actor from a comedy sketch.

Going to the science museum!

The tallest building in Japan!

Coolest bathroom ever

Americans making burritos!

Burrito party!

Exploring parks

The cup ramen museum. You can make your own ramen and design the cup that it goes in!

The creator of instant ramen.

Takero, the smallest cousin.

This is the neighborhood that the Tawada family lives in. There are a lot of apartments and parks.

Surfing in the Sea of Japan!

The biggest crab in Japan

Rotary picnic!

It's hard to say goodbye


Aquarium selfie

The river in Kawachinagano

The Nagano High School band playing during lunch

Natsumi, a bunch of friends from middle school, Brianna, and I hung out and ate sushi

School uniform frisbee

Jiji and I participated in a hiking race. It was a lot of fun! There were tons of people either hiking or running.

A grass-covered mountain

We finished!

Horse meat

Family trip!

A sea-shore that reminded me of the north shore of Lake Superior. All of the rocks are hexagonal pillars.

2,800 year old trees. So big!

Tea and snacks

Dino museum!

Rotary trip to Kyoto!

In Kyoto, we met exchange students from Kobe, Nara, Kyoto, Shiga, Fukui, and Ishikawa prefectures. It was awesome to meet so many new people!

A Mr. Obama mask


ROTEX and out-bounds!

In front of Nijyo Castle

Riding old bikes at a bike museum

Maybe a little small...

So cute!

Koi banners for Children's day. They represent family.

The Kobe Aquarium. The entire family went as well as Brianna and Natsumi.

Giant octopus senbei!


School field trip. The second-years had a barbecue in the mountains.

Preparing fried soba

Cooking fried soba


Takoyaki party with Natsumi 1, Natsumi 2, and Brianna

Some of the 15 cats...

Why hello there

Home-made cake!

Harvesting bamboo shoots with Brianna's family

Siblings and a friend!

Found one!

They're so furry!

Husking the shoots

Boilin' 'em

International aikido festival.

Jean from France

Some of the high-schoolers from my dojo

Jean performing




Everyone eating lunch

I moved back to the Tani house. The morning afterwards we went to the Citizens Festival of Kawachinagano. Mitsuki climbed across the Boy Scouts "Money Bridge".

Japan's defense force mascot

A mini locomotive!

The Kawachinagano Mikkaichicho Aikido dojo performed at the festival.

Barbecue with the Tani family and their friends!

Nanako and Kanna


This spider would easily cover the palm of my hand. I like spiders until they get to be this size.

Dinner with foreign aikido students

Rotary trip to Hiroshima

Shinkansen/Bullet Train

Hiroshima style okonomiyaki

The atomic bomb was detonated 600 meters above this spot.

The atomic bomb dome.

The memorial to every person who's life was lost due to the effects of the bomb.

The Hiroshima Peace Museum

A quote in the museum that reads "Water, please".

The view from the hotel. You can see the dome in the background.

Itsukushima Shrine Gate

Bukaku, Japanese traditional dance.

A huge rice spoon!

They're basically 1,080 yen...

A new friend!

Hiroshima Castle

Shinkansen dinner!

The dome at night

I've been having a wonderful second half of exchange. Everything is incredible, the people are nice, and I swear there are only 12 hours everyday. It's amazing. It will be incredibly hard to leave this beautiful country and all of the fantastic people I have met. Thank you, Rotary, for this absolutely incredible experience. 

I am under the fifty day mark now and I have no idea where all the time went. 


  1. I was wondering, does Mika have a blog or YouTube channel?

    1. I you send me a message telling me who you are and how you know I would be happy to.