Lindsay Pringle, a senior from Central Michigan University and a student on the 2016 fall semester Language & Culture program, spoke with us about her experiences with study abroad. In this installment, she discusses her experiences traveling around Japan and living in Hikone!
The city of Hikone is a beautiful and comfortable place to live. JCMU is located right along Lake Biwa, which you can see from your classroom window. When I first came to JCMU I really enjoyed walking along it and watching the sunset.
All of the JCMU students are given a bicycle so it makes exploring Hikone very easy. We are also very lucky to have a stunning castle nearby surrounded by a large moat. Since it sits on a large hill, you can see it pretty much anywhere in Hikone. It is especially beautiful when they light it up at night, and also helpful if you happen to get lost when getting used to the area. Another nice thing about Hikone is that it is located almost in the center of Japan, so it makes traveling fairly easy as well. Recently, the city hosted an even called the Yuru-Kyara Matsuri which is a festival where the mascots from each prefecture come and put on shows and walk around so people can take pictures. Each character has a booth set up where you can buy souvenirs but they also give you bags of free gifts. So, if you don’t have the money to travel, Hikone is still a great place to enjoy fun festivals like this.
Food in Japan is so different than I had imagined. I was a vegetarian before I came here but decided to start eating fish while here because it’s almost impossible to find anything without fish stock or meat of some sort. Not being able to read the ingredients makes it even harder. It surprised me because I guess I had the stereotype that since Buddhism was popular it would be easy to find vegetarian food. Despite all of this, I think one of my favorite meals here is unadon or an eel filet glazed with a sweetened soy sauce over a bed of rice.
Eating a balanced meal here is actually more challenging than I imagined. Fruits and some vegetables are very expensive so I try to find ways to use what is in season while cooking. Also some things are a lot cheaper or carry different things so I tend to shop around. Another challenge of eating in Japan is that you have to ride your bike a fairly good distance to get to the grocery store and you only have a small basket to fit it all in. I carry a backpack, an insulated bag, and an ice pack whenever I go to keep my cold food safe to consume.
So far, I have traveled to some nearby locations such as; Nagoya, Kyoto, and Nagahama. I plan on visiting Tokyo next month. My favorite place so far was the Fushimi Inari Shrine. I enjoyed going to the shops and buying souvenirs for my family and friends. Fushimi Inari is somewhere I have wanted to visit for a while since learning about Shintoism in my Japanese religion class. It was very cool to observe and participate in some of the rituals I had learned about there. The thousands of red Torii gates lined up like a tunnel up the mountain was breathtaking and I plan on returning there again before I leave.
We would like to thank Lindsay for talking to us about her experiences thus far in Japan, and we hope that her story resonates with many others considering JCMU. In the next installment, which will be posted on December 7th, Lindsay discusses her thoughts on the Friday cultural activities JCMU offers students on the language program, so check back then!