Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture
Matsumoto City is a little under four hours away from Kurobe by car, so I started up Peggy one snowy Saturday morning and away we went. After a small snaggle involving an almost-empty gas tank, I finally found my way to Matsumoto during the early hours of the afternoon. I spent my first day visiting Matsumoto Castle, an old elementary school from the 1800s, and the woodblock print museum I'd been wanting to visit for over a year.
"This is my country, damn it! Go get your own!"
Oh brain...you certainly are enough to give a neuroscientist a lifetime of work.
Hakuba Five Dragons Ski Resort, Nagano
Nice as the skiing was, I think the best part of the trip was finally convincing my friend to try out a Japanese hot spring (onsen) for the first time. A lot of people are hesitant when it comes to onsen because the Japanese versions are a no-clothing zone, unlike most of the hot springs in the US. That being said, the Japanese communal bathing culture is one of the things I missed most when I came back from Japan last year. Onsen are basically giant hot-tubs, and getting to unwind with my friends after a long day was such a relaxing experience. My friend loved it (as I knew she would) and thus I considered our ski-trip a success. Not to mention that I managed not to break anything all weekend! As it turns out, Japanese ski resorts are exactly the same as US ones--only with more Australians.
January in Kurobe
"Just so you know, don't try to eat. It won't go well."
Never have wiser words been spoken.
I've officially signed onto the JET Program for another year, I've spent more than six months in Kurobe, and my classes are getting more friendly and comfortable every single day. I really feel like I've settled into my life in Japan so much more easily than I thought I would. All the things I was worried about haven't happened, and I am certainly looking forward to spending another year enjoying my apartment, job, and wonderful new friends.
For those of you who don't know, I am indeed planning on coming back to the US over spring break. I'm flying out of Kurobe on the 19th of March and leaving Denver on April 1st. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone (and looking forward to Ethiopian food and processed vegetarian junk so very much) but I'm no longer worried that I won't want to come back to Japan afterward. Everyone I love in America has a life of their own now, and--for the next few years--I have a life of my own in Kurobe, Japan. It's a good feeling.
For the time being, if you have an interest in checking out some of the pictures I've taken in Japan but haven't put on my blog, feel free to head over to my Photobucket page (click here) where I've uploaded them more or less indiscriminately. I'm really enjoying my new camera (though, I admit to not bringing it on the ski-trip since I didn't want to wreck it) and I get a little trigger-happy when I bring it out. Goodbye for now, and fellow Coloradans: see you in March!