We had a winter break from December 23rd to January 5th, 2016. Some students in our program went home to see their families, some stayed in Japan during the year-end and New Year holidays. Here are reports from the first year grade students who had a good time in Japan during the holidays and Prof.Yamamoto.
Maya from Sweden
My winter break was really nice. I celebrated Christmas Eve in Swedish style with some of my Swedish friends living in Osaka! ! On new year’s day, I went to hatsumoude in Hiraoka (Higashi Osaka), and the other day I and my friend made a trip to Nagoya and なばなの里 to look at the illuminations.
Maria from Spain
One of the highlight of my winter break is definitely the 31st. Refusing to spend this day at the dorms, my friend and I decided to go outside and experience this day together. For both of us, it was the first time we were spending New Years Eve in Japan.
With the help of Google, we came up with a plan. First, we would take a walk in Umeda to breath in the environment of the day and then head off to a temple that I had found on the Internet: the Kita-mido temple. Because we wanted to be as traditional as possible, we searched for restaurants in Umeda in hopes of satisfying our hunger with soba. A small restaurant in Umeda Station proved to be good enough for our expectations.
Kita-mido temple was easy to go to and we definitely did not regret going there. We waited until 10pm approximately to enter the temple. We were expecting some musical performances outside the temple but we were ushered inside the temple instead, where we were told to sit and wait for the religious ceremony to begin. Once that was finished, we were asked to go outside so that we could ring the temple’s bell. As we waited in a cue to ring it, the countdown began. I had brought 24 grapes for my friend and I so that we could celebrate the countdown as I always did back at home in Spain: eating 12 grapes, one grape for each chime till midnight.
After eating the grapes and ringing the bell, I thought the year could not start in a better way. But I was proved wrong: we were offered free soba. We warmed our hands as we devoured soba for the second time that day in the cold night. It was a fantastic way to start the 2017.
I stayed in the dorms and around the neighbourhood for the rest of the break except the day of my birthday, the 5th of January. I spent the day with some of the fellow G30 students in Kobe, a city that has become one of my favourite places in Japan. It was hard to feel homesick while having such a blast in good company. Eating Kobe meat definitely lifted my spirits as I celebrated this day away from everything that till this year, was familiar to me.
This year was a year of first times, of discovery and change. And as I ended it with new experiences, I was happy.
Lily from Malaysia
Winter break was fun, as I experienced hatsumode at a Buddhist temple for the first time with Maria. I also went to Tokyo for a few days to visit my sister. Other than that, I spent most of my time in the dorm. All in all though, it was an enjoyable winter break.
Shirley from China
Prof.Yamamoto, the Director of our program
I spent the festive season in Pasadena in California with my family. We had a number of special events including participating in a fun run at Long Beach on New Year’s Eve and attending the Rose Parade on January 2nd. However, the most special part of the holiday was Christmas Day, which was spent with family cooking a vegetarian feast, opening presents, Skyping family far away and playing games. We spent a couple of hours playing tennis in the beautiful beautiful sunshine, with clear blue skies and the mountains in the background.