Posted in flashback friday

Flashback Friday: Halloween and Homesickness

I did a vlog about dealing with homesickness , and I honestly get so many questions about it that it’s probably in the “Top 5 Questions” I get since moving to Japan (Hmm, next post idea maybe? We’ll see!). I remember that I actually went back to this post two times to try and update it with pictures and more details, because I left out a few adventures that I did in August and September.

I wanted to also soften how homesick I was, because like I mentioned in my last post, I didn’t really want to worry my people back home in America.I deleted and re-wrote sections, so this post lacks smoothness and flow that I try my best nowadays to maintain.

Then again, I was trying to jam pack a lot of stuff into one post, which as any experienced blogger will tell you is a bad idea. Stick with one topic, one adventure, don’t try to cram. It’ll just come out a huge mess! Still, let’s see what past me was up to back around Halloween time five years ago.


Although the title isn’t entirely accurate, the love that America holds for Halloween and the love that Japan has for the holiday just isn’t the same. Back in America, I would’ve seen people’s front lawns and porches decorated to the nines with skeletons, witches, bats, maybe a few fake rodents, and the occasional scarecrow. Here, nothing. Nada. For one thing, it’s rare for me to see someone with a lawn period, and even more rare to see someone put up decorations.

It sucks, because I’m coming down from my euphoric state and slipping downwards into homesickness. I’m dying for familiar things, and it doesn’t help that Halloween is my favorite holiday. No contest. Most people usually take issue with Christmas and feel utterly lonesome about missing their families. I intend to hop on a plane and get back to the states for Christmas. I can’t exactly do that for Halloween, and I don’t want to do it. I just got here!

Repeat after me: There is no set formula for living abroad! Some people may go through the stages of adaptation in different ways.

What are the Stages of Adaptation you ask?

  1. Preparation– You’re packing and getting ready for the big move to another country. Often this is the stage where people are feeling the nervousness and excitement the most.
  2. Honeymoon/Euphoria Stage– You have arrived! EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! You will never be unimpressed by anything that’s happening around you ever!
  3. Culture Shock (Fatigue) / Homesickness– You are worn out from everything being so DIFFERENT, and you just want FAMILIAR things but you can’t.
  4. Adjustments/ Compromises– You’re getting the hang of things, you’re starting to adopt what you like from the new culture and what is just too big a part of your cultural identity to change.
  5. Isolation (Mentality)– You’re feeling like you’re the only you that’s ever existed and you’re so alone; Note that many people skip this step and I usually don’t hear many people complain about it, but here it is.
  6. Acceptance/ Integration– You’ve decided how you want to live your life abroad. Some of this culture, some of your own, and discovering your new identity as well as learning to love it.

Nobody goes through all of these in a set timetable, but at the JET Conferences they’ll give you an estimated time when you’ll go through “each phase.” Here’s the thing though, you might not go through these in phases, you might skip these steps, go back and experience them again, nothing about ex-pat life is one size fits all.

Don’t beat yourself up if you start feeling down! I was always hard on myself for feeling homesick when “I shouldn’t,” which is silly since that’s not how emotions work. Just take care of yourself!

Also, what I ended up doing was going to Tokyo Disney Land like a week after this post to do Disney Halloween!

Halloween Tokyo Disney 2.jpg

My friend Emily called me up out of the blue and basically asked me if I’d like to go. Long story short, that’s become my new annual Halloween tradition. I love dressing up and going there every year! It’s the whole month of October, and I definitely think that if you love Halloween like I do this is one the better places to celebrate, although lately Ageha has had some pretty epic Halloween events too.

Halloween Tokyo Disney.jpg

Past me of course didn’t know this was going to happen, so she decided to switch her tone from sad to happy without much of a transition.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still having fun. I went off to Gunma for a vacation in August. That was awesome! I went canyoning and rafting with a bunch of other ALTs and we had a good ol’ time. I nearly died walking up the mountain, but going down by basically going down the best slip and slide ride ever made was well worth the effort (and the asthma attack).

First Year Gunma Trip 1.jpg
Photo Credit: Midori Hamashima (Inoue)

I highly recommend going to Gunma for canyoning and rafting in the summer. We went on a three day weekend so that even the desk warming high school teachers could come. On our first day, we went rafting down the river, and in the picture above you can see us holding the paddles. We took this right after and we were soaked! The hotel we stayed at had the buses to take you there, the equipment, everything.

First Year Gunma Trip 1 Raft.jpg
Photo Credit: Midori Hanashima (Inoue)

The next day we went up the damn mountain, and what I failed to mention in this post is that our guides were trying to kill us. They were hopping up from rock to rock like bunnies while the rest of us were huffing and puffing trying to keep up. And yes, for the first time in years, I had a stress induced asthma attack. I was so embarrassed, but the whole group assured me that I wasn’t the weakest link (one girl told me later she wanted to throw up).

First Year Gunma Trip 2.jpg
Photo Credit: Midori Hanashima (Inoue)

Still, the near death was worth it, because wow was going down the mountain a ton of fun. We slid between the crevices of rocks and jumped into deep pools. The whole thing was gorgeous! In one part, a natural slide down the rocks took us through different holes on the way down to a big pool. It was exhilarating and terrifying! I thought I’d surely hit my head or something, but nope. Just landed in the pool.

First Year Gunma Trip 2 canyoning.jpg
Photo Credit: Midori Hanashima (Inoue)

Sidenote: Midori, the photographer and friend on the trip, was the only one of us who was smart enough to bring with her a waterproof camera. She ended up taking all of the pictures. My advice is to get a waterproof case or something beforehand so you don’t end up missing out on capturing these amazing memories.

And in the evening we had a BBQ at the hotel.

BBQ picture Gunma Trip 2.jpg
Photo Credit: Midori Hanashima (Inoue)

For reasons that are quite beyond me, I failed to put in an actual picture of the BBQ in the original post so I’m changing to this picture. There were about 5 plates of meat we consumed, but there was only ONE GRILL, but the food came with our accommodations so I guess I couldn’t complain. Besides, the meat was juicy and delicious, so worth the wait.

I also went over to Tsukuba for a festival and got to see a giant, robot bug.

Tsukuba bug bot.jpg

By the way, the fact that Japan makes giant robots just for fun? Yeah, don’t %$#@ with Japan. Just. Don’t.

Tsukuba is a huge science and engineering city. Every year they have this annual science fair like festival showing off things like the bug and other robotic tech. It’s pretty cool!

Anyway, I also hit up the Space Museum and the Geological Museum while I was up there.

Tsukuba Space Shuttle.jpg

Tsukuba Space Museum

Next time, I’m going to take the park tours and go up Mt. Tsukuba (Tsukuba-san!) I also go up to Mito every other weekend. Sometimes it’s for business trips, and sometimes it’s for fun.

See what I mean by pick a topic and stay on topic? I was trying so hard to cover everything that I didn’t really give all these events the proper time they deserved to really discuss them at length.

Tsukuba’s Space Museum is a great tour that goes on a detailed timeline about Japan’s astronauts and the Japanese space aviation industry. If you’ve got kids who love space, take them here if at all possible. They will love it. If you love scientific things in general, the festival is full of cool things to check out.

A couple of weeks ago I did another homestay. I say another because I did two last year. So, this makes my third host family in Japan. I like them a lot! The mom and dad were so nice, and tried their best to speak English. The daughter is so cute! She spoke the most English, so she and I talked the most. I plan to go back up to Mito soon and visit them again. I’m bringing gifts because it’s my host sister’s birthday soon!

We went together to Hitachi Seaside Park for the flowers, but we kind of went during the off season so my pictures didn’t turn out as vibrant as the ones in the tourist brochures.

Hitachi Seaside Park 1.jpg

Still pretty neat though!

Hitachi Seaside Park 2

No, I don’t care how “cute” and “romantic” anime portrays these death wheels. Just no!

Hitachi Seaside Park 3.jpg

The bell people rang is for peace and serenity. 

Oh the Mito host family, uh…The parents were nice, but super awkward. The daughter was,well, she was a doll otaku. She collected dolls, spoke through them, and I just…I didn’t know how to describe that whole experience, so I chose to focus on the park. Sometimes that can happen with host families, and even though I tell everyone to try them out, I always forewarn that sometimes you might not mesh with the people. That’s okay, don’t worry, the experience can still be…noteworthy.

Alright, so I’m having fun and keeping myself busy (believe me), but I’m still feeling down. The thing is I think all the little things just keep piling up. It’s a chore to go shopping sometimes. I have to look up what sometimes looks like in Japanese before I buy it, and even then, sometimes the font is just so hard to read. I feel illiterate, and I suppose I am in a way. I can’t read so much of what’s around me. It’s frustrating and disheartening. Usually I can figure it out and move on, but sometimes I just have to sigh and give up. I hate giving up, but bashing my head against the language barrier won’t do me any good either.

That’s another thing. The barrier can sometimes be more of a Great Wall of Misunderstanding. Luckily, my Japanese English teachers and I can get our messages across, but then I’ll have the wonderful experience of flinging words at this invisible force field that’s suddenly flung between us by some bored deity with too much time on his or her hands. I’ll say something, and the teacher will just look at me like I’ve suddenly began dancing instead of talking. I go through different, simpler ways of saying what I said before, but somehow that only makes it worse. Add about ten minutes later, my very large vocabulary suddenly seems useless, a little bit of hair pulling later, and then the light bulb finally goes off. Or, it can happen the opposite way, wherein the teacher’s trying to convey something and I just don’t get it. When the light bulb goes off for me, I usually feel like an idiot for not getting it the first time.

The language barrier wasn’t actually the problem, but that’s what I was clinging to as the excuse for how I was feeling so frustrated. I was just exhausted with living in a completely different environment with completely different people. I went from being the senior in university that knew everyone and everything around me to being the youngest teacher in the school who didn’t know anyone or anything. It’s a lot to try and get used to, and it can take a toll.

I love my teachers, though. They’ve been good to me, and they’ve taken care of me whenever I’ve needed help. I’m very grateful to them. I’m good friends with some of them, and I hope that I can eventually communicate without being so ridiculously impaired by ignorance.

Well, this post is turning out a little more angsty than I’d like. The thing is, as much as I complain, I get to say I’m homesick…IN JAPAN! It’s the trump card. I use it for everything. For example, when I get lost, I just remind myself that I’m lost IN JAPAN! And it makes everything seem a little better. I still love this country, even if it’s lacking in the Halloween spirit to me, that’s because it’s just not a part of the culture. It’s a part of mine, and I intend to spread it’s gruesome awesome all over my classrooms. Mwahahahaha!!!

Okay, I’m determined to make it happen.

That’s my life right now. I’ll try to be better about posting, but as I mentioned before, I’m awful at journals and blogs. I’ll try my best to remember.


Actually, Halloween is now gaining more and more traction in Japan. People are doing more Halloween parties and such, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out as much.

So yeah, if you ever feel like starting up a blog, try to pick a topic and write about only that topic. Don’t think that you need to talk about everything all at once. Your audience will thank you for it.

See you next week on Friday for another flashback!


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