By Natasha Ubani
Last time I mentioned that cherry blossoms were already springing up around Tokyo. Since my last post, I have experienced a full cherry blossom season.
Cherry Blossoms, or Sakura in Japanese, are a national sensation. Many tourists, as well as Japanese nationals, come out in flocks for Hanami. Hana means “flower” and mi means “to view,” so the Japanese term translates as “flower viewing.”
During the brief one to two-week period when the Sakura are in full bloom, Hanami picnics become a major attraction. Popular Sakura viewing locations include Ueno Park Inokashira Park, Yoyogi Park, the Kanda River, and many more.
This period in Japan is very boisterous. It’s as though, with the blossoming of Sakura, there is something in the air. Or maybe that’s just pollen and the hay fever is getting to me. Sneezing aside, it’s a perfect, picturesque and pastel pink period so brief it’s like a passing dream.
Besides Sakura, other things have bloomed in my life this spring. I look back on the past two months and appreciate my progress in acclimatizing to a new environment. Tokyo’s convoluted railway system no longer sends me into a full-blown panic. Traveling and sightseeing have transformed into a beautiful cultural exploration. I found a job which allows me to have conversations with Japanese people from all walks of life. And I have found a youth fellowship and church home.
Over the past month, I have also inadvertently become the unofficial Residential Advisor (RA) at my place of residence. The building manager requested my assistance in guiding new international students upon arrival because he does not speak English. So, I have been giving tours of our residence hall and outlining the rules to all the new arrivals. I have welcomed students from Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the U.S.
My struggle with the Japanese language has come a long way, too. The past month mirrored my role as a JU student ambassador in many ways. More recently, I performed at an arts and culture youth event hosted by Sensation Japan in Bunkyo, Tokyo. It was an amazing experience where I got to interact with many of my peers from Japan and various countries.
Presently, my goal for the spring semester is to get the full Waseda University experience. I do not want to take for granted the opportunity to be part of such an amazing student body however temporary it might be. With this in mind, I attended the Club Fair on the main campus last week and signed up for a Salsa “circle.” Circles are less competitive than clubs. As someone who loves to dance and who is a member of Shake culture at JU, it has been quite the downer being away from dance these past few months. So, by joining these circles I am doing something I love as well becoming more fully involved on campus.
My time in Tokyo has taught me so much about myself, the world, and my place in it. I cannot lie and say it has not been a scary ride at times. Instead, it has brought out strengths I did not realize I possessed. So, here I am with four months to go! I am excited, hopeful, and ready to see what the rest of my time in Japan has in store.
Ki wo tsukete ne!
Natasha Ubani is an international student from Nigeria and a Junior at JU, pursuing a double major in International Business and Marketing. She is currently spending her Junior year at Waseda University in Tokyo as a Davis College of Business exchange student.
*to make bloom, to become animated, to make lively or fun