by Jes Stayton, Greenheart Travel High School Abroad participant
Hi! I am an American exchange student living in Sendai, Japan. I will be here for ten months. Before coming to Japan, I studied Japanese for three years. I am so excited to be here! Japanese culture is so different from American culture, but beautiful and fascinating all the same. I love learning about it, and am looking forward to writing about it.
I’ve only been here two weeks, and already school consumes my life. On my first full day in Sendai (we had a two-day orientation in Tokyo, so it wasn’t my first full day in Japan), I attended high school for the first time. Since then, I have gone to school every day during the week, and twice on weekends, for special school events. The Japanese school, although loosely based on the Western model, is very different from those in America. An average day (for me), goes like this.
At 5:30, I get up and dress. I wear my school uniform, which is a navy pleated skirt and a white and navy sailor top. School rules are very restrictive, so I wear no makeup or jewelry, and must tie up my hair. Manicures, dyed hair, perms, and tattoos are also not allowed. I don’t really mind. Everyone else has to adhere to the same rules, and it makes getting dressed in the morning very easy.
After dressing, I eat breakfast with my host family. Japanese food is food is very different from American food. We have rice and miso soup at almost every meal. The few things that are also served in American are eaten in different ways. For example, one day I ate yogurt mixed with bananas, which was delicious.
After eating, I grab my bag (which is navy and considered part of the school uniform), and my violin and head out the door. My host family has driven my host sister and I to the bus station every day so far, but I think eventually I will have to walk. It is a only a short distance away. At the bus station, I buy a ticket. My sister uses her student discount card. I want one, but I don’t think it will be possible to get one. The bus is always fairly crowded. I have never been able to sit on the bus. On my first trip to school, I was shocked to see my host sister simply standing in the bus, not holding on to anything. Now I sometimes do that too. It’s fun, like riding a very tame roller coaster standing up.
After we get off the bus, we leave the station. In front of the exit, there is another ticket machine. It eats your ticket as you go through. My host sister and I have a short walk from the station to the school bus. When we reach the bus stop, the bus is already there waiting for us. We board, showing our student I.D.’s to the driver as we get on. The bus is usually full, so we almost always stand. Even if a seat is available, we leave it for the elementary school students. They are adorable!
Finally, the bus reaches the school. I switch my outdoor shoes for my school shoes, which also match my uniform. My outdoor shoes go into a cubby (which has a special shelf so that my school shoes and outdoor shoes need not rest in the same place). I then walk two flights of stairs to my classroom, and sit down, a little tired from my hour and a half long commute. I have an hour before classes start, so I usually talk with my classmates, or read a book. This can sometimes be my only time to relax in an otherwise hectic day…