Checking off my Bucket List!

Is it just me, or is time flying by even faster than before?!

I’ve been incredibly busy since my last post – March passed by in a blur of graduations, baking extravaganzas, special English classes that I had to plan and teach, board game parties, St. Paddy’s Day parties, closing ceremonies, and my birthday(!) – and going on three separate trips certainly added to all that busy-ness! ;) I know I said I wanted to appreciate my day-to-day life here in Akita more (and I am!), but that doesn’t mean I can’t travel, right? ^_~ Besides, these trips helped me cross more items off my Japan Bucket List!

At the end of February, a friend and I went to Tokyo to see the National Ballet of Japan perform La Bayadère! It was a dream come true for me – I had wanted to see La Bayadère performed for several years because of a video my dance teachers showed me of The Kingdom of the Shades scene, and the National Ballet of Japan didn’t disappoint! The entire performance was perfect! My friend and I were really, really impressed, and I know I would definitely go see it again.

Checking_01

Me outside the New National Theatre Tokyo with the poster for La Bayadère!

While we were in Tokyo, we also decided to go to the Ghibli Museum! We had to buy our tickets a month in advance, but we were able to go on the Monday afternoon. Having not done any research or reading about the Museum, it was different than I thought it would be – for example, it had several interactive exhibits that were mainly for children – but it was still definitely worth the 1000yen admission! My favourite parts included the museum-only short film (Koro’s Big Walk, which was too cute!), the rooftop garden, the room with the My Neighbour Totoro-themed 3D zoetrope, and the room that they had decorated to look like an animation studio. The building itself was incredible, too!

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the actual museum, so here's a shot of me on the rooftop garden with a robot from Laputa!

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the actual museum, so here’s a shot of me on the rooftop garden with a robot from Laputa!

After my JHS’s Grade 9 graduation in March, we had two days off from school, which was the perfect timing for a road trip to Nagano! I drove myself and three friends the six hours from Akita to Nagano, where we stayed overnight before going to visit the Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park! We got to the main part of the park around 9:15am on Day 2 and were greeted by so many monkeys! The park staff were in the middle of feeding them when we arrived, so the monkeys were running around everywhere! And, while it was “late” in the season and there wasn’t as much snow as I’ve seen in some pictures, there was definitely enough to create the atmosphere that we wanted!

My favourite monkey! He (she?) was such a pro, posing for pictures. :)

My favourite monkey! He (she?) was such a pro, posing for pictures. :)

The monkeys were adorable darting in and out of the hot springs, and we took soooo many pictures. It was an incredible experience and definitely worth the 30 minute “hike” and 500yen entrance fee!

Picture with my fave! <3

Picture with my fave! <3

Although our drive down to Nagano had been smooth sailing, we were caught in ALL the bad weather (yes, all of it!) on the way back, so the return journey ended up taking twelve hours. >_<’ But would I do it again? The answer is a big YES.

Finally, a friend from my hometown in Canada came to visit me at the end of March! She came all the way up to Akita first, where we onsen’d, learned the Nishimonai Bon Odori, and sang karaoke, before we headed down south to spend seven days in Kyoto and Tokyo! I was really happy to be able to visit Kyoto again – the weather was much more cooperative this time compared to last year’s Golden Week, so we were able to do everything that we planned! The highlight for me was definitely Fushimi Inari Shrine, another one of my Japan Bucket List items! I had wanted to visit the mountainside shrine complex of 10,000 torii gates for almost as long as I wanted to come to Japan, so it was an unreal experience for me. It was so beautiful, it was almost otherworldly!

Happily surrounded by torii gates!!

Happily surrounded by torii gates!!

Dream come true <3

Dream come true <3

We were also fortunate enough to see a geisha dance performance! Our last day in Kyoto was the first day of the Kitano Odori dance festival, performed by the geiko and maiko of the Kamishichiken area. The dance was 80 minutes long, with live music and singing, too. It was incredible! All of the detail in the choreography was amazing, the staging was beautiful, and the kimonos that the maiko wore, especially, were so happy and bright! The dancing was superb – so graceful – and I’m really thankful that we got to see it!

We couldn't take pictures during the performance, obviously, but even the stage pre-show was incredibly photogenic!

We couldn’t take pictures during the performance, obviously, but even the stage pre-show was incredibly photogenic!

I came back to school refreshed and excited, although a little sad – the annual teacher shuffle this year meant saying goodbye to three of my four JTEs, as well as some of my favourite teachers and staff members. It’s always hard to say goodbye, but the relaxed, fun atmosphere in the teachers’ room the last two days has kept me positive.

Finally, today the new teachers officially started! They’ve been in meetings pretty much the whole day, meaning I’ve been catching up on work at my desk, but we relaxed over a joshi-kai (girls-only party!) at lunchtime, which was wonderful (and sooo delicious!). I’m looking forward to getting to know these teachers better over the next four months!

Yes, that’s right, no April Fools here – I only have four months left in Japan! Where is the time going at all?!

First hanami of the season in Tokyo! Can't wait to get my hanami on up here in Akita and enjoy my last cherry blossom season to the fullest!

First hanami of the season in Tokyo! Can’t wait to get my hanami on up here in Akita and enjoy my last cherry blossom season in Japan to the fullest!

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