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1997/08/01 2.5 months in Japan with Hokkaido International Foundation
π 1997-08-01 00:00 in Japan, Trips
During the summer of 1997, I had to leave the US and re-enter it with a new visa before I would be able to start working for real. At the same time, after having been an exchange student in the USA in 1991-1992, I really would have liked to be an exchange student in Japan too, but I was not able to do both at the time, so spending almost 3 months in Japan with a host family before starting my work life sounded like a great deal.
It wasn't cheap and mostly took all my savings, getting me to fly back to the US and start a new life in northern california with virtually no money, but somehow I took the financial risk, and it was worth it.

I stayed with a very nice host family in Hakodate on the south tip Hokkaido, and went to school most days to study Japanese all morning and generally do a fun cultural activity in the afternoon. I stayed with a host family, the Takahashi, who nicely took care of me, and thankfully were quite fluent in English as my Japanese was very limited when I arrived there.

A few pictures of my host family:


that was my first rotating sushi plates resturant. where I was ble to invite my family to thank them for their hospitality
that was my first rotating sushi plates resturant. where I was ble to invite my family to thank them for their hospitality


Hakodate had a hill you could take a cable car up to, or simply hike up, which I did one day (I used that time in Japan to get back in shape and lose a good portion of the weight I had put on in southern california):





the beach was used to dry out nori (japanese seaweed)
the beach was used to dry out nori (japanese seaweed)


HIF students having fun
HIF students having fun

We spent a lot of time in school of course. Our teachers were great, and did a little show for us:




After school, while we spent quite a bit of time studying, we also had some cultural events, which were quite fun. Tea ceremony, flower arrangement, kimono wearing, and so forth:







hanami
hanami


One day, we went to a nearby town with castle grounds (honestly I forget where it is):






Another day, we went to a nearby school for show and tell, as well as summer games:


they're not screwing around :)
they're not screwing around :)


I was running inside that cardboard tube :)
I was running inside that cardboard tube :)

we were nicely welcomed :)
we were nicely welcomed :)

Another day we hiked up a local mountain with some volcanic activity:





Summer season is also festival season, that was fun:














After our time in Hakodate was over, we went to Sapporo for a short visit:




And from there, we went in a small town in northern Hokkaido, where I got to try summer skiing and wood carving:












I also spent a few days with other Japanese families after school was over:


At the end of my trip, my then boss Byron was nice enough to offer me a bit of money sot hat I could spend 3 days in Tokyo before flying back, and my host family set me up with a family in Tokyo who very nicely hosted me those few days, and even took me to Kamakura. The pictures are pretty pityful (110 film in a $20 camera, scanned) compared to what I take now, 20 years later, but eh, that's all I have :)

Senso-ji
Senso-ji

Tokyo Tower, which didn't fit in my camera at all :)
Tokyo Tower, which didn't fit in my camera at all :)

Zojo-ji, seen from Tokyo Tower
Zojo-ji, seen from Tokyo Tower

the famous shibuya crossing
the famous shibuya crossing


The nice japanese family who hosted me in Tokyo:


trip to kamakura
trip to kamakura


This is the nice Japanse linux user who had the same laptop than me and we went out for a day together, including a few museums:



I had a great time with HIF and the Japanese Families who nicely hosted me. Sadly I never really got to go back to Japan for 15 years after that, lost most of the Japanese I did learn, and my wife speaks Mandarin, so that didn't help either (and no, I don't hold it against her ;-) ). However after 15 years, I was able to go to Japan again to present for Google at Linuxcon Japan, and I've been going back to Japan every year since then to visit it with Jennifer. Thanks to Pimsleur language program, I was able to relearn a bit of Japanese and manage very basic conversation when needed during our travels.

You can find he rest of my trips to japan here: http://marc.merlins.org/perso/japan/links.html (many much better pictures)


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