As the weather starts to slowly turn from the bitter cold of winter to the gentle breeze of spring, there is a lot to reflect upon and much to look forward to in the time that I have remaining in Japan. Soon after my last blog post, I ended my fall semester at Waseda University and entered the two-month spring break that we have. February and March are the break months at Waseda, which provides ample opportunities for relaxation and exploration.
Immediately after the break, I took a trip with my friends to the island of Hokkaido. The northernmost of Japan’s four main islands, Hokkaido’s capital, Sapporo, was home to the Snow Festival, and many beautiful snow and ice sculptures were on display. In addition to ice sculptures, I saw a beautiful volcanic lake, a frozen waterfall and the small, colorful town of Otaru.
Perhaps the strongest memory I have of Hokkaido is the immense snowfall. Barring the intense snowstorm of 2021 that I’m sure every Longhorn remembers, I had experienced snowfall very few times in my life. As such, the white snow blanket that perpetually covered my surroundings in Hokkaido was incredible to see, touch, and listen to. At one point, we stood still and simply took in the silence of snow falling around us, muting all other sounds.
While the biting cold was not easy to endure (I’ve never experienced weather below 20 degrees before; I’m from Houston), the memories of the trip were unforgettable. This was especially true because of the people I was traveling with.
While I’ve met several folks from the United States, I’ve also made amazing friends from Chile, Spain, the United Kingdom, Germany, Singapore, South Korea and many other places thousands of miles away from home. That’s perhaps the somber note of the trip: Many of my friends were only here for the semester and not the year. With the semester coming to an end, many said goodbye and headed off to their homes around the world.
That’s the reality of the friendships you make when studying abroad — in some respects, they seem ephemeral, lasting only as long as you are both in the same place. However, I’m confident that I’ve made lifelong friends during my time here because being here permits you to forge strong friendships as you all experience and get used to the new place you are in together. My circle of friends has expanded globally, and I know that if I’m ever in those places, I can get in contact with the friends I’ve made here in Japan and catch up with them as if no time has passed. So, while we may be saying goodbye for now, I’m positive that we will all see each other again.
The advent of spring in Japan brings in the bloom of flowers and life, most notably the brilliant magentas of sakura blossoms. I have already gotten to see many blooms around me, such as in the town of Atami, a few hours southwest of Tokyo.
Sakura has a great many meanings, including renewal and optimism, and I can ascribe to many of these feelings. I’m optimistic about what is to come in the five months I have left in Japan. I hope to make many more friends in the next semester, see more places and become a better photographer as I capture the life and views around me.
Perhaps the most important to me is the meaning of the bloom itself. Sakuras bloom for such a short time, but they bloom so brilliantly. The transience of the bloom is particularly noted in Buddhist tradition and Japanese culture, which reflects life itself. Bearing that in mind, I wish to make the most of my time here.
This is my reminder to continue exploring, seeking out discomfort and opportunities and enjoying the time I have in Japan to the best of my ability, since the country has a wealth of experiences to offer. Although the resolution of winter signifies endings, the beginning of spring entails change and new beginnings, and I cannot wait to experience all that is to come.
This post was contributed by Sourav Banerjee, a Global Ambassador for Spring 2023. Sourav is a junior computer science studies major studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan. Read his first blog post here.