Hey everyone! Hope your finals went well! So, in my last blog I said I was going to go to Niigata. Let me just say, it was definitely an experience to say the least. I will tell you guys the play by play in this blog.

So, to start, Niigata is about 165 miles from Tokyo. I and my friend, who is also from UNM, rode the shinkansen, the bullet train, from Tokyo to Niigata. Normally, a 165-mile trip would take about 3 hours, maybe 3 and a half. But the shinkansen is no ordinary mode of transportation. We were able to get from Tokyo to Niigata in 2 hours and 15 minutes! After arriving in Niigata, we then explored Niigata a bit to see what it was like.

The next day, I was able to see and experience a variety of things. I went to the Niigata aquarium and was finally able to check off one of the things on my bucket lists, which was to see the Sea of Japan. Note, I was not able to swim in it because the water was too cold. However, it was still so cool to be able to view such an amazing sight. The Niigata beach is also unique in that along the coast line, there are these giant stone jax looking things. These are put in place to regulate the tide considering there is a lot of infrastructure not too far from the beach. After viewing the Sea of Japan from the beach, I then went to an anime and manga museum.

This museum was really cool in that you were able to not only see in detail how anime is made, but you were also able to see the timeline of manga and anime and how it has changed over the years. The other cool thing about this museum is that one side was interactive where you could try voice acting for characters or make your own manga on a touch screen, and the other was set up like an art gallery of sorts. The art gallery part was really cool because it had the original artwork, and right below it, was a remade digital version. It was awesome to see the comparison. The day after that I then went to Sado Island

Sado Island was so awesome in that it was a cultural experience to say the least! So where is Sado Island? Sado Island is part of the Niigata prefecture and is in the Sea of Japan. In order to get to this Island, you must take a boat from mainland Niigata. The boat ride is about 2 and a half hours. After docking on the island, my friend and I then explored the island a bit. We were able to see a lake and even a few traditional Japanese towns that were never westernized. This in itself was a culture shock, but that was just the beginning. Since Sado Island is so small there are no trains, there are only buses. My friend and I wanted to go to a beach on the other side of Sado Island, so we ended up taking a 45-minute bus ride across the island. This beach, and the surrounding area was amazing! Not too far from the beach, there was a very old traditional Japanese town with no English signs what so ever. This was really cool to see, and it was definitely a culture shock. Also, the entire bus schedule at the bus stops were almost all in kanji with very little hiragana or katakana. The beach itself was such an amazing sight. The water was so clean, that from the pier, I was able to see the sea floor. Considering Sado is off the grid compared to most places, it was also very quiet. It was so peaceful and relaxing to just sit on the pier and look out into the ocean and listen to the sounds of nature. After spending time at the beach, my friend and I explored the surrounding area around the beach a bit more before heading back to catch the boat back to the mainland. The bus ride back was were I not only experienced even more awesome culture shock but was able to see first hand how much my Japanese has improved since living in Japan. While on the bus back to the boat, a local from Sado started a conversation with me. Granted, it was difficult. This is mainly because the dialect and pronunciation are very different than that of Tokyo Japanese, but I was able to do it! Needless to say, I Definitely felt a sense of accomplishment. This was also definitely one of the most enjoyable parts of my trip!

The next day my friend and I headed back to Tokyo on the shinkansen. Only this time, the shinkansen back was a double decker! I was not even aware that there were double decker shinkansens and it was so cool to be able to ride one. Granted we were on the bottom floor of this double decker shinkansen, but it was still so cool to experience it! Overall, I would say that Niigata is definitely one of my favorite places in Japan and I hope I get the opportunity to go back before I leave Japan. It was so cool to see the Sea of Japan and I never thought of the possibility of sailing in the Sea of Japan, but I am so glad that I did! I will be uploading photos of this trip to my Instagram @isaacxmaes soon.

Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this blog and have a wonderful rest of your day. And remember to follow @unmstudyabroad on Instagram and Facebook.