Waseda Students on Break Part 1 – A Change of PlansMon, Mar 16, 2020
This year’s spring break began in the first week of February and runs until the first week of April. The last two weeks of the fall semester, January 28-February 5, is set aside for make up classes. During this time, teachers may hold additional classes if testing or other class material was not covered prior to the 28th of January. For students whose teachers did not hold classes during that time, they were able to leave school even earlier. The following articles have four parts, covering four stories of Waseda students on break and what they did with their time off. They’ll be sharing their itineraries, lessons they learned along the way, and advice for their fellow students.
A Change of Plans
Abby, a SILS student on exchange to Waseda University for a year, unlocked her door and set her backpack aside. She sent her sister a message and her sister called back right away. “Hey, I haven’t booked a place for our Hakone trip,” said Abby over the phone, “I just got back from class and still need to study for my presentation tomorrow. Could you go ahead and book one?”
“Yeah, I can do it,” said her sister, Ella. Ella took out her phone and went online, “Here, I’m sending you a link. It’s a capsule hotel right next to Fuji-Q Highland. The comments say it’s super accessible and it’s right next to a train station. You can get a good view of Mt. Fuji from this area.” Abby distractedly checked the link and went back to making her lunch.
“Yeah, that looks good. Go ahead and book it.”
A week later, Ella arrived at Haneda International Airport and Abby went out to meet her. They started off with a tour of Shibuya and Asakusa and returned home later that night, exhausted. Having just finished her final exams, Abby had not had time to plan their Hakone trip. She took out a few of the sightseeing pamphlets she had collected, circled some of the attractions that looked interesting and headed off to bed.
Abby woke up at 4:00 AM and sleepily crawled out of her bed. She went over to her computer and pulled up Google Maps. She charted out their route for the day, looking through train and bus schedules. She then looked up the hotel that her sister had booked. The address was not Hakone but Kawaguchiko, two hours away by bus. She groaned and deleted the itinerary she had written out so far. She gently shook her sister awake, “Ell,” she said quietly, “the hotel we’re staying at is in Kawaguchiko, 2 hours away from Hakone. We can spend the first day in Kawaguchiko then head to Hakone or spend both days in Kawaguchiko. What do you want to do?”
“What’s in Kawaguchiko?” she asked.
“They have a nice lake, some museums, a big theme park, and a great view of Mt. Fuji.”
“Let’s stay there, then. It might be too much to try and go to Hakone as well. Besides, I just want to get a good view of Mt. Fuji. There isn’t really anything in particular I want to do in Hakone.”
Abby wrote out a new itinerary then completed her last school assignment. Even though her exams were over, she still had one paper to submit. Ella packed an overnight bag for both of them and they went out to get breakfast from a combini (convenience store) across the street. Combini food is usually both cheap and delicious. They got soft bread sticks with chocolate chip cookies and some onigiri, rice balls (often with different kinds of seasoning). Having eaten, they headed off to Shinjuku Station. They walked over to the Expressway Bus Terminal, which was about a 7 min walk, Shinjuku being such a big station. They hoped to be on the 9:30 bus to Kawaguchiko but, as they came up to the sales desk, they were greeted with a sign that said, “All tickets to Kawaguchiko sold out until 12:30.” Abby walked up and bought tickets for the next available bus. They got two tickets for the 13:00 bus.
Abby felt frustrated. She was tired from hardly having enough sleep, headed to a destination she wasn’t planning to go to, the next bus was still a few hours away, and they wouldn’t be able to do most of the stuff she had wanted to. She might as well toss the itinerary out the window. She sighed, trying to let go of her irritation. She wanted to snap at Ella for booking the wrong place but it was also her fault for not looking at it more closely. She was the one living in Japan, after all. She also should have checked the bus tickets in advance. But, there was no reversing time. All she could do was move forward and make the best of the situation.
With time to kill, they went over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building which offered a beautiful panoramic view of the city from 45 floors, 202 meters, in the air. The building had two towers, each with an observation deck. The last time she had gone, the wait to go in was 30 minutes long. Considering lines for Tokyo Sky Tree were just as long, sometimes longer, and you had to pay for the entrance, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building was well worth it. Last she was there, the observation deck had live music from a beautiful white piano played by an eight year old girl. There was a gift shop and café and she had bought some postcards and had ｗwritten to her friends back home. However, when they arrived at the building, the observatory was closed; another disappointment. She was supposed to be showing her sister Japan and almost all her plans had gone awry. However, Ella was upbeat and didn’t seem disappointed. They took pictures of the sculptures in the plaza in front of the Government Building and got some selfies with the two towers in the background. A few streets over they saw a sculpture that spelled out “Love.” They took some more pictures and had a good time. They walked around Shinjuku for a bit longer. The weather was nice, a bit cool with a soft breeze, and Abby was feeling better already.
As they were heading back to the terminal, they came across a 100-yen shop. They bought snacks, stickers, and stationary, among other things. Having accomplished something with their morning, they contentedly returned to the bus terminal. Because they had bought their tickets late, they were sitting apart from each other. However, the man next to Abby was kind enough to switch seats so that the sisters could sit together. As the bus started moving along, Abby, being exhausted, soon fell asleep.
They arrived in Kawaguchiko around 15:00 and got off at the Fuji-Q Highland Station. Having skipped lunch, they were famished. They had a small lunch at the station and headed off to their hotel, 10 min away by foot. After checking in at the Cabin & Lounge Highland Station Inn Capsule Hotel, they walked around Fuji-Q Highland. Fuji-Q is known for its long, tall, and fast roller coasters, having set a Guinness World Record. One could hear the screams as the roller coasters went flying by. Fuji-Q also had an ice-skating rink, something Abby enjoyed more than roller coasters.
After Fuji-Q, the sisters ate dinner at a nearby restaurant. Still hungry from only having a small lunch, they filled their stomachs with three entrees and a bowl of rice each. After dinner, they walked around the town, checking out a bookstore, then heading to Fujiyama Onsen. Again, they were able to get a discount because of their hotel. An onsen is a public bath with hot water coming from natural hot springs. It felt so good to finally relax. Going to an onsen, with its saunas and many pools of different temperatures, was the perfect way to end a long day of travel.
The following day, the sisters checked out, and headed back to the bus station. There, they rented a locker and stored their luggage. Learning their lesson from the previous day, they bought their tickets early. When they got to the desk, all the tickets back to Shinjuku were sold out. They could get a ticket on the 14:00 bus but that wouldn’t give them nearly enough time to do some more sightseeing. “Do you have any tickets left for Akihabara of Shibuya?” asked Abby in Japanese. They just needed to get back to Tokyo and from there take local trains. Thankfully, there was a 19:00 bus to Shibuya. Having ensured a ride back to Tokyo, the sisters took the free shuttle to Kawaguchiko Station. From there, they went to the Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum.
The Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum is a European style theme park. Stepping into the open-air museum was like stepping into a small European village and for ¥1000 (about 10 USD), one could rent a European costume to wear around the museum. Various musical instruments were on display for people to look at and touch. In one of its gardens was a table with a row of bells. Each bell sounded out a different note. By ringing the bells in a certain sequence and varying amounts of time, one could play a song. During the sisters’ visit, they were able to see two mini concerts. The first featured automated instruments with a tap dancer tapping away to the music of the machines. For one of the songs, the tap dancer invited the crowd to clap along. After the crowd got the hang of it, the dancer would sign how many claps she wanted and then countdown to when the crowd was supposed to start the new rhythm of clapping. The crowd had a lot of fun and clapped along with the dancer.
The second concert featured a violinist, a pianist, and the story of Snow White with live sand animation. Sand animation is done by having a flat semi-transparent surface with a light behind it. Sand is poured on the surface and shaped by the artist. The contrast between the lighted surface and dark areas created by the sand, portrays an image. By shifting, removing, or adding more sand, the image is altered. Even the transitions between scenes were beautiful. With shifting sand and lively music, the story of Snow White was told.
Afterwards, they headed to Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway. The lines were long. However, they did not have to stay by the entrance to wait their turn. They were given a queue number and a QR code. The QR code directed them to an online page that displayed how many more people were in front of them and the estimated wait time. With an hour to wait, they headed to Lake Kawaguchiko which was just across the road from the Ropeway. They rented a swan boat and paddled around the lake. The lake shimmered in golden beams of sunlight. They moved about the lake, allowing the waves to jostle them around. Even though their trip had been full of mishaps, they were still able to have a wonderful time. From the lake, Mt. Fuji was clearly visible, standing tall against a canvas of blue sky and mountain ranges.
Soon enough their number was called, and they headed up the mountain on the ropeway. It was the golden hour, with about 40 minutes of sunlight left. It was in this light that they gazed on Mt. Fuji, from the observation at the top of the ropeway. The purpose of the Hakone trip was to get a good view of Mt. Fuji and Abby was able to give her sister that view, even though their plans had gone awry. It was on this scene that their trip came to an end. With the sun low in the sky, they headed back to the bus station, Shibuya, then home.
Studying abroad goes beyond studying in a classroom. It extends to learning about your host country’s culture and often includes traveling the different landscapes it offers. Beyond learning for yourself is sharing those experiences with others. Just as you are a representative of your home country and university to Japan, you also become a representative of Waseda and Japan to others. Abby’s story shows how events don’t always go according to plan. However, it’s important to move forward and be creative in finding solutions. In the end, she was still able to show her sister a beautiful view of Mt Fuji. Resilience, creativity, and enjoyment are important characteristics in school and in real world situations.
- Double-check location and accommodation before you book
- Try purchasing bus tickets in advance (especially for long bus rides)
- If there are no tickets to your intended destination, check for tickets to nearby stations then check local trains/buses from there
Location: Kawaguchiko, Japan
Length of Stay: two days, one night
Accommodation: Capsule Hotel
- Morning: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Shopping at Shinjuku
- Afternoon: Bus ride to Kawaguchiko, Fuji-Q Highland
- Evening: Fujiyama Onsen
- Morning: Checkout, Breakfast
- Afternoon: Kawaguchiko Music Forest Museum, Swan boat on Lake Kawaguchiko, Mt. Fuji Panoramic Ropeway
- Evening: Bus ride back to Tokyo
*This article was written and contributed by the following student.
Gabriella de Asis
Exchange Student from California State University, Northridge
(Currently studying at Waseda’s School of International Liberal Studies)