Blog contributed by Vanessa B. Nguyen, 2016 Student Ambassador, St. Petersburg, Florida. Click here to view the original blog post on Medium.
How do I begin this without sounding cliche? It’s the last thing I want to do, sound unextraordinary when describing my experience in Takamatsu, Japan, a well hidden, extraordinary gem. If I absolutely had to describe my experience in such a charming city with a single word, I would have to absolutely say “ineffable.” Ironic, isn’t it?
It was a short 10 days in Takamatsu, but a couple of minutes was all it took for me to fall in love with St. Petersburg, Florida’s sister city. Upon arrival, my fellow student ambassador and I were welcomed by city officials and our host families who were kind enough to open their hearts and home to us. As my host mom drove me to her home, my eyes and mind could not focus on one specific thing. It was as if a rush of culture had passed over me like an aggressive wave, beating and breaking down all the preconceived images and notions I had about Japan.
The following days were filled with sightseeing and activities that allowed for us to gain partial information on the rich history and culture Takamatsu and furthermore, Japan, holds. From visiting the Kikuchi Kan Memorial Museum, to learning to make the legendary Sanuki udon, to paying our respects at Hiroshima and reflecting on the past; I could never sum up everything in those short ten days without having to write essentially an entire book about it.
If I had to choose only one aspect that I appreciated and would forever be imprinted into my memories are the smells. I can still remember how downtown Takamatsu smelled like after some light rain at around 8 PM, the freshness of air at the high spot overlooking Ritsurin Garden, the simple udon dough made from flour and fresh saltwater.
This trip gave me a little taste of a country with a plentiful history and culture, and definitely helped me realize that even though there are many differences in culture across the globe, we all share one thing in common: we all are dreaming and running ceaselessly towards our happiness. Takamatsu, you have truly provided me with happiness during my time there, and I am eternally grateful.
On my first night there, it was Tanabata (there’s an interesting backstory, that my host mom read to me about the festival) where everyone makes a wish. Lots of people wished for good fortune. Others wished for good health. I wished for a return to Takamatsu in the near future.