Wednesday, March 18, 2015


Right in the Middle

from Wikipedia

Gunma prefecture is referred to as 'the belly button of Japan'. Personally, I had no idea that Gunma was a prefecture IN Japan and I swear that I thought I was being sent to Korea when I was told where I would be 'teaching'. It is a prefecture within the mountains, and everywhere you look---mountains.

I want to say this is the closest to real Japan as one could possibly get. There are enough foreign people in some of the bigger cities to be diverse and not completely oblivious to the world around them, while still being full of nature.

After a bit of Wikipedia, I calculated that while Gunma is approximately 29% big cities while the rest are small villages and rural towns. Most of them were 'eaten' (merged) into the bigger (area-wise) cities so some rural areas look like big cities, but are actually a big merging of small villages.

As for the rural areas, ESPECIALLY--Gunma can be explained in two simple words: cars and snow.

I feel like it's something that only people living in rural areas have the priviledge of experiencing. See, in Gunma, anywhere you live--you need a car. Whether you live in the capital or up high in the moutains--you need a car.  
I live in up on a hill and whenever it's my turn to drive, I need to go down a very steep hill to get to my boyfriends house. If you are not used to it, and from a land where there are no mountians, you will panic! But once you get over it, it's actually a lot of fun--except when it snows...

Everyone in Gunma has a car, and because of this--drivers are both good and horrid-omg-get-off-the-road-you're-endangering-my-life-please-stop drivers. Old people usually are good about putting the old people sign and new drivers put their new driver sign. 

Top Left: New Drivers / Top Middle/Left: Elderly

The roads though, are a different ballgame entirely. The bigger cities have big, wide, newly renovated roads. But the smaller cities/towns like the one I live in--have many one-ways and slim, bumpy roads that are supposed to fit two cars.
Most people have small kei-cars (yellow plate cars that are light-weight and max out at a certain CC) which are easy to fit on these small roads.
Then you have the jerks, who insist on having massive American brand SUVs that barely fit themselves on the road--much less them and another kei car.
Let's just say it can be very stressful when you turn a corner and see another on-coming car.

For this reason Gunma's drivers test is very, very difficult and for those of us that are from countries that do not have a contract with Japan to simply switch over their cry over how difficult it is to honestly pass.
(Took me three times, and I cried when I passed. While the woman who passed with me was on her ninth.)


Glass Museum boyfriend, sister and I visited in FEBRUARY

I am from a land where our winters get down to 50F and at that point my mother tells me not to speak when I walk outside so as not to strain my voice and get sick.

Now, if you live in the big cities, you don't have much of a reason to buy a snow shovel, and can expect cold temperatures but for the most part very little snow--changing your car tires only a mere suggestion if you plan on visiting other cities in the prefecture.

But I, on the other hand, live in a town where the snow begins near the end of December and piles in dirty piles of snow until end of February. My snow tires stay on until about April just to be safe. Similarly, the cherry blossoms also play it safe and don't appear until mid April while everyone in Tokyo has already finished their cherry blossom viewing drinking parties...

I don't like the cold...(nor do I prefer heat, I'm never really happy with any season fully). So one would imagine I wouldn't stay here for much longer--but, to be honest, to see all the seasons to their fullest, makes me happy in a weird way.

Miami has no snow or seasons for that matter, but snow is really pretty and the sound of crunchy snow under your boots makes me giggle like a small child.

My first winter here was the snowpocalypse of 2014 and people literally died...during the month of February for two weekends the snow piled so much that my school had to cancel classes and the snow was up to my waist. That time, the cold did bother me anyway... (>_>)

With snow, there are quite a few places available to ski and snowboard. But as I mentioned earlier, I do not do any sports or activities as such--so I don't really care about them. I hate them for the simple fact that it brings in large unnecessary crowds of people from all around to crowd-up my morning Lawson trip and the roads in the mornings/weekends.

I went to a ski resort with my boyfriend last month and the only reason was to visit friends who worked at a cafe in the resort main building. The trip was fairly quick since we live so far into the mountains and the cold wasn't much different than when I walk outside my apartment in the shade. Watching people skiing and snowboarding literally made me want to do it less and less.
Really sunny day

'Big Cities'

I really stress on these ''s because even the biggest city can not compare to the size and business of Tokyo. The biggest city is Takasaki, not the capital Maebashi (Takasaki ate a bunch of smaller towns so size wise it won). It is full of tall buildings and has lots of convenient local transportation, even a bullet train hub--but when a friend who lived in Tokyo came to town...she said Takasaki is nothing like the real big city in Japan.

She said something, that I really had never thought of until that moment.
'The sky looks really wide here.'

Even in the suburb of Miami, the sky is wide--as in, it's not blocked by lots of buildings and I can always see all around me. But even when I visited Tokyo, I had never noticed that--you don't have a 360 view of the sky at all times.

The biggest city, Takasaki, still cannot compare to Tokyo, but it does have all the ammenities one would seek out of a more densly populated area and really that's all that I can ask for when I go. Even still it's about an hour and a half to two hour drive or a 45minute train ride away and it's a trek that is more times than not, more trouble than it's worth.

I hear that their winter's are nothing like those up in the mountains. It is fairly hot most days and the mountains are far enough to be pretty landscape, but not much to drive into unless you want to go to the shrines and temples.

As for Maebashi, temperatures are roughly the same, but being semi-at-the-foot of Mt. Akagi it's more likely you are going need to drive into the mountains from time to time but the views are so stunning, especially at night, that it's totally worth the mini-panic attacks on roads with very little traffic.

I do admit that there are more trendy places to eat in either city, and the malls are the best reason to frequent--but I'm glad to not actually live in them and only have to travel there on the weekends by choice for shopping or delicious hamburgers.


TINZ Burger Market★Takasaki

I wish it didn't take an hour and something to get there, because those burgers are so delicious I could die. I miss my American food, and those times when I want to shell out the yennies for it--I always indulge.

World Heritage Site

Japan has quite a few of them within the country, but did you know that one of them is in Gunma?

Top Left: Tomioka Silk Mill (remaining are *related industrial sites) 

Most recently the Tomioka Silk Mill has been inducted and business there has been booming. I myself have been dying to go and see the silk worms and I really want to get the silk worm chocolates! Women are the main ones to work with them and you can even do hands-on activities! When I go, I will make a better post about it.

 The crowds will go down eventually and I will make the trip out there, for now the reports on TV have stopped and normal news has progressed along--so soon enough I can go without worrying about things.

Gunma has many things to be proud of and I have to say I am too.

Gunma is my home, and will be my home for probably the rest of my life. I am happy to say I reside in the countryside and despite that there isn't too much to do, I can lead a simple and slow lifestyle. I invite you to visit this beautiful place, really let your lungs take in some clean, country air.


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