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Local Japan: Maebashi in Gunma – my story, my new home, my Japan

If I look back at how I used to live my life back in my home country compared to my new home, I’ll tell you it’s crazy. For 20 years I’ve lived in the same city with my family, in the northern part of the Philippines. I am an only child who grew up thinking I was a bit different from the others, not in bad way, but it felt like a huge piece of me is missing.. Since I was a little kid, I’ve dreamed about living in Japan, what’s it like to live like a local and I wonder if it is the same with the Japanese drama and Animes I’ve watched. That is why, after finishing my Bachelor’s degree, I told my mom “Mom, please let me go to my dream country”.
It was July of 2015, not so cold not so hot; it was the perfect weather. It felt surreal. I was amazed by everything and I couldn’t believe that I am finally here. On my first ever train ride, I was looking at the people, houses, tall buildings and I looked up in the sky and somewhere deep in my heart, I felt like I was home too.

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At my first year in Japan, I stayed in Tokyo. For that whole year, I’ve moved to 4 different wards namely Setagaya-ku, Arakawa-ku, Shinjuku-ku and Bunkyo-ku and I gotta say that Bunkyo-ku is my favorite as it reminds me a lot of my current city. My first few months here in Japan was fun it was all about exploring Tokyo, but after the third month I felt homesick. I am still not that good at speaking Japanese which made daily errands a bit difficult, but that didn’t stop me in pursuing my dream. I worked part-time for the first time while I was studying in a language school. I took different kinds of job like a factory worker, housekeeper and English conversation teacher. It wasn’t easy. Each day I tell myself,  “I give up” but I know at the end of the day, everything will be worth it.
Now, I live in Maebashi, Gunma prefecture. It wasn’t my plan to move here at all but I got a job here so, here I am.

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It is different from Tokyo and much more different from my home country. But Maebashi still has some similarities in terms of my hometown, Philippines. My hometown was in the countryside and Maebashi is quite the same, but just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s not good. I must say that my apartment is located at a very convenient area. There is a supermarket across the street called beisia and next to it is a 7/11 convenience store. The nearest station takes about 5minutes of walking. Maebashi has a Cainz Home which is like an IKEA. There is also a near laundry coin shop. I got no problems living here at the moment. It’s just that I wish there’s a gym here too. TT_TT

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Higoshi station thru Jomo line (nearest station to my apartment)

It’s deadly hot in summer. I am from a tropical country and it’s hot. So, can I handle it? No, I can’t. Despite the hot weather and humidity in Gunma, it’s great for the environment, also for mold and huge bugs to thrive.
It’s freaking cold in winter. So Maebashi is surrounded by mountains and it’s pretty windy, so when it’s winter it’s really cold.
The good thing about it, is when it’s summer there are tons of outdoor activity you can do like hiking. There are tons of mountains for you to hike here. You can also try fruit picking. If you’re a huge fan of BBQ, I totally recommend Mt. Akagi to you. It is a great place to have BBQ with your friends and family. I have tried it when I first came to Japan and it was amazing! It was near the river surrounded by nature. The famous Gunma Flower Park is totally beautiful in spring but if you have ; kafunshou or hay fever, allergy to pollen better be equip! The last time my mom came to visit me, she had terrible sore eyes, but she’s all good now.

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Photo courtesy of: www.japaoemfoco.com/gunma-flower-park

Hey, Aya what about when it’s winter?
Don’t worry there’s tons of things you can do to in winter even though it’s freakishly cold. I’d totally recommend going to the ; Onsen or Hot springs! Here in Gunma there’s a lot of good hot springs from cheap to expensive but since I’m in Maebashi city here’s my top picks:
Fujimi Onsen Miharashinoyu Fureaikan (富士見温泉 見晴らしの湯 ふれあい館)
Maebashi Ekimaetennen Onsen Yuyu (前橋駅前 天然温泉ゆ~ゆ)
Takizawa Onsen Takizawakan (滝沢温泉 滝沢館)

If you’re like Elsa (from frozen, hehe you know the cold never bothers you? Kidding aside), how does skiing sound? I only got one for you and it’s Akagisan Daiichi (Maebashi City, Gunma)
“Akagisan Daiichi is a very small ski hill – claiming to be the ‘smallest in Japan’ – located high up on Mt Akagi in the eastern region of Gunma Prefecture and to the south of the resorts in Minakami and Katashina. There are no ski lifts at Akagisan Daiichi, just a 60m long ‘snow elevator’. There is no grooming of the snow here! There used to be Daini and Daisan (Number 2 and 3) ski areas nearby the they are no longer operating. Akagisan Daiichi normally only opens on weekends.” {http://www.snowjapan.com/japan-ski-resorts/gunma/maebashi/akagisan-daiichi}

Of course there are some good malls for your shopping experience. I don’t usually go shopping for clothes but when I do, i usually do it when the season is about to change or when I just want to go window shopping and walk to change some pace. From Maebashi station, the nearest mall is called “Keyaki Walk”  which takes about 7 minutes from the station by foot. You can’t miss it since there are signboards pointing where it is. They also have Aeon Mall but it’s in Takasaki city. I haven’t been there but you can take a bus in front of Maebashi Station in the north exit and it’s the number five (5) bus stop/station. Heads up they don’t have your favorite brands like H&M or F21 etc. so what I mostly do is just shop online ☺
Huge tip if you plan to visit Maebashi; don’t be shy to ask the information center at the Maebashi Station. They’re really friendly and will help you which bus to take and how to go to where you want to go, I had to courage to ask them before and it was a success and also I usually go to the provincial offices and city office to know and where I could find things to do in Maebashi, there are staffs that can speak English and will definitely assist you. My cousin also lives in Gunma but she lives in Isesaki city, since she knows the prefecture more than me i also ask for her suggestions on where is the best place to go for shopping, outdoor activities and just about everyday life in Gunma. I’ll be honest with you, I’m still new in Maebashi and there are so much more things I haven’t explored yet, but still, I would like to share it with you guys that it’s good to visit Maebashi. It has so much more to offer and the funny thing is, while I’m writing my story, this story, I realized that there are still a lot of things i don’t know about Maebashi city or Gunma or Japan in general but I will continue to discover more. If you’re planning to visit or move here or anywhere in Gunma, don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll like it once you get used to it. After all, time takes time. No need to rush.

I can’t imagine how my life would be right now if I didn’t had the courage to say want I wanted to my mother, or yes to things I fear, or no to things that make me uncomfortable. Now, I have no regrets on how I chose to approach life and this thing called ‘adulting’.

“I’ve learned that being a bit different was okay”.

I want you to remember that whether you live in Philippines, Tokyo or Osaka or perhaps Gunma or anywhere in Japan or the world remember, life is what you make of it.

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