First Days in Tokyo

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As the hours wound down until it was time for me to head to Philadelphia International airport to begin my travels, I was unable to sleep. I was feeling a mixed bag of emotions. I was both nervous and very excited to experience Japan. When I got to the gate at the early hour of 4 am, I met my friend Alan. As we were getting ready for our flight, I was glad to hear that Alan shared similar emotions as me. It occurred to me that many other students about to study abroad were feeling nervous as well, and that’s okay. What matters is trying to slowly shake off that nervousness and have fun.

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After almost a full day of flights and bus rides, we finally made it to Tokyo, Japan! Alan and I are both dorm students, and we made our way to the Takadanobaba Dorm. As you can see, my dorm room is a little on the small side, but seeing how it’s a single room, I have no complaints. My room has everything I need from a mini desk to a microwave, a mini fridge, and even a shower. I was even given pots, a rice cooker, and other cooking equipment to cook my meals. I’m not much of a cook, so figuring out how to cook my meals properly will be a process for me. I feel like I should be able to figure it out if I put my mind to it.

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Besides me, there are 13 other TUJ residents in Takadanobaba. I know two of them from my classes on Temple’s main campus, but the remaining 11 I have never met before. Some of them aren’t even Temple students. I’m trying my best to reach out to these new faces and make some new friends early. Our first night here, a few of my dorm mates and I got together to explore our surroundings and check out the 7/11 near the dorm. We also found a basketball court just a short walk away from our dorm, so we’re planning on getting a game together as soon as one of us finds out where to buy a ball.

The next day was the first day of orientation. Everyone in the dorm was escorted to the subway, where we were shown the cheapest route to campus. My family is notorious for being bad with directions, and I am no exception, so I paid close attention to the stops we were taking to make sure I would be able to do this on my own once classes start next week. Luckily, the stop names are easy to remember because the stop at campus has the same name as the main hall, and the name of the stop getting home has the same name as my dorm. As long as I remember the stop in between where I switch trains, I shouldn’t have a problem.

Today’s part of the orientation was interesting. There were a lot of speakers over the course of a little over two hours. It was great to meet some of Temple Japan’s main staff as well as learn about some of the activities and clubs on campus. It was also a good chance to meet some of the other study abroad students not in Takadanobaba. I am much more excited for today’s part of the orientation, where we will get a full tour of campus, and I will have a better grasp at moving around. Hopefully, I’ll be able to take some pictures of the campus tomorrow to share in my next post. Until then, Sayōnara from Japan!

Japan: The Journey Starts Here!

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Before coming to Temple this past August, I lived a fairly sheltered life. I grew up in Washington Township, New Jersey, which is pretty much a small town when compared to a big city like Philadelphia. For most of my life, I had rarely ventured outside of my quiet township, and I was quite happy living within my little bubble. So the prospect of moving to the Temple dorms and living in a big city with kids I had never met before was a bit terrifying to say the least.

When I first toured Temple’s campus as a high school student, our tour guide spoke about Temple’s Study Abroad Program as if it were the opportunity of a lifetime. I remember thinking there was no way I would ever consider taking such a huge journey.  I was wondering how I would ever learn to make it safely across Broad  Street. . .  there was certainly no way I would ever be brave enough to study abroad.

As I settled into my freshmen year in the Honors dorm, I found myself doing things I never thought I’d do. I was joining clubs such as the BHSA, GAMMA, and even the Anime club, where I joined the group on a bus trip to New York City this past fall – a place I never thought I’d venture alone.  This year, I also became a Committee Member for the BHSA Fundraising Committee. This position has forced me to really put myself in situations I never thought I’d be in. Just recently, I had to go around campus to local businesses, asking them to donate prizes for our last fundraiser.  With each new experience, my confidence in myself has grown.  Along the way I have also made many new friends and truly learned how to live on my own. So when I found out Temple had a campus in Japan, a country whose culture has always fascinated me, the prospect of studying abroad suddenly seemed much less scary to me.

Now as I prepare for my program, I am excited to embark on this amazing journey. My hope is that I will not only learn about the Japanese culture but that I will also make even more friendships along the way. I realize now that this summer semester in Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, and I intend to take full advantage of all that Temple Japan has to offer. This blog will be my way of documenting my journey, so that one day, I can share it not only with  my family and friends, but also with other students, who might be afraid to travel abroad like I was.

Goodbye Tokyo

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Well I’m actually staying during summer semester in Tokyo, but the Spring semester has ended and all the Temple students are going back home to America.

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The cherry blossomed during the end of our semester abroad. Poetically speaking, we have blossomed at the end.

Thanks to the Japanese couple for capturing this great photo. These were cherry blossoms at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

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Take in the beautiful sight of cherry blossoms.

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The best cultural experience I had was being a part of a society that fosters a group mentality system. This means always waiting in lines for anything, including the busiest trains in the world.

Seriously, Japan holds the busiest train stations in the whole world. Shinjuku and Shibuya stations are the top two. Shinjuku station sees about 1.26 billion commuters per year and Shibuya station sees about 1.09 billion (based on a 2013 study).

So lets have some fun in Tokyo while we still can on our last days together in Tokyo!

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Fighting ninjas will be missed in Tokyo! Just kidding. This was at the trick museum in Odaiba.

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Sneak attack from the ninja under the tatami mat! Me: “Go back!”

Thanks to the employee working that day for capturing the moments.

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A huge architecture goal! To see the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Ginza.

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It was Opalia’s last day and she wished to see the Nakagin Capsule Tower, so I surprised her with its address #SmallFriendshipGift:)

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That’s me wearing a Temple cap cheering for the architecture masterpiece.

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Tokyo Plaza Omotesando Harajuku by Hiroshi Nakamura.

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Tommy buying a soda from the vending machine. Having a vending beverage machine that sells hot coffee and cold beverages in almost all the streets is something everyone is going to miss.

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Opalia’s in Ginza, last day exploring Tokyo.

 

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Tokyo celebrates many cultures cuisines. Our new favorite obsession: Indian butter curry (which is basically sweet sauce.) It’s served with salad, rice, drink choice, and all you can eat naan! Pro Tip: Having lunch is better eaten out then dinner because the restaurants are very competitive during lunchtime and offer amazing deals.

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I’ll toast to that! Gresham drinking mango lassi, which is a fusion of an Indian and Japanese drink.

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Julie Kress who studied in Rome and Japan during her junior year is saying “But I don’t want to leave”

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What a better way to end a Tokyo study abroad experience then to have a last prayer. Thank you Tokyo for all the personal, profession, and academic growth you have provided us!

TUJ Architecture Program

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We made it! The architecture students completed their studio. We didn’t know what to expect with the TUJ architecture program and Tokyo overall because there weren’t any upperclassmen to advise us. So here I am going to provide an account of TUJ architecture program.

Our class consisted of 8 junior architecture students from Temple main campus, 1 Temple main campus grad, and a 4th year student from Illinois Institute of Technology. Our studio professor was James Lambiasi (Jim), who helped all the students, that requested, receive an architecture internship. So if you’re an architecture student that wants to locate an architecture internship, reach out to him (even before you arrive to Tokyo)!

The program was well rounded. The focus was urban planning and architecture. For the first month and 1/2, we analyzed the city of Tokyo. We were given areas, stations, structures, building, and much more to explore and analyze. This was a great aspect on the program because we got to explore the city, get familiarized with it, become comfortable traveling, becoming aware of the Japanese architecture and design, understand the architecture culture, and added more knowledge then we expected. We presented our observations and analysis through an architectural presentation of maps and diagrams.

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After analyzing the city, we focused on Roppongi for it’s rapid development and art charge implemented to the area.

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Our two jurors were Daishi Yoshimoto and Bala Bognor along with our professor James Lambiasi.

Jim was very selective on choosing the jurors. Our jurors were highly knowledgeable about the area, which created strong conversations.

Gresham Smith presenting his project

Gresham Smith presenting his project

Gresham Smith proudly holds his study models after presenting

Gresham Smith proudly holds his study models after presenting

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Opalia Meade presenting her project

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Opalia happily holds her study models after presenting

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Caleb Baldwin’s perfectly crisp final model!

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Jazzmynn Hong final sleek model!

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Caleb Baldwin presentation board!

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Jazzmynn Hong presenting

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Liangchi Zhang caught his mistake. It’s always good to laugh at the small things.

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Kya Kerner model and presentation.

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Lourdes Monje and juror Balaz Bognar discussing the presentation.

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and that’s a wrap! Final Presentation are DONE! (sign of relief)

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After Presentation, we gather in a circle and discuss our opinions and thoughts.

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After the anxiety of presentation, we get rewarded ice cream treats. Now that’s what I’m talking about!

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Lourdes Monje and Julie Kress are as happy as can be!

“Parting is such sweet sorrow…”

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As I sit here typing out my last blog post, in my increasingly emptying room, melancholy grips me tight as the evidence of my stay here gradually disappears with each item I stow into my luggage. At the same time, I smuggle away memories and souvenirs into my overflowing bags in an attempt to take back as much of Japan as I can with me. Being here in Japan has been one of the greatest moments in my life. Seeing Mount Fuji, climbing the steps to the famed red gates of Fushimi Inari, strolling down the world’s busiest crosswalk in Shibuya, I can now claim that I have done them.

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Kawaguchiko @ Mt. Fuji

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Fushimi-Inari

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Sakura behind Kitazono Women’s Dorm

But as they say, all good things must come to an end.

I did not experience much of a culture shock, coming here, but I fear that the reverse applies to me. I have become adept at navigating the congested streets and transferring from train to train. The wonder that is the combini, the kaiten sushi, the greetings and farewells that pass my lips when exiting and entering the dorm–after four months, I confess that it will be disorienting to not have them anymore when I return to the U.S. I came to Japan with no knowledge of the language, no one I knew, and nothing to lose, but now I leave with the basics of Japanese, friends from not just all over the U.S. but Japan too, and a metric ton of experiences. As much as the lure of home calls to me, it will be difficult to leave.

I would say that after these few months, I have become a little more worldly, a bit more of an adult. Studying abroad has encouraged me to budget my time and money and to also prioritize within my means. I have had to balance out maintaining my grades while also seeing as much of Japan as possible. Being so far away, it is so easy to slip into the mindset that it is vacation, and it doesn’t help that there is so much to do! But I do think that studying abroad is one of those experiences that you should not miss out while you are a student. As a working adult, it is hard to find a job that allows you to stay in a different place long enough to explore the country fully, much less allow a vacation long enough to do so. Living in Tokyo and being a student here, solidified the people in my eyes. Before, I consciously knew people lived in Japan but it was really abstract, kind of like the scenery or when you watch reality TV show but there is a disconnect. But after mingling with them and living with them, it really hit me that these are real-life people, and I am going through the same motions through life as they are. Pretty crazy. I have heard this from others who studied abroad before me, and I agree with them in that you learn about yourself while abroad. I never realized how much I identified with my American side until I came here. As a child of two worlds, I was always on the fence about what part was Chinese and what was American. I totally get the cliche moments when you bring something really weird like pig feet for school lunch, and people crinkle their nose and you are reminded how “un-American” you are because it’s not PB&J. But recently I have had “Aha!” moments where I realize what I just did was very Western and everyone else knows it too. It is definitely a funny feeling to have that reversal, but I am much more appreciative of my background now.

If you ever get the chance to study abroad, seriously, go with it. I regret nothing.

With this, I’m closing out this chapter of my life, and so I bid farewell to this place I have come to learn and appreciate. 日本,さよなら!Japan, farewell! May we re-unite again soon.

 

A day of exploring Tokyo

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Candid photo of Gresham Smith and Lourdes Monje exploring the city of The Zojoji Temple and The Tokyo Tower in Minato-ku

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Moved to Omotesando to get lost in the city while exploring the impressive and crazy architecture of Tokyo.

 

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But first, lets get coffee. Kya’s choice of the trusted Starbucks.

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Candid photo of Gresham Smith and Lynch Zhang debating the architecture over a cup of coffee

 

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We wanted to compare the McDonalds in different countries; they’re the same!

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Getting left behind at the light and everyone strikes a pose.

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Opalia Meade in Shibuya about to go Shopping!

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The endless options of gifts and souvenirs

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We shopped till we dropped! Now let’s get some food please.

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We ate so much, we had to stand up.

Trip To Nikko

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What better way to procrastinate during Finals than to travel to another city for a day? Well that’s how the architects do it! Our architecture professors, the wonderful Dr. Deanna MacDonald, James Lambiasi, and Naho Degawa took the architecture students on a one day trip to Nikko!

 

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Sanjinko (Three Sacred Storehouses)

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The Shinkyo Bridge (神橋, Shinkyō, “sacred bridge”)

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I swear I didn’t plan the matching scarf! Photo Credit: the wonderful Opalia Meade

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After spending 15 hours each week together in classes and field trips, I can’t believe I’m saying this but…I’ll miss them.

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Architecture students in front of Nikkō Tōshō-gū

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The beautiful Opalia Meade in front of the Shinkyo Bridge 神橋

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Tosho-gu shrine. The first ever colored shrine we have ever seen.

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Architecture students and professors at the Tosho-gu shrine. Photo Credit: The Great Dr. Deanna MacDonald

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Constructing the beauty of nature

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Flip it with the The Gojunoto Pagoda. Photo Credit: Opalia Meade

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The force of nature!

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It’s very beautiful to sit and relax during Finals Week!

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Nikko is known for their tofu and let me tell you..that was the best tofu I have ever had!

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Enjoying the end of the trip with a view of Lake Chūzenji

After a great view of watching the sunset, we went to catch out trains, but not until we got a glimpse of the Yayoi Festival.

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Yayoi Festival

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Yayoi Festival

The Yayoi Festival occurs April 13-17, where the main event is on the 17th. For the Yayoi Festival, floats “hana-yatai” visit towns with food and drinks to signal the arrival of Spring. It was a humbling experience to watch the small town come outside and share an evening of laughter and happiness.