Monthly Archives: March 2015

Tradition and Mass Culture

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I can’t tell you the exact balance between the amount of traditional and mass culture in Japan, but I can tell you that there is a unique way in which the two weave together. Just like when I visited the Meiji Jingu in Harajuku, my Thursday through Sunday contained a whirlwind of both mass and traditional culture that, oddly enough, blended together in a complementary way.

Tradition on the Gifu Overnight Trip

 
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An hour after our arrival at the Hirayu-no-mori inn, dinner was served! I took this photo before several more dishes  found their way onto my tray. Although I wasn’t a fan of everything I ate, I was glad I found the courage to try.

Thursday and Friday, Temple University Japan students received a small holiday and while most had the chance to sleep in or catch up with schoolwork, those who registered for the Gifu Overnight Trip woke up early to catch the 7:10 bus. A major pull of the Gifu Overnight Trip was the opportunity to experience the hot springs at the Hirayu-no-mori inn. The trip also included four additional stops: Matsumoto Castle, considered to be one of Japan’s national treasures; Hida Great Limestone Cave, said to be the only place to see helicite cave formations; Shirakawa-go, where students were able to walk around Gassho-zukuri Village; and Takayama Town, where an English tour was given at the Takayama Jinya Historical Government House.

Mass Culture: Anime Japan 2015

The overnight trip allowed for me to receive a sampling of many aspects of traditional Japanese culture and I was more than happy to experience them. When our bus returned to Shinjuku Station late Friday night and I hopped onto the JR Yamanote Line, however, I left that all behind and began preparing for Saturday and Sunday: Anime Japan 2015. The convention took place over the span of three days, but only two of them were open to the public as the first was used for businesses to strike deals with one another. Unfortunately, conventions in Japan have been known to pale in comparison to those in America. Looking back, I was able to completely soak up all that the convention had to offer within one day. I only returned on the second to attend a panel. Panels are also handled far differently in Japan than in America. For one thing, you have to win your way in via lottery ticket and, on top of that, I don’t believe attendees usually learn any ground breaking information about a serialization or film. When I had first purchased my ticket, I bought one for Saturday, completely unaware of the panel on Sunday morning that NHK set up for their upcoming anime adaptation of Rumiko Takahashi’s Kyōkai no Rin-ne. This anime is an adaptation of a manga serialization I have been following since before it was even published. It won’t come as a surprise then to know that I went back and purchased a ticket for Sunday, I also signed up to try and win the panel. Needless to say, I was lucky enough to win.
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I was lucky enough to snag Ashlee Mantione for a few moments to take a picture of me by the main feature of the exhibit set up for Kyōkai no Rin-ne at Anime Japan 2015. The costume was modeled after the male protagonist, Rokudo Rinne’s, everyday wear. Ishikawa Kaitou, Rin-ne’s voice actor, strutted around stage adorning the robe and track suit during the panel on Sunday.

The panel format was an interview featuring three of the series’ main seiyū: Ishikawa Kaitou (voicing Rokudo Rin-ne), Inoue Marina (voicing Mamiya Sakura), and Kimura Ryōhei (voicing Jumonji Tsubasa). I have never been more grateful for my Japanese Elements I course than when I was in the audience using a combination of context clues and what I had learned during class to keep up with the conversation on stage. The Kyōkai no Rin-ne panel made the entire convention absolutely unforgettable and unique to me. Content wise, the panel didn’t feature any new footage, but there were still no words except for maybe “stellar” to describe my excitement while it was all taking place.

Rumiko Takahashi’s manga provided my first introduction to Japanese culture years ago. I can still remember spending hours behind my computer piecing together the countless Japan-specific jokes she drew up. I was able to expand from the manga platform to cultivate an interest in Japanese literature which eventually transformed into an interest in Japanese culture more broadly. My Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday combined both mass and traditional culture, giving me a hectic taste of some of my initial interests and definitely made some of my favorite moments so far a treasured reality.
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TUJ Activity: Gifu Overnight Trip

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Last week, on Thursday and Friday, TUJ sponsored a trip to Gifu, a mountainous area in central Japan. We had many stops, even to an onsen, and it was well worth going.

Here is our first stop: Matsumoto Castle. This is considered a cultural and historic landmark in Japan, and was breathtaking in person.

Here is our first stop: Matsumoto Castle. This is considered a cultural and historic landmark in Japan, and was breathtaking in person.

We arrived at Matsumoto Castle first on our trip. Even though it started to rain, TUJ student Dina Pakstis couldn't help but enjoy how beautiful the castle was.

We arrived at Matsumoto Castle first on our trip. Even though it started to rain, TUJ student Dina Pakstis couldn’t help but enjoy how beautiful the castle was.

Temple Japan student Carlos Casademont realizes just how big the castle is. And this was just the gate!

Temple Japan student Carlos Casademont realizes just how big the castle is. And this was just the gate!

Temple Japan students Megan Smith, Dan Foster, Carlos Casademont, and Dina Pakstis all pose with a samurai and the mascot of Matsumoto.

Temple Japan students Megan Smith, Dan Foster, Carlos Casademont, and Dina Pakstis all pose with a samurai and the mascot of Matsumoto.

We were greeted right outside of the gates by a staff member dressed as a samurai. It looked quite heavy, but none the less amazing!

We were greeted right outside of the gates by a staff member dressed as a samurai. It looked quite heavy, but none the less amazing!

With many of the places on this tour, we discovered that you always have to take off your shoes (as would you normally in any home). Thankfully, they provided slippers if you didn't like to walk in your socks.

With many of the places on this tour, we discovered that you always have to take off your shoes (as would you normally in any home). Thankfully, they provided slippers if you didn’t like to walk in your socks.

The view of Matsumoto from one of the higher floors of the castle. Our trip also included entry to the Matsumoto Museum, which houses many artifacts found in the castle.

The view of Matsumoto from one of the higher floors of the castle. Our trip also included entry to the Matsumoto Museum, which houses many artifacts found in the castle.

TUJ student Rachel Schifman admires some of the artifacts that were found in the castle.

TUJ student Rachel Schifman admires some of the artifacts that were found in the castle.

Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, Rachel Schifman, Dina Pakstis and even myself were able to make it all the way to the top of the castle, even though the stairs were incredibly steep!

Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, Rachel Schifman, Dina Pakstis and even myself were able to make it all the way to the top of the castle, even though the stairs were incredibly steep!

A statue in Matsumoto featuring multiple toads. In Japan, many toads are considered a sign of good luck.

A statue in Matsumoto featuring multiple toads. In Japan, many toads are considered a sign of good luck.

Our next stop after Matsumoto was drastically different. It had managed to drop about 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit in that time, and there was lots and lots of snow! This shot was taken in the Otaki Limestone caves. They were very wet!

Our next stop after Matsumoto was drastically different. It had managed to drop about 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit in that time, and there was lots and lots of snow! This shot was taken in the Otaki Limestone caves. They were very wet!

Make sure to wear waterproof shoes when going through here. The cold, rain, and overall dampness of the cave made most of the students really look forward to the onsen that evening.

Make sure to wear waterproof shoes when going through here. The cold, rain, and overall dampness of the cave made most of the students really look forward to the onsen that evening.

Outside of the cave, it was clear that there was a lot of water around this cave. These icicles were huge!

Outside of the cave, it was clear that there was a lot of water around this cave. These icicles were huge!

TUJ student Dina Pakstis was chipper as always, even though it was absolutely freezing outside. "Those icicles are awesome!"

TUJ student Dina Pakstis was chipper as always, even though it was absolutely freezing outside. “Those icicles are awesome!”

These statues greeted us on our way down from the caves to our starting point. There were at least 15 of them, and their size is deceiving; they were close to two feet tall!

These statues greeted us on our way down from the caves to our starting point. There were at least 15 of them, and their size is deceiving; they were close to two feet tall!

Our last stop that evening was the onsen in Gifu. It was such a joy to be in a place that was so warm, heated floors, and of course, smelled like sulfur. No, it's not someone's sandwich or any smells from the bus, but quite literally the onsens smell like sulfur. I had never known this, so I honestly thought that it may have been my lunch.

Our last stop that evening was the onsen in Gifu. It was such a joy to be in a place that was so warm, heated floors, and of course, smelled like sulfur. No, it’s not someone’s sandwich or any smells from the bus, but quite literally the onsens smell like sulfur. I had never known this, so I honestly thought that it may have been my lunch.

The onsen here was divided into a men and women's area, each of which had many baths to choose from. It was so great that they were open all night, so you could go whenever you liked!

The onsen here was divided into a men and women’s area, each of which had many baths to choose from. It was so great that they were open all night, so you could go whenever you liked!

The onsen provided everyone in their room with yukatas to wear to and from the onsen. They were incredibly comfy and kept you warm.

The onsen provided everyone in their room with yukatas to wear to and from the onsen. They were incredibly comfy and kept you warm.

The onsen actually had two restaurants, one of which the TUJ group ate at. We were given a traditional Japanese meal each day, which had some amazingly tasty entrees.

The onsen actually had two restaurants, one of which the TUJ group ate at. We were given a traditional Japanese meal each day, which had some amazingly tasty entrees.

Unfortunately, we had to depart the onsen the next day. Here is the entire TUJ group, all refreshed from a nice soak in the onsens.

Unfortunately, we had to depart the onsen the next day. Here is the entire TUJ group, all refreshed from a nice soak in the onsens.

Our next two stops were to towns in the Gifu and Hida areas. This town was very small, and had many historical buildings in it. The scenery, however, was truly amazing. You could see snow-capped mountains all around.

Our next two stops were to towns in the Gifu and Hida areas. This town was very small, and had many historical buildings in it. The scenery, however, was truly amazing. You could see snow-capped mountains all around.

While the group was in one of the towns, a group of men were fixing one of the hay and grass roofs of the homes. This type of roof was used quite often historically, and is amazing that they still use it today.

While the group was in one of the towns, a group of men were fixing one of the hay and grass roofs of the homes. This type of roof was used quite often historically, and is amazing that they still use it today.

Kay James, a Temple Japan student, poses next to some painted figures outside of the shops. One of the faces is actually made up completely of kana characters!

Kay James, a Temple Japan student, poses next to some painted figures outside of the shops. One of the faces is actually made up completely of kana characters!

Tiny bits of spring were coming into the little town, despite the snow. The streams were flowing at full speed, indicating that the snow would soon be melting.

Tiny bits of spring were coming into the little town, despite the snow. The streams were flowing at full speed, indicating that the snow would soon be melting.

Kay James, a TUJ student, admires a giant ice home. "It's still cold!"  (I couldn't tell if she was talking about her ice cream, or the ice home...)

Kay James, a TUJ student, admires a giant ice home. “It’s still cold!” (I couldn’t tell if she was talking about her ice cream, or the ice home…)

Our last stop was another town, in which we were given a tour of one of the historical government houses, in ENGLISH. Here was the gate to the building.

Our last stop was another town, in which we were given a tour of one of the historical government houses, in ENGLISH. Here was the gate to the building.

The TUJ group listens to one of the staff members discuss the history of the government building.

The TUJ group listens to one of the staff members discuss the history of the government building.

Here was one of the larger rooms in the government building. We learned that the tatami mats had different meanings. The nicer mats were made for the rooms of the higher positioned ranks, while the weaker mats were made for servants areas.

Here was one of the larger rooms in the government building. We learned that the tatami mats had different meanings. The nicer mats were made for the rooms of the higher positioned ranks, while the weaker mats were made for servants areas.

Kay James, Dina Pakstis, and Megan Smith walk around the halls of the government building.

Kay James, Dina Pakstis, and Megan Smith walk around the halls of the government building.

TUJ student Nick Watanabe stops to get a perfect shot of the government building.

TUJ student Nick Watanabe stops to get a perfect shot of the government building.

This garden featured the symbol of the family here, which consisted of a wave pattern in semi-circles. During the tour, this pattern was seen many times around the building.

This garden featured the symbol of the family here, which consisted of a wave pattern in semi-circles. During the tour, this pattern was seen many times around the building.

Overall, the trip was fantastic. Once you go in the onsen, you will never want to get out. I would definitely recommend this trip to anyone who wants to experience more of Japan, but on a budget and with friends!

Tokyo Disney Resort!

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Recently, I was able to go on a trip with a group of friends to an iconic place in not only Tokyo, but in the world:

The Tokyo Disney Resort

The resort is super easy to get to, and it’s only about 30 minutes away from the Shirokane Takanawa (the station right near Temple Japan’s Azabu Hall). The resort also offers discounted tickets for students, which I happily purchased.

When exiting the JR Subway station nearest to the Tokyo Disney Resort, you'll have to board the Disney Monorail to travel to the parks. It's not difficult to find, especially with it's Mickey Mouse shaped windows.

When exiting the JR Subway station nearest to the Tokyo Disney Resort, you’ll have to board the Disney Monorail to travel to the parks. It’s not difficult to find, especially with it’s Mickey Mouse shaped windows.

Goofy was so happy to get a shot with the TUJ students Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, and even me! Goofy was wearing his DisneySea attire.

Goofy was so happy to get a shot with the TUJ students Megan Smith, Carlos Casademont, and even me! Goofy was wearing his DisneySea attire.

Goofy waited for 5 minutes until America rotated into view on the globe, so that he could correctly point to where Temple Main Campus was. His guesses of China, South Africa, and the Philippines were a bit off, but he finally got it right.

Goofy waited for 5 minutes until America rotated into view on the globe, so that he could correctly point to where Temple Main Campus was. His guesses of China, South Africa, and the Philippines were a bit off, but he finally got it right.

Disney Tokyo Resort is made up of two parks: DisneySea and Disneyland. Here is DisneySea, which is based off of the model of Walt Disney World Orlando's Epcot. This park does not feature all the countries of the world, and also incorporates many water rides.

Disney Tokyo Resort is made up of two parks: DisneySea and Disneyland. Here is DisneySea, which is based off of the model of Walt Disney World Orlando’s Epcot. This park does not feature all the countries of the world, and also incorporates many water rides.

Temple Japan students Megan Smith and Carlos Casademont stop for a photo in front of Disney Sea. This is the largest park in the Tokyo Disney Resort, and even has a giant volcano in the middle!

Temple Japan students Megan Smith and Carlos Casademont stop for a photo in front of Disney Sea. This is the largest park in the Tokyo Disney Resort, and even has a giant volcano in the middle!

In Disney Sea, it's name implies that it is more water-based, so it would be necessary to add an Ariel section to this park. Here is Ariel's castle, which has a huge area inside with rides and games.

In Disney Sea, it’s name implies that it is more water-based, so it would be necessary to add an Ariel section to this park. Here is Ariel’s castle, which has a huge area inside with rides and games.

TUJ student Megan Smith successfully found her future boyfriend, Prince Eric from "The Little Mermaid." She was quite smitten when she found him.

TUJ student Megan Smith successfully found her future boyfriend, Prince Eric from “The Little Mermaid.” She was quite smitten when she found him.

One of Ariel's collectibles in her cave in Ariel's castle.

One of Ariel’s collectibles in her cave in Ariel’s castle.

In this playground in Ariel's Castle, they reenact the scene from "The Little Mermaid" where Ariel sings in her cave with her collectibles.

In this playground in Ariel’s Castle, they reenact the scene from “The Little Mermaid” where Ariel sings in her cave with her collectibles.

TUJ student Carlos Casademont rings the bell in Ariel's cave, just like in the movie "The Little Mermaid."

TUJ student Carlos Casademont rings the bell in Ariel’s cave, just like in the movie “The Little Mermaid.”

In the Tokyo Disney Resort, you can journey on a quest to find all the hidden Mickey's around the park. This one here was difficult to find, but we found him hovering just over the keystone.

In the Tokyo Disney Resort, you can journey on a quest to find all the hidden Mickey’s around the park. This one here was difficult to find, but we found him hovering just over the keystone.

Disneyland would not be complete without Cinderella's Castle. In the Disneyland park in Tokyo Disney Resort, it features most of the same things from Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Orlando.

Disneyland would not be complete without Cinderella’s Castle. In the Disneyland park in Tokyo Disney Resort, it features most of the same things from Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World Orlando.

TUJ students Carlos Casademont, Megan Smith, and myself got a shot in front of Cinderella's castle just before they closed off the pavilion for a parade.

TUJ students Carlos Casademont, Megan Smith, and I got a shot in front of Cinderella’s castle just before they closed off the pavilion for a parade.

One of the biggest movies from Disney currently is "Frozen" which Japan is still absolutely in love with. Until the end of March, Disneyland is hosting many Frozen oriented aspects of the park, including games, food, and balloons.

One of the biggest movies from Disney currently is “Frozen,” which Japan is still absolutely in love with. Until the end of March, Disneyland is hosting many Frozen oriented aspects of the park, including games, food, and balloons.

In Disneyland, there are two main parades that happen during the day. This parade happened around noon time, and featured most of the princesses and even Minnie Mouse.

In Disneyland, there are two main parades that happen during the day. This parade happened around noon time, and featured most of the princesses and even Minnie Mouse.

Woody isn't eating people, it's just a ride! This is the entrance for one of the Toy Story rides in the Tokyo Disney Resort, specifically Disneyland. On a busy day, the lines can get up to 3 hours long!

Woody isn’t eating people, it’s just a ride! This is the entrance for one of the Toy Story rides in the Tokyo Disney Resort, specifically Disneyland. On a busy day, the lines can get up to 3 hours long!

The Electrical Parade at any Disney Resort is a sight to see! Sadly, the only resorts around the world to still host this parade are Walt Disney World Orlando and Tokyo Disneyland.

The Electrical Parade at any Disney Resort is a sight to see! Sadly, the only resorts around the world to still host this parade are Walt Disney World Orlando and Tokyo Disneyland.

Each of the floats in the parade were incredibly intricate, and consists of thousands of lights. Most of the floats featured the characters sayings, and all were in English.

Each of the floats in the parade were incredibly intricate, and consists of thousands of lights. Most of the floats featured the characters sayings, and all were in English.

Sleeping Beauty graced the parade by leading the way around the park. Her wings didn't just only glow, but they moved as well!

Sleeping Beauty graced the parade by leading the way around the park. Her wings didn’t just only glow, but they moved as well!

Iconic characters like Sully, Mike, and Boo from "Monster's Inc." even made it in the parade. However, they were about 10 times larger than in the movie.

Iconic characters like Sully, Mike, and Boo from “Monster’s Inc.” even made it in the parade. However, they were about 10 times larger than in the movie.

Overall, the trip was amazing! I definetly think it is worth it for any Disney fan. I would advise that there are very long lines, and all the attractions are not always offered in English, but it is easy enough to understand. I hope to go again someday!

A Must-Visit in Japan: Daibutsu

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If you could pick only one magnificent sight to see in Japan, make it Daibutsu!

If you could pick only one magnificent sight to see in Japan, better make it Daibutsu!

The first of my posts on the top “must-visit” places in Japan is Daibutsu (大仏) aka Great Buddha, which is a term used in general to represent each of the several large Buddha statues scattered throughout the country. The one featured above is the one I visited and although it may be recognizable to you, it is not the most well-known daibutsu — this being the one that resides in Todai-ji in Nara. The photo above shows Kamakura Daibutsu (鎌倉大仏) in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture — an Amitabha Buddha that towers over 13 meters. The trip to see this daibutsu, especially on a pleasant day, is an enjoyable one; the whole area surrounding the Buddha is open and the sun beats down on the grass, the steps, the pebbles and the temple. What surprised me the most — besides its unbelievable height — was the discovery that it was hollow inside, an aspect of the statue that probably allowed for easier construction and maintenance throughout the Me & Buddhacenturies. For a small fee (I believe around 100-200 yen) you can take a short walk through the opening to the right of the Buddha and walk up a set of stairs to check out the dimly lit hollowed feet and chest area. Drop your head back and you can admire the opening of the neck and squint to check out the head at the very top. The inside is a tight space and only a few people can cram inside to explore the tiny room, but it is full of extra tidbits on the construction and maintenance of the otherworldly structure — an experience definitely worthy of your spare yen (plus you can say “I’ve been inside that Buddha!!”).

When I returned home, I decided to explore online a little, and thanks to every college student’s best friend Wikipedia, I discovered even more ridiculously cool facts about the Kamakura Daibutsu. According to Wikipedia and many other resources, the statue, constructed of bronze, was born by man’s hand in the 1200s (the Kamakura period), but this was only after its wooden predecessor, which was destroyed in a storm some years before. The Buddha was also at one point covered in gold (!), and housed in several buildings which were also broken down by storms, but now it stands without the cover of a roof. When you go inside the Buddha you can see the giant plates of bronze layered underneath using a technique called ikarakuri, and while there I also learned of the types of repairs — to places like the neck and base — that the statue underwent over time. Check out some photos I took of this iconic Japanese figure!


A view from inside the Buddha: here we're looking up at the hole that is the neck, and over the railing there are two windows on the back side of the statue.

A view from inside the Buddha: here we’re looking up at the hole that is the neck, and over the railing there are two windows on the back side of the statue.

Here is a shot of the Great Buddha that shows you just how big it really is. From here you can also see the intricate base, which was previously broken and repaired.

Here is a shot of the Great Buddha that shows you just how big it really is. From here you can also see the base, which was previously broken and repaired.

People waiting to sniff some of the incense at the foot of the statue.

People waiting to sniff some of the incense at the foot of the statue.

This arch marks the entrance to the temple grounds where the Great Buddha stands. The street light is such a strange contrast from the gorgeous traditional style of the arch!

This arch marks the entrance to the temple grounds where the Great Buddha stands. The street light is such a strange contrast from the gorgeous traditional style of the arch!

Kotoku-in, the Buddhist temple where the Daibutsu is housed.

Kotoku-in, the Buddhist temple where the Daibutsu is housed.

A beautiful bridge near the entrance of Kotoku-in that is too old and delicate to walk on!

A beautiful bridge near the entrance of Kotoku-in that is too old and delicate to walk on!

Some of the small gifts in the Kotoku-in gift shop. The sleep mask on the bottom right says "Kamakura!!" with an adorable emoticon face!

Some of the small gifts in the Kotoku-in gift shop. The sleep mask on the bottom right says “Kamakura!!” with an adorable emoticon face!

Check out the Kamakura Daibutsu, it's well worth the little extra money it takes to get there and it can lead to a whole day of shopping and exploring. There are many small shops and restaurants to check out -- have fun!

Check out the Kamakura Daibutsu, it’s well worth the little extra money it takes to get there and it can lead to a whole day of shopping and exploring. There are many small shops and restaurants to check out — have fun!

International Women’s Day and Japan

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Sunday March 8th was International Women’s Day (IWD), but I’m sure there were many women who, unfortunately, didn’t take much time out to reflect on this holiday. According to a website dedicated to keeping the tradition of the day “alive and growing,” internationalwomensday.com, IWD has been celebrated since the early 1900s. It aims to “inspire women and celebrate achievements,” and encourages support from not only women and men, but also global corporations who want in on the special day. The site also notes that the “tone and nature of IWD has… moved from being a reminder about the negatives to [being] a celebration of the positives,” a powerful view reversal that great movements would do good to follow.

This study abroad blogger was asked to scout out and participate in an event that marks this commemorative day in Japan. Sadly, Japan is not one of the few countries that takes great strides in making the occasion known, and thus there was only one event in Tokyo of note: a fundraising event in Shibuya hosted by two groups called FEW (For Empowering Women in Japan, a women’s networking group) and Lighthouse (Lighthouse: Center for Human Trafficking Victims, which focuses on human trafficking and modern day slavery in Japan). The event was an evening of musicians, poets and speakers using art and words to celebrate IWD and Japanese women.

What sounded like a fun, inspiring and absolutely perfect night, took place on Sunday from 7:00-10:00pm, a time that, unfortunately, conflicts with the restrictions put upon young women like myself residing in a dorm. This very fact brought me, on Sunday night, to reflect on the concept of restricted Japanese dorm hours, a typical safety rule for Japanese dorms, which only applies to females. As an American woman experiencing a new culture, a new belief system, and a new way of doing things in Japan, I was of course a little disappointed with the 11:00pm closing time that all residents were expected to meet — we would get locked out from 11:00pm until 6:00am if we couldn’t make it back through the sliding doors in time. The 11:00pm closing time is reasonable, but as our Temple tour guide on our first day at the dorm sympathetically noted, it restricts women’s activity while still enforcing a sense of protection.

Japan’s women are very different from the women of other backgrounds and other cultures, but they are still lacking a great amount of freedoms, just like many women in America and around the world are, even in modern times — the freedom to express themselves without harsh judgment from society, the freedom to lead beautiful lives without objectification, abuse, attacks…

Yet, in keeping with what IWD’s website notes, it is more important to look at how far women have come; in Japan, much has changed for the better. I hope that organizations like FEW can continue to support women in their personal and professional goals, and can keep International Women’s Day a celebration that more and more people each year will recognize and take action to commemorate.

Visit IWD’s website: http://www.internationalwomensday.com
Visit FEW’s website: http://www.fewjapan.com

Days Go By

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This is the display of the hina dolls in Nakajuku! Families set up more than just the emperor and empress dolls and their display will incorporate peach blossoms, which begin to bloom in Spring.

Towards the end of February, the community center in Nakajuku displayed their hina dolls in the window, marking the quick approach of the Hina-Matsuri, or Doll Festival. The Hina-Matsuri festival, celebrated on March 3rd, is commonly referred to as “Girl’s Day” because its annual purpose (whether practiced privately at home or publicly at community festivals) is to wish daughters good fortune and health as they continue to grow up. Although March 3rd has passed, I just flipped my desk calendar to March. I tend to be rather absentminded about changing the months on my calendar and when I remember to, I’m usually very happy to be one page closer to summer break. This month, however, was a bit different; before I came to Japan, I read blog posts from past student bloggers and a common revelation among them was how quickly their semesters passed. I understand that now. There are still mornings when I wake up, look at the time and feel my heart tumble right into my stomach because it’s way past the beginning of orientation, a mandatory event for all S.A. Students. I then remember that it’s been nearly sixty days since I had to attend orientation, but among the daily commutes, busy weekdays, and overflowing weekend endeavors it’s easy for sixty days to feel like one week.
Friday wrapped up my mid-term crunch and I spent the weekend celebrating and relaxing with friends. On Saturday, I finally took the train out to to Tokyo Station, which housed many, many restaurants and shops. The station had a lot to offer so I spent the afternoon wandering around, knowing that if I got lost in the maze of hallways, I could look up at the directional signs and find the correct train line.
 
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I had complained about not being able to find my favorite character, Kagome Higurashi, who I will be cosplaying later this month, on the fourth floor of Animate. A whopping five seconds later I looked down and spotted her.

Sunday evening I battled the gloomy weather alongside my friends in Akihabara. We walked as quickly as possible from store to store in order to lessen the damage that puddles would inflict on our shoes. The rain, however, was easily forgotten and our shoes dried within Akihabara’s Mandarake (a store selling used manga, doujinshi, anime, and memorabilia) as we scoured display cases and bookshelves for our favorite serializations. In these types of stores, I’ve learned, concentration is a necessity. Although there is organization on a macro level, trying to find something on a micro level (such as a specific anime, manga, figure, or film) tends to be a challenge. We braved the rain again in order to jump from Mandarake to Animate, another popular anime-based store in Akihabara. On the fifth floor, Animate has a cosplay store and my friends and I spent our last moments of the evening sorting through cosplay items for the upcoming convention, Anime Japan 2015 (March 21-22, 2015).
In addition to Anime Japan 2015, I will be going to Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo Disneyland, TUJ’s Gifu overnight trip, and the Shōnen Sunday Festival this month. On top of all of these events is the first blooming of Sakura in Tokyo which has been predicted to happen on the 25th. There is so much to do this month that the last two have seemed like the prequel to my semester. It’s fair to assume that March—the entire month—is going to be like when I packed my suitcases back in America: jam-packed, heavy, but one-hundred percent necessary, and bound for somewhere great.