One of my favorite classes so far here at TUJ has been my Japanese for Study Abroad Students class. The class is new this semester, and differs from a traditional low level language class in that the curriculum focuses not necessarily on building the foundation of fluency, but instead on teaching practical phrases that students will need to successfully navigate life in Japan. The class runs on Tuesdays and Thursdays; on Tuesdays we focus on language, and then Thursdays are devoted to a crash course in Japanese culture, which has proved more helpful than I could ever imagine.
One of the first things we talked about in the culture section of the course was the influence of Japan’s two major religions, Buddhism and Shintoism on Japanese culture. Because of this, our first field trip was to the gorgeous Zojo-ji Temple and nearby Tokyo Tower.
The class met outside of Azabu hall under clouds that threatened to, but thankfully never actually did, open up on us at any second. We had originally planned to take a bus to the temple area, but our professor informed us that it was only about a twenty five minute walk from campus, so we decided to take advantage of the weather while it was still on our side. Before long, the Tokyo tower rose up above the surrounding buildings before us, though we initially walked around it to the Temple.
The class was amazed at the size of the Temple grounds; we past what seemed like five separate main gates before we finally found the one we were looking for, the one that was very obviously meant to be the main main gate. At the gate, we met up with three students from a Japanese university in Tokyo who were coming with us; they showed us how to properly cleanse our hands at the hand-washing tub, and how to burn the incense inside of the temple while praying. The inside of the temple was incredible. Understandably, pictures were forbidden inside out of respect, but it was one of the most peaceful and serene environments I had ever been in. A service of some sort was going on inside as we entered; unfortunately I do not know nearly enough about Buddhism to know what was going on, but I do know that I could have stayed in there for hours, and was very disappointed when our professor pulled us away to go to the tower, which had been the part of the trip I was initially looking forward to the most.
We went up to the midlevel observation deck at the tower, which was still more than high up enough to get an incredible view of Tokyo. The city spread out as far as we could see in every direction; I’m still having trouble fathoming just how truly massive this city is. When we got there it was still daylight, but as we hung out on the observation deck the sun set, and we watched the lights of Roppongi on one side and the Odaiba Ferris wheel on the other light up as the sky went dark, and it was incredible.
The trip was one of the best experiences I’ve had at TUJ and in Japan in general so far, and I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the semester with this class.