Category Archives: Temple Summer

Mad Dash to the Finish Line

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Lawson runs, catching the next express train, stepping outside my dorm room into a kitchen full of friends- words cannot describe how much I will truly miss everything this program and country have given me these past few months. Especially the everyday scenes in Tokyo, like people riding their bikes to and from train stations, or the wildly various fashion styles found throughout the city. I am going to miss having a stunning view of bustling Shibuya and quiet residential neighbourhoods in Azabu on my daily commute. But most of all, I am going to miss all the people I have met on this trip. From my wonderful professor (Mr. Ian Lynam), to all the friends I made in my classes, and of course everyone who lived at the dorms with me, the people I have met have made as much an impact on me as my studies and travels here.

Three friends seen riding on their bike while on my way to the station.

Views of Tokyo from a building near my internship office in Ebisu.

A crepe I bought on Takeshita Street during my weekly visit to Harajuku.

People lining up for the next train at Shibuya Station.

My friend, Kazuki, a native of Japan, on our lunch together!

Views of Odaiba from the train.

One of the many local festivals that happen throughout Tokyo. This one was right outside the station I get off at for my internship!

 

This past week was the official last week for the study abroad program. Personally, I was busy until the very last minute with school, my internship, and trying to squeeze in as much time with everyone! It was really weird making plans with people and coming to the realization that it would be the last time (at least for a while) until we would see each other again. It was a strange mix of feeling excited to hang out in Tokyo, and reminiscent because it was the end.

Matt, Seamus, Colin, Ariel, and I at our last “family dinner” together. [Photo Credit: The Waitress]

A very colorful room of interactive art at the Sky Circus in Ikebukuro.

Ariel in her favorite room at Sky Circus.

Ariel and I enjoying a light display inside a room covered in mirrors.

Hinako, Ruchi, Kelsang (birthday girl!), myself, and Hina! [Photo Credit: Rob Weiss]

Greg giving his speech surrounded by Erik, Kevin, and Shaani.

Phil, Shaani, Kevin, and myself!

The whole family together at the end! [Photo Credit: Super nice locals!]

As luxurious as this trip was, it was not an easy one, but it was most definitely worth every penny and struggle it took to get here. I am truly grateful for Temple University for allowing me this opportunity. They say study abroad is a once in a life time experience, and I am here to reassure you that statement rings true.

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Final Thoughts on Final Days, Live from Narita Airport

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Today at around noon in Tokyo, Japan, I took the last final exam of my foreseeable college career. It was a bit strange getting sentimental as I wrote about American international relations in East Asia, but I did nonetheless. This week has been full of paper-writing and test-taking, but I’ve still been keenly aware of the little time I have left to be with my friends and TUJ peers – and be in this program in general. So, in between studying, I’ve crammed outings for sightseeing and quality time, including trips to war museums by Yasukuni Shrine, Ueno markets, and a long-awaited return trip to Ikebukuro’s Sky Circus.

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Next to this koi pond at Yasukuni Shrine was a vending machine selling boxes of fish food for ¥100 apiece. I happily took part.

For those who have been following along, I’ve been meaning to come back to Ikebukuro ever since my last visit to Sky Circus. The first time, I took advantage of almost all the interactive observatory had to offer, excluding one thing: a window with a transcription reading, “Let’s meet here at night, because something happens in this window.” I finally made the trip back, but not until my very last night in Tokyo, planned last-minute. The mystery window turned out to be a compatibility tester, which two of our friends tried out in good nature. It was then that we realized that Sky Circus is a popular location for young couples on dates. It was an interesting little observation on local life that wouldn’t have been possible with a little context and a second look.

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Matt and Seamus, to their delight, find their compatibility rating to be 99%.

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A shot of Richel in my favorite room in Sky Circus: one made completely of mirrors that shifts scenes of different seasons.

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Friends feeling sentimental on their last night together in Ikebukuro. (Credit: Seamus Kirby)

Today also marks my last day as a Temple student in the Kanagawa dorms. With two close friends I’ve made on this trip, fellow students Richel and Seamus, I have a trip to Osaka, Kyoto and Gifu planned. Directly after my last final, I headed to a bridge and park area off the stop before Musashi-Kosugi, called Shin-Maruko. Each day to and from class, I’ve watched this bridge go by. Much like with my return to Sky Circus, I’ve been telling myself I’d visit, but had no concrete plans. A last-minute, final group get-together – almost the entire Summer Study Abroad group living at the dorms – is what eventually got me there. As TUJ student Greg said in a small speech, this trip has brought together people from very different places and very different backgrounds – and very fast. For a group of people who I’ve only known for two months, saying goodbye was heartbreaking. We, unfortunately, had to rush to the dorms to move out and make it to the airport. In the end, we may have lingered just a bit too long trying to delay our sad farewells, and missed our 8:25 PM flight. Terminal 3 of Narita Airport is where I sit now, awaiting the next soonest at 9:45 AM. Of anywhere, however, I’m glad that it’s this incredible city of Tokyo that I’ve become stranded in.

What’s next, after Japan? I return home, hopefully soon to find a place and career back in New York. I’m still not entirely sure what that entails. If my time in Tokyo has shown me anything, it’s that it is okay observing and discovering as you go. This city is fluid, containing both traditional and modern, peace and robustness. Appreciating and applying this is its own precious skill I feel I’ve acquired, thanks to my time with this wonderful city, my wonderful friends, and TUJ.

Summiting Mt. Fuji

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This past Tuesday into Wednesday, my friends and I climbed Mt. Fuji, the tallest mountain in Japan.

We first arrived on Mt. Fuji at the 5th station of the Subashiri trail, where we were greeted with two small stores, a restaurant and a place to sit and eat. Everyone there was very welcoming, and as we walked towards the stores a lady handed us a small cup of hot soup, which was totally free! My friends and I hung out here for a bit, to get acclimated to the high altitude we were at. We grabbed a bite to eat and looked around the shops.

After an hour or so, we began our ascent with high energy and high hopes!

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Seamus, Ariel, and Matt at the start of our hike

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Starting altitude!

The beginning of the hike was very green; not what I pictured a volcano to look like. The temperature wasn’t too hot, but it was extremely humid. It was probably the most humid climate I have ever experienced.

Within the first hour or so of our hike, it began to downpour! We scrambled to get our ponchos out of our bags and to put them on. The end result can be seen below.

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Seamus, Ariel, and Matt in their ponchos

After all our struggle to try and get our ponchos on, the rain only lasted for about 5 minutes.

From there, we continued to hike up the mountain, taking breaks every now and then.

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6th Station on the Subashiri Trail

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Almost at the 7th station

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Views up the mountain when the clouds cleared away

Our very helpful and kind friend at TUJ OSS (Temple University Japan Office of Student Services), Nahomi, advised that we should reserve a stay at a hut along Fuji, and boy, am I thankful we did. Nahomi had warned us that some climbers experience altitude sickness, which is basically feeling dizzy/nauseous because of the extremely high altitudes. Of course, I was the one to succumb to this sickness, so my way up the mountain was rather painful. When we had finally reached our hut, I was so grateful for a roof over my head, a hot meal, and warm bed to lay down in. My head was spinning and lying down for a few hours helped me settle down.

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Ariel, Matt, and Seamus eating a hot meal at our hut

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Two very tired bloggers [Photo credit: Seamus Kirby]

We stayed at the hut for a total of maybe 4 hours and then continued our climb to the summit! We left the hut at about 12:30am and it was an estimated 3 hours until the summit, where we would watch the sun rise over the clouds.

When I told friends and co-workers that I was going to climb Fuji, many people told me that I should definitely buy a hiking stick. Hiking sticks are sold at the 5th station, where you start, and come branded with about 3 stamps. As you go up the mountain, you get a new branding at every station you reach, until you finally get to the summit. The catch is that you have to pay for each branding along the way, so it can be a little pricey. However, I think that the hiking stick really helped me along my ascent, and definitely during my descent along the mountain. Plus, now I have a really awesome souvenir!

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Getting my hiking stick branded!

The last 2 hours before the summit were so slow! At this point, most of the trails have merged and so there’s just hundreds of hikers queueing on the trail slowly making their way to the summit. Be that as it may, when we finally reached the top, the view was amazing. Not to mention, the satisfaction of being able to say I had reached the summit of Mt. Fuji.

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Seamus, Matt, Ariel, and myself at the summit for sunrise! [Photo credits: fellow hiker]

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Above the clouds on the summit of Mt. Fuji.

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Me showing off my “Fujidas” shirt on the top of the mountain! [Photo credit: Matt Hazell]

Would I do it again? Maybe. However, I’m very thankful for the experience. Climbing that mountain took a lot of strength and mental endurance I didn’t think I had. But, now I can use “I’ve been to the top of Mt. Fuji!” as my new ice breaker.

From the Dorms to Fuji and Back

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Even a Sunday can be eventful while abroad with TUJ. My week began with exploration of an area that is very old to Tokyo, but very new to me. Asakusa is one of the city’s oldest districts, and was the site of my final outing with part of my Practical Japanese class and our professor, Matsuhashi-sensei. A few of us treated her to brunch at a small okonomiyaki joint. We then explored the area, stopping by Sensō-ji, a well-known and longstanding temple built in the 7th century. Although Asakusa is a large tourist attraction of Tokyo, and thus we were caught in large crowds most of the time, I felt fortunate to experience it with my professor, who could provide some background and answer questions.

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The owner of the restaurant took our photo after our okonamiyaki, shared on a hot plate. From left to right, back to front: Greg, Matsuhashi-sensei, Kevin, Rob, myself, and Ruchi.

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We unexpectedly pet an owl while exploring the streets of Asakusa after brunch.

Not less than a day ago, three study abroad friends and I took on summiting Mt. Fuji. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit how nervous I was about whether or not I could manage. But with the help of my friend’s good planning, the advice of the OSS office, and several boxes of Calorie Mate (a popular energy bar/meal replacer in Japan), we completed the journey.

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The Wednesday morning sun rose around 4:40 AM on the summit of Mt. Fuji.

We woke up early in the morning to make our way to Mt. Fuji’s 5th Station from the Shinjuku bus terminal. By the time we prepared ourselves for climbing by eating a sizable lunch, it was already around 3:00 PM. As physically taxing as it was, the lesser-taken Subashiri Trail was very tranquil, and one of the only places that I can remember ever experiencing complete quiet. We arranged to stay briefly at a hut at the 7th station, 3,000 meters above ground level. Taking our time to rest and have some fun, we were a couple of hours later to our respite site than we planned to be, which only made our warm meal and bed even more satisfying. We made sure to be up by 12:30 AM sharp to avoid the same situation and make the sunrise at the summit, the main event of the trip. Many pictures, huddles for warmth, and warm bowls of ramen later, we began a difficult descent. At 10:00 AM, we finally arrived back at the 5th station and were immediately greeted by travel guides and shopkeepers who were eager to help us on our way home. Thanks to them, we made it back to the TUJ dorms early and without too much trouble. Especially after what has probably been the most taxing physical event of my life, it was more than I could ask for.

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A worker at the 6th station hut brands a stamp into my party’s walking sticks.

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I ordered a simple miso ramen at the summit.

Yesterday’s helpful community on Mt. Fuji has not been an isolated experience. In previous posts, I’ve discussed the noticeable friendliness of construction workers and shop owners on Mt. Ashigara. Over last weekend as well, I witnessed such greatness in the community where I live. Just around the corner from the school’s Musashi-Kosugi dorms in Kanagawa, there is a daycare where students can often see children at play while on their daily commute. Participating in some type of mini summer festival, the kids of the preschool marched down the block on Saturday afternoon, carrying mascot-themed mikoshi and chanting exclamations. Along with their parents and teachers, the kids immediately waved to us when they spotted us from our window. I was charmed by this exchange, and felt grateful to momentarily be a piece of the subtle liveliness that is the residential neighborhood of the Musashi-Kosugi area. Though I move out in a matter of days, a part of me will certainly remain.

 

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I managed a picture of the children’s festival parade from the window as the Musashi-Kosugi community waved at us.

Mixing Things Up in Tokyo

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Finals season is upon us and I am busier than ever. Between doing projects for my graphic design class, writing papers for my art history class, work for my internship and going out with friends, I have almost no time for anything else.

This past week I did a bunch of fun things. On Friday I went to an Art Aquarium at night, which was really interesting. The atmosphere was high class and mysterious. The aquarium had gold fish in all different types of tanks that were lit up with neon lights against the dark background. It was a pretty cool sight to experience.

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Poster critiques in my graphic design class

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Art Aquarium in Nihonbashi

On Saturday I got really sick. I basically woke up in extreme pain. I was sick for about the first month of my stay here but I never went to the hospital because I didn’t think it was necessary. However, this time around, I knew I had to go.

As a foreigner in this country I was a little nervous trying to deal with healthcare. Dealing with hospital visits in America is a headache in itself, so I imagined it would be even more difficult in a country with a different language. To my surprise I was wrong. As a part of this program, Temple University requires students to sign up for GeoBlue Health Care. It’s an international health care plan available for students abroad. This service helped me find a facility that was covered by my health insurance, and that fit my needs. All the facilities listed on their website speak English, all I had to do was make a phone call to set up an appointment for that same day.

After the hospital visit, I was pretty beat so I took it easy for the rest of the day. The medicine the doctor gave me took effect right away and I was already in a lot less pain than I was at the start of the day. That was a huge relief because the next day I had to go to Spo-Cha!

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The best place in Odaiba!

Spo-Cha is a huge sports complex located in Odaiba. You can go and play soccer, tennis, basketball, baseball, volleyball, bowling, rollerskating, they even had Segways people could ride. The complex also had a bunch of arcade games, darts, and billiards.

After Spo-Cha, my friends and I walked around Odaiba for a bit. Odaiba is huge, with at least 4 mega malls surrounding the area. It’s a great place to go shopping and find cool things to do like Spo-Cha and other places like amusement parks and game centers.

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Seamus riding a mechanical bull inside Spo-Cha

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Fellow student Toru testing his luck with the mechanical bull

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Inside Venus Fort

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Fountain inside Venus Fort

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Ariel trying to stay cool in the hot and humid weather!

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Views of Rainbow Bridge

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Gundam Cafe at night

I ended my week by going to the Ginza Graphic Gallery or the GGG as it’s known. I went on a field trip with my art history class so it was cool to go with other people who knew about what was on display.

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Inside the GGG (Ginza Graphic Gallery)

After the gallery, a few friends I made this semester in class took me to Shibuya and showed me a recording studio. This was probably one of the coolest things I’ve done here in Tokyo so far. My friend Jason, pictured below on the left, was teaching Matt and me how to mix songs together like a DJ. I actually bought a disposable camera to shoot film on that night, which I did, but then I forgot when we left. I guess this experience is just one I’ll have to remember without it.

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Fellow students Jason and Matt, spinning records in Shibuya

 

Week 8 & Authentic Experiences

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In week 8, I am starting to make more preparations not only for impending TUJ finals, but for my post-program travel. Preparing for the organized chaos of undergrad finals feels like clockwork now, making it all the more surreal that this time around, I’m finishing for good – and doing so in Tokyo, Japan. My first ever summer semester is also my last. It has felt understandably short, but even more so considering how packed with adventure it has been.

This week was no exception to that statement. On Friday, I took the advice of local residents and brought five other TUJ students to Nihonbashi for Tokyo’s Art Aquarium. Featuring thousands of goldfish in artistic tanks, I was beyond thrilled to experience it. Taking place from mid-July to late September, Art Aquarium tickets can only be bought by way of 7-11 ticket machines. Learning to use this technology, in itself, has been an interesting cultural adjustment over the course of my time at TUJ. 7-11 and Lawson ticket machines were a daunting task back in June. This month, though I feel like my actual comprehension of the Japanese display has improved only slightly, I felt a lot more confident in my ability to work my way through, especially with the help of native speakers, than before. Though still constantly aware of my foreignness, I am not as embarrassed of asking for help – a necessary step to learning while abroad.

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Even iPhone 6 quality couldn’t help but pick up the vibrancy of the Art Aquarium exhibits.

In addition, I took an impromptu trip to the old city of Kamakura and island of Enoshima in celebration of the long weekend. There, I encountered shrines, temples, and landmarks familiar to tourists in Japan. I took note of how comfortable I’ve become traveling with my friends, fellow TUJ students, even with our varying, low degrees of Japanese comprehension. There is a sense of being collectively pushed outside our comfort zone – a weird sense of security, but specifically in encouraging each other forward.

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Kamakura is famous for this giant Buddha statue at Kotoku-in Temple.

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With a shrine cat in Enoshima. Picture credit: Colin Reineberg

Last post, I mentioned meeting native Japanese students, some of which made plans to give us the “authentic Japanese student” experience. Shuhei and Tohru brought us to Spocha, a complex that offers sports, arcade games, and karaoke for a flat rate, in Odaiba. I was amazed by the huge range of, and even variety within, the activities offered there. One gem included a simple Japanese arcade game, in which you had to carry out certain traditional tasks and manners, such as bowing at the right angle and practicing handing off your business card (an important and common practice in Japanese professional life). Our own Spocha group was accordingly varied in terms of nationalities and included American, Japanese and French students. At one point in our afternoon, one Japanese and one American student, who could communicate very limitedly in one another’s respective first language, realized that they could both speak fluent Spanish. Through their second languages, these students could connect with much more ease than before. We came for an “authentic Japanese uni experience,” but I also felt that what I observed was an authentic and unique experience in its own right. Overall, my time in Tokyo seems to be following this same path.

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An endearing Spocha arcade game, in which the practice of trading business cards became suddenly very intense.

 

 

 

 

 

Over the Honeymoon Phase

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This week was filled with a lot of realization and adjusting. Now that I’m into week 6 of my stay here, I’m past the honeymoon phase of living in Japan and into really settling here.

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This Lawson is the closest one to the dorms and is my saving grace.

Although I’m past the honeymoon phase, I still find new places of Tokyo to explore. This week, my friends and I went to Chinatown in Yokohama. It’s pretty similar yet also still very different from the Chinatown in NYC which I’m familiar with, so it was still a fun experience!

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Entrance into China Town in Yokohama from Motomachi Chukugai Station

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China Town in Yokohama

This weekend, I went on yet another TUJ excursion to Chiba. We visited several places including a hike at Nokogiriyama, Ooyama Rice Fields, Seaworld, and Noumizu Waterfalls.

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View of the cliff side at Nokogiriyama

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Ruchi, Rob, Matt, and Cody taking in the view

On the hike at Nihonji Temple we got to ride a cable car up into the clouds. It dropped us off near the cliff sides pictured above.

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Another view of the giant Buddha

This giant Buddha statue was at the first stop on our trip and it was one of my favourite! I agree with a lot Buddhist ideas and this is actually one of the biggest statues of Buddha in the world!

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Ooyama Rice Fields

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PJ and Tim helping Shaani up out of the rice fields

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Students taking in the view of the rice fields

On the way to Seaworld we also stopped at a rice field. These were really cool to see, especially for the students who had never seen a rice field before! The field was very expansive and took over a large portion of a hill side. After being stuck in a bus for a few hours, it was great being able to stretch out and run around a little bit.

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Noumizo Waterfall

The trip to Chiba took place at the end of an exhausting week for me. I’ve had to tackle a few uncomfortable instances this week at work and school but I think the experience has helped me grow. As I visited all these beautiful landscapes, such as the waterfall pictured above, I kept thinking about how lucky I am to be here, to be living in Japan and exploring the country outside of the cities. I’ve learned how and when to seek out help from other people. If something isn’t working, or going the way it should be, I’ve learned that it is way, way better to speak out to someone and confront things. Compromises can be made and solutions can be worked out to create a better experience for everyone involved. As I’m completely on my own here in Japan I’ve had to become even more independent than I am at home. No more going home to my sister and complaining about stuff. Working and going to school in Tokyo has really pushed me as an individual so far. I can feel myself getting closer to my goal of becoming a global citizen.

Cultural Observations and Japanese for Study Abroad Students

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This week, I’d like to start by sharing some direct cultural observations that I’ve been able to make, thanks to my Japanese for Study Abroad Students class at TUJ.

This week, my stay with Temple Japan has been filled with a lot of casual exploration of the area around our campus, in the Minato ward of Tokyo. My professor, Matsuhashi-sensei, informed of us the upcoming Tanabata Matsuri, or “Star Festival.” A very popular summer event, the Tanabata festival celebrates the legendary annual meeting of two lovers in the Milky Way galaxy. Matsuhashi-sensei advised us to look out for signs that a community was preparing to participate in the festival, set on July 7th. Soon enough, I found myself running into Tanabata decorations while on walks: large structures with streamers attached and wishes written on paper, tied to branches of bamboo. In class, we even practiced writing our own wishes in hiragana in case we attend the festival ourselves. With my graduation from college just around the corner, I decided on hoping for a good job (in hiragana: “いいしごとがもらえますように。”) Many areas of Japan celebrate Tanabata on the 7th of either July or August – both of which fall during my stay in Japan. With luck, I’ll be able to attend both occurrences of Tanabata festival and observe differences, if any.

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Tanabata Matsuri preparations outside a building in Azabu.

I found another practical application for my classroom knowledge when I came across a shrine on my walk towards Tokyo Tower one afternoon. A large ring made of grass hung in the entryway, and I quickly recognized it as an element of a Shinto ritual we briefly discussed. In the two months of June and December, worshippers perform a purification ceremony (ooharae) by passing through the ring, called chinowa. (“People purify themselves for the removal of kegare (bad spirit), impurity and misfortune,” Matsuhashi-sensei remarked about the tradition.) In seeing both this and the Tanabata festival preparations, it seems to me like these Japanese summer traditions share a common thread of looking towards the future – in making wishes, and in partaking in a type of rebirth.

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Taken in between TUJ and Tokyo Tower, this picture features chinowa at the entrance of a shrine.

As always, these observations on tradition were in tandem with an exploration of Tokyo’s modern side. I attended an event in Roppongi Hills, for a fellow TUJ student and friend’s internship. An expo for the car brand Rolls Royce, the event took place at the renowned Mori Hills complex – and, to this college student, was a pretty unique experience. After dropping in, a friend and I explored the area and quickly stumbled upon a pop-up exhibit in the middle of the mall. A creative marketing tactic, participants had to step up on a cloud-painted platform to tap on the handle of an umbrella, triggering a music note. “Light up the rainy season!” A nearby plaque proclaimed. Though a relaxed week in Tokyo in terms of big events, I found plenty of observations in the way of preparation of events, cultural and otherwise, to fill the sense of wonder I’ve kept ever since arriving.

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Fellow TUJ Student Jon participates in the pop-up exhibit at Mori Tower.

On Cycling through Tokyo

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Half a week after my 8-hour bike ride through Tokyo, I’m still slightly sore and bruised. Cycling from around 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM on last Saturday’s TUJ excursion was both a challenge and delight for me. With a TUJ representative, official tour guides, and some members of TUJ’s cycling club, myself and 14 other study abroad students mounted our rented Brompton bicycles (known for their small size and foldability) by school in the early morning. I was equal parts excited and anxious, having not ridden a bicycle in three years. Despite my reservations, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cycle through Tokyo’s backstreets.

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Our first destination was Zenfukuji, where we stopped to briefly practice our cycling. In the foreground of this picture, just outside of the temple, is actually the first American embassy in Japan.

We had many destinations packed into our schedule, but the sights along the way were equally a part of the experience. For example, just minutes from leaving campus, we passed a temple that was the site of a very famous doctor from the Edo Period’s grave. After viewing the outside of Japan’s Supreme Court, the Imperial Palace, and other impressive sights in Chiyoda, we parked our bikes at Kanda Myojin Shrine and walked to Origami Kaikan, an origami museum just a short distance away. Though our visit was limited to about fifteen minutes, their exhibits were small and intimate, and an origami demonstration upstairs in the giftshop caught the attention of many visitors. After lunch at a soba noodle spot, our group visited several other sites sprinkled throughout the city, including Dentsu-in Temple, Higo-Hosokawa Garden, and Ueno Park.

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I was shocked to find that this rainbow crane piece at Origami Kaikan is constructed of one continual sheet of paper.

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A snapshot from Higo-Hosokawa Garden, one of the most scenic spots on our trip.

Tokyo University was a particularly striking destination for me. Full of distinguished and beautiful architecture, Tokyo University was explained to us to be “the Harvard of Japan.” As we stopped by a pond full of turtles and koi right on campus, I thought of the extraordinary lives of students here: surrounded by this expansive beauty, both natural and architectural, and with direct access to the experience of living in Tokyo. The many dualities of this city, which I’ve praised often in other blog posts, felt contained in their own microcosm here on Tokyo University’s campus.

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The water in Shinobazu Pond in Ueno is almost completely hidden by these water lilies.

One constant throughout our trip was the presence of construction – and construction workers, who would watch and nod to every one of us as we passed on our bikes. Their friendliness, something you might not find as naturally in the United States, became an integral part of my ride. While construction everywhere indicates how the city is changing, this remained the same, no matter where we were along our 20-mile path. We weaved among marathoners in Chiyoda, pedestrians in Shinjuku, and traffic in Ueno, eventually ending back at TUJ (from which we limped home).

To quickly speak on the rest of my weekend, and the first half of my week, would have to include my case of laryngitis (no doubt a product of a slight cold, plus karaoke, plus a vigorous bike ride). My sick day on Sunday was a good excuse to stay in and focus on studying for midterms. Once again, I remain incredulous that I’ve already reached such a point in my studies here. My goal for the next five weeks is to remain in the moment with my studies, my friends, and this country.

 

 

Cycling Through Assimilation and Realization

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Greg, Ariel, Matt, Seamus, Colin, and Ruchi outside Genki Sushi in Shibuya.

The weekend started off as it always does, heading out into Shibuya for a night out. This time my friends and I went to a sushi place called Genki sushi. At this restaurant, you order your food from an ipad and then the sushi gets delivered to you on a train! I found this place last year and I love coming back to it. Plus it’s super cheap!

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Huge lily pond in Ueno Park!

This Saturday TUJ Activities had planned a biking trip across Tokyo. Over the course of the day, a group of 20 or so students biked all over Tokyo; starting at TUJ Azabu campus we biked to the Imperial Palace in Ginza, Kanda Myojin Shrine, Tokyo University, Hosokawa Park and more. At the end of it all, we were all super sweaty but had accomplished a 30km bike ride. I really enjoyed being able to ride on the streets of Tokyo. There are so many curvy and steep back roads that I had no idea existed. This excursion let me see yet another side of this huge city.

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Ariel, Seamus, Ruchi, and Greg at Higo-Hokusawa Garden

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Another view of Higo-Hokusawa garden

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Seamus tying omikuji at Hatanomori Hachimangu

On Sunday the Tokyo Coffee Festival was being held in Shibuya. My friend Colin is a coffee addict so naturally when he heard about it we all had to go. At the festival, there were almost 50 different vendors offering their unique blend of coffee. The whole area smelled like heaven. There were even food trucks that sold vegan food and other cuisine unique from Japan. One particular food truck vendor selling burritos and tacos saw me jamming to his music outside his truck and offered me his business card and some lavender pictured below.

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Polaroids and coffee at Tokyo Coffee Festival at Farmer’s Market UNU

Classes started up per usual on Monday. In my graphic design class, my fellow classmates and I got to design some typeset by hand with screen printed sheets. This method of typesetting is almost extinct, my professor told us that these sheets aren’t really made anymore and they’re hard to come by. As a graphic designer in this age, everything is digital, and I really came to appreciate the art more by doing it analog. I actually think it might be easier to come up with ideas when doing things by hand. I’ll be sure to take this lesson with me going ahead.

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Typesetting by hand in class

My internship sent me to Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa to take pictures for an article. Senso-ji is really beautiful but also really touristy. It was still a fun time to get to walk down Nakamise Dori  and see all the different shops that lined the street. The temple and surrounding grounds were also very beautiful.

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Senso-ji Temple

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Kokonoe Manju shop at Senso-ji Temple

Tuesday evening, my friends and I headed over to Tokyo Tower because it’s super close to Temple’s Azabu campus. We had a great time getting dinner in a gyoza shop down one of those small alleyways and then walking over to the tower. The experience at night was way better than coming in the day. The tower was lit up outside and all throughout the inside floors there was a spectacular light display with projections on one floor and Christmas lights on the other.

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Tokyo Tower

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Tokyo Tower is lit

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Ariel looking down a glass pane in the floor

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Seamus looking 300m down to the ground level

The longer I stay in this country, the more I’m becoming aware of how easy it is to adapt and assimilate into the culture. However, I am starting to notice slight culture differences. Japan is a very fast moving country that has become very forward-thinking over the years but there are still aspects that aren’t at the same level as they are in America. In my everyday life here, I’ll experience small instances of micro-aggressions, or sexism, more so than back home in New Jersey. As a foreigner in this country, working and studying under superiors, I have to find a balance between understanding the cultural difference and working towards a more equal and liberal Japan.