Having spent a month here, I am glad I fulfilled my dream of seeing Japan, studying and absorbing its history and culture, and getting to know some of the people and seeing how they interact. As an E.A.S major, I knew that I would be interested in just about everything here, but I wasn’t prepared for just how fascinating Japan really is. I am still intrigued by their mix of their native culture and values and Western ethics and methods, especially in terms of business (you can’t walk anywhere without seeing a mob of people dressed in really expensive-looking, nice suits). The public transportation system here is excellent, clean and fast, and really made enjoying city life in Nagoya very easy. Nagoya itself is a great city, and the perfect place for Dickinson to have a program in, as it is near tons of cultural centers, near the Nanzan University, where we can interact with the students (even if our Japanese is virtually non-existent, though I have learned some here and there).

I am staying an extra 5 days with my dad, who is arriving tomorrow, so we can see more. I have always wanted to see Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Hakata Bay, and with the rail passes we have got for our stay, we can travel the Shinkansen Train as much as we want for free! Hakata Bay is a special point of interest for me. Anyone who knows me that I like military history, and Hakata Bay saw two massive Mongol invasions of Japan in the late 1200’s – almost 150,000 people, 600+ years before D-day. It is near the city of Fukuoka, in Kyushu. Surprisingly, there really isnt much in the way of tourist sights for this, especially since this event really helped preserved Japanese culture from being swallowed up a foreign power and was a shining example of Samurai skill. I still have to see it – I’ve bugged Bates Sensei with so many questions about it that I don’t care if it’s just a beach. Historical sites are what you take with you.

Anyways, anyone thinking about coming to Japan – do it. It’s well worth the long plane ride, and you’ll see a truly unique culture that is thriving with historical and contemporary aspects. Things aren’t too expensive (with the exception of Cab rides, which really can burn holes in your wallet) if you know how to be somewhat frugal. Japan does have great food, even if it took me a while to get used it. So come to Japan! You’ll like what you see.

Last night, I caved in and went to a Western restaurant -a McDonalds, specifically, and was eating my meal when a student from the University of Nanzan, named Ujie (I hope I am spelling that right) sat across from me. I had met him with the group earlier at student-held events and functions, and he was one with whom I had interacted the most. His English is pretty good, and he is class act all the way, so we sat down and talked for a good while.

Being a East Asian Studies Major, I asked about his opinions about Japanese politics, which of course led to him asking me about Bush and the upcoming Presidential Election. At first, I was expecting a Bush-bashing, which is I have, for the most part, experienced when talking politics with foreigners, but he was very articulate in his views with his problems with current Japanese and American political leaders. He told how he thinks that both American and Japanese leaders have made some wrong moves for East Asia, particualry with American competition with China and Japanese controversies with the Yasukuni Shrine and other. He is a Business major, and wants to apply his degree within East Asia, so he seemed fairly passionate about his views.

It was nice to get a different perspective on American politics from the view of a citizen of another nation, especially with one who was pretty good at expressing himself despite having not-so perfect English, though it was good enough.

Kyoto is a fascinating city. I was happy to see such a large portion of it dedicated to the memory of the Tokugawa Period, as we saw a lot of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. We also stayed in a traditional Japanese inn. The first night was hell for my back, as we slept on the floor with thin mats, but I eventually got used to it. The weather was also pretty hot, but the cultural sights made up for it.

I also would like to comment on the 1001 Buddhist statues that we visited. I don’t know too much about Buddhism outside what I learned in past classes, and even though some of its tenets interest me, I never delved to deeply in what they believe or how they approach their faith. Seeing this temple helped me to gain a better insight into the overall feel of it. The corridor with the statues was long, and filled with 1000 statues and a GIANT one of the feminine representation of the faith. I still can remember the overall calmness and serenity of that room. There was a monk kneeling before it chanting a prayer, and it was impossible not feel, for lack of sounding repetitive, a certain calmness and appreciation of the atmosphere. It was very quiet, and incense was burning throughout the corridor, which, added to the beauty of all the statues and the sheer size and splendor of the giant statue made for a nice reflecting experience.

Beyond that Kyoto seemed like a very modern city, Westernized to the brim and full of foreigners, but that still doesn’t take away its appeal.

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