Week 3 Diary

Another week already gone! A lot happened this week, so it makes sense how short the week felt, but still! It’s crazy how quickly our time here has flown by. I’m definitely going to miss being in Japan.

Kyoto was amazing, if not overwhelming at times. I was surprised at how busy it was, even though I knew it was a big city, and how many tourists were everywhere. I can’t even begin to imagine what Tokyo is like if Kyoto only has a population of 1.475 million and Tokyo has 9.273 residents. It kind of makes me never want to visit Tokyo (not saying the same about the rest of Japan though).

My favorite thing of this week (and one of my favorites for this entire trip) was the Sanjusangen-do temple. The fact that there were so many statues in one place that were so well preserved was simply fantastic. I really enjoyed studying them and comparing them to their neighbors to pick out the slight differences that they all had. Another interesting aspect was comparing the bodhisattvas to the statues meant to guard them, especially in terms of how stoic and peaceful the former were and how the latter all had dynamic poses and grimaces.

Because I didn’t get a picture of the outside of the temple and photos inside were prohibited, here are some other highlights:

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Blog Post for “Child’s Play”

Question: How does the story of “Child’s Play”, based in the Meiji period, portray the outcomes of control of Tokugawa during the Edo Period?

Throughout this course, we have done many readings that have discussed or showed the underlying control of Tokugawa. In “Child’s Play”, we are able to see this control within the quarters and through the interactions with the outside world. During the control of the Tokugawa, there was a sharp divide between the noble and the working poor. However, class divide did not limit who could come into the quarters. In the quarters, men of nobility would get the best women, whilst someone of peasantry would be given someone of lower social standing within the quarters. Although this is a story that shows us the life of someone of youth within the pleasure quarters transitioning from youth to adulthood, we can still sense the control and a social hierarchy between the characters and their occupations. While the workers in the quarters have to succumb to the control of the government officials and maintain their social standing within the quarters in order to be treated with the slightest bit of respect, the government officials still decide everything in the end. We can see this through the petitioning to ostracize the pleasure quarters and to keep prostitution isolated from the city life.

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Child’s Play

Question: What role does clothing play in the characterization of the people and setting in Child’s Play?

The look and color of character’s clothing reflects the story being set in the pleasure quarters, as well as the age of the characters. The beginning of the story elaborates on the different clothing seen in this place the story is set, the pleasure quarters. The narrator speaks to how the garments worn by young teenage girls is different in this place, due to the favor of “gaudy patterns” and “flashy clothes,” which is not generally practiced (255). The description of the clothing not only develops the notions of the story taking place in the pleasure quarters, but also draws to attention how in this setting age is warped.

In direct characterization of one of the youths in the story, Nobu’s future clothing reflects his age and foreshadows the end to his childhood. Towards the end of the story there is talk that Nobu is going to leave his home to become a monk. Sangoro speaks to this intended transformation of Nobu to Shota, “Once he puts those robes on, they’ll cover up his fighting arm” (286). The use of clothing here to explain that Nobu’s life is going to change radically signifies the transition of childhood to adulthood. The final line of the story that refers to Nobu’s future clothing not having the same color ever again reflects that Nobu is leaving behind colorful youthful clothing (as well as the colorful youthful activities such as fighting)  for the adult muted tones of a monk robe. The contrast of these adult robes to youth robes can be understood by the description of Chokichi’s robes a few pages prior. Chokichi is seen with a black robe and a bright orange sash. This outfit of Chokichi’s is described as “a young gallant” (281). The colorful look of Chokichi’s robes signals his age as a youth, but the image of muted monk robes reflects the opposite. As a result, clothing plays an interesting role in developing age and actions of characters in Child’s Play and helps develop the transition from child to adult in characters such as Nobu.

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Week 3 Blog Post

The third week was tightly-packed but at the same time fulfilling and inspiring. There were two highs in this week. One was the Atsuta Matsuri. I can’t remember how many times that I have seen in Japanese movies in which actors, wearing Yukata, watch fireworks at an Omatsuri. The idea of going to a real one made me so happy that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The Atsuta Matsuri was a famous one and there were so many people that I could hardly move into the shrine area, but it was really fun. It was the first time I saw a lot of people, men and women, wearing Yukata at the same time, which was impressive. It was different from what I saw in Kyoto because at least half of the people wearing kimono in Kyoto were tourists. I might think about going to a smaller Omatsuri next time to avoid the crowd, but I definitely loved my first experience going to an Omatsuri.

Another climax of the week was the trip to Kyoto. Visiting Kyoto for the second time reminded me of a lot of old memories but also allowed me to make up some regrets from last time. I paid too much attention to the small souvenir stores out of the temples and didn’t have the chance to really go into them two years ago when first visited Kyoto. I am satisfied to see at least three different temples or shrines each day this time.

My favorite shrine was Fushimi Inari Taisha. Although I didn’t make it to the very top of the mountain, I was already amazed by the thousands of Torii. Reading the engravings on Toriis allowed me to touch upon the history of each one. Some of them were built a long while ago. The more archaic Toriis were made of stone and I could still see the engravings on them.

Kyoto is a fascinating place and I am really looking forward to going back soon. Also, agreeing with Bizz, I do wish the last week to slow down a little bit because I love Japan so much and really don’t want to leave the group.

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Blog Post Second Week

The second week was evanescent. There were so many things going on within one week that I couldn’t even realize that it was already the third week. This is actually a good thing because I have accomplished more than I what have imagined.

My favorite part about the week was the trip to Magome. Even though we arrived at the town so late that all the stores were closed, the owner of the Minshuku greeted us with a well-prepared traditional Japanese dinner. I enjoyed every single dish of the dinner and walked out of the dining hall pretty satisfied. One thing I really like about Japanese meals is that foods are always served in small portions but with thousands of varieties so that you can always try something new without overeating.

After the meal, some of us went to the sightseeing platform on the mountain and decided to drink sake and watch stars. To be honest, I am not a big fan of Japanese sake for the slightly bitter taste in it. One of us suggested to do Haiku, which was a form of Japanese poetry. This experience is new and fresh to me because making Haiku in Japan while drinking sake is totally different from doing that in class. I was glad that I had the chance to make one in such a pretty mountain.

The nature was amazing. Walking through the forests reminded me of Miayazaki Hayao’s movie Princess Mononoke. Although I was exhausted after hiking all the way from Magome to Tsumago shuku, I felt accomplished doing so. Imagining people from the Edo period doing the same thing as I did just made me so excited.

Overall, the second week was great and I was certain that I would go back to Magome, walking through the same path again in the future.

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Week 3 :)

The week started off at the Atsuta Matsuri festival. I tried fresh squid on a stick, perfectly seasoned noodles and chocolate covered bananas which was delicious. It would be a lie to say that I was able to fully enjoy the festival considering my absolute hatred of large crowds, and it was really crowded. Nevertheless, I also loved the decorations at the festival, with the lanterns and lighting it made it seem almost cozy despite its size. I was surprised with the size of the festival, it was massive!

The trip to Kyoto was jam-packed and it would be almost impossible to describe my favorite parts of each area we visited. Some personal highlights was the blood ceiling in the Fushimi castle. I thought it was almost surreal to imagine that soldiers from so many years back had bled on that exact ceiling. The handprints and blood stains were a little creepy, but it made the experience just that much more interesting.

Another place that I found particularly stunning was the Sanjūsangen-dō with the thousands statues of Kannon. I initially thought that all the statues were the same but upon further examination, I realized that every statue’s hands were unique to them. The statues of the 28 deities were also beautiful. I noted that they seemed extremely vicious and looked terrifying. When I imagine a deity I often picture something of a powerful but calm nature, no doubt influenced by statues I’ve visited in Europe. While I expected the same with deities here, it was almost the complete opposite.

The onsen was of course on of my favorite experiences. Sitting in a hot bathtub in the middle of a beautiful forest was about the most relaxing experience of the trip. I made note that the onsen also seemed almost ritual/spiritual. I’ve noticed that Japanese are often accustomed to certain cultural norms that require ritualistic aspects, such as the washing before and after the onsen. While it may also be for sanitary purposes, it also seemed like it was also done to enrich the experience.

Another experience that really stuck with me was visiting the teahouse in the old pleasure quarters. The second floor of the home was so incredibly detailed and beautifully designed. My favorite room was the room that was designated to the mother of pearl designs. For some reason that design really draws me in, I also noted it at museums, and I’ve never seen it before!

Lastly, the opportunity to see the Maiko dance was incredible. Her dancing was so different from what I expected, very simplistic and subtle. I loved the raw salmon that they gave us throughout the dinner and going to see the city at night seemed like the perfect ending to our Kyoto trip. I’m very appreciative of Professor Bates and everyone who has made this trip the experience of a lifetime!

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Week Three

Week three was the big trip to Kyoto, which I had been looking forward to since the beginning of the program. The days spent there went by so fast, I can not believe the group is back in Nagoya (let alone one week left of the program). Kyoto was absolutely amazing, between the inn, the temples/shrines, the shopping, the activities, and the food. The inn we stayed at was phenomenal, the rooms I was in was way larger than the one in the post town the week prior. Not only were the pillows much better this time too, but the lounge space with tea made the room a wonderful relaxing environment. The first night Anna and Kaila were reading while I was needlepointing at the table with tea, and it was so peaceful. I am going to miss staying in that inn, the owner was also super lovely and adorable.

Beyond the inn, the onsen the group went to on the outskirts of Kyoto was more than I could have ever asked for. I was very eager to try an onsen, this being my first time, and I could not have asked for a better place to experience one. The outdoor bath had the most beautiful view, and the temperature of the water was incredibly soothing. I was a little nervous at first, due to other women warning us about a giant red centipede in the indoor shower, but when I saw there were also outside showers I was completely fine. I really wish the U.S. had onsens, I would honestly go all the time.

As enjoyable as the onsen was, my trip to the Nijo-jo castle and shrine nearby were my favorite activities in Kyoto. The nightingale floors were hilarious, I could not get over how much they sounded like birds! The walls in the castle’s rooms were absolutely breathe taking, the tigers were very funny and stunning. I love that the rooms were decorated with animals not known to the natives at the time. It is always interesting to see the depiction of animals in the history of art, when certain animals were not seen by those depicting them. The elephants at the shrine near the castle were really amazing. Their line and form were so dynamic and engaging, as well as the lions. However, the shrine’s blood ceiling were outrageously cool but erie. I could not believe the clear stain marks on the wooden planks!

Having returned from Kyoto now, it seems like the whole trip is rapidly coming to an end, which is scary. I honestly wish we had another week or so! Hopefully this coming week can slow down a bit, so I can enjoy my last days in Japan more.

  

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Weekly Blog Post 3

It is crazy to even begin thinking about going back to America so soon. After the first week of being here, it seemed as if our time in Japan would last for so long, yet now I am already starting to prepare for the flight back home.

Other than continuing our studies in class, this past week was primarily eventful in the fact that our class went to Kyoto. We were able to stay in a ryokan, which was run by the nicest two elderly women. The ryokan was in the heart of Kyoto, so even when we were not going to the shrines or temples, our class was able to explore the surrounding area and the shopping districts. In Kyoto, we were able to visit different castles, shrines and temples; which all conveyed parts of history for not just Kyoto, but for all of Japan as well. My favorite part of the trip to Kyoto was definitely going to the onsen in the mountains. While I was a little wary at first since I had never been in an onsen before, I found that later in the week I kept wanting to go back to relieve more stress. It was such a great experience that I am so glad I had the opportunity to do! Another experience which was amazing was being able to see a maiko perform. This was such a rare opportunity which I did not expect from this trip but I am so glad I was able to experience it! Seeing her dance while eating such a great Japanese meal was so amazing. All in all, it was so fun to be able to experience Kyoto this last week with our class group.

While this program is surely coming to an end, I still cannot wait to experience this last week here with the rest of the class!

 

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Weekly Blog Post #3

As our third week comes a close, I can’t believe how close we are to the end. It seems far too short, I can remember my first night here as if it was only a week ago. I can’t believe how far we’ve gone through this program, and how much I’ve grown. I’ve learned so much about my own cultural identity, and about Japanese history. I’m so thankful for this experience.

This week, we were able to spend time in Kyoto, where we visited some of the most breathtaking sights I’ve ever seen. The combinations of gardens, torii gates, pagodas, and temples I’ve seen in Kyoto has reminded me of how much in the world I haven’t seen yet. On Thursday, I was able to go to the Sanjūsangen-dō, which contained the thousand statues of the Kannon. This temple exceeded any possible expectations I could have had. I was blown away by the quantity and quality of these preserved statues. There was a perfect balance of the staggered statues with their pattern of alternating robe designs, which complemented the amazing main Thousand Armed Kannon. As I examined this work for at least 10 minutes, it was truly a gift to be able to see which a detailed work of art. Afterward, we went to Kiyomizu-dera, and finally, AN ONSEN!!! I got to finish off the eventful day with an onsen, and it was truly one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had. Looking into the blue sky and thick foliage of the mountain, I was able to sit in a steaming bath. I felt my tiredness and stress seeps out of my body, and I came out as energized as ever.

The rest of the week was just as amazing, spending my time at Ryōan-ji, the bamboo forest of Arashiyama, the torii gates of Fushimi Inari-Taisha, Kinkaku-Ji, and a Maiko performance. Above all, the highlight of this trip was the once in a lifetime experience of seeing a Maiko perform. I was honored to be in the presence of a highly-regarded artist, and I’m so glad to have seen her magnificent dance.

Overall, this week has been filled with some of the most memorable experiences of my life. I want to thank Professor Bates again for giving us this opportunity. My first trip to Japan has treated me extremely well, and I can’t wait for more experiences during my final week in this program.

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Childs’s Play

Question: How does the development of the character’s in “child’s play” portray young lives within the quarters?

I interpret “Child’s play” as a short story that shows the development of several characters from a life of innocence to the life of adulthood, where the realities of the world result in their ultimate misery. The character who arguably evolves most drastically is Midori. Midori thrives off the success of her sister, who is a high-end courtesan, and is known for an air of confidence and generosity. Midori develops a crush on Nobu, a fellow classmate, and is deemed a beautiful character by the society in the quarters as a whole. As the story progresses however she becomes shy, withdrawn and pushes away her friends, notably her best friend Shoto. I associate this quick change in personality to her sudden entrance into the world of prostitution. We can see this transition through the fact that she starts to wear her hair in a  fancier manner, suggesting that she was starting to become more involved in her sister’s business, whether that involved sex or not. For a young girl, the world of prostitution can be disheartening and even traumatic. While she was somewhat on the outskirts in the beginning, viewing the fortune of her sister from the outside, now being enveloped in the harsh realities of debt and abuse she looses her sense of innocence concerning the world around her. Similarly, may of the contexts that the children live in are increasingly miserable by the end of the short story. While Nobu is sent off to be a monk, the others are forced to live in a world where they have outgrown fighting on the streets in gangs, and are pressured to provide for their families, often through tireless and low paying work. The friendships that existed dissipate, and the reality of their futures hits them the hard.

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