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2 posts from August 2014


Yokohama, River Cruise to Odaiba, and Farewells

Saturday, August 16 marked the end of the CIEE 2014 Summer Japanese Studies Program at Sophia University. We are proud of our students for having experienced and accomplished so much during these short four weeks. While balancing coursework with activities and excursions, we are confident that they learned a great deal not only about Japanese culture and society, but also about themselves.

In my last blog entry I wrote about our excursions to Nikko and the Studio Ghibli Museum at the beginning of the program. Since then there have been more activities and excursions, such as the daytrip to Yokohama on August 2. The first stop was Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, located at the tip of Yokohama Bay. It is one of the top aquariums in Japan and is home to the famous Aqua Stadium, where students enjoyed watching performances with dolphins and other sea animals. 

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Following Sea Paradise was a visit to the Cup Noodle Museum. It’s safe to say that just about every college student in the US has eaten their fair share of instant ramen, so it was interesting to learn how cup noodles were invented and how they became popular worldwide. The museum is fun and interactive; one of the main draws is the “My CUPNOODLES Factory” where you can design your own cup noodle package. After decorating your cup and choosing your flavor and toppings, you can watch your cup move down the assembly line and come out as your very own, original, and completely edible cup noodle.

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We wanted to finish the program in a unique and memorable way. On the evening of August 15 we held our farewell celebration on a ‘suijobus’ River Cruise to Odaiba, a modern manmade island abound with shopping, dining, and attractions. On the boat we ate snacks, played games, and handed out prizes and gifts. The weather that evening was fantastic, and the view of the setting sun behind the expansive Tokyo cityscape was truly stunning. As we approached Odaiba we were greeted by the 377 foot tall “Big Ferris Wheel” (Daikanransha), Rainbow Bridge, and the Fuji TV Building with its spaceship-like Spherical Observation Deck. We exchanged farewells after docking near the Ferris wheel. 

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By the end of the program many students were saying that they felt torn about leaving. While they were looking forward to reuniting with family and friends at home, they would also miss Japan and all the friends they made here during their adventures. We were also sad to see them go, but at the same time we are excited to see how our students will apply what they learned while studying abroad to future endeavors. To all of our 2014 Summer Program participants; thank you for spending your summer with us, and good luck with your studies and careers! Ganbatte kudasai!

(Read about Amanda's experience on the program here.)



Academics, Adventure & Anime in Tokyo, Japan

IMG_8413Four weeks ago I stumbled onto the first train that pulled into the station, with rudimentary map reading and Japanese skills, hoping not to get too lost. Within 10 minutes, a kindly gentleman (who
spoke no English) got off the train with me at the next station to show me which line to take, and to which stop. This has been my experience of Japan in a nutshell. The people are extremely やさしい (kind), and when there is no English signage or menu or map available, they are more than willing to help in whatever way they can. IMG_6974

As an avid anime fan and an enthusiast of Far East culture and history, Japan is the place to be! Not only is it very different from the US (in all the right ways), but also it's also unique within Asia. CIEE has been instrumental in facilitating my experience in Japan including outings, academics, and a wonderful homestay family.

Last week alone I saw my first Japanese Noh drama (a story of a mother who went mad with grief after she lost her son and husband, and is happy and reunited with her son by the end of the play), and I was educated in the art of the tea ceremony (this included learning the proper procedure to eat sweets and make tea, watching a demonstration ceremony performed, and getting a tour of the tea house and surrounding garden).  IMG_8109These activities are imbued with the essence and import of Japan’s history and culture; what better way to experience a country than through these!

Let me tell you about my two favorite classes (of all time). In the afternoons I take History of Edo and Tokyo. Our assignments often include interaction with the city in the form of field trips. We’ve seen the Imperial Palace, been to the Edo Tokyo Museum, Asakusa, and the Ichigaya Hachiman Shrine to take pictures and walk the area as “field research” for our papers. In the mornings, I take Japanese Popular culture, which broaches sub-topics of “otaku culture” such as anime, fujoshi, and the virtual life the younger Japanese generation through both historical and philosophical perspectives. On several occasions we’ve spent the period watching and analyzing anime such as “The Time of Eve” (2010). This week, I presented with five group members after going on my first anime pilgrimage. It included sites in Akihabara that have been featured in the anime “Steins Gate”. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than this…or does it?

IMG_7072Having only taken one semester of Japanese, I was a little nervous to do a homestay (but also ecstatic at the thought). My host family lives in the Kanagawa Prefecture; I have a mama, a papa, and for three weeks I had a host sister who was an exchange student from Taiwan. My family has been so helpful in orienting me to Japanese lifestyle, daily customs, and language. They’ve taken me to Kamakura, Matsuri, and upon learning of my love of anime, they accompanied me to an exhibit of art and storyboard from the new Studio Ghibli film “When Marnie Was There” ,and took me to J-World in Ikebukuro. They’ve also looked after me as their own (which I’m grateful for…Tokyo can be overwhelming at times when
IMG_8077you don’t speak/read the language well). Last week, I misplaced my iPhone at Shinjuku station and my host mom and host sister moved heaven and earth to help me find it by retracing our steps through the evening and using findmyiphone. Spoiler: someone had turned it in to the station lost and found. Which I was also extremely grateful for…