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4 posts categorized "Amber Demery"

08/13/2011

The End of An Era

Wow, it's sad to say but the end is near. By next Thursday, I will be leaving Japan and returning to America, college and real life. Doing study abroad in Japan has been such a great experience, and I truly am not ready for it to end.

I've visited these almost mythical areas of Japan - Harajuku, Shinjuku - in the big city of Tokyo, but I've also seen areas that are very traditional in style and form, such as Kamakura. And in areas such as Shiba, where Tokyo Tower is, it's been a mixture of both. I've entered Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, 9 story figurine shops, and entire areas dedicated to anime and manga. I've spent more money than I care to remember and I've enjoyed every minute of it.

I've tried all manners of Japanese cuisine, saw amazing shows (in Japanese) at Tokyo Disney Sea, and fell in love with the abundance of vending machines and cute commericals and billboards. I've seen a live kabuki play, traditional Japanese sit-down comedy known as rakugo, walked around an ancient castle, and slept in a traditional tatami-mat-and-onsen-styled hotel. Not to mention my new obsession with tuna mayo onigiri. Although, I will not miss the crowded Tokyo trains or small sidewalks, I will miss just about everything else, including the amazing people I met because of this program.

I do intend to someday return here, whether to teach or to conduct research (in psychology), or even for another visit. I have thoroughly enjoyed this experience and wish it and so much more onto everyone else who signs up for this program. But be warned: come prepared to spend A LOT of money, because you will enjoy yourself too much not to.

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08/11/2011

That Thing Called Summer School

Most of the posts made to the blog have been about the amazing things we've all seen/done, mainly because there are so many cool things to do while here in Japan. However, another aspect of the CIEE program is that participants have to take classes for the duration of the program, and I feel like this deserves some illumination as well.

If you've looked at either the CIEE or Sophia University website, you know that each student has to sign up for two classes for the 4 weeks of the program. Classes run from 8:30am - 1pm and everyone is in class at the same time, which means everyone is also out of class at the same time. That the classes are early lends the rest of the day to further Tokyo exploration or Sophia University cultural events. (I've actually managed to do both on some days.)

So it doesn't take up much time, excluding the fact that there is homework to be done for most classes. However, I basically wanted to strees the importance of picking class you find interesting and that fit your overall plan for your Japan stay. For instance, if you would prefer exploring Japan than studying for class, I wouldn't recommend taking a language course. They move fast and require a good bit of studying to stay on top of it. Of course, some other participants may disagree with me, but this is also be dependent on the level of Japanese language knowledge each person enters the program with. On that note, I know Sophia's website recommends taking 2B with 1 or 2 semesters of Japanese, but I would say you actually need about 2 years of it. Just a suggestion from my experience.

Interest in the subject is also important because, despite where it is, class is still class. And class can be boring, whether that be because of the teacher or personal interest. I am currently taking Japanese 2B and Contemporary Japanese Society, and while I am interested in both subjects, I sometimes find Society boring because of the teaching style. However, I still learn and I'm not (always) bored simply because I do find the subject interesting.

This is not to discourage anyone from either of these classes or any others, but this is a part of the program and you have to attend these classes 6 days a week. It's better and easier if you actually like them, especially if you intend to receive credit for them at your home school.

08/08/2011

Changing History, one Picture at a Time

After the first weekend of events, CIEE does not actually plan many more events for the entire group to participate in. There are some through Sophia Univeristy, but mainly people go off on their own and/or do the activites recommended by CIEE on their own time. This is basically true except for one time: Shannon, our program director, gave us 4 options of a group activity to participate in that CIEE would pay for. The options were either Tokyo Disney Sea, Samurai/Geisha photos, a baseball game, or the Roppongi Hills City View Observation Deck. Tokyo Disney Sea won (which turned out to be a much better time than I expected). However, myself and Amanda - who is also doing the blog - really wanted to do the geisha/samurai photos...so we did.

If you read Amanda's blog entry below you can read about her becoming a geisha, or rather, an apprentice geisha. I, on the other hand, decided to do something a bit different; I wanted to be a samurai. It actually took awhile for Amanda to convince me to go because I didn't think they would let me, as a female, dress up as a samurai, but I'm really glad I did decide to go.

We went to our appointment at Studio Katsura in Harajuku and were immediately shown in in typical Japanese etiquette and style. As you can imagine, it took much longer for Amanda to get dressed due to the abundance of make-up geishas wear - and the fact that samurais didn't wear any -so I was actually able to become a samurai and take some pictures before she was ready.

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Really, the main reason I wanted to do the samurai role is because I love swords. Absolutely love them. So I couldn't just go and not take pics with their swords. Just as a note, the swords were real, just dulled.

It was really so much fun. The people in the studio were also super nice. They let us take silly pictures after the photographer had finished, basically trying on crazy-high shoes, or using a smoking pipe, fan, or purse however we wanted. The photographer for the shoot actually took a picture of me in the 7-inch high shoes on his own personal camera! I guess it is a bit funny to see a female samurai on tall geisha shoes. XD

 

But really, the people at Studio Katsura were so nice. We took pictures with them after and I recommend everyone who visits Japan goes to do this. Amanda and I had the best time.

 

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08/04/2011

Finally, Japan

Konnichiwa all you blog readers out there. My name is Amber Demery and I'm participating in CIEE's Japan 2011 summer study abroad session. Although we've all been here for about 2 weeks now, I'm just beginning my blog so I figure I'll introduce myself and my reasons for coming to Japan.

I am currently a senior at Howard University in Washington, DC; originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I'm a psychology major with a sort of double-minor in chemistry and administration of justice, also known as criminology. My language of study is, of course, Japanese.

Like most members of this summer group, I am a complete nerd, especially when it comes to things Japanese. From a young age I've been interested, and from an older age I've been obsessed with visiting. Having a study abroad experience in Japan was actually a goal I set for myself before I entered college. And since my school demands all students complete their last year of study in-house, I knew I had to get to Japan this summer or it might never happen.

Luckily, it did. And I'm here now experiecing student life and gaining a cultural experience unlike anything else.

Upon arrival, CIEE allowed us a very rare experience by taking us on a tour of cities in the Japanese countryside before settling us in Tokyo. We were able to experience an onsen, tatami mat flooring & futon sleeping, and learn the history of the towns we visited before we even experienced Tokyo. Not only did this allow us to make comparisons, but it was also enjoyable. It may have also saved us from committing the gaijin fallacy of assuming Tokyo is Japan. It is in Japan, but it's not all there is of Japan. Although, there is a lot to experience in Tokyo alone.

This blog will mainly focus on that: what I experience in Tokyo and the surrounding areas during my month abroad. Much of it will be good, but some of it may not be. Yet maybe it will encourage you to experience it for yourself. I will say this, even after being here for a couple of weeks, the good of this trip is still far outweighing the bad.