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4 posts categorized "Andrew Henry"

08/13/2011

A fleeting goodbye: my last days in a great city

                Much to my dismay, this fantastic trip to the great country of Japan will soon come to an end. With roughly six days left before I depart, I will have managed to spend half of those days dealing with classes (most of which consists of homework and studying for my Japanese language course and finals). Out of the free time I have had, and the free time I will have after the program ends, I had the most amazing opportunity to explore the rich culture and unique activities that are in Japan. For one of my classes this morning, I was able to go visit one of the few Imperial shrines in Japan, Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine dedicated to, and the permanent residence of, the war dead who fought on behalf of the Emperor. I also had an opportunity to visit another famous shrine, Meiji Shrine, earlier in my stay on this program.

                The one part of Yasukuni Shrine that was most magnificent was the war museum Yushukan. The museum contained a lot of artifacts collected from Japanese history, including swords, kamikaze planes, cannons, art pieces, and portrayed a lot of the history of World War II. For only 500 yen, I was able to circle through 19 full exhibitions and was amazed at each and every one. The shrine grounds also hold many monuments prominent to Japan like the monument of Justice Radha Binod Pal and the statue of Ōmura Masujirō.

                During my stay I have been able to enjoy various cuisines ranging from common Japanese specialties like ramen and curry, to American cuisine such as spaghetti. Earlier today I went to a fried rice/ramen/miso soup place that had some of the most amazing fried rice I have ever eaten. They served white rice in the middle of a hot stir fry pan, and cracked eggs around it, and you got to mix it up and cook it right at your table. I also ordered some gyōza and bean sprouts to add to my fried rice. It was absolutely delicious.

                Overall, I am very sad to leave, but have been extremely happy with everything I got to experience here in Japan. Everything from the intense language and religion survey classes, to the early morning commuting, it was an experience I will never forget. I hope to be able to do it again. For all of you who may have second thoughts about studying abroad, I would highly suggest you go ahead and take the opportunity, because it really is something special. Keep an open mind on your trip, and enjoy all that it has to offer!

08/12/2011

A night at the theater

                For the first time in my life I had the opportunity to witness a Japanese form of art known as Kabuki. At first glance ,when I walked up to the Shimbashi Enbujo Theater, my first thoughts were, “Great, an average looking theater, which probably means an average performance.” Wow, was I ever wrong. I mean, granted I do know a little about kabuki from my college studies, but I suppose it is to be expected that like everything else in Japan, you can’t tell what’s inside a building by the outside. Yeah, that was kind of a judge a book by its cover metaphor… Anyhow, when I entered the inside of the theater, I was astonished. As in “jaw dropping to the floor astonished.” While I've had the chance to go inside a theater before, most of them were small one floor theaters, possibly with a few balconies. What waited inside this theater was three stories of classy and amazing seats, and the most beautiful stage I have ever seen. This quickly changed my opinion of the theater and I was even more interested to see the show.

                The play that was performed was called Akegarasu Koi No Manegoto (The Bird at Dawn and the Playacting of Love), followed by a small 10 minute dance performance called, Natsu: Tama Matsuri (The Obon Festival). Now I must say, hands down, I thoroughly enjoyed the play. There was a nice mixture of comedy, anger, seriousness, romance, and sorrow. Although I didn’t have a clue what was being said (there was an option to rent English translation headphones, but I didn’t want to spend the money), the actors portrayed all of their lines with such emotion, that it was easy to understand the basic concepts of the play (also my friends with the English audio filled me in on the dialogue during intermissions).

                I think the most enjoyable part of the play was the way it flowed and was presented using the given stage space. They used a very large round rotation area of the stage to seamlessly change between the scenes. I thought this was very creative, and made it more enjoyable because you were not distracted with scenes being set up (they were done behind the scenes). The play took place in the Edo period and went somewhere along the lines of: two samurai guys love a girl, one guy gets jealous, and he kills her. The killer tricks the other guy by using a doll, which the guy believes is the girl. Everyone sees this, and attempts to convince him of it and the guy ends up killing the killer (this is my understand, though I could be wrong on some details due to lack of feedback from my translator friends).

                All in all, I thought the whole play was simply amazing, even  though I couldn’t understand everything. It truly was an awesome experience, one worth doing again if the chance presents itself.

08/11/2011

The Next Best Thing Since the Eiffel Tower

Tokyo Tower                 One of the subjects Tokyo is most notorious for is that big shiny peak that glows in the night sky. Of course I’m talking about Tokyo’s landmark, the Tokyo Tower. On one of the first weekends available to me between classes, I had the opportunity to scale the luxurious glowing landmark with a good friend of mine from school. It was a nice clear night and we were feeling venturous. On the way to the tower (it was a decent 10 minute walk from Hamamatsucho station) we first came across Zojo-ji temple, and we were able to walk through the grounds on the way to the tower.

                A little background about this temple (more can be found online, in guidebooks, etc.) is that it is the main temple of the Jodo Buddhist sect, and later became the family temple of the Tokugawa family. The front gates of the temple alone were huge, and a glorious, yet also scary, sight to behold. It kind of felt like one of those horror movies: an area that looks dark and scary, you know you should probably stick to the lit road, but your curiosity has the best of you and you decide against your better judgment to head on through. No need to worry, though, all was safe. A very nice night view of the tower can be seen from inside the temple gates.

Zojo-ji Temple                 Upon arriving to the tower, everything was lit up and there were many people roaming around (also, there was a very nice crepe stand at the base of the tower). An elevator takes you up to the main observatory decks and from there you have a view of the surrounding area. All in all (because let’s face it, spoilers aren’t nice) the tower, and the view, is a great romantic spot, in my opinion, as well as a great photography spot, day or night. I would suggest experiencing this landmark yourself if you get the chance, because it really is breathtaking.

08/05/2011

Dream A Dream and Make it Real

                 2 All I had ever done was dream of visiting a foreign land. For the longest time, I had my eyes on a country known as Japan, and for me, it was always ever thought of as a dream that if it was to ever be accomplished would be when I finally reached my 30’s, broke down, had a midlife crisis a  nd ran away to explore the world. Luckily enough I never actually had to wait for that time to come, for a little known program known as CIEE, helped me accomplish a taste of that dream much earlier on in my life, saving people like me from well…. taking drastic measures.

                As a little introduction, so you don’t wonder who this random person speaking on this blog is, my name is Andrew Henry. I come from a little place known as Cape Cod, Massachusetts yet now live in the somewhat big city of Rochester, NY. I am currently a 5th year dual major at Rochester Institute of Technology, studying Printing (the schools term is New Media Publishing) and Chemistry. My whole reasoning for taking part in this fantastic opportunity to come to Japan was the following:

  1. It’s my last year, and I wanted to do something with it that would be memorable.
  2. I’m working on a minor in Japanese Language and Culture, and what better way to learn then to go to the host country for studies.
  3. I get to fulfill a long awaited dream.

                I decided to choose japan because for a long time, that long awaited dream was admiration for both the language and the culture. The language to me was the most catchy and interesting, and the use of symbols for writing I thought was amazing. The Culture, especially what is depicted in historical japan, always held an intriguing beauty that I was never able to experience in the United States. And so here I am, living a dream thousands of miles away from my comfort zone, in another country that is backwards from any lifestyle I have ever kn1own, and I must say that it is the most amazing experience I have ever had (at least so far that is).

                In the few weeks that I have been here, I have exposed myself to so many knew things  including food choices, religious history, people, foreign policies, and have over all experience how it feels to be a part of a minority. In the weeks to come I look forward to sharing more of my  experiences as I visit landmarks, and see traditions of a rich culture unlike anything I have seen.