May 31, 2012
By Jasmine Torres
Today was an interesting day! We did several things. We got to work on crafts in the morning where we all filled the shoes of Picasso and created our own masterpieces. We then went to a traditional Nagoyan lunch. We also were privileged to go to the Toyota plant and museum where we got to see how automated and advanced the plant was. We saw the assembly line and how people work on all different kinds of cars. Then we went to a baseball game where we saw the Nagoya Dragons play the Buffaloes. This was my first baseball game but I have seen baseball on TV and have a lot of friends who are baseball fanatics. I think it was so interesting to see that although it is baseball in a different country, the atmosphere of the baseball game was very similar. There were still people wearing their jerseys, there were chants, there were people selling snacks and drinks in the stands. I think in this respect, I keep thinking about how things are more similar than they are different. The game ended up in a tie but even still, the atmosphere in the game was not about rivalry or competition; they played for the love of baseball and after their tie, they all shook hands. It is starting to hit me that we are leaving Japan soon. I will miss it.
By Rikiesha Pierce
It has been almost two weeks since I arrived in Japan, and I have found myself struggling with conceptualizing myself as a foreigner to the Asian continent, and more specifically within the Japanese cultural landscape. My dark skin, round eyes, and intrusive disposition (I often sing in public) make me naturally stand out from the native-born Japanese. Initially, I anticipated differential treatment as the consequence of these factors; however my experience has been quite the contrary to this reality. Since arriving to Japan, I have been ushered around by eager local residents, excited to welcome me into their community. Scores of professionals, USC alumni, business executives, and even spiritual community leaders have opened their doors to me, responding to my questions with candor and honesty, and even indulging my colleagues and I with tales of their own life experiences. It seems that my preconceived notion of the Japanese had been all too hastily made!
I assumed that the western stereotypes of my race (as an American black woman) would dominate peoples perceptions, and responses to me. Reading Apichai Shipper’s essay “Controlling Foreigners: Japan’s Foreign Worker Policy” has caused me to rethink the way I have experienced Japan through a more critical lens. Shipper argues that the immigration policies currently serving as the landing strip for immigrants entering Japan reinforce a racialized hierarchy restricting the ability of foreigners to contribute to society politically, economically, and socially. This system, Shipper contends, reflects the Japanese governments perception that “certain races/nationalities are better qualified to engage in certain jobs”. This sentiment of racial difference and differential treatment has been echoed in many of the conversations that I have had with residents in Japan. To name a few examples—one Colombian/Japanese student was denied access to housing on the basis of his status as an international resident (though he has been a resident of Japan for 5 years), another Japanese student’s commented that the Japanese view themselves as the “top Asian” group, investigations of Japanese imperialism in other South Asian countries, the controversies over Korean victims not being included in the Hiroshima Peace Park until the late 1990s.
It seems that much of the racial underpinnings in Japanese society have been masked by the culture itself—people are just not as outspoken, overt, and ‘in your face’ as they are in the United States. The streets are free of trash and prostitution; smart cars and hybrid vehicles fill the streets as opposed to the gas guzzling, CO2 emitting American style trucks and SUVs. People are polite. Yet the subtly of racism merely pushes it to the margins; it is not erased from the ideology, politics, and function of everyday life. In fact, I argue that the mechanisms through which the government and society has institutionalized social inequality in Japan, operates in much of the same way as it in the United States. This begs the question that has been burning inside of me and many of my peers experiencing this trip with me: why haven’t I felt this racism directed towards me? Am I not just as foreign (if not more so) than the immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, the Philippines? And two items became very clear to me almost immediately. First, I am but a temporary alien touring the Japanese countryside. As such, I pose no threat to the Japanese economy. Rather, I represent an additional source of revenue to contribute to their growing economy. I am not here to take any jobs, or housing from Japanese people. Secondly, I am traveling under the USC moniker, and have the institutional validation to be viewed as someone with social, economic, and intellectual status as a result. People pull out the red carpet for the USC family, and as much as I benefit from this treatment, I have also realized that without the school backing me, I would be nothing in Japanese society—or better yet, another “African American gospel singer.” I am still working out my ideas and feelings about being foreign in Japan, but my initial conclusions lead me to believe that it’s a nice place to visit as a tourist, but you won’t really understand the culture until you live in it.
May 30, 2012
By Deborah Rumbo
There is this recurring motif of Japanese culture that is prevalent throughout everything we have seen. It is balance. Be it past and present, old and new, and antiquity vs. modernity, the Japanese embed this aspect of Yin and Yang to everything in this country. Yet again, I see my preconceived notions of Japan challenged by my daily experiences here. I have to begin this blog by saying that today was one of my favorite days. The Kiyomizu-Dera Buddhist temple was beautiful to say the least. I find fulfillment in the idea that such beauty still exists in the world. I know I continuously seem to reflect on the balance such places portray in Japan when antiquity and modernity meet. Observing from one of the temple’s many lookouts, I saw nature in its purest forms—surrounded by trees, the smell of incense, the chirping of the birds—there was a tranquility to the whole environment even though there was hundreds of people there. What I found most amazing was that in the distance you could see the city in all its modern glory.
I always questioned why it is that we don’t see this in America as much? At first I presumed the answer to be the fact that Americans seemed to be more apathetic about religion than the Japanese but then the Senior Shinto priest we met corrected me and told me that this is also the same here in Japan. The amount of religious apathy has also risen here and most of the people sharing this sacred space are also simply “touring” looking for an escape of the hustle and bustle of everyday living. One thing that I do have to say after comparing the two countries is that I noticed Japan’s religious apathy seems to preserve an aspect of traditionalism throughout. I find that interesting. Although it is true that people no longer seem to be religiously flexible, they preserve the essence of it through the mini rituals they perform. I guess its because the core of their culture is based on religion and so protecting these practices that are so embedded in their everyday beliefs is also customary.
Changing traditions can also be observed in Geisha culture and how these women’s roles have in many ways both evolved and stayed the same throughout time. We were fortunate enough to see two of them that were “real. ” It saddens me how as Americans and as tourists, we were responsible of the commercialization of this practice. I keep resorting back to this generic ideal of the Geisha that I associate with Memoirs of a Geisha which many Japanese resent. Nonetheless, the Japanese have been able to preserve some aspect of exclusivity with these mysterious and highly valued women. They are reserved for the inner circles of Japanese higher-class men much like they were in the past. I figure this is a means of maintaining the essence of what these women symbolize for the culture— truly genius. I keep falling in love with this country.
May 29, 2012
By Jessica Guevara
This day was the most memorable day of the trip. Tokyo is such a modern fast-paced city, that traveling to another city was a great way to slow down and see other historical parts of Japan. Japan has over a thousand years more history than the United States and walking down streets in Kyoto, you can see centuries of traditions. We visited two historical and religious spaces that took my breath away. Our fist stop was the Golden Pavilion, a golden Buddhist temple. When you see this building the sight mesmerizes you instantly. When you are walking through the garden, everything seems to be manicured and properly landscaped. I learned this is the biggest difference between Shinto and Buddhist spaces. The building is gold and near open water that reflects over the water’s surface. It gave the illusion that the Golden Pavilion was floating. I was at peace just looking at it.
Next, we took the taxi to Doshisha University where we finally met the students we Skyped with in April. We were eager to meet each other in person. However, I felt that the language barrier stopped us from fully understanding each other. From our meeting we learned that schooling is different because college in Japan is an opportunity for students to relax from the rigorous first eighteen years of their lives. On the other hand, college is really rigorous and is an intensive preparation for your future in the United States. We had two lectures—one with Dr. Sanchez and Professor Masumi Izumi from Doshisha University and the other with Shinto priest Masamichi Okaichi. The lectures gave us a better understanding of Japan’s culture and we learned more about the Shinto religion. I have a greater appreciation for the Shinto religion because Shinto believers are part of a collective community. Unlike any other religion, the belief in multiple deities pertaining to the natural world further enforces the balance between people and nature.
Providing a tour with his lecture Okaichi-san took us to the Shimogamo Shrine. The moment we stepped into the entrance of the Torii gate, I knew were in a special place. This Shrine is a World Heritage forest, one of two Kamo Shrines of Kyoto and one of the seven Shiners related to the imperial family. Like stated before, I have been seeing a difference between Buddhist and Shinto Shrines and a lot of it is the relationship that nature plays. Walking through the forest, I was captivated at the sight of immense trees—some wrapped with Shimenewa or sacred ropes, and rocks all showed that Shinto is about letting nature take its own course. When we walked to the temple, we met with one of the Shinto Priests. He showed us around and gave us the opportunity of our lifetime to take us into the most sacred space of the Shrine. This opportunity is only given to the imperial messengers and no common Japanese citizen has access to what we saw. Even Mr. Okaichi was noticeably excited and overwhelmed at the opportunity. He even thanked us for getting him in! It was a privilege and we were nothing but honored in the trust they had in us. While in this space, I realized the grandness of being in a spiritual place that I myself have been disconnected from for a long time. All the emotions I felt at the moment cannot even be explained in words. All I know is that this left a beautiful memory in my mind and to be part of the moment is mindboggling. Kyoto has definitely been one of the most beautiful places in Japan for me and this day only reassures my belief.
May 27, 2012
By Kim Vu
After about a week in Tokyo, we woke up this morning to take all of our luggage and head to the next leg of our journey! It was about a 5 hour trip total going on trains with one transfer to get to Hiroshima, but here we are! The Shinkansen bullet train is extremely fast and I was awake for most of the ride to witness the large countryside that we traveled through to get to Hiroshima. There were rice fields along the way and the houses were more spread out with one and two story buildings instead of just many tall buildings. We all seemed to find that it is a nice break from the fast-paced urban city of Tokyo.
After taking a lot of subways in Tokyo, we used a streetcar here in Hiroshima to get to our next stop. The streetcar runs around the whole city and since I have not visited a city like San Francisco even back in California, this was my first time in one! It seemed to be a great alternative to not having a subway here. We visited the Hiroshima Castle, which had 5 floors of exhibits and information about its history.
After having met with the USC Alumni Association of Tokyo yesterday, we met with the USC Alumni Association of Hiroshima tonight. We were warmly welcomed by Hayashi-san, who goes by Sammy. He along with about 10 other Japanese alum had a reception for us as we connected and talked about things such as their experiences studying abroad in the US and their thoughts on our different research topics. It was an invaluable experience and great to know that our alumni association welcomes us with such open arms when we are so far from home! We hope to keep in touch with those we met today.
By Guadalupe Cardona
The adventure we had today was unexpected. I was confused preparing for visiting the Peace Memorial Museum because the alumni from the reception said not to feel guilty and the advisors said it was the best experience of the trip. I went into this tour with a blank slate, not knowing what to think, expect, or even feel. I went through the museum listening to the different experiences of the Atomic bomb victims and facts about the dropping of a nuclear weapon on Hiroshima that shocked me. What was there to actually feel? I felt guilt as a human being even if I’m not portrayed as an American in the U.S. but am an American in Japan. The fact that the museum can take something so tragic to create something so positive such as a goal to convince the world that the creation of weapons is unnecessary is impressive. I was also made aware of how Japanese culture has upheld community.
I have come to admire the balance between nature and industry in this country besides all else. It shows that the Japanese know how to embark for a future journey while holding on to their history and enduring it. Visiting Miyajima Island after the museum today was awesome; it was a good balance from sadness to peacefulness. The deer, shrine, and the locals that provided a tour were fantastic. This is what I came to Japan for: to acknowledge and experience what the true Japanese lifestyle is from religion to social gatherings. Most of all the fact of being able to overcome all negativity, even if resentment lies underneath, to look forward to peace and progress will be an aspect of Japanese culture I will never forget.
By David Cortes
Coming to Hiroshima was something that has changed my life on many levels. I have seen the aftermath of what human beings are capable of when nuclear weapons are involved in a plan to wipe out an entire city. The killing of innocent people is never justifiable regardless of the circumstance because there are alternatives to violence. Furthermore, no one deserves to be killed and experience the effects of an atomic bomb. I personally feel that it is detrimental to society on many levels because it leaves an everlasting impression. The most striking thing at the museum was seeing a tricycle that was recovered after the bombing, which was used by a three-year-old child that was riding it. It was something that made a big impact because I thought about how the innocent children were killed.
Hiroshima was used as a testing ground to drop the atomic bomb, which resulted in the death of many people. Wiping out a city in its entirety is what occurred at Hiroshima after the bombing. Moreover, it is a serious issue that must be addressed in order to promote peace, which is something that the people of Hiroshima have been able to promote even though they were the victims of a horrific event. I was able to conclude that it is in our hands as a global society to work together in order minimize the amount of violence that occurs as opposed to promoting violence.
After visiting the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial Museum, we went on board a boat for lunch, which was a great experience because it was sponsored by Mr. Hayashi who heads the USC Alumni Club of Hiroshima. His generosity allowed us to go on a lunch cruise; it was the first time I ever experienced anything like it. The final destination of the boat ride was Miyajima Island, which was a great sightseeing experience for us. Mr. Hayashi even coordinated an amazing group of tour guides that gave us a great insight into the history of the island. His generosity was incredible and made today a very important day for all of us. It was a peaceful place were we were able to analyze our experience from the Peace Memorial Museum.
By Rubi Garcia
How can I begin to describe what I just witnessed at the Peace Museum? A variety of mixed feelings are overwhelming me at this moment. I feel anger towards the U.S. and a huge part of myself feels guilty for being an American. In the beginning of the tour, I remember being told not to feel guilty about what happened to the Japanese when the U.S. dropped the bomb on them, but I couldn’t help it. I feel that as an American, I am responsible for the pain and suffering we caused these people. This is something that can never be forgotten or erased and nothing can be done to make up for it.
As an American, I’ve learned the “American” perspective of so many things. I hadn’t realized how biased I’ve been in terms of global affairs. I never really took an interest in learning how the different countries interacted with one another and how their relationships affect the way each of the countries view each other. Going to the museum today made me realize how much international relations is of interest me. I was able to gain a completely different experience from the Japanese through the Peace Museum.
Most Americans are unaware of the devastating affects of the atomic bombs. In high school, I never really got the chance to see the graphic images of the Japanese affected by the bomb like I did in the museum. Not much attention is paid to the aftermath of the war including the diseases that people developed as a result. I also learned how the United States did not warn Japan of the bombing. From what I read from the one of the preserved artifacts in the museum, the U.S. was supposed to let Japan know that they were going to declare war on them. The U.S., however, failed to do so.
The visit to the museum made me reflect on what it means to be an American in Hiroshima and I was unsure how to react to this. I feel that when the Japanese look at me, they see me as an American and completely disregard my Hispanic ethnicity.
Although the war ended more than 50 years ago, Japanese people are still dying from the effects of the bomb. This makes me really sad. What I found extremely interesting was how fast the Japanese were able to recover from this devastating attack. This was in large part due to the unity of the Japanese after the bombing: instead of expressing signs of hatred and vengeance towards the U.S., they pulled themselves together and unified. Because of this, I have concluded that I will be changing my research topic and will be investigating the following: how has the relationship between the United States and Japan after World War II affected their foreign policy? How has this foreign policy affected the way Japanese and Americans perceive each other?
Our guides at Miyajima Island were fantastic!
Mr. Hayashi arranged for an academic to give us a proper tour
May 26, 2012
By Eric Ochoa
Unfortunately today we left Tokyo and headed for Hiroshima. I wanted to go to Hiroshima but I really enjoyed our time at Tokyo and wish we could have stayed longer. On the other hand I was definitely looking forward to visiting the Peace Memorial Park and Museum at Hiroshima. Riding on the bullet train was an amazing experience because we have nothing close to it in the United States and being able to sit next to a window and look out and the landscape was simply amazing. Having left the metropolis of Tokyo, the majority of the trip was full of fields and mountains and already showed how different Tokyo is from Japan itself. One of my own personal reasons for enjoying long trips is that I can use that time to really reflect on what I’ve experienced and think about what the future holds for me. The bullet train ride and the beautiful Japanese scenery worked really well together to allow for a lot of personal reflection to take place.
As soon as we got off of the bullet train in Hiroshima there was an immediate difference in the atmosphere and you could feel how much slower and calmer Hiroshima was than Tokyo. Having been in Tokyo for a whole week, we had gotten used to the crowds, the fast pace and public transportation. Then we came to Hiroshima where there are less people and they don’t seem to be in such a rush. The peacefulness of the city was exemplified by the trip to Hiroshima Castle; the open fields and vegetation made us slow down and really admire the castle and the surrounding area. The castle was a perfect introduction for the Peace Memorial Museum we’re going to visit tomorrow because it was one of the buildings affected by the bombing.
Mr. Hayashi made our trip to Hiroshima quite memorable
May 25, 2012
By Debbie Rumbo
I find it especially difficult to articulate in words the sensations I felt while visiting the Sensoji temple for the first time. I feel as if events like those can only be accurately transcribed through the recalling of certain emotions that arise at that moment. The mixture of incese, large bustling crowds, and Japanese tradition illustrate an image of a country that has succeeded in maintaining the intricate balance between ancient traditions and modern society. I feel as though in the United States this balance is not as pronounced. To a certain degree I believe that our society is so much more apathetic about religion. To be completely honest, I found myself conflicted when analyzing the atmosphere. In a way, having the opportunity to visit such a historical landmark in a whole new country with an entirely different culture other than my own has pushed me to push the boundaries of my thoughts. Without even realizing it, I found myself creating a comparison that touched on the commercialization of experience. On the one hand, I saw a temple—the oldest and the biggest in all of Japan. A symbol of the religious ties that for centuries have shaped the morality of this society dominated by tradition and religious beliefs (maybe now, not as deeply rooted as before but nonetheless still relevant to how society functions). The beauty was in the idea and the aesthetic of the temple. Its vibrant reds, its panting’s, the golden alters, the overall immersion of the experience that mimicked the past in a way only a religious temple could. For a moment it was as if I had gone back in time to the greatness of the Japanese empire long gone. The irony was that as soon as I turned around I saw the other side. Through the gates that held the huge red lanterns were the mini shops that profited from this tradition and religiousness. It made me think: Is it then possible that religion in itself had become commercialized too? Is this one of the consequences to the “westernization”/globalization of Japanese culture?
I found myself constantly stopping to take it all in paying particular attention to the historical symbol of the swastika—how it was redefined (from my own perspective) and what it actually means to the Japanese culture. Being a woman of color and a lover of history this experience brought about a great deal of mixed thoughts upon reflection. The swastika was everywhere in the temple. I had only been introduced to it through my historical associations with the Nazis and Hitler and so I wondered why would the Japanese allow such an important symbol of peace and happiness to be tainted by the Nazi movement? I realize now that that perspective in itself was very much biased by my American mindset. I have found myself many times throughout this trip challenged by that same mindset. I now see how—in their own light—the Japanese probably saw the Nazi movement as a heroic and even justified. To this day, there are some parallels between the ideals of the Nazi movement and the Japanese valorization for the preservation of their culture. It is these kinds of associations that have made my experience in Japan as worthwhile as it has been so far.
By Rubi Garcia
Today we had the chance to visit the Asakusa Kannon Temple (Sensoji), one of the oldest and most venerated Buddhist temples in Japan. Although I had already seen similar temples around Tokyo before, this one in particular fascinated me very much. Whereas visitors were relatively absent in other temples, they were everywhere at Sensoji. There was so much activity going on around the temple, and for once, I was able to see different groups of people, not just Japanese. There were many shops surrounding the temple and I got so excited to see the many items that were available for purchase. The shopping area was similar to a “swapmeet” back home and I found it interesting to witness the Japanese interacting with the different tourists. In most of the shops I bought souvenirs, I was surprised to discover that the Japanese owners knew English. I thought this was really interesting because they seemed really happy to have tourists. From what I observed, they tried really hard to accommodate themselves to foreigners and make them feel welcome to the country. This actually gave me a new perspective about the country. Most of the Japanese we have seen in Tokyo have treated us well; they are extremely nice. Although they are a homogenous society, I actually feel as if they are happy to see people of color. Their actions are reflective of this, and as we are getting ready to go to Hiroshima this weekend, I am looking forward to understand my “American identity.”
May 24, 2012
By Raul Alcantar
Today we visited Tokyo DisneySea, Disney’s amusement park located right next to Tokyo Bay. Similar to Disney’s California adventure, the park offers restaurants and attractions that incorporate original Disney characters at a minimal level. Before entering the park, we met with Tokyo Disney Resort’s directors and managers who presented information on the demographics and design of the park. What interested me the most though was how the company reaches out to a completely different audience compared to the US. As a student interested in the entertainment aspect of the company, I wondered how it attracted anime and manga fans who are loyal to the culture they grew up with. Two examples that really fascinated me were the localization of Stitch, the alien creature from the movie Lilo and Stitch, and Fireball, a 3-D anime-style show broadcasted only in Japan. Stitch was localized by Japan with the creation of his own anime show, following his adventures in Tokyo with new Japanese friends. Thus, Walt Disney Japan adapted this character to fit with the Japanese culture. Fireball was created by Japanese artists for a Japanese audience under the brand of Disney, which was a shock to me because I believed that Disney would have encouraged Tokyo to promote the original Disney characters. These examples demonstrate that even though that even though Disney has worked hard to attract multiple audiences with the original cast, it’s almost impossible to infiltrate the barrier of anime. Anime and manga developed as forms of expression after World War II, becoming an essential part of Japanese lifestyle. Therefore, Disney, along with America, will find it difficult to influence this aspect of their lives.
The amusement park portrays the US in the “American Waterfront” during early 20th century. Nonetheless, I saw the entire park as an immersion experience into what the Japanese people believe the US to look like. During the presentation, Julio Badin, Managing Director of Park Operations, informed us that the customers wanted to see more of America at these parks. Shawn Montague, Manager of Industrial Engineering, also believed that the parks served as an escape from the rushed and compacted life of the city. For instance, once we entered the park, I noticed that I almost forgot that we were in Japan (ignoring the language, of course). The signs were not as extravagant as the ones in the subway, there was open space everywhere, and a many of the instructions were in English. Before coming to this park, I was expecting something completely different. I thought Japanese culture would be more infused into the park, but I barely saw it there. Still, DisneySea was amazing. The rides and scenery were much better in my opinion than in California. I can say Japan is a lot more than what I expected it to be, proving that there are various components to an entire culture culture that many of us ignore. I will make sure to take advantage of everything on the trip.
By Johanna Becerra
Today we went to Tokyo Disney Sea; we woke up bright and early to head to Disney Sea. By 7am we were on our way there. Upon getting there we were received by Janet Nagamine, who took us to our meeting room where we had several presentations by Disney executives Jay, Shawn, Julio Badin and Dendo-san. These presentations were helpful for us to understand the way Disney operates in Japan.
At Disney Sea, America is represented by a statue of Christopher Columbus, an “ All American Hot Dog” stand, a department store, and finally with red, white and blue streamers with stars on their poles. From visiting Disney Sea I was able to see how Disney views the rest of the world; Disney respects the rest of the world, their traditions and their values. They don’t try to change them; instead they have a good connection with them.
Disney Sea is much different that any other Disney park I have been to, in particular to Disney California Adventure (its American counterpart). Disney Sea is 121 acres while Disney California is only 60. So the size itself is one of the biggest differences. As far as park layout and theme, Disney Sea is one of a kind; it has 7 ports each introducing a different city and culture to the audience. This Disney park overall exceeded my expectations there is definitely more Disney spirit in Japan than in the US.
May 23, 2012
By Ant’Quinette Jackson
Today the sun was shining, it was warm, and a stark contrast from yesterday’s depressing rain. Our first stop of the day was the Imperial Gardens. Immediately approaching the palace, there was greenery everywhere. I felt as if I was in the middle of the forest. While these scenes have a very soothing and relaxing feel, they scare me because I am terrified of bugs and don’t have an affinity for nature. While this wasn’t my favorite place of the day, I really enjoyed the landscape and the buildings inside the gardens.
At Google, we learned about their operations and recruitment efforts. They had many outreach programs for people of all ages in school that I did not know they had. I underestimated a lot of big companies because I honestly did not think they had many outreach efforts. Yet, Google along with Disney had quite a few. Just like Disney, I didn’t think Google had any internship opportunities available to majors like my own in science, but after talking to one of the presenters, she informed me that they have internships open to all majors. She said she knew an intern who was a Physics major. While I thought most corporate American companies had little interest in students studying medicine and health related majors, I am surprisingly finding out that they have opportunities that not many people in areas of study like me know of. I was also surprised by the amount of traveling that Google employees must do for their job and it brought up questions of whether you could move to a foreign country for a job.
I, personally would not be able to pack up and leave my hometown to go some place foreign and completely different. To leave my entire life and family behind to move to a country that is very different from my own takes courage and I commend people that do it.
May 22, 2012
By Shamoiya Washington
Before traveling abroad to Japan, my understanding of Japanese education was based solely on my impression of the exchange Japanese students at USC we met earlier in the semester. Because of their level of success at the university I assumed their commitment to their studies back home took just as much if not more dedication. Yesterday I learned from American exchange students that the university experience in the United States was far more challenging than in Japan. According to several students I spoke with, the intensity and stress American college students feel because of examinations and term papers isn’t the same in Japanese universities. Instead, colleges in Japan have much more leisure time than schools in the U.S. and students are given quite a bit of freedom to engage in extracurricular activities.
Upon learning this I was extremely surprised because I always thought the education in Japan would be more intense and stressful than schools in the U.S. I was interested to learn more about why academics at the university level weren’t as challenging as I imagined. Upon further inquiry, I found that the reason why universities are a lot more relaxed is because the process by which it takes to get into a university is far tougher than it is in America. Access into a college institution in Japan is much more limited than it is in America. Even getting into a high school requires an application from middle school. Japanese students spend much of their K-12 experience working arduously to reach the next level. So when comparing the their grade school experience I find the U.S. to be more relaxed for the youth. This is why the process is reversed when Japanese students enter universities in Japan. College is now the time for Japanese students to gain more experience from activities.
May 21, 2012
By Rikiesha Pierce
Today was our first official day in Tokyo, and it was definitely a busy one for us all. I was extremely jet-lagged; I found it difficult to sleep in and woke up a few times during the night. By 4:30, the sun was high in the sky, and half of our group headed out to the fishing auction to catch some of Japan’s largest economies live in action. Stayed in and had a hearty breakfast of a McDonald’s fish filet and hash browns. There was a bit of a commotion on the streets as we were walking back to the hotel. Interested in finding out what all the fuss was about, some of the locals pointed out the solar eclipse happening just above the Tokyo skyline. It was an amazing sight to witness. From there we caught the train to the Tokyo Tower and got a bird’s eye view of the city. Standing at the top of the tower gave me an appreciation of the combination of modern life and nature. The lush green plants against the harrowing skyscrapers made me realize the lack of plant life in Los Angeles. I wonder what our city would look like if we planted more trees in the city?
From the Tokyo tower, we had an authentic Japanese lunch in the market and headed to Meji Park in Harajuku where I was able to leave a prayer and offering in the center of the forest. It was a humbling experience to be standing in the midst of historic Japan paying tribute and respect to the Emperor that helped modernize Japan. After that, we were able to go exploring in Harajuku and do a little bit of shopping. I was able to meet some real Harajuku girls who wore pink and purple wigs, big pink dresses, tights, platform shoes. There were many other people trying to capture a photo with them and I was one of the lucky few nimble enough to weasel my way in. I was ecstatic to make their acquaintance. After surveying downtown Tokyo for take-home items, cheap clothing, and other knick-knacks, we finally headed home. Today was a busy day indeed, filled with travel, walking, and most of all, Japanese culture.
By Guadalupe Cardona
Today was a day of exploration. It was not a heavy day of action but enough of exercise. My feet are killing me. They weren’t playing about wearing comfortable shoes. The first stop was Tokyo Tower. The view is beautiful. You can see everything. The most shocking is the balance between nature and industry. There are as much buildings as trees. It is something we definitely have to have in Los Angeles. The peacefulness that these random areas of pure nature make the day soothing and relaxing and takes away all the worry one may have. Next stop was a shrine. It was awesome. So many trees in one place like a forest. It was lovely. The rest of the day was city sight-seeing and I enjoyed it. I ate a banana and custard crepe and it was amazing. But today has definitely taught me to embrace the Japanese culture more. I can’t wait for what tomorrow brings. I will embrace very moment here. They are so different and similar in everything they do here to us in America. The only difference is how polite they are. That would be awkward to Americans.
By Jasmine Torres
Today was an exciting day. I had the opportunity to see Tokyo Tower, which was really awesome. The Tokyo Tower looked very much like the Eiffel Tower and for someone who has always wanted to go to Paris to see the famous tower, the Tokyo Tower was a real treat. I was surprised to see that the train stations were very clean and also very quiet. I actually saw a man vacuuming the steps at the train station. I ride the bus and trains every weekend in Los Angeles and they are neither pleasant rides nor clean ones. We also got to go visit a Shrine that was beautiful. There was a lot of green and a lot of trees. However, the most exciting thing was going to Harajuku. It was crazy! There were clothing shops filled with all pastel clothing or with all gothic and black clothing and costumes. My friend Lucy explained to me that this is dressing Lolita or Gothic Lolita. I even saw some girls dressed like it was Halloween with their big “poofy” dresses and pink and purple hair. Also, all the women wear heels here everyday! I am not sure I could do that! I think slowly I am beginning to realize I am no longer in the United States and that this culture here that is foreign to me is someone’s; that it is as normal to them as it is normal for me to live and act the way I do in the U.S. It is exciting to see that the small world I have lived in is so tiny compared to how big the world is. I am grateful for the opportunity to be here and learn about myself (despite having to walk like a million miles a day). I am excited to walk more, learn more, eat more, and be more immersed in this culture here in Japan.