Farewell Party- Goodbye Japan!

By: William Koch

As our time in Japan is winding down, I find myself both happy to get home and sleep in my own bed, and sad to leave a country that I have made such wonderful memories in. The farewell party hosted by Meiji was the perfect ending to our trip.

The party began with a group toast. Everyone filled a glass with green tea, orange juice or apple juice, and the whole room raised their glasses and called out one final “Kanpai!”. Meiji students, USC students and Northeastern students formed a long line for food, and ate until they were all full. Professor Power interrupted our food comas, and said some words to the students of USC and Northeastern, thanking everyone for fun, memorable weekends at Yamanaka Lake.

After this, a few professors from Meiji shared their experiences in the program, and invited everyone to come back to Meiji whenever they pleased. A professor from Northeastern shared some words, then Professor Katada gave a speech. Professor Katada shared that the GEA- Japan program has always been one of her favorite teaching experiences. She said that although students may forget what they learned in the class, or the name of their professor (we will never forget you, Katada-sensei!), she knew that students would never forget going to Japan, their experiences at Meiji, or the research they conducted abroad.

Next, some special words were shared by our fellow students, from Meiji and USC. Vincent went up first, and delivered a heartfelt speech, saying that although we may speak different languages, or be from different ethnic backgrounds, we were all united during our time in Japan over our yearning for knowledge and the great experiences we shared together. Ipsa went up next, and shouted out individual Meiji supporters for their helpfulness, kindness and energy.

Next, me and some Meiji supporters made our way to a grocery store. We scoured the grocery aisles, piling snacks and drinks into the small carts. We left the store with everyone’s arm straining under the weight of full grocery bags. We found the venue for the after party, and carried the bags up in the elevator.

Then the real farewell party started. Some students (that were above 20) may have ingested a beer or two. The under-age students sipped orange juice or green tea. We played music from Japan and America, and everyone had a great time dancing, singing and eating. American students tried out new foods, and Japanese students tried out new dances.

Pretty soon, someone revealed a microphone, and the karaoke started. Isabel and Ipsa started, belting out Beyoncé’s “Halo” like they had been practicing for weeks. Chandler performed an energetic rendition of Big Shaq’s “Man’s Not Hot”, not leaving out any of the indecipherable onomatopoeia that Big Shaq is known for. Chandler looked comfortable with the mic in his hands; I think I see a budding rap career in his future. Max sang multiple Michael Jackson songs, dancing like the king himself. I was in awe of how well Max could move his slender frame up on that stage. It was clear to me that he was a natural dancer and performer. Kaori and Misako went next, singing a beautiful version of Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and the Beast”. When the song got to Nicki Minaj’s rapping part, I thought the duo would tap out. But they continued, with even more poise and talent than before.

Then it was time for me and Tatsuya to get on the mic. We sang ” I Want it That Way” by the Backstreet Boys. My voice was crackled and pitchy, but Tatsuya sang with the voice of an angel. After the final chorus, I took a break from singing to look at the crowd. Many Meiji students and USC students alike had tears in their eyes. Some had to leave the room to hide their emotion (or avoid our terrible voices).

We took a break from karaoke to do more eating and drinking (water). After a while, it was time to start cleaning up. Teamwork made the dream work, and the entire room was spotless within 30 minutes.

Then we had some final karaoke songs. Everyone gathered around the mic and belted out “Say Something”, with even more tears in their eyes. Our last song was “How to Lose a Friend”, another tearjerker. I was too busy singing, but I soon realized that I had created a small puddle on the floor from all of my tears. It took an entire roll of paper towels to clean it up.

When the clock struck 11, we left the building and said our final goodbyes outside. There were lots of hugs, smiles and invitations to visit again. Happiness and sadness mixed in the air, and filled everyone with the feeling that although our time together was temporary, our memories would be forever.

I would like to say one final thank you to all the Meiji supporters and faculty that made this trip possible. I had an absolute blast in Japan, and I know that without the Meiji student’s guidance, jokes and language lessons, I would have just been another lost foreigner in Japan. I was shocked by the intelligence, efficiency and kindness of all the supporters. The Meiji students made us feel like family, and I think I speak for the entire USC group when I say that we are extremely grateful.

Until next time, Japan!

Sightseeing in Tokyo

By: Hannah Kreiswirth

With our trip to Japan coming to an impending close soon, many students (including myself) were rushing to find the time to complete our research papers before heading back home. Thankfully, however, I was able to find time to do some sightseeing and much-needed shopping before I secluded myself in the nearby Starbucks to begin working.

A group of friends and I decided to visit the Asakusa district of Tokyo. Located in the less skyscraper dense area of northeast Tokyo, Asakusa is known for its representation of more historical aspects of Japanese culture as well as its touristy nature. Streets were lined with kimono shops, stands that displayed a multitude of different types of omamori (charms used to bring forth good luck or fortune), and stores that sold any type of typical Japanese souvenir one could imagine.

Walking down the streets of Asakusa.

Our group made our way down to Sensō-ji, the main attraction of the Asakusa area. Sensō-ji consists of two main gates that lead the way to the main building of the temple, with each structure sporting the temple’s famous gigantic red lanterns. The path towards Sensō-ji was packed with those who had come to witness the intricate beauty and famed splendor of the famed temple itself. While my stay in Japan has felt more of a dream than a reality at times, witnessing the magnificence of Sensō-ji has reminded me once again of the sheer grandeur of this country.

The grandiose of Sensō-ji pictured.

After visiting Sensō-ji, I headed out to do some shopping for myself. One of the things I had been looking forward to the most during my visit to Tokyo was to go to the Studio Ghibli store situated in Tokyo Station. As a lifelong fan of the films of Studio Ghibli, being able to visit the official store was a dream come true. Despite the small size of the shop, I spent a large amount of time in the store and unregretfully an equally large amount of money on merchandise. The decoration and the aesthetic of the store I thought perfectly captured the calming, serene charm that accompanies many Studio Ghibli films.

The Studio Ghibli Store.

To end my day of sightseeing one of the most symbolic places in Japan, I went to go eat at probably the most un-Japanese restaurant I could have chosen. Savoy Pizza is an intimate shop where only twelve customers at a time are allowed to take a seat at an L-shaped bar surrounding a single pizza oven. The menu consists of only two types of pizzas to choose from: marinara and Margherita. Despite the limitedness of choices, however, Savoy boasted one of the best pizzas I have ever had in my life. The perfected simplicity of the pizza is what really won me over, where everything down to the tomato sauce tasted as if it had been masterfully prepared.

Though the time I have had to do sightseeing in Tokyo has been limited, I am so ecstatic that I have been able to experience so much of this city’s unique culture. From ancient temples to small pizza joints, I feel that I have done it all.

Yamanaka-ko Gassyuku

By: Ipsa Agnani

We arrived at Yamanaka-ko in the afternoon after a scenic bus ride through the picturesque hills covered in lush green forests gently touching the horizon of clear blue sky and fluffly white clouds. The beautiful drive was a precursor to the serene environment of the lake itself. After disembarking the bus, we took pictures in front of the magnificent Mt. Fuji to commemorate the beginning of our retreat. Unfortunately, we could not see the snowy peak of Mt Fuji when we took the picture but some of us came back to the lake shore after dropping our luggage in the dorms and that was when Mt Fuji’s shy peak graciously greeted us with a peek through the clouds.

View of Mt. Fuji from Lake Yamanaka

After we had explored the area to our heart’s content, we met in the lobby of the main building for some ice-breakers, and then enjoyed a delectable dinner together. Before we knew it, the sun had set, and it was time to light some fireworks in celebration of newly-formed friendships. We made merry under the canopy of tall trees while lighting sparklers, my favorite one being a fragile, thread-like sparkler (senko hanabi) that burns softly and forms a red bulb at the bottom which then bursts into gentle sparks. Katada sensei, while teaching me how to light these unique Japanese sparklers, called them “poetic”, and I agreed that that was an appropriate description of not just those sparklers but the entire evening itself. Later, we washed off the day’s fatigue in hot Japanese communal baths called ofuro.

Japanese sparkler

The Meiji students are excellent hosts. Their warm hospitality was once again evident in the party that they had graciously organized for us. We played card games and enjoyed Japanese snacks and beverages. My favorite was the soft chocolate-vanilla cookie.

After a long day of relaxation, exploration, celebration and socialization, our second day at the Yamanaka-ko Gashuku (Japanese for Yamanaka Lake Workshop) was mostly spent indoors. Having completed one week of research in Tokyo, it was now time to share our findings with our classmates. The classrooms located in the main building of Meiji University’s Yamanaka retreat house provided a serious setting amidst the serene, laid-back environment of the lake itself. Now that we had explored Japan in person, it was easier to contextualize the findings from our research. The feedback from Meiji students each presentation also provided a unique perspective. Our class covered a plethora of diverse topics ranging from LGBTQ representation in anime to Black diaspora experience in Japan, socioeconomic impacts on single mothers, and the experience of mixed-identity (hapa) individuals.

Our learning did not end there. In the evening, we met up again to practice shodo, or Japanese calligraphy. Meiji students Saori and Honoka had written all our names in Japanese and demonstrated the art of calligraphy to us. Kaori, another Meiji student, helped me write my name and helped me master each individual stroke of the brush. She taught me the difference between tomei (straight stroke) and hanei (curved stroke) so I could write my name correctly. After about 10 practice rounds, we all wrote our name on long sheets of calligraphy paper and displayed our masterpieces on the wall of one of the classrooms.

Me, with my mentor and friend Kaori, gleefully displaying my calligraphy skills that Kaori helped me master.

Our night culminated with another round of snacks, games and dancing to Cupid’s Shuffle and the Macarena with the Meiji students. Overall, the two days at Yamanaka-ko could not have been better.

Second Day in Kyoto

By: Yuni Ye

Our second day in Kyoto was sunny and bright. After visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima on the previous day, we were able to get plenty of time to recover from extensive traveling and everyone was excited to explore Kyoto on our free time. Recognized as the tourist capital in Japan, the city of Kyoto distinguished itself from other metropolis with its unique history and numerous temples and shrines. I was able to visit one of those incredibly beautiful shrines – Kamigamo-jinja – in the morning. As the date of our visit to Kyoto actually coincided with the monthly Handicraft Market held at Kamigamo-jinja, the shrine was perfect for both sightseeing and shopping. The Handicraft Market had over 250 stalls all clustered on the east side of the shrine grounds. It was lovely to walk around by the creek looking at different handmade products. I got a cute bracelet as souvenir and visited many food stalls selling handmade cookies and bread.

After visiting Kamigamo-jinja in the morning, I went to one of the most-visited temples in Kyoto – Kiyomizu-dera. The temple was said to be a must-see attraction in Kyoto and had a brilliant view across the entire city. Although it was extremely crowded and very much commercialized, the temple did have a wonderful view overseeing the Kyoto city and the temple compound surrounded by trees on the hill certainly looked amazing. Part of the temple compound was going through renovation but we were still able to go inside and appreciate the interior of the main hall. It was also a lot of fun visiting some souvenir shops on the hill outside the temple and getting snacks at different street food stalls nearby. The Matcha cream puff at one of those stalls was by far one of the best desserts I got in Japan.

Our group then came back to the Kyoto Station and got lunch at a Chinese gyoza place called 551 Horai inside the department store Isetan. It was located on the underground floor completely occupied by different food stalls selling bento and other Japanese dishes like tempura, katsu and udon. The pork bun and shrimp shumai at the gyoza place were both superb. When we were looking for a place to sit, we ran into an orchestral competition held at the Isetan department store. The participants were all students from different middle schools in the Kyoto area and one of the songs they played was actually from Star Wars. We ended up sitting on the stairs watching the competition and enjoying the music performance while we were eating.

We headed back to Tokyo together at night, taking the bullet train again. I have heard many great things about the Shinkansen in Japan before I went on this trip. But I was still surprised by how fast and comfortable it was. It took us less than three hours to come back to Tokyo from the Kansai area and we got to Sakura Hotel by 10:30 pm. It felt good to be back and I was excited to start doing field research in the city and to meet with our Meiji partners on Monday.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park

By: Taylor Shigezawa

The exterior of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

After an eventful morning and early afternoon at Miyajima, we arrived at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

A landscape view of the Atomic Bomb Dome and Ōta River.

Our first venture led us to the Atomic Bomb Dome, or the preserved remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Exhibition Hall. The original building was in close proximity to the hypocenter of the explosion on August 6, 1945, and the people in the building, along with parts of the structure, were subjected to the blast of the atomic bomb. Now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Atomic Bomb Dome has become a symbol of the tragedy of the atomic bombs. After seeing the broken remains of the original hall, it was really hard for me to believe the structure had once held so many people whose lives were lost in the bombing.

Cranes displayed in Children’s Peace Monument at the Peace Memorial Park.

Standing a few minutes away from the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Children’s Peace Monument was created in remembrance of Sadako Sasaki and other children lost because of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Sadako Sasaki, who passed away at the age of 12, was a young girl who developed leukemia after exposure to the atomic bomb radiation. During her lifetime, Sadako folded cranes in hopes that her wish for healing would be granted after folding 1000 cranes. Today, folded cranes serve as a symbol of peace for many individuals, and bunches of cranes (usually strung up in groups of a thousand) are displayed in glass cases at the monument. Fours year ago, my high school had also brought cranes to display in the cases, but they receive so many cranes every year that I was unable to find my school’s work.

Cranes donated to be displayed later as part of the monument.

After exploring the Peace Memorial Park, we arrived at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Because the museum will be under construction until 2019, we were only able to see a more condensed version of the museum. Nonetheless, I was extremely thankful for the opportunity to even visit this place again after four years.

The “Memorial Monument for Hiroshima, City of Peace,” also known as the Cenotaph for A-Bomb Victims, contains a vault with the names of the atomic bomb victims.

One of the things that always strikes me most about the museum is how well the museum captures the tragedy and the history of the bombing of Hiroshima. Growing up in the American school system in a time decades after the incident, I had never felt directly connected to the atomic bomb calamity. I was able to recognize the disaster that affected the country, city, and lives of the people living throughout the nation, but reading about an event in textbook never quite captures an experience like a historical site or museum. Throughout the museum, belongings of the victims lost to the bombing were displayed along with pictures of victims burned by the flash and written accounts of the tragedy. I could better understand the weight of the devastation families felt throughout the aftermath of the 1945 bombings and connect the large number of victims to personal stories and individuals. Through viewing the personal accounts and the items of the victims, I was able to feel more connected to the incident and really understand the impact the bombing of Hiroshima had on Japan and the world.

Former President Obama’s letter and one of the cranes he presented during his visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

One of the most interesting displays in the exhibits we were able to see was a glass case containing former President Barack Obama’s handwritten note and cranes. In his letter, Obama recognizes the tragedy of incidents such as the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and presents his hope for a world without nuclear weapons. During his visit to Hiroshima, Obama also presented two cranes he presumably folded himself. I was definitely thankful that our former president was able to address a calamity caused by the United States, recognize a need for peace, and advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Overall, this experience has been my favorite memory of the Maymester trip. While many of my classmates’ research projects do not deal with the bombing of Hiroshima, I believe it is so extremely important for us to take the time to learn more about the history of Japan and how much harm humanity has caused. I hope in the future people will continue to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, and I hope there will no longer be disasters as devastating as this one.

Miyajima Island

By: Julie Ho

It’s already our second day in the Kansai region (area of Japan with major cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara) and we’ve already hit so many famous spots during our trip. Today we went to Miyajima Island to do some sightseeing because it has so many historical and nationally recognized monuments. I was super excited to go because it was my first time visiting there and it’s always been a goal of mine to visit the island.

We took the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Hiroshima and then got on a charter bus for a 45 minute drive to Miyajima Island. The trip to the island was breathtaking because the latter half of the ride was by the sea, and we got to see many ports and fishing towns along the coast. When we got nearer to the island, we had to transfer to a ferry since the island is accessible only by boat.

After a 15-minute boat ride and many photos later, we arrived on the island and set out for the infamous torii (traditional Japanese gate). Because the tide was low when we got to the torii, we were able to walk very close to it. The gate had such a large presence when I stood next to it, and it just amazed me how the islanders were able to build such a grand structure so long ago.

The island is also home to a lot of wild deer that wander the area, which while extremely adorable, is a somewhat terrifying experience if you have food in your hand. Don’t make the same mistake that I did and wave food in front of their faces, which lead to one deer following me for a good ten minutes.

Afterwards we went to Itsukushima Shrine where we explored the floating temple atop of the ocean. The shrine was surprisingly well kept and serene to walk through because of the open area and the ocean breeze blowing throughout the shrine. There were many things to do in the shrine such as making prayers, getting one fortune’s told, or buying souvenirs from the priests and priestesses.

After a short photo session by the creek with some of the girls, we headed back to the main area of the island where all the shops were to get lunch with the group. Getting back to the restaurant was somewhat of a battle because the alleyway was full of people trying to buy gifts and souvenirs from the colorful shops that lined the road, but it was a fun experience being part of the hustle and bustle. Yuni and I bought a curry bread on the way back to the restaurant (it didn’t spoil our appetite though), which had a Miyajima oyster in it and was a great snack before the main meal.

For lunch we had Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, which is similar to a savory pancake, but with noodles, vegetables, and meat. It was so delicious that I was tempted to order another one, but refrained from doing so in case I wanted to grab more food at the stalls outside.

After lunch, Yuni and I went around the stalls and bought beef buns and traditional Japanese sweets, both of which were super yummy and filling. Once we were done shopping for souvenirs, we met up with the rest of the group at the dock and took the ferry back to the mainland. I would definitely recommend this island as a stop on any trip to Japan because you get to experience something that you wouldn’t get to see in a big city like Tokyo.

Kyoto First Day (accidentally spent in Osaka)

By: Rennie Svirnovskiy

I spent the majority of our first day in Kyoto in Osaka– which is not Kyoto, but a set of 25-minute and 10-minute rides from Kyoto by Japan Rail. A few of us set out early after dropping our luggage off at the spacious Ibis Hotel, navigating our way to a lunch of cold udon noodles at Kyoto Station (one of the largest buildings in Japan) and then to the aquarium of classmate Taylor Shigezawa’s dreams: Kaiyu-kan, known both for its housing of the whale shark and for its enormous size.

Julie Ho, me and Yuni Ye waiting for the JR.

The outside is a view all in itself, in part because of the proximity of a Legoland store (which meant we got to bask in the light of a life-sized Lego giraffe) to the aquarium. Waiting in line for tickets, we watched marine-life-shaped kites and streamers flail overhead, catch the air and the sunlight just right to fill out and wink at Taylor, whose joy over where we were overwhelmed and infected even the most skeptical (me).

The flailing marine creatures outside of the aquarium.

Julie Ho posing in the mouth of a whale shark (not the real whale shark, that’s dangerous).

The aquarium sits in the Tempozan Harbor Village of Osaka’s bay area and exhibits aquatic life over 15 tanks that each represent a specific region of the Pacific Rim. The central tank – where the whale shark lives – is nine meters deep. We had the pleasure of seeing it feed. Unlike the idle vacuum cleaner at my apartment, the whale shark sucks water into its mouth, allowing it to pull in more plankton than other filter feeders and to sustain its size. The other marine life in the tank can’t compete, and thankfully, it doesn’t have to.

Other fun tank facts: The aquarium is built such that you start the tour up on the eighth floor above any water (with the sea otters) and eddy down floor by floor around the central tank to observe the marine life at different depths.

Taylor Shigezawa surrounded by fish.

Me surrounded by fish.

The jellyfish tank!

Other fun Osaka facts: Osaka is the second largest city in Japan, served as the center for Japan’s rice trade during the Edo period, and despite its name (“big hill”), has no big hills– just mountains surrounding three sides of the prefecture. It’s not as colorful or as flashy as Tokyo or Kyoto, mostly built of concrete and packed very tightly, but it’s laid back and down-to-earth.

View from a bridge in Dotonbori.

After a series of metro mistakes, we reached Dotonbori, a neighborhood illuminated by neon signs and arguably best known for the Glico billboard of a boy crossing a finishing line. I argue this because it’s what signaled to classmate Hannah Kreiswirth that we’d made it to Dotonbori. Every few steps, the neon carnival of it all was disrupted by a narrow stone alleyway with smells like you wouldn’t believe. We shopped for a while in Shinsaibashi-suji, one of Osaka’s busiest neighborhoods, and once our feet felt at risk of splitting open, sat down to wait outside of an okonomiyaki restaurant.

A side street in Osaka.

Okonomiyaki is a chunky, savory pancake made with flour, dashi, egg, onions, cabbage and some kind of meat or seafood. It’s not photogenic, but especially after a 19,000 steps, it hits the spot. We ate squid and pork okonomiyaki off the grill in front of us, almost foregoing plates and chopsticks and eating off of our spatulas.

Someone might have teared up eating this?

Our next stop was a takoyaki stand down the street, where we split a plate of octopus balls (made with batter, minced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onion) and figured out a late route back to the Ibis Hotel in Kyoto.

Narita Airport and Sakura Hotel

By: Montana Houston

After coming off our flight that was delayed by an additional two hours, landing into Narita Airport was like a breath of fresh air. Rather, once we got off the airplane, a breath of hot air as I felt the humidity immediately. As the plane left LA, I realized that I was actually going to Japan, and that I was no longer in the middle of the semester when going to Japan was months away. Once I noticed the unfamiliar architecture and Kanji everywhere, the second realization hit me. I was anxious and excited at once. And the largest reality-check of all was when I had to communicate with the customs representative and my Japanese language skills started to slowly creep back to me. Fingers crossed my Japanese keeps doing that!

Soon after we got off the plane!

Narita is a very busy airport. Each line we entered — customs, JR Pass, etc. — was long. The group had the opportunity to explore as we waited for the lines to move as Rio secured our JR Passes and Professor Katada bought our Pasmo. One of the highlights of this waiting time for me, other than sharing goals of places to visit with other students, was getting Pocket Wi-Fi. Before this trip, Pocket Wi-Fi was unheard of for me. However, being able to use Wi-Fi on demand in a foreign country was a service I did not even know I needed. At a somewhat lofty price of 90 dollars for 15 days, Pocket Wi-Fi is an investment to make, but I feel it is one that will pay off. As we went from subway line to subway line, my heavy bags were getting the best of me! I bumped my ankles quite a few times and was getting weighed down. I was so happy once we reached Sakura Hotel!

The flags hanging around Sakura Hotel

Sakura Hotel, our first lodging in Japan, was very foreigner friendly! As we entered, there were pictures left and right of people who have visited as they hold the flags representing where they’re from. Postcards were easy to find, and the reception staff was very friendly! After we were told the rules of no smoking, not being loud after 10 AM, and no use of hair dryers after midnight, we were ready to drop off our luggage and hit the streets to find food. Around ten of us went to find food, then four of us branched off for our long-standing quest to find ramen. The ramen shop we went to was on the corner of a busy street and with delectable food (I forgot to take photos, sorry)! Once we returned with our bellies full, I was ready to hit the showers. The showers were also such a refreshing thing. Our room had bunk beds with nice curtains to conceal the light as we slept. We were all so tired from the activities of the day, and most of us did not sleep on the flight, so once we hit the beds, we fell fast asleep. I’m excited for our first day in Kyoto!

The Countdown to Japan Begins!

By: Isabel Linder

In just three days we will be headed to Japan. It will be my first time in Asia, let alone Japan so I am feeling excited, overwhelmed, and everything in between. For the past week we have been examining Japan’s history, economy, and political structure. As one of a handful of students with no prior knowledge of the region, this has been a jam-packed week. Between a fair bit of reading and an five hour lecture, I have learned about so much. My personal academic interests are within political philosophy and Middle East studies, but this class has really sparked a new interest for me. I have personally found the “wa” culture the most interesting thing to study. It functions almost like a religion in that it is strictly observed. It entails such a deference to tradition and perhaps archaic values, that is strikes me as very similar to how most organized religions function today. I appreciate how it focuses on making yourself as little a nuisance or disturbance to others as possible, and to have a society that focuses on respect and community, as opposed to individual needs, has clearly contributed to Japan’s success in all its endeavors, whether that is their military, low-crime rate, or quick recovery after 3/11.

My beautifully half-packed suitcase

 

Besides class, I keep finding myself sitting on the floor of my room trying to decide what to pack for all the amazing adventures. We will be going to Kyoto, Yamanaka Lake, Tokyo, and a few other places. In some of the previous blog posts, some of the students went on a morning run, which I certainly will not be partaking in so that lightens my load. However, I am anticipating endless walks through Tokyo’s amazing parks. Our class has created a shared google document that has a list of places to go for each of our respective mini-trips. We put our names down on which ones we are interested in so those who signed up can plan to go together. It is an amazing resource because everyone adds things that they would like to do, so you learn about so many different areas to visit in Japan that you may not have known about before.

In anticipation for our trip, our professor is giving a basic introduction to the language. She will teach us key words and phrases so we can at least be polite! Some of the other students have also suggested Japanesepod101. It is a podcast that offers basic language skills, so I have been listening to it casually while I pack or run errands to prepare. My biggest concern is just being respectful. I think trying to speak Japanese when saying please and thank you or when ordering food goes along way in having people know you are trying to respect their customs. However, I will definitely be learning how to say “I don’t speak Japanese.”

My research partner, Amanda, looking at a dauntingly large book on research methods

Lastly, our research groups are going to give a preliminary presentation on our topic, methods of research, and what we hope to find. My research partner Amanda and I are focusing on casual female gamers in Japan. Originally, I had intended to study the changing food landscape with increased diversity and globalization of their economy, but Professor Katada wisely suggested to work with someone who spoke Japanese and had greater knowledge of the country. Our topic hopes to look at how women, who actually dominate the gaming realm in Japan, who casually play games are perceived in society and reflected in games themselves. We hope to examine how new game development teams are addressing Japan’s changing culture, specifically in regards to women’s roles in the country.

Farewell Meiji, goodbye Japan

By: Geyu Chen

On June 8th, it is the third time we check in to Sakura Hotel Jimboocho, or “home sweet home” as said by one of our members. Everything remains the same and familiar and everything is no longer fresh and interesting – the front desk with worldwide beer selection in the fridge, the umbrella stands crowded by those bought from convenience stores with a few coins by previous residents here. And now, after spending 2 weeks in Tokyo, Yamanaka, and Kansai area, it is time for us to leave. I feel anxious about the farewell dinner.

After a free day back from Kansai, on June 9th, we walked fast to the Liberty Tower of Meiji University. I was nearly running, without being guided by Google map which I needed on the first day of the meeting. The wrap-up session was held by Prof.Kurashige and Rio, which reminded me that our days here are not only a tour but a course, a research study as well. Then we took the elevator to the top floor and walked into the meeting room.

People were giving speeches, but my mind was blown away. I can’t believe the time went so fast that we are forced to say goodbye. Everything was flooding up onto my eyes. The good time we went to 鳥貴族 (torikizuku), a traditional Japanese tavern or bar where you can order drinks or teriyaki at a very low price but very decent quality, and for the first time introduced ourselves to each other; the good time after at karaoke; the exciting and refreshing time when all of Meiji and USC students were grouped up on the bus heading to Yamanaka, expecting the Fuji mountain shining its snow top cover under the gently bright sunshine. The nervous time on the second morning of 合宿 (がっしゅく Gasshyuku), when everyone was busy preparing presentations collaboratively. Time was flying so fast, not even allowing us to talk to every Meiji student. I still have so many stories to tell, and want to listen far more.

@ 鳥貴族 (torikizuku), group selfie

Tokyo is too big to explore every its station and corner, and time is too short to say goodbye.

Refocusing my mind back to the farewell meeting – it is nearly over. We did toast 乾杯 (kanpai) just like the first day that we been here for the opening ceremony. And we did the farewell ceremony gesture together with a “yo” shouting out again just like the last day we dismissed after the 合宿.

@ Meiji Liberty Tower meeting room, Yu is guiding us for the farewell clapping

@Meiji Liberty Tower, Farewell dinner

Meiji students were making memorial pamphlets for each of us with our most interesting picture on the cover and goodbye memos from every Meiji student inside. It was a most impressive gift received, eclipsed what we had prepared from the USC bookstore rashly. I would definitely choose a better one if time and go back again.

@ Farewell dinner, Ruby and Yu with his little pamphlet

Throughout these two weeks, we learned so much about these Japanese particular customs. Though without knowing the actual meaning of them, we at least learned how to respect and found a way to fit ourselves into the Japanese society. This is considered to be very important throughout our studying and researching trip oversea.

Thank you and goodbye Meiji friends, goodbye Jimboocho, and goodbye Japan. I will miss everything here tomorrow, and every happy face of each of you.