Sakura and Jimbocho – May 30th 2018

By: Ananya Anand

Today’s day started like the previous one. We woke up in our cozy rooms at Sakura Hotel and got breakfast before heading to the second lecture of our trip given by the very knowledgeable Professor Kato of Meiji University. We had previously learned about the depopulation issue in Japan but Kato Sensei went into depth about the different factors contributing to the fast decreasing replacement rate as well as delved into the adverse effects of a changing labor force participation rate. I found it extremely interesting to see the falling male work participation rate. From 2014, the 65.9 million labor force will decrease to about 58 million in 2030. He explained that this declining labor force will severely harm the economy, one that is already vulnerable to market pressures as we learned in Professor Takeda’s economy the day before.

Group photo after Kato Sensei’s lecture

It was interesting to learn about the government’s efforts towards attempting to increase female participation in the labor force. Since Japan has an aging population, the incorporation of elder people (65 years and above) into the labor force will also help strengthen economic growth, which may help offset increasing social expenditure due to aging. The M-shaped curve of female labor force participation, that professor Katada had mentioned during our classes back at USC, is symbolic of the lack of balance between work and child-rearing that women in Japan find difficult to establish. The absence of social institutions to support women and more importantly, the minimal mature consciousness of society towards this difficulty are some key themes that we have learned about and that Professor Kato reiterated on during his informative lecture. Some other topics he covered were the characteristics of the Japanese traditional employment system, non-regular workers engaged in the economy whose proportion increased significantly after the asset price bubble burst as well as foreign population and immigration issues.

After the lecture, Yuni and I met with our Meiji supporters – Tokio and Honoka – to discuss our forthcoming presentation at Yamanaka Lake. While they didn’t know much about the anime part of our research, they showed a keen interest in helping us investigate the treatment of the LGBT community in contemporary Japan. We gave them a list of interview questions we had prepared and they offered to circulate them to provide us with data to support our research. After wrapping up the meeting, Yuni and I took the Chuo line to Tokyo Station and headed to the famous Tokyo Ramen Street. The Tokyo Station itself is a work of art and the surrounding areas of Marunouchi were really fun to explore. It almost reminded me of midtown Manhattan, with its modern architecture and prevalent fashion and professionalism in every corner. We sat at a café and worked on our presentation for 3 hours followed by which we met Julie, Ipsa, Taylor, and Hannah for the famous delicacy – Omurice at Taimeiken. After that, we walked to Ginza and went to the Muji flagship store. Though I’m vegetarian and it has been hard on some days to find substantial meals, the food that I have encountered here in Tokyo has absolutely blown me away. Not to mention, my matcha obsession is being sufficed with every dessert shop Yuni and I manage to visit in between conducting field research at various different anime stores around Akihabara, Harajuku, and Ikebukuro.

Ramen lunch!

It’s an unsettling realization that we have already completed half of this program, but I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say that this is going to be one of the most memorable cultural exchanges any of us have taken part in.

The Big T: Scenery from Tokyo

By: Vincent Jenkins

Skyscrapers, Trains, and People, oh my! A metropolitan characterized by its bustling neon filled streets, complicated metro system, and abundance of people, Tokyo is a place that is rivaled by no other.

While Tokyo is quite different to other metropolitan areas it is similar as well. Waking up to sounds of ambulances and trying not to get hit by a taxi are all familiar occurrences from my home of Los Angeles. With that being said Tokyo is different from Los Angeles in that Tokyo is not a city. By definition, Tokyo is a Japanese prefecture and within that prefecture are different wards and divisions such as Akihabara and Shibuya. Starting off my day meant walking to a part of Tokyo known as Ochanomizu (御茶ノ水) to travel to our host institution, Meiji University. With all the familiarity of home one can find a McDonalds, with better orange juice than you’ll get back in the States, teenagers walking with their faces in their phones, and a bicyclist who is late to work.

Growing up in a rather large city like Los Angeles, being in Tokyo seemed familiar and during my time here I have found myself feeling at home. With class at Meiji University over in the morning it was time to navigate Tokyo’s complicated metro system to get to Shinagawa (品川) for a meeting at Microsoft Japan. In terms of public transportation, Tokyo, and by extension Japan as a whole, has the entire Western Hemisphere beat in efficiency and reliability. When the schedule says a train is leaving at 9:33 that train is leaving at 9:33, with or without you. For someone who has never ridden on a large public transit system the task can be overwhelming but with English signs, a color coded line system, helpful station personnel, and an even more helpful transit app, navigating Tokyo public transit can be done. A transfer and a few stops later I found myself in the heart of Shinagawa’s business district, surrounded by business people during the lunch rush.

Credit: Vincent Jenkins | @albinosouffle | Ochanomizu, Japan

Finishing my meeting at Microsoft I was now free to go about my day. I could return to Meiji to work on research or find somewhere a little more scenic. While on the platform at Shinagawa station I made a last second decision and decided to hope on the train to Shibuya. Navigating through the construction within Shibuya station I was greeted by the famed Shibuya crossing. With billboards on billboards and lights that could be seen from space it was indeed a sight to behold. Surrounded by tourists and their cameras I spotted something that everyone on USC’s campus is all too familiar with – Starbucks. With its location in Shibuya this particular Starbucks was filled with people but a decent amount of said people were not there for Seattle’s best, but instead wanted a glimpse of the Shibuya Crossing Rush from a higher vantage point. Not able to get a glimpse of the rush from a window myself I settled with doing paperwork for the next few hours at a nearby viewless table. With paperwork done and exhaustion settling in, it was time to head back to Meiji University, but what awaited me was something that I hope to only experience once.

Credit: Vincent Jenkins | @albinosouffle | Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

With the help of my Japan transit app I figured out the fastest way back to Meiji was via the Saikyo Line (埼京線) and to say this was a bad idea is an understatement. One of the more notable videos about Tokyo’s metro system consists of passengers being pushed into packed trains by station personnel hoping to keep everything on schedule. I can now say confidently first hand that I have experienced such an event and would not recommend it for the faint of heart. With no concept of personal space we were all packed into a steel tube on wheels until reaching our individual destinations. Assaulted by an assortment of smells, weird glares of trying to figure out who pushed who, and the occasional coughing riding the Saikyo Line during rush hour on a Tuesday is not a fun experience. Luckily for myself I only needed to ride said train for one stop and walking off of, or rather being pushed off of that train, was a relief I haven’t felt since finals season ended.

Credit: Vincent Jenkins | @albinosouffle | Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan

At the end of the day one thing cannot be disputed, Tokyo is a large metropolis. It has a population of over 37.8 million people, a transit system that, while sometimes cramp, is rivaled by no other, and more ramen places that one hopes to try in a lifetime. With its large population and humid weather it is a marvel of human ingenuity and persistence to survive the day to day of work and social life. Tokyo you are a crowded and complicated city like no other, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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!

From the West to the East!

By: Chandler Zausner

Last week may have been a long week, which was a half of hard work, but we’re finally off to Japan. Since the first meeting in April, we’ve learned so much about government, business and politics- the Iron Triangle of Japan. We’ve watched movies about politicians, on outsiders as well as those of mixed descent. Now it’s time that we step into the shoes of Americans like Commodore Perry and General MacArthur who encountered Japan at various stages, as we make our journey to a new land. It doesn’t matter how heavy the suitcase or how long the line is at TSA, we are determined to get to our destination. Everyone woke up early to get to LAX, possibly woke up even earlier than necessary because of the excitement. At least the sun is up, unlike the Global East Asia China trip students who took off at 4:30 am!

The flight is eleven hours long, but strangely, it will actually be tomorrow afternoon by the time we arrive in Tokyo. I plan to use the time on the flight to sleep, practice phrases in Japanese, review my research, and plan our adventures! I am a visual anthropologist and transmedial storyteller. My interests are in amplifying the small voice of marginalized individuals and communities that are in danger of extinction. My work ranges from documentary essays, both written and film, to narrative fiction and abstract multimedia installations. My research topic in Japan is to explore one of those marginalized communities, to investigate the culture bound syndrome of hikikomori, which is when young individuals, mostly men, shut themselves away in their homes for months or years. I hope to visit local community centers, agencies and newspapers to understand how other Japanese view this issue. I’ll also be exploring how modern culture portrays hikikomori in an increasingly positive light and whether that affects the people themselves or those around them in a positive way. I’ve spent a lot of time watching anime and reading manga- purely research, of course!

The Plane to take us on our Fantastic Journey

Although our classroom discussions have centered on “Japan, Inc.,” I’m looking forward to experiencing “Cool Japan.” I’ve signed up for almost every sight to see on the class doc, everything from ancient temples to hedgehog cafes. Ancient Japanese art, literature and culture is something that was not included in this class, but are subjects that I’ve taken in the past, which have exposed me to treasures from The Pillow Book to Bunraku to Legends of the elusive Kitsune. I’m nervous about speaking the little Japanese I know and hope to find safety in the group, especially our Meiji partners. The more I think about it, it feels like a voyage to another planet but I know that we will discover more in common than I know.

Everyone seems to have a range of light and heavy loads of luggage, a of snacks and breakfast are being eaten and our classmates are coming into the airport from a multitude of rides. After meeting in the terminal and passing through TSA, we are gathered at the gate, waiting for our flight to be called, our bags by our sides, and our adventure to begin.

Everyone together

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.