By: Erick Morales
After the excitement of meeting our Meiji student research groups and receiving a scholarship from the Japanese government, our Global East Asia class went back to exploring Tokyo, this time visiting the city’s Koreatown-esque neighborhood.
Our TA, Rio, led us to Pungumu, where we met up with Lon-Sensei and ate at an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant. The restaurant was designed so that a customer could stand up and choose the meat and banchan (Korean side dishes), as they desired. With thirteen voracious eaters in our class, you can imagine that it got a little crowded at the buffet table.
Soon after we had our lunch, we were given some free time to explore the area. Some of us chose to walk north and ran into an arcade, where we found an electric slot machine and other games. After a few plays, we returned to Shin-Okubo to board the railway line to Jujo station.
At Jujo station, we walked a bit to get to the Tokyo Korean School, where we got a tour of the facilities. The principal took us into several classrooms, where we saw the students studying English and Korean. Before the tour, the principal informed us that the intent of the school was to instill Korean values and spirit in the hearts of students, even though they might be fourth-generation Zainichi Koreans, fully enveloped in the Japanese culture. These aspects were certainly reinforced by posters throughout the school’s hallways, declaring “우리 말” (woori mal), or “Our language” in Korean.
After our tour we had the opportunity to talk to some of the students at the school. We were presented with four student leaders who we were able to converse with and ask questions. Our questions ranged from the school’s affiliation with the DPRK to their relationship with Japanese identity.
After visiting the school, a few of us went to Ikebukuro’s Sunshine City, a mall that houses a Pokemon center and several other stores. At the Sanrio store, I made a bet with Grant that I would wear a Hello Kitty towel if he purchased it. I’ll admit I didn’t actually expect Grant to purchase it, but before I knew it, Grant, Rio and Lon-sensei all pooled their money together to pay for the towel; being a man of my word, I wore it.
Later, a few students went to Meiji University to meet with their student groups. I made plans to meet with my students another day; I’m even more excited to go to Lake Yamanaka as the day approaches!