USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences > Blog

July 21, 2014

June 7, 2014: Last Day in Japan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 3:55 pm

By Maria Jose Plascencia and Felicia Reyes

MJ: We finalized our trip to Japan with a free day in Osaka. When I first saw the itinerary in Los Angeles the “free day” scared me a little bit. I did not know how I was expected to explore Osaka all by myself. I cannot read or speak Japanese and the transportation system was intimidating. My fellow scholars and I figured out how to get to Namba, a part of the city full of restaurants and shopping. It was strange how comfortable I felt navigating the public transportation system in Osaka. At the beginning of the trip I did not think I would feel this comfortable in Japan. At Namba we tried the Okonomiyaki all the locals recommended. Some of my friends really enjoyed it, but I was not exactly a fan. Regardless, we listened to the tips the students at Kansai University gave us and tried various signature Osaka dishes.

Felicia: It was nice to have one of our last days in Japan as our free day. The morning was very relaxing and we were able to go and explore whenever we were ready. We ended up going to Namba in Osaka because it had many shops. There were so many people there and there were also an endless number of shops. For the first hour or so we found a place in the Starbucks to work on our papers. This particular Starbucks was one of the biggest I had ever seen. It was massive and yet it took us a while to find seats. They were also so fast with our drink orders. It literally came out a minute after we order them. The people there were so friendly and it seemed that they took their job very seriously. I noticed this in other places too, like the McDonalds. All the people were extremely hospitable and nice. That is one of the things I’m going to miss the most about Japan.

After Starbucks a few us decided to walk around and buy last minute souvenirs. We ended up going over this bridge that was so beautiful; we could see all the buildings along the water. As we walked around, though, we noticed that there weren’t many tourist type shops like there was near the temples or shrines we had been to prior. It was mostly shops where people could buy clothes and shoes at pretty cheap prices. It reminded me of Santee Alley in Los Angeles which was pretty cool to see that they had similar places. After our walk we decided to go back to the hotel so that we could get ready for Karaoke.

MJ:  In the evening we met up with our whole group and we headed for a karaoke night. Dr. Sanchez surprised us with small gifts that reminded the advisors of who each of the students are. For example, he gave Shelby a map of the world to remind her of the moment in Hiroshima when she couldn’t find the United States on a map. As for the singing goes, lets just say I was impressed by the rapping skills of my group. I am excited to go home to see my loved ones and eat enchiladas, but Japan was amazing. I could not have asked for a better trip, but most importantly, a better group to share this experience with.

June 7, 2014

June 6, 2014: Kansai University

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 9:34 am

By Kimberly Ho and Iris Verduzco

It’s useful to go out of this world and see it from the perspective of another one.

- Terry Pratchet

Kimberly: This morning, we left Kyoto for Osaka via the Shinkansen. There was a great wave of excitement among both the advisors and my peers, as this is the first time ever in the program to visit Osaka. Upon our arrival, we all separated to have a quick meal at the train station. I was overwhelmed again by the rapid movement of people at the train station, which reminded me of the stations in Tokyo. Hiroshima and Kyoto were much slower cities, and the train stations were way easier to navigate. For comfort, a few of us chose to eat McDonald’s. It was my first time trying McDonald’s in Japan. The size is, no doubt, smaller than the American style, but the food definitely tasted less processed.

Our next stop was Kansai University. At Kansai, we had a Cross-Cultural Exchange Symposium. Our first guest lecturer was Mr. Daisuke Kawai from the Minoh Association for Global Awareness (MAFGA). He spoke to us about ethnic diversity and community development. Our readings have portrayed an image that Japan is a homogenous society. Mr. Daisuke gave us tangible statistics to add to this idea of homogeneity, as he noted that there are only 1.8% registered foreigners in Japan. The three barriers for foreigners in Japanese society are language, social systems, and culture. Specifically on the language, many foreigners cannot obtain jobs due to the inability to speak Japanese. In Minoh city, MAFGA created the Comm Cafe to serve a dual purpose of employing foreigners as chefs and using ethnic food as a medium of cross cultural exchange. For example, there are women from Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Vietnam that have benefited from the Comm Cafe, allowing them to find a place to share their skills and find their inner self-worth. Therefore, this cafe has evolved to so much more than just a cafe. I truly believe that cultural awareness exponentially enriches our lives in ways we never imagined it to. Overall, I admire that MAFGA and its programs support diversity and provide for a safe community space for people of all backgrounds and ages to engage in cultural exchanges.

Iris: Almost two weeks ago from today many of us were thinking about what Japan would be like from the music, clothes, to even the food. We all were forming thoughts of what we thought Japan would be like. However, as we wind down our second week and prepare to head back to Los Angeles we find that we know have a different outlook on how Japan is. After, living here for two weeks we’ve experienced many outlooks whether it be the hustle and bustle of the busy city or the calm breeze offset by the trees in a different area. Being in Japan has allowed us to grow and step out of a bubble that for many has become our greatest comfort. Upon being here we not only have seen the differences that are all around us but we also how life is similar to ours.

We have gone and seen a few universities in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. By interacting with college students we gain a perspective that shows us how many of us are working hard to accomplish our academic goals. Upon our visit to Kansai University we received a tour of how the university is doing as much as it can to reduce it’s global imprint from the many solar panels they have to preserving trees that are particularly only grown in the Osaka region. Once we got into the lecture hall, where we would be partaking in a discussion we had a presenter talk to us about the hunting of dolphins. His perspective on the issue was very enlightening in that he worked to ensure that he not only remain neutral on the issue but also that he show the different views concerning the matter. I enjoyed listening to his lecture as he showed us a video that was filled with all kinds of people that held different views whether it have been from the natives that live in Taiji, the workers who hunt dolphins, the activists , and far many more. It was great how he showcased so many different views. I personally took this as a reminder of how when we engage with one another our views may be different and that’s fine not all of us carry the same perspective. However, we must always remember that regardless of one’s views and perspectives, we are all human and deserve to be treated with the utmost respect. It seems great and if the opportunity ever arises to learn someone’s perspective I know I’d gladly accept the invitation.

June 5, 2014: Doshisha University

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 9:32 am

By Vanessa Lopez & John Mendoza

John: Visiting Doshisha University was really cool! I love their campus’ scenery and the students there. I was walking down a pathway and saw a student group hosting some event. I didn’t know what it was about, but they had a boxing ring and were trying to bring in an audience and people to participate in their event. We had lunch with some of the students at their Amherst Building in an informal setting, which I thought was a great environment. It seemed like there was food left over and the Professor of Doshisha University did not want it to go to  waste and encouraged us to finish it. I  got excited because I love food! A few of us on this trip can EAT, but sadly we weren’t able to finish it because we got full. We then headed to a classroom where a group of Doshisha University students presented to us about the relationship between Doshisha University and the United States. Afterwards, we split up into groups to interact with the Doshisha University students and get to know each other.

I met Daiki and Hitomi Sally who were both great!  I noticed that Daiki, a male, displayed conservative values, while Hitomi Sally, a female, was a bit more open minded. I say this because I showed them both an advertisement of three young Japanese women wearing lingerie to ask for their first impression. Whereas Daiki said the advertisement was showing too much skin, Hitomi Sally said she was okay with it and that it looked cute. I was confused at this situation, because I thought it would result differently. I then started thinking about what I have learned so far on this trip to understand their reactions. We are in Kyoto which used to be the original capital of Japan in the 8th century before it was changed to Tokyo which became the capital of Japan in the 19th century. Daiki is a native of Kyoto and definitely displayed traditional Japanese values. Sally, on the other hand, displayed more modern Japanese values. Not through her outfit but through her understanding, accepting, and clarification of youth’s lifestyles today and why elder Japanese wouldn’t approve of some of it. I finally realized that we are able to experience Japan’s hybrid identity of traditional and modern Japanese lifestyles through ideas such as this gravitational bridge bringing together the spirit of Old Japan with people such as Daiki who said he wants to be a samurai.

What I found most interesting was our class discussion afterwards with both USC and Doshisha University students. Dr. Sanchez asked a series of questions regarding where our parents were born and where we were born, and we were comparing the family and community dynamics of both groups of students. The students also shared their stories of countries they would like to explore or of them visiting different countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada, the United States, and other countries in Europe. At first, I was honestly surprised and realized I may have been a bit patriotically self-centered, because I didn’t think they would visit all these countries. Before this moment, I had this misconception of everyone only wanting to come to the United States, but I now see that people of all countries aspire to visit other countries apart from the United States. Today was a day of creating and strengthening relationships between our two countries, and I am glad I was able to be part of such a beautiful process. 

Vanessa: We headed to Gion District to go to place to meditate. However, there was an event going on in the place where we were going so we walked around Gion. As we were walking, we saw a real geisha in a taxi cab. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you know information about geishas, you know that it is really rare for people- especially tourist- to see a real geisha. What I mean by a real geisha is a woman who was raised up to be geisha. Here in Japan, it is not uncommon for people to dress up as a geisha for fun, without actually working as geishas.

After walking around the busy streets of the Gion District, we went to a river to sit and relax. We then separated and spread out around downtown. We shopped around the area and ended up in Shakey’s. It was an all you can eat dinner. After eating dinner, we walked around and shopped a bit more. Soon, we headed to the station and headed back to the hotel.

June 4, 2014: Religion in Kyoto

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 9:24 am

By Symiah Campbell and Licetz Montoya

Today was by far the prettiest day we have had on the trip, which is sort of hard to believe given how beautiful Japan is.  Our day started out at Kiyomizu-Dera, a Buddhist temple.  As we walked through the temple and up each flight of stairs, I couldn’t help but notice how green it was. It was so nice to get out of the city once again.  Whether it was Tokyo, Hiroshima or now Kyoto, we have spent the majority of the time navigating through these different concrete jungles.  As someone who loves to be in nature, I relished every moment of our temple visit.  This was actually the first Buddhist temple we have visited. Up to that point we had only visited Shinto shrines.  Both sites of worship are unique in their own ways, yet actually share many features.  What I liked the most about Kiyomizu-Dera was the smell of the incense that filled the opening of the temple.  The incense is used to make wishes.  As you walk by the basket of incense you grab one, light with near by flame, waft the smoke in your face, make a wish, and put it out.

After exploring Kiyomizu-Dera we grabbed tea and gifts at the little shopping area outside the temple. Then we walked to the Heian-jingu Shrine along a route known as the Philosopher’s Walk.  When I saw this on our itinerary for some reason in my mind I kept imagining old men with long white beards, pacing around in ropes, and reading books.  While that’s not what the Philosopher’s Walk was actually like, I was not disappointed.  This walk actually ended up being one of my favorite parts of the trip.  As it was the first time we had really walked through a residential neighborhood for an extended period of time. It was excited to get to see what it would be like to live life in Japan, or at least in Kyoto.  The houses we saw were small, yet elaborate and the stores that we passed were charming and all family owned (except the inadvertent 7/11 at the corner of a busy intersection).  The most memorable part of the walk for me came at the beginning when we saw two geishas heading the other direction.  Hollywood has made geishas seem like a common thing in modern Japan, but they were actually rare.  Which is why I feel so lucky that these beautiful women let us take pictures with them.   It was definitely the highlight of my experience in Kyoto, the city that is known for best incorporating old Japan with the new.

Licetz: What is Shinto? Senior Shinto Priest Masamichi Okaichi gave a lecture about a Japanese belief known as Shinto.  Shinto is a Japanese indigenous religion that treasures three main concepts: nature, ancestor and human. What is interesting about Shinto is that this belief does not have any founder, scripture or fixed dogma.  Japanese citizens go through purification before going into any Shinto shrine to pray.  Individualism beliefs are not common in Shinto because everyone prays for the benefit of the community as a whole.  In this belief, one believes that they are apart of nature and therefore highly respect nature as it is.   Also, when one’s relative passes away, they become the family’s deity and are worshiped years later.  One aspect of Shinto that challenged my research was the idea that senior Shinto priests like Masamichi are able to marry the woman of their choice.  This gave insight that even religion is being more acceptable in allowing men to choose their future partners.

After the lecture, Masamichi took us on a tour of two Shinto Shrines.  We visited Shimogamo Shrine where we learned more about the structure of Shinto Shrines. Shimogamo had about 80 buildings and all the buildings had a specific purpose.  One thing that caught my attention in Shimogamo was the deity for relationships.  The deity for relationships is a tree that splits into two and forms into one at the end.  Having such deity implies the importance of relationships on the Japanese citizens.  Young adolescents come to this location to pray for their relationships.  It shows that Japan emphasizes the importance of marriage at a young age and having a deity in a Shinto Shrine can suggest that marriage will benefit the community all together.  Overall, the amazing part of today was getting to see how beautiful nature could be especially in Shinto Shrines.

June 3, 2014: Mazda

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 9:15 am

By Rafael Flores and Joel Suarez

Rafael: Zoom-Zoom, on our way we went to Mazda Motor Company Museum and Headquarters in Hiroshima, Japan with our tour guide Shuichi Katamura, Staff Manager at Mazda. We arrived at the plant at around 9:30 a.m., crossed the guarded gate and stopped in front of the Mazda Museum. Some more excited than others. For me, this visit meant hearing more about the adversity that Mazda has overcome since the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. The previous day, we went to the Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Memorial. It was an emotionally draining event for me but I was glad that we experienced it. I knew that at the Mazda Museum we would be reminded of this horrific event. Upon arrival we were greeted by four very nice ladies that worked at the museum. We were given a pamphlet and a build-it-yourself toy car. We were then asked to sit in an area that had a screen where we watched a video on the history of Mazda. Mazda operates in more than 130 countries. They talked about their first vehicle which was the Green Panel. Four months after the bombing, Mazda resumed production to give courage and hope to the people of Hiroshima. One of Mazda’s philosophies is: Proud to be born and raised in Hiroshima. Engineers were hard at work developing a rotary engine that would be like no other in the industry. With the development of the rotary engine came its own chapter in history.

We then toured the museum and were able to see the history of the Mazda through their vehicles. It was interesting to see innovation progress throughout the years and we were enough lucky to see the actual vehicle assembly line. It is a restricted area so we were not allowed to take photos. The plant has about 20,000 employees and it produces about 4,000 vehicles a month. Mazda recently opened a new plant in Mexico in order to be closer to the North American market. Next we were escorted to a conference room where Masashi Aihara, General Manager of Mazda’s Corporate Planning & Development Division gave us a more intimate discussion about the company. During the question and answer session, I asked him to describe the kind of personality he looks for in a potential Mazda employee. He replied that he looks for diversity, especially when it comes to ideas and perspectives. He also said that he believes that the employees should have a good work and life balance and that he does not tolerate laziness.

Being able to interact with a different culture and understand their point of view was a great experience and will further develop my skills as I better prepare myself to enter the world of global and international business. Thank you Mazda in Hiroshima, Japan for your hospitality, knowledge, and the willing to work through our cultural differences despite the Hiroshima tragedy.

Joel: Today we went to Mazda’s headquarters in Hiroshima. Upon entering the facility we were greeted by a group of their employees who had gifts for us. After watching a film about the company’s history we toured a showroom where we saw the evolution of Mazda cars, which felt a bit like we were time traveling. At the end of the showroom tour we walked over to the factory where the cars are manufactured. I remember closing my eyes and listening to the repeated beeping, drilling, and whirring the machines produced and for a moment it felt like we boarded the deathstar. It was incredible to see these sheets of metal grow into fully functioning automobiles as they traveled along the conveyer belt. Seeing the cars get built was sort of surreal because Mazda is a global company that has products that are used everyday throughout the world and so to see this process up close really removed that mystic feeling I associated with this huge brand. This really made me think about my work and how one day I would also like to have a product that is experienced and seen on a global scale.

As a Visual Anthropologist and Game Designer, it was hard for me to relate the numbers and graphs on the PowerPoint to my work. However towards the end of the presentation Ryuichi Oya, who was in charge of Mazda’s design division, shared his story and how he obtained his position in the company. Being the shy person I am when it comes to public speaking, I caught up with him after and asked him a few questions regarding Mazda’s design process. Ryuichi explained that the company often looks at traditional Japanese sculptures and nature for inspiration. He told me a little about the curves how the curves that are created above a cheetah’s legs when sprinting inspired the curves seen on the side of their vehicles above the wheels. As an artist that usually works with digital mediums I often turn to technology and online imaging for inspiration but after talking to Ryuichi I learned how important it is to get off the screen and how the beauty of nature is often found in the smallest details.

June 4, 2014

June 2, 2014: Hiroshima & Miyajima Island

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 11:13 pm

By Tristan Baizar & Edwin Saucedo

“A dragonfly flitted in front of me and stopped on a fence. I stood up, took my cap in my hands, and was about to catch the dragonfly when….”

Edwin: On August 6, 1945 the United States made the decision to drop the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, without giving prior warning. The bomb was dropped at 8:15 that morning and within 3 seconds a prominent city was burned to ashes. As part of our Japan trip we were able to visit the city of Hiroshima where this event took place and walk through a museum that explained in detail everything that happened. In the museum we were able to see how the decision-making took place and the city was selected and then we were able to hear and see some of the experiences that people had during and after the bomb was dropped.

I always learned about the atomic bomb through history books talking about the end of World War 2 but I never really learned the experience of the Japanese. Being able to physically see some of the only standing buildings after the bomb and hear the stories of children who died was very emotional. At the same time my feelings were conflicted as an American because even though I do not wish this kind of suffering on any person in the world, during the wartime it meant looking out for the best interest of your country. Having to think about who is right and who is wrong gets really difficult in a short period of time. The series of events leading up to the bombing also harmed thousands of people in the U.S., China, and many other countries. At the end of the day I cannot say that I was able to conclude my thoughts on this particular event. I have to admit it is something really strong for someone to see and while you understand the suffering on one side you also see the necessity on the other. All I can say is that I hope this event would never occur again because no country deserves this type of devastation and suffering.

Tristan: After a world wind of emotions at the Atomic Bomb museum we all headed to Miyajima Island using a 45min ferry out of Hiroshima to Miyajima Island. Right as we set foot on Miyajima it instantly felt like now we are in Japan and not just some huge American like city. The island, while having a Torii standing in the middle of the water, is home to a few Shinto shrines and deer. The Shrines are very beautiful and the deer get upclose and personal. They will follow you if you have food.

The scenery on the Island was amazing and everything was all green, completely different from Tokyo and way different from LA. It was nice  to be able to relax on the Island and take in the view. Eventually when the tide receded we where able to walk to the Torii to see it upclose. It was cool to see the water level drop revealing the whole monument. 

June 1, 2014: To Hiroshima

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 11:06 pm

By Adrian Trinidad and Shelby White

Shinkansen

Adrian: After one week in the city of Tokyo, we took the Shinkansen trains to Hiroshima Japan. I can’t believe it’s been only one week; it feels like much longer! Throughout the train ride, I was absolutely surprised by the scenery as we rode through Kyoto. There were modern looking houses, solar panels, power line stations, and what seemed like production corporations all next to rice fields. All of them blended well into a modern neighborhood with various components: nature, business, and religion in the form of Shinto shrines. How is this possible? Everything was working together in small proportions. The rice fields were not mass-produced, the corporations were among homes, and technology was clearly present even in the farms. This was all observed as the train flew at over 190 mph. At the same time, I did notice western influences in the form of a McDonald’s arch high above in the middle of traditional looking Japanese homes.

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Shelby: We arrived in Hiroshima today, and it was such a drastic difference from Tokyo. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t. It sounds contradicting, but if you’ve seen both cities back to back, it would be easier to understand. It looks the same, only Hiroshima has wider streets and the drivers seem to be less in a rush. In fact, everything seems a little slower in this city. Yet the buildings look the same and the landscaping is nearly identical.

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What shocked me about the city was how new all of the buildings looked. I didn’t rely understand why this was true, until I realized how this entire city was built post-World War II after the US dropped the atomic bomb. It was amazing to see how the city looked after that event. I feel as if a lot of people who visit Hiroshima probably look over that fact because we’re accustomed to new buildings in Los Angeles and other cities in the US.

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Japan is such a historically aware country, and after the day we spent in the city, I’d never felt more unaware of my own history. A little girl came up to me a day into arriving in Hiroshima. She gave me the cutest crane and asked me to put a sticker she gave me on the country that I lived in. It took me a while to figure out where exactly America is. The other scholars on the trip joked around with me, claiming I didn’t know any geography, but the jokes aside, all I could think about was the fact that I couldn’t remember where the US is where on the map.

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This made me think about how America isn’t really a historically aware country like Japan. Japanese natives are their country and who they are is in relation to where they are from as a collective group of people. Americans classify who they are based on factors such as hometown, but it’s never outside of themselves. Unlike Tokyo, Hiroshima felt like a city where people are more historically aware of who they are as a nation which makes them who they are.

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Adrian: When we arrived to our hotel, we unpacked and went to Hiroshima castle. There was open land with a lot of grass and trees, including the one and only tree that survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima. It was beautiful! I enjoyed the history and rich nature that surrounded the area. After this, we went to the Nanaya restaurant. My group devoured some chicken, steak, noodles, rice, clams, and other delicious sides with a good deal of ginger ale. We certainly had a great time and felt like our group is keeps bonding really well. It feels unreal to believe I’ve experienced so much in the past week. Every hour, I continue making valuable reflections on what my role as a global citizen is and what I ought to do when I return to the U.S. As we approach the more traditional side of Japan, I cannot wait to see what comes next.

June 3, 2014

May 31: Old and New Japan

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 2:23 pm

By Tristan Baizar and Iris Verduzco

“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” –Maya Angelou

Tower_Iris

Iris: In the beginning of this course Dr. Sanchez said that upon our return from Japan we would surely have our lives changed and surely enough here we are preparing to leave from Tokyo and anticipating what the rest of this course has in store. Taking a moment to reflect on his words but also the words of Maya Angelou, this week indeed has been one in which we all have begun, or even for some are continuing, our journey to become global leaders. To many of our friends and families this trip seems like a vacation but as a student of this class I know this trip is far greater than a tourist’s dream. As a student I understand what is expected of me but indeed this experience is not merely a class where my pen and paper become my only accessible tools. This class is allowing me and my SIP family to look deeply at ourselves and reflect what this course means to us. We aren’t simply learning, we are living!

Dornsife at gardens

In a week’s time we have felt the compassion of this SIP family in getting to know about one another, we have ignited the passions that reside within us as we implore where do we see ourselves in the future. There are many questions that we have been pondering whether it be would we like to work at Google, what emotions arose in us as we visited shrines and temples, or what exactly did we order for lunch. Along the way we have learned to laugh at each other’s quirks as we see how a belly roaring laugh can make us forget about the pain in our feet from walking all over Tokyo. And what is this journey of course without some style whether it be the frizzified humid hair or wearing our kimonos we definitely encounter style from the way we dress, eat, and most of all communicate.

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Tristan: Today was a pretty short day for us. We needed to prepare for our much anticipated trip on the bullet train bound for HIroshima. We started our day out with a visit to the Japanese Edo-Tokyo museum. This museum has a whole historical replica of historical Japan from the beginning of the Edo Period (the Tokugawa shogunate) to modern Tokyo. While in the museum, we where all able to actually see how life was back in the Edo Period. The museum had a number of detailed replicas that consisted of daily life from this period. The Edo era depicted by the museum was very interesting and helped put Japanese history in prospective.

Edo

Later on after departing the museum, we headed for Odaiba to eat lunch and have some free time around the Tokyo bay city. Odaiba was different from the heart of Tokyo because even though it is a tourist location it was still very quiet and peaceful. We was also able to view the huge Gundam Warrior Robot before settling in for lunch. After lunch we walked around and took pics of the replica Statue of Liberty and Japan’s representation of the Golden Gate Bridge. Other than those few sights, there was just lots of shopping opportunities and other places to take a few good pictures. The day ended and we all went to the hotel to regroup and start packing for our trip tomorrow.

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Today we got to experience a bit of the past and what is meant to be a look into the future. We visited the Edo-Tokyo Museum and the city of Odaiba, and amongst being in these two locations I found myself reflecting on travel and what it means to have our past guide our future. I found out interesting to see how in Tokyo people used to travel for two weeks in what seemed like a beautifully crafted box. My astonishment did not cease once we arrived to Odaiba. In what seemed to be this futuristic city with its impressive architecture and even huge robots that made me feel as if I was in an episode of Power Rangers I found myself thinking of how we travel at times to better our future.

SOL in Tokyo

Interesting enough when you think of the search to better one’s life people think of the American Dream and our dear Lady Liberty and here in Odaiba as I walked alongside this bridge I found myself in her presence. In many ways I feel as if I’ve never left home as I continued to walk in Odaiba and felt as if I was simply taking a walk in Grand Park back in my native Los Angeles. Taking a stroll down this urban park I continue to see where home is very much a part of my travels. I may not know where my travels will take me or what they’ll have  in store for me but I know that I’m not trying to survive in a foreign land but rather living and exploring this chapter of my life.

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May 30, 2014: Modern Japan & Alumni Club

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 1:41 pm

By Tristan Baizar and Vanessa Lopez

Gardens

Tristan: Continuing with our respective research today we broke into smaller groups in order to accommodate everyones research needs effectively. Personally I had a whirlwind visit to two pretty sizable Shinto shrines in order to pick up data on how many, and the type of, people that visit shrines as part of their daily routine. Through participant observation and a few face-to-face interactions with individuals, my advisor Monica and I was able to gather useful data for my research.

Food

Vanessa: We ate at Bali Hai which is a buffet. The food was really good, and overall, the vibe around the room was great. After eating, we headed to Matsuya Ginza which is a really big and fancy shopping center. This is a place where you can find familiar stores like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Tiffany and Co., etc. From the stores one could assume that this is a place where the wealthy and well off usually shop.

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Purchasing a gift in this part of Tokyo is an experience on its own. Once you are purchasing an item, the sales person will ask you if this is a gift. If you reply with yes, they will grab material to wrap your item. You even have the option of what type of ribbon you want around the gift box. I thought this was really nice and convenient.   It was definitely a good place to experience a different way of shopping.

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Tristan: Later in the day we headed to Sensoji Temple a Buddhist temple and popular tourist location. The temple was grand and very beautiful. It was also our SIPers first interaction with a Buddhist temple. While washing our hands before entering a temple was familiar to us, we were introduced to new Buddhist customs like fanning incense and a more standard prayer to the Buddha. This temple was also a great place for me to recored more data on religion and its role in Japanese daily life. In all it was a nice day full of research and new experiences.

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May 29: Research, Komaba Campus and Baseball

Filed under: Uncategorized — Monica Pelayo @ 1:04 pm

By Symiah Campbell & Licetz Montoya

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Licetz: We got the opportunity to interview University of Tokyo students whom we had first met through Skype during Spring semester. We interviewed them on our particular topics in order to get a better Japanese perspective.   As couple of us went to the university in the morning, others got suggestions and guidance from our advisors on each of our research topics.  Around noon, we ended up in the same classroom with the students from the University of Tokyo and exchanged questions among each other.  In my group, I was able to interview a set of twins in order to see whether they had different perspective on gender roles in Japan.  They gave me insight and confirmation that indeed Japanese women struggle maintaining traditional roles while accepting the new identity of modern womanhood.  I also got to interview a male student who gave me clarification on why he thought women had trouble balancing these two roles in Japan today.

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As an entire group, we discussed on what it meant for Japan to be considered “cool”.  As visitors, we mentioned aspects like Disney Sea, mannerism, shrines and fashion to define Japan as “cool”, but according to the Japanese students, these aspects where not accurate.  One the students mentioned that in different parts of Japan, we will experience different kinds of cultures. He pointed out that human attitude in Osaka will be completely different than the Tokyo culture. At the end of the discussion, as a collective group, we decided that one must look for small details that help the culture stand out and be considered “cool”.

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Symiah: After speaking with the insightful students at Tokyo University and losing a ridiculous amount of Yen playing Mario Cart in Tokyo’s video game district, Akihabara,  we headed to the Tokyo Dome to see the Tokyo Giants play the Sendai Eagles.  I’ve been to plenty of baseball games, but this was my first one abroad and hopefully not my last!  Although the rules and the goals of game are the same here and back home, the game was different in many ways. What stood out to me the most was the cheering!  In America we are accustom to fans of both teams yelling words of encouragement and discouragement simultaneously.  In Japan it is very different.  Each group takes turns cheering while their team is up to bat.  When they cheer they are not just yelling what ever they want.  Instead they sing songs, chant, and clap in unison.  It was quite incredible to see.

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In terms of the game itself, my new favorite team, the Tokyo Giants won easily 6-0! The highlight of the game was a monster grand slam, hit deep to left field by Tatsuya Utsumi, which made the already electric crowd go crazy! My personal highlights came a little later.  First, I attempted to start the wave in the Tokyo Dome.  While I was unsuccessful, I was able to get almost an entire section to participate and make the Japanese security guard really angry. Next, I made friends with the some Japanese women sitting next to me and we exchanged business cards.  It was fun to practice my Japanese etiquette and language skills with them.   Lastly, once the game was over and we made our way back to the subway, we ran into a fellow Trojan, who was with some UCLA alumni.  After exchanging some friendly trash talk we began singing the USC fight song to them.  Although, the UCLA fans booed and other people in the subway station stared at us, we sang on.  Through our song we proudly demonstrated our Trojan Pride, just as the Tokyo Giant fans had done for their team just a few minutes earlier!

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Today was another fun day on our journey through Tokyo!

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