Leaving Japan

 

The last few days have been crazy, the schedule was jam packed and I had to say my goodbyes to all the new friends I’ve meet. Although I loved Japan and theirs things I already miss about it I could still leave and feel fine but having to leave all the people I’ve meet behind and all the new friends I made was the hardest part. Even though it was just two weeks those two weeks were an irreplaceable experience for me, I think it’s the same for everyone though leaving a place is easy but leaving behind people is not. Of course I’m going to try to stay in touch with everyone and keep up with them but sometimes people get busy and grow apart. Personally to me the fear is that I’ll forget about them or they’ll forget about me because our lives have to move on even when we leave. I formed some really close friendships with the people there and I really value the connections I made so I have this feeling of desire to stay their friend but in reality we all get busy and sometimes we don’t have the time to maintain connections. I’ll still try my best to keep in contact and even if I don’t I at least have very fond memories of them. This whole experience and being able to study abroad has been amazing, I got to experience another culture, make friends with the others in my group, and then make friends with foreign students. Honestly everyone should do study abroad for this experience and I can’t recommend it enough! Theirs a lot of mixed feelings near the end, I really missed Japan but I also missed my home and everything there but that shouldn’t deter anyone from wanting to go, theirs no better way to expand your horizons than studying abroad. 🙂

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Tea Ceremony & Yukata/Pre-Autumn Festival

This last week has been a crazy one! Our schedule has been pretty tight the last two weeks leaving me a little tired but I finally have some time on my hands! As far as cultural experiences go this week has been great and I’ve had two big cultural events to tell talk about! The first was we had a very traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony, were we got to participate in. Three lovely ladies (whose names are slipping my mind) showed us the art of having a tea ceremony, every little step in a tea ceremony has so much meaning and it’s interesting to see. I can say that I couldn’t keep track of everything but one of the main things is that when you are presented with your tea cup you must turn it two times to the left to show your humility as you will never drink from the front of the cup. The elegance of the event is really what captures you as not just the host but the guest all put thought into how they should behave to show their appreciation and gratitude. The next part of that day was amazing as we got the opportunity to try on a traditional summer yukata, a yukata is different from a kimono as its only used in summer and is much lighter than a kimono. The process to put one on would require two people IMG_5298 but it is none the less fun! The back of the yukatas are beautiful as obi is tied around your waist tight and a beautiful bow is formed in the back, this is probably what took the most time to accomplish but I think it was the part that was well worth it! IMG_5383 The experience of wearing a yukata is wonderful and really gives you a sense for how delicately woment traditionally had to walk since those yukatas are tight and also narrow at the bottom for women, even during the tea ceremony I noticed how small of steps all of the women took and I really understand why now. Clothing is such a huge part of culture and wearing a yukata and being able to try it on just brings you closer to understanding the subtle things about Japanese culture that are more hidden. IMG_5412

Now the next part of this week was just as exciting as we were able to attend a traditional Japanese festival! Now this festival is actually a pre-festival to the big festival in august and has only really emerged in recent years but simulates what will happen at the big festivals. This was probably one of the coolest events that we were able to see as all of the men in our group were able to carry a mikoshi(shrine) IMG_5537 together with other Japanese civilians. This actually a very traditional act that happens at every autumn festival, all the men got to wear very traditional clothing, they got to wear traditional jikatabi(a type of Japanese sandal) and happi( a rode adorned with the organization one is associated with. FullSizeRender It is traditionally men who carry mikoshi but there are women teams now and I hope the group next year is able to experience this. The festival was too fun for words, the excitement of watching everyone having fun and being spirited carrying the shrines IMG_5603 was just a great experience, we were able to experience a part of Japanese culture that you don’t usually see, Japanese culture in comparison to American culture can be subdued but to be able to see everyone at the festival lest loose is a great experience. I personally got to perform on a taiko (a traditional Japanese drum) and that was amazing, the group who performed were amazing and willing to teach me how to play as well! I wasn’t really any good but seeing all of them perform in their festival clothes and having them teach me some basic songs was something I will never forget! IMG_5485 Now that my busy week is over I only have three days left in Japan sadly, but I’ll try to update in one big blog with the next weeks events!

Uchiko

So we had a great trip to Uchiko the other day! Uchiko is a town about an hour away from Matsuyma and is great little town with a rural feel. The first thing we got to do there was go to an old Kabuki theater, which was amazing as you could see how simple yet complicated the art form could be. The backdrop of the stage was simple but we got to see the rotating floor and all the trap doors that made kabuki such a complex art form. W also learned that at one point Uchiko was home to the company that was the largest producer of candles in Japan, that very same company to this day still does business within the area. Uchiko is a nice break from the usual city life of Matsuyama and really shows another side to Japan. Culturally it is very interesting as you will many people who are the seventh generation running their family businesses in pursuit of keeping the family lifestyle alive. They seem to live a more zen lifestyle than that of the busy city life. We were able to see and go into old houses that have been redone to mimic the lifestyle of people in Japan a hundred years ago. We also were able to see the old wax museum that showed how the towns people used to make wax when the city was still the largest candle producer. I actually think Uchiko is one of my top spots in Japan thus far, its far more relaxing that the big city of Matsuyma and when you start to get a little homesick its nice to be somewhere that’s a little more rural.

Miyajima

It’s been another few days since my last blog but on Tuesday I got the chance to visit Miyajima, a world heritage sight. Even just stepping into Miyajima from the ferry ride was a magical experience, there were deer everywhere around us! For me at least seeing dozens of deer interacting with humans and each other was fairy tale like, it truly was a good first way to start this trip. Now MiyaJima is beautiful, it is a bit of tourist attraction but still rich with heritage and traditional food shops. Even the shopping had more authentic Japanese goods so if you’re looking for a place to get good souvenirs this is the place. After looking around the town we were went to the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine, the shrine is beautiful and a vibrant red! IMG_5083IMG_5096 Their a specific set of rules on taking pictures so make sure to check them before you start taking any just out of respect of the shrine. Although I wished I got a more in depth look into the culture and actual practices about Shintoism I didn’t really get the opportunity to learn about it there. I did get to partake in the Japanese tradition of getting a fortune and tying it to a wall, the tradition behind this really is that if your fortune is good tying it will allow it to come true will if your fortune is bad tying it will allow you to mitigate some of the negative effects of the fortune. All in all I enjoyed the shrine but I wish I got to understand more about the actual religious practices of the shrine, Miyajima its self is beautiful with gorgeous views and is a must see just because of all the deer! I only have a few pictures I gather from the other program students as at the time we went to Miyajima my phone was still lost but my phone was actually returned to me next day! If your going to lose your phone the best place to lose your phone is in Japan at least! IMG_5081

September 7th, 2015

Japan 2 Japan 4

 

Japan 3So it’s been about two days since I last blogged and I have successfully arrived in Tokyo! My two friends and I decided that we wanted to see Tokyo before we go to Ehime on our study abroad trip. We rented out a homestay from AirBnB for our trip in Tokyo which I highly recommend using, it offers cheap housing in comfortable homes that are somewhat safer than getting a hostel. Upon arriving at the Narita Airport we were able to easily navigate through Immigration and the baggage claim but as soon as we had to leave the airport using the shuttle we become highly confused. Although all three of us knew about the rail system we were still unable to navigate it properly, we got pretty lost getting to our homestay but after about three hours we finally made it there.

Skipping ahead to our full day in Tokyo, we actually were able to receive an English map of the rail ways and it became clear that using the rail system is actually quite easy. The Yamanote is the main line and goes in a circle around Tokyo taking you to all of the main parts. I would recommend getting a homestay or staying in a hostel that is close to the Yamanote line as it will just make traveling around the city more convenient. From there using the English map we were able to figure our the cost of fares for going to each city, after using the rail a few times you begin to see that the rail system in Tokyo is highly organized and efficient. From here we visited the main hubs of Shinjuku, Harujuku, Akihabara, Shibuya, and the Edo Palace outside of Tokyo Station. Out of all these places if you want cheap shopping Harujuku is the best place, Shibuya and Shinjuku had goods at a much higher price than. But the crossing right outside Shibuya Terminal is a must see, its enthralling being apart of this huge crown people. Akihabara is also a must see if you enjoy Anime, but even for people who aren’t into anime it’s still fun to see the streets at night time that are lite up brightly with colorful signs. The Edo Palace is a great cultural experience and a beautiful park, although from the park you can’t really see the palace if you stand on the bridge nearby you will get a frontal view of it.

I will say Tokyo is a must see, the rail system is really easy to navigate and I would just recommend doing some research on how it works prior to going. For shopping stick to Harujuku which offers more reasonably priced goods than most other areas, Akihabara can also have some great deals but it takes some looking around. Shibuya terminal is a must see but try not to buy anything there as it can be pricey. JapanJapan 1

 

Why Study Abroad in Japan?

9/04/2015,  Urooj Qureshi, Pre-Major UW Bothell, Lessons from the Japanese Experience with Nuclear Power in Matsuyama, Japan

I am currently writing this post on September 4th, 2015 the day before I leave to Japan on September 5th. I can’t really describe how excited I am right now since the fact that I’m about to depart Seatac airport in eight hours hasn’t really set in quite yet.

Ever since I was about ten years old I had always really wanted to go to Japan, now at the time is was because I was watching endless amounts of Pokemon and wanted to go the home country of my beloved TV show. But as I got older I came to see that I was fascinated with Japanese culture in general particularly because I had met and befriended a Japanese foreign exchange student in my school. Her culture was quite different from the culture I was used to and from their on I realized that I would one day like to be able to go see that culture in person.

After a number of years I also arrive at college and become fascinated with nuclear chemistry, I found the topic to be fascinating and enthralling. When I learned that there was a program at UW Bothell that allowed the opportunity to study about nuclear energy and the social repercussions it has I was already excited but learning that it was in Japan only made me more excited. I was getting the greatest opportunity to travel and see a culture I was always fascinated by and also learn more about the fascinating field of nuclear energy. There is not better place to study nuclear energy than Japan as it has a rich history with nuclear energy.

I really hope on this trip that I just get to gain a deeper knowledge of Japanese culture as well as a deeper understating of nuclear energy. The experiences I learn here I know will be valuable to me, and I know that no matter what I will have an enjoyable trip.