In the heart of Matsuyama!

On to the Study Abroad segment!

For the Sustainable Energy study abroad trip, I stayed in the mountain city of Matsuyama. Matsuyama is very much a country city, compared to Tokyo or Kyoto, but It is not like American country cities. Matsuyama still had a Livid Night life and a ton of attractions for young people. Our group was able to keep busy every single day of the trip.

Matsuyama Castle!

We stayed in a shared housing provided by the university. We each had our own rooms, with air conditioning. Thank goodness! The Humidity is a little dreadful!

Since this course focused on Sustainable Energy in Japan, most of the studies in this trip revolved around different energy and technological systems in Japan. Each day yielded either a field trip, lecture, or cultural outing. We worked together with students from Ehime University and got to share in each other’s culture. During the Shinto Festival, we all assisted in hoisting the 2 Ton Kami Shrine for the day, with the help of 100 others from around the prefecture.

Tea Ceremony!

Ehime Engineering Laboratory

On our field trip to Yusahara, we traveled to a terraced rice farm in the mountains. Here we got to learn about the architecture involvement of irrigation in the terraced fields and learned about the culture aspect of Japan’s problems. In Japan, there is negative population growth, meaning that the youth are leaving the smaller cities, leaving only the elderly to perform jobs such as rice farmer. In time, this will have significant problems for Japan.

 

Mountain Restaurant Cuisine!

When I began the study abroad, I expected to learn technology in Solar farms, hydro power, etc. While we did learn about that information, we learned a great deal of Japan’s own culture. It was surprising to see different solutions to similar problems. For example, In America we are looking to solar power to increase our green clean energy. For Japan, solar power is not that applicable, so they are looking to Hydrogen facilities to assist in long term clean energy.

Studies aside, the most valuable information I learned was engineering from an international standpoint. It really opened my eyes to how things can be completed. Learning the cultural aspect turned out to be even more important than the engineering.

During one of the weekends, each student stayed in a homestay with a local family. My family was an older couple in their 40’s with no kids. I was unsure of what to expect, but upon meeting them, I had a spectacular time. Although the husband couldn’t speak good English, his wife was able to translate for us, and we had a lot in common. Conversation proved to be very fruitful and we had to force ourselves to stop talking in order to go to bed. On our day out, we traveled to Kurusan Observatory up on one of the mountain Islands, yielding one of the best views I have ever seen. The Islands of Japan are very mountainous and numerous. Pudget sound Islands look like child’s play in comparison.

Staying with a local family and eating something other than at a restaurant or 7-11 goodies was a refreshment and a learning experience at how a Japanese household operates.

When the homestay was completed, every student had a positive experience with their homestay.

Hiroshima was another big highlight of the trip for me personally. Given the situation of WW2, it always amazed me how far Japan and America have come as allies and I was humbled by the memorial. Seeing ground zero in person was surreal.

Hiroshima Ground Zero

1,000 Cranes Memorial       

In summary, staying as part of the Japan study abroad taught me a lot about the international community. I learned about English teaching in Japan. Which I might consider if my current career plans fall through.

Advice that I would give for any students looking into a study abroad. I would say to experience as much as you can. Studying outside of America is a limited opportunity and you should take advantage of everything. If it is your first time traveling alone to another country, just remember that it is only a finite period of time. Soon you will return to your home and look back at your experiences. Make sure you fill your time with as many experiences as possible while traveling abroad.

Half Way Through!

 

Welcome Back!

It has been 1 week in Matsuyama and 2 weeks in Japan. I entered Japan a week early to do a little solo exploration.

Before starting the school study abroad program, I traveled to the busy city of Tokyo, Climbed Japans tallest Mountain of Fuji san, and explored the cultural heritage in the city of Kyoto.

Immediately after landing I traveled to my Air BnB. Air BnB is a website in which locals can submit their houses/ rooms for rent, resulting in an affordable and comfortable way to stay overnight in cities. Only costing me $15 US dollars per night, I stayed in a small room with 4 others, but there were private showers and the locals were very polite and helpful in guiding me to tourist sites. If you are traveling short period to multiple cities, I recommend this method. Most of the day I was out and about and only came to the room to crash in the evening.

The first item on the agenda was climbing Mt Fuji. I took the highway bus to Fuji, which was very easy to do. And then climbed and stayed over night halfway up the mountain. I woke at 3 am for the famous sunrise summit, and it was well worth it. The climb itself was very long, but not too difficult. A definite recommendation to any hikers out there.

Cold and tired after the Sunrise Summit!

Traveling back to Tokyo, I visited all the main attractions in the city, Shibuya, Ueno, Imperial Palace, Akihabara, and more. Tokyo is a bustling city of modern sophistication. The train system in Tokyo alone was mind-blowing. But to soon learn that the trains connect all of Japan together made me a little jealous that Seattle lacks a rail system. I was nervous that the language barrier would have resulted in large issue. But surprisingly, most of the signs have English translation and I was able to order food by simple pointing and proper greetings.

Shibuya Crossing!

20 meter Gundam at Diver City!

I quickly realized that 7-11 stores are your one stop shop for everything you need. They are everywhere. You cannot walk one block without seeing one of these stores. They carry a larger supply of food options compared to US counterparts. They also have ATM’s for when you run out of cash. Always keep cash on you, because not every store will accept American Debit or Credit.

Another Helpful Item is Google Translate and Google Maps. Google maps was able to get me to any location I needed to and was very accurate in which train and platform to take. There is a phone app called google translate with real time video translation that will translate foreign signs into English almost instantaneously!

Finishing with Tokyo, I traveled to Kyoto via the High Speed Bullet Train, called the Shikansen. From my seat I got to see much of Japan’s countryside which was spectacular. Japan is very mountainous with lots of rivers, making for a beautiful sight.

I found myself liking Kyoto a little bit better than Tokyo. Kyoto had an older cultural feel to the city with a lot more attractions to my liking. Whereas Tokyo was modern, technological, and fast paced. Kyoto was ancient, old, and a slower setting. There must have been a festival of some sort, because all the locals wore Kimono’s. I traveled throughout Kyoto via the city bus, which was also very easy to use. The temples of Japan hold a very serene and ancient feeling. I couldn’t help but stare in amazement at the architecture. It was more appealing to learn how advanced the buildings really are. They are constructed to be earthquake proof. Built without nails so that the wood beams can mingle together during a quake.

  

In summary, traveling solo in Japan was a great time, I was able to cover a lot of ground that wouldn’t have been possible in a group. I felt safe at all times and never felt lost because the locals are very polite and willing to help. Japan’s primary tourist attraction is food. There are a lot of items that have strange appearances, but you must try everything!