Student Blog Post #6 A Student view of Tokyo and a Trip to Kyoto’s Ryoanji Temple

Today’s blog post comes from Abigail Straus and Jacob Korbin.  Abigail reflects on her experience in Tokyo as a New Yorker.  

So far during our relatively limited time in Japan, what has been the most striking contrast to the United States, is the societal mindset. Here, from what we have learned in class and what I have seen, everything and everyone seems to work in harmony with one another. Work and play each have their time and place, and have equal importance in their own ways. Although there is a large focus on group mentality and efficiency, and this can sometimes be analyzed in a negative way as overly oppressing the individual, I think creating such a finely tuned structure allows individuality to blossom in response to this rigidity. The entire city of Tokyo is so quiet (especially in comparison to New York City, where I grew up). People talk quietly, respect each other’s space, and tend to have the attitude that maintaining harmony and balance is worth more than confrontation. As a person with anxiety, ADD, who can often be confrontational, and a strong sense of individuality, it has been a whirlwind of emotion and a very eye opening experience. To my surprise, I find that I really am enjoying being in such a well-structured environment. I tend to struggle with the feeling of ennui and a lack of a sense of direction in my life, but here, there are even marks on the subway platforms telling you where to stand, which gives me the comforting sense of always knowing where I need to be.

I also found this sign in the shower area of the Olympic youth center both very amusing and informative, valuing the overall experience of everyone using the space and reminding people not to be too selfish with the space. 

I’ve noticed the architecture in Tokyo is very geometrically simple and relatively unobtrusive, allowing buildings to fit together like Tetris pieces.

One of the places we visited yesterday in Kyoto was the Ryoanji Temple, often referred to as the Rock Garden. Jacob shares his experience. 

Today I went to the Zen rock garden at the Ryoan-ji temple (The temple of the dragon at peace) in Kyoto. Rock gardens are mostly found at Zen Buddhist temples. The rock gardens are used as a place to meditate and reflect on life. The seeming random placement of rocks is a great example of Wabi-Sabi, or a Japanese aesthetic style that finds beauty in asymmetry, natural decay, and fleeting moments.

I’ll post Jacob’s photos later today


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