A Final Note from Christie and Ruth

Study abroad in Japan isn’t just an individual experience and requires that students learn to manage themselves with an awareness of the impact of their behavior on the group as whole. One of the things we both appreciated was the way this group of students worked so well together. A major theme throughout the three weeks was learning to be patient with each other as we faced various challenges individually as well as a group. We often navigated as a large group through some of the busiest train stations and intersections in the world! We would give the group high marks in this area, and were amazed by how well we all got around in the last days of the trip together.
For the final class meeting Christie asked students to reflect not only on what they had learned about the intersection of art and culture of Japan but also what they had learned about themselves. Many students said that they:

• Became more patient with others and realized how important that skill is

• Learned to be more outgoing, to be more social

• Became more independent and able to navigate on their own in an unfamiliar place,

• Became more adventurous and stepped out of their comfort zone, including trying new foods

• Learned to appreciate what they considered to be the important experiences, rather than the ones that they had so long anticipated would be important.

Thanks to all of you who have read our blog this year. We’ve appreciated your comments.

Photo taken as we left the Olympic Village Saturday morning -Ruth 

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Student Blog Post #15 Fushimi Inari Shrine and a Selection of Photos

Jacob Korbin describes his visit to Fushimi-no- Inari shrine in Kyoto while Abigail Straus shares some of the many photos she’s taken during our three weeks in Japan. 

One place that we visited that I really liked was Fushimi Inari, a Shinto shrine in Kyoto. Shinto is a religion native to Japan that focuses on worship of spirits that live in everything found in nature known as kami. The shrines serve as a place for the kami to live in addition to functioning as a place to pray to the kami. Fushimi Inari is most famous for its gates known as torii, of which there is said to be approximately ten thousand. In and around Fushimi Inari there are many statues of foxes, called kitsune in Japanese. The foxes are associated with Inari, a Shinto deity of rice, for whom the shrine was built.

The torii gates

Fox statue

And now some interesting photos by Abigail Straus. 

“Home for a night”.  Ryokan-traditional Japanese inn in Kyoto.

Mesmerizing Architecture of National Olympic Youth Center

Incredible meal I had early in the morning at Tsukiji Fish Market. King Crab and a soft boiled egg over rice.

Stunning old tree behind a hidden Shinto Shrine in Kyoto.

Befriending a deer in Nara

Little sketch of small waterfall at Fushimi Inari

View from walkway in Kyoto

Panoramic view of bridge above Ueno Station

Panoramic view of a main street in Kyoto

Student Blog Post #14 Traveling Independently and Japanese Gardens

As we wait at Narita Airport to return home I’ll post some of our last student blogs by Madison Pryer and Elizabeth Bellingham. 

Madison Pryer describes an experience many students have had as they’ve gained the confidence to travel independently in Tokyo. 

​A few days ago for the first time on this trip I went somewhere by myself. I really wanted to go to the ¥100 (dollar) store that is located on Harajuku’s Takeshita Street here in Japan but no one else was interested in going. At first I was unsure how to get there. Once I got directions and talked it through I realized I did know how to get there despite only being there one time. I walked through Yoyogi Park to get there. The park is gorgeous and walking through there was so relaxing. It was quiet other than the crowing of the birds and the sound of bicyclists peddling past. Once I left the park and found the street it was bustling with tons of people, tourists and locals alike. It was around 4PM when I got there and it was amazing to see it at that time of day. The first place I stopped was the ¥100 store called Daiso. I bought a few things and then continued on. I walked down the whole street, stopped at some more shops, grabbed some bubble tea and then headed back. I really enjoyed independently traveling there. I had never navigated a city on my own before. But now that I’ve done it I feel like I could do it again, no problem.            

Yoyogi Park

Takeshita Street                

Elizabeth Bellingham has a special interest in Japanese gardens and visited a special garden in Kyoto during out “free” day. 

If one were to experience a quiet walk through one of the many Japanese gardens, he or she would notice a sense of ease, beauty and wonder. The Japanese have designed and contrasted many different kinds of gardens ranging from rocks gardens, landscape, and tea gardens. Although they may vary in appearance, the gardens have many similar characteristics influenced by Japanese culture. From sitting in front of a garden, or taking a stroll around outside, to sipping macha in a tea house he or she would notice that all of the locations offer sanctuary for reflection. This derives from Buddhism and Shintoism where one is not only taking time to appreciate a particular space and time, but also appreciating the role which nature plays in daily life. The atmosphere creates one of harmony where even the architecture of the surrounding buildings melts into the scenery of lush green plants. There are no clear boundaries. This can be seen by the use of walkways, or bridges connecting a space between shelter and nature. It can be seen by the use of open spaces and sliding doors and ceiling to floor length windows that allow for one to connect with the world outside. The use of space in the gardens are tactful and deliberate yet instead of illustrating a defiance over nature – one controlling nature – it illustrates harmony – one with nature. Without a doubt, these gardens are meticulously designed where there is not only attention to detail, but the use of negative space. In both art and culture, the Japanese have an appreciation for what is seen, as well as what it not seen. Refer to the image below. One will notice the connection between manmade structures and nature where the two seem to melt into each other. Also, one will notice empty space used to create an atmosphere that has room for one to see the world around them and thus give the mind space for reflection. 

The following photo was taken at Korai-ji, a garden in Kyoto, and was a place of sanctuary for a wife who had gathered many fine artists and architects to construct a place where her husband could be remembered. Many gardens may be symbolic or representational of something in life, which again adds to the Zen atmosphere.