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.


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