Current Events (Sep 4 - Sep 10)

U.S. Navy to transport damaged destroyer from Singapore to Japan. Japan Times. Sep 8, 2017.

The U.S. Navy planned to transport the USS John S. McCain to Japan for a full damage assessment after a collision last month in which 10 sailors died between Malaysia and Singapore. The missile destroyer was moored at Singapore's Changi Naval Base and would be transported to Yosuka, where the navy had repair and maintenance facilities, would allow the crew to be close to their families, the Naval Systems Command Office said in a news release on Thursday.

ASDF fighters conduct drills with U.S. aircraft over East China Sea. Japan Times. Sep 9, 2017.

Japanese F-15 fighter jets on Saturday conducted an air exercise with U.S. B1-B bombers in the skies above the East China Sea, Japan's Air Self Defense Force (ASDF) said. The joint drill comes as South Korea braces for a possible further missile test by North Korea as it marked its founding anniversary. The exercise involved two U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers flying from Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island territory of Guam, which were joined by two Japanese F-15 jet fighters.

Daily Diary September 13-14

On September 13th, our program had a lecture given by Flavia Fulco, a professor at Sophia University. Her lecture focused on the triple disaster in 2011. Professor Fulco started her presentation by describing some of the volunteer work she did five years after the disaster. After showing us some pictures and describing her experience, Professor Fulco transitioned into discussing the construction going on in the northern part of Japan. In areas greatly effected by the tsunami, like coastal towns, there is the construction of seawalls. There has also been reconstruction of buildings into tourist shopping hubs. She explained that this is controversial because it is greatly altering what the towns look like, and it doesn’t look the same to people who actually live there.
Professor Fulco also discussed the importance of “kataribe”, or storytelling, to pass on the stories of disaster. Many of the historical sights we have seen earlier in the program, like the A-Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, use this type of storytelling. We were also informed that despite the great tragedy of the triple disaster, people are experiencing positive things from it, like the ability to travel and spread their stories.
Later in the day, we went to the d47 Off-Grid Living exhibit in Shibuya. Each prefecture in Tokyo contributed their own table to the exhibit. While most of the information was in Japanese, much of it focus on sustainable housing and farming.

On September 14th, we had a lecture given to us by Kristi which focused on Japanese security policies. She quickly gave us an explanation of current external threats, like North Korea and China, as well as some internal factors to security, like Article 9, public opinion, political parties, and economic factors. Kristi also taught us a little bit about the current Prime Minister, Abe. Abe tends to be fairly conservative, and has expressed a desire to build up Japan’s collective security and rewrite the constitution. However, he has had many scandals that have greatly reduced his popularity amongst Japanese citizens.

In the afternoon, we went to see a Bunraku play at the National Theatre Little Theatre. While it was a very long show, it involved the use of specialized puppetry, master narrators, and fantastic musicians. The puppets themselves were very intricate, with very detailed clothing and faces. The show had many different characters and themes, but it primarily focused around the mischief caused by a golden furred, nine tailed fox.

Daily Dairy September 11-12

September 11th, 2017:

The class started off today with a nice two hours inside of the NYC Classroom talking about the great adventures we all had this weekend.  Since most students just came back last night, we all wanted to share where we went and how we have been.  We started with the students who went the furthest and ended with the students who came back to Tokyo and spent their weekend there.  Our experiences ranged from visiting beautiful shrines and temples in Southern or Western Japan to others having a fun weekend at Tokyo Disneyland.  It was a nice bonding time for the class before we headed out for the day.

On the agenda today was to go to Toyo University to eat lunch, have a lecture and experience student life. With the Odakyu Line shut down, we all had to walk a little further to the Yoyogi line to get to the University.  Our class had a bit of trouble along the way as we got separated.  Not only were we running a little late, but the three boys of the group (myself included) were not able to get on the train as the doors closed right before our eyes.  In hindsight, it is now a pretty funny memory, but at the time it was bad news.  When the three boys of the group finally reached the station, the whole class was patiently waiting at the terminal for all of them.

The first thing we got to do after our journey to Toyo University was going to their famous cafeteria.  Voted the best cafeteria in Japan, it provides a meal, a few sides, and a drink for only 500 yen.  During the school year there are multiple options to choose from with the same deal, but since it was during the summer we only had one to pick from, the Italian one.   After we all got our lunch courtesy of the program, we got to sit in our luxury reserved seating in the cafeteria.  Good food and good company made it a wonderful hour.

Once in the classroom after lunch, Dr. Ivan Botev came to give us a lecture about his background and picture books (what he has his Ph.D. in).  After reading us two picture books for us to interpret, he separated us into groups so we could create our own picture books with our own narrative of Japan.  He provided us with pictures, a poster board, pens, scissors, and glue.  After about an hour of working on our stories, each group had a chance to present and explain what their story was and how it was related to their narrative of Japan.

The last thing we did that day went on a tour of the University.  We got taken around to see different parts, including the area where most foreign exchange students hang out.  One neat stop on the tour was this dove painting in a common area.  On the painting, you could see Inoue Sensei’s, the founder of Toyo University, face in the background of the picture. It took the class a moment to see his face but at the end, most of us were able to pinpoint it.

And that’s a wrap on our day for September 11th 2017, in Japan! Pictures provided below:

September 12th, 2017:

Today the class had a bit more freedom with what we got to do with our day.  We were able to choose one of a few art galleries to go to and explore and to get lunch on our own before meeting up at Waseda University for a lecture by Japanese Religion Specialist, Professor Emeritus Paul Watt.  Due to this freedom, a lot of this dairy will be from the perspective of my day rather than the entire classes.

Since we did not have to meet up at the University until later in the afternoon and it would not take an entire morning to visit a museum, I was able to sleep in a little.  This is a rarity as the class is usually meeting up earlier than 10AM, so an extra hour of sleep and no rushing to get to meet up spot on time was really nice.  At about 11AM, myself and the two other boys, Alvin and Ivan (Buddy System!) left to go to the Tokyo Wonder Site Museum in Shibuya.  We chose this one because it was close and we all have not been to Shibuya since the first week.  Together we walked fairly far to get the bus stop and once on the bus we drove right past the NYC to see there was a much closer bus stop, kind of a funny moment.

The Tokyo Wonder Site Museum is a museum of contemporary art.  It is supposed to represent the art of Tokyo metropolitan and its foundation, history, and culture.  Once there, it was nice to find it was free admission, helping to save the program a couple bucks.  We looked around for about an hour and talked about the different pieces of art there.  One that stood out to me was named “Captured ocean, Pouring Rain.”  I like this piece because it was the only canvas painting in the museum and was one I could resonate with the most.  It was a blue painting with lines for raindrops on it.  The raindrops all had backlight making them light up and stand out. Overall, the museum was somewhat disappointing.  It was not that big and only hand a handful of different pieces.  All the pieces were of quality, but I guess the other boys and I were just expecting a bit more.

With about an hour and a half before we had to get to Waseda for the lecture, our small group of three roamed around Shibuya for a bit.  One store we stopped in was a “Supreme” store, a very popular and expensive American clothing brand.  This type of clothes was not quite our fashion taste, but since it is extremely hyped up in the States, we decide to take a look.  Once inside I tried to take a picture of the product and I was yelled at in Japanese by one of the workers.  After that, we headed to the Disney store in Shibuya that was amazing.  The store was built like a castle and all three stories felt magical.  After spending about thirty minutes inside, we all got something small before heading to curry house for lunch.  We were running short on time and did not want to be late so we all ate our curry katsu fast and headed to the station.  I think it is also worth mentioning that inside curry house we ran into Rhyan, small world!

Making it exactly on time to the lecture, we had to rush to our seats to enjoy the presentation from Professor Emeritus Paul Watt.  It was a nice and interesting lecture about all the different Religions commonly practiced inside of Japan.  After a brief overview of each one, we had a good question and answers with him that turned out great.  Overall a shorter day, but I know the entire class appreciated the extra free time.

Here are some pictures from the day:

Thanks for Reading!
-Jacob Burke

Daily Diary Sep 9-10

Both Saturday and Sunday were free days for exploration where we did not have any group activities. During this time, I tried to visit as many different places of interest as possible.

On Saturday, I made a trip down to Osaka where I visited the National Museum of Ethnology. I spent most of my day in there and saw lots of exhibits showcasing various cultures from around the world in hope of furthering understanding across them and Japanese culture. It was particularly interesting to see how the exhibition space was broken up. The largest section in the museum was the one on Japan, but the sections on the cultures that make up major ethnic minorities (more specifically Ainu, Chinese, and Korean) were larger than I would've expected as well.

On top of that, the sections that I've seen mostly ignored in American museums and textbooks were fleshed out in the museum. For example, the museum had a decently sized section on the pacific islands that was the same size as the Europe, America, and Africa sections. The rest of the museum was dedicated to Asia through smaller sections like Southeast Asia and North Asia.

The museum was my first time seeing Asian cultures broken down into smaller subgroups like that and I really appreciated the fact that the expansive continent called Asia was broken down enough for distinctions between cultures to shine. Since Asia is oftentimes treated as a homogenous whole in the US, it was a refreshing change to see the various subcultures and how they changed through things like religion and trade over the years.

After my trip to the museum, I stopped near the Shinkansen station to get ramen before heading back to Tokyo.

The next day, I went to the Snoopy Museum and the Mori Art Museum after going to church. I'd reserved tickets for the Snoopy Museum in advance so when I got the email about seeing art galleries, I immediately looked up the closest one to the Snoopy Museum and found that the MAM was only a ten minute walk away and open late so I added it to my plans for the day.

The Snoopy Museum was holding a character centric exhibit when I went and had many originals of comics that displayed the personalities of the numerous Peanuts characters. The walls were covered in various comic strips and character sketches that I had a lot of fun looking at and reading. It was also one of the most English friendly museums I've been to in Japan and I enjoyed reading the explanations provided for the various comics as well.

After that, I made the ten minute walk over to the MAM which was holding an exhibit showcasing South Asian art. The art was categorized by its purpose/message like history and current social issues and why make art. Seeing the various art forms and styles within the museum itself and the exhibits, like paintings to videos to sculptures, created a comparison between various areas but also revealed similarities that the various countries in the South share.


All in all, the past weekend was full of amazing museums and experiences.

Daily Diary Sep.7-8

Thursday, Sep. 7th:
               Today marks the midpoint of our journey studying abroad in Japan; it is also the beginning of a four-day weekend, as the morning’s plans for our class to go to Nijo Castle together were optional. Of course, due to the optional event (and because many people had a late night to celebrate Julie’s birthday~ hope you had a wonderful birthday, Julie!) I was the only student that accompanied the teachers to Nijo castle. Henceforth, I will be writing about these past couple days from my perspective on my own trips with various groups of people.
               At Nijo castle, I really had the premium experience, in that I was able to go up into one of the defense walls and see through the wall out into the courtyard and the street. Upon entering the castle itself, I learned that Nijo castle was actually built for shoguns in the Tokugawa regime, contrary to what I originally thought (that it was built for the emperor). After walking through the enormous castle and seeing the rooms that the shogun used for everyday life and for meeting ministers from the emperor’s castle, I gained deeper insight into how shoguns ruled/what the life of a shogun was like. It was really cool to be able to see a side of a shogun’s personal life after only reading about what shoguns did.

As I was returning from the castle, it started raining really intensely, so by the time I made it back to Piece Hostel Sanjo, I was entirely drenched even though I had an umbrella.

               After meeting up with Laura and Alison, we headed over to Kiyomizudera (清水寺) and instantly experienced what might be known as “traditional Japan”, with people dressed in yukata (traditional Japanese dress~ see picture) and narrow streets with small shops lining the sides. It’s interesting to note, though, that I actually saw more foreigners (I thought they were foreigners since they weren’t speaking Japanese) dressed in traditional Japanese wear than actual Japanese people. This says quite a lot about Japan’s image overseas.

Friday, September 8th :
               Laura, Alison, and I woke up bright and early in the morning to catch our series of trains and shinkansen back to Hiroshima since we wanted to visit Itsukushima shrine again during high tide. After many close calls (we stuck very precisely to our schedule, shown below), we made it, and really got to experience the “floating shrine” for what it’s known for.

               We hit up the cable car ride up to Mt.Misen next, and ended up practically running up and down the hike to the mountain summit in 45 minutes, round-trip. In addition to breathtaking scenery, we also saw the place where apparently Buddhism in Japan first originated.

Needless to say, we were extremely tired on the train back, where we stopped in Osaka to wander around and grab dinner. It’s been extremely exciting getting to explore all the different parts of Japan, and getting to learn about the unique qualities of each city we go to!




Daily Diary (Sep 5-6)

Tuesday, Sep 5
Today we visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Although I already heard about Hiroshima suffered atomic bomb during the World War II, I was still surprised of the facts told by the museum.

This letter protests the sixth nuclear test conducted by North Korea 

 This painting tries to reconstruct the scene of Hiroshima after the atom bomb exploded.

These pictures show the diaries of Japanese elementary school students.

After visiting the museum, we walked to the A-Bomb Dome. As one of the World Cultural Heritage, it keeps reminding people of the sad past of Hiroshima.

A-Bomb Dome

After that, we arrived at Orizuru Tower to discuss our thoughts on the history. Several of us were touched by the history behind Hiroshima and teared up.

The beautiful view from the top of Orizuru Tower

We eventually left the hotel and head to our next station Kyoto. After a long journey, we eventually arrived Piece Hostel Sanjo.

Wednesday, Sep 6

This morning we visited Kinkakuji, as one of the two temples we visited, it brings luck on the success of business.

Then we took bus from Kinkakuji to Ryoanji, where we explored different places such as Rock Garden and Seigennin.

The famous Rock Garden.

We had a traditional yudofu lunch in Ryoanji temple restaurant. I really enjoyed the mushrooms and my peers kindly offered me their mushrooms. So delicious.

A masterpiece taken by professor Julie inside Ryoanji.

We ended up the day with a delicious Kyoto-style dinner and a crazy karaoke party together!