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Japan Study Abroad: Post Eighteen

Today was a pretty relaxing day.

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Hello, and welcome back to our study abroad in Japan blog! Today was a pretty relaxing day. We took a train to Odaiba and did some exploring and sightseeing. In Odaiba, there is a miniature Lady Liberty! That was truly interesting to see, as a sort of allusion to our homeland. Then, we proceeded to explore the mall area, and get some food. I went with some friends to have Thai food. As far as this specific experience goes, I must say, I’m usually very optimistic, however, I LOVE spicy food. Spicy food is not incredibly popular in Japan, generally. Therefore, when I added as much spice to my food as I normally would, I found myself a bit disappointed, as the food then became incredibly salty and only mildly spicy

. I wasn’t sure what happened. I assumed that the spices on the table were just mixed with salt, where I am used to just straight up pepper flakes and chili in oil. No matter, there is always the Thailand Tom Yum Cup Noodle waiting for me in my dorm!

After we ate, we got some ice cream. I never typically eat as much ice cream as I do when I visit Japan, because amazing flavors are available here. I’ve seen flavors range from sweet potato to the ever-famous sakura blossom. Today, however, I had gotten very little sleep, so I opted for a coffee float. This choice did not disappoint! A perfectly rich, bold, eye-opening brew blended with Hokkaido cream (a smooth, velvety sweet cream with a subtle tartness) was just what I needed. At this point, to my excitement, I beheld all kinds of adorable and ridiculously tiny puppies in a shop nearby! If you know me, you know I’m not only an animal lover, but a dog fanatic. There was no self-control upon witnessing this array of cuteness. Sadly we did not have time to pet any of them, as we were making our way to the Sony Science Explora Museum!

We had a really good time figuring out how all of the contraptions and games worked. It was like stepping into another world for a few minutes. There were glasses that had green and purple lenses that made you see a different color in each eye. There was a table that picked up when you made a shadow, and thus would create an animal digitally on the table after picking up what you were trying to “put down,” so to speak. If you can go through not only this museum, but also this town, I highly recommend it, as there is so much to occupy yourself with.

Japan Study Abroad: Post Seventeen

Inspiration is waiting.

Hello there! Welcome to blog post seventeen! We are studying abroad at Reitaku University in Japan, and today we looked at Japanese music.

The Japanese word for music is ongaku. The kanji mean sound and comfort. The first styles of music in Japan were called gagaku, and originated in China and  Korea. This kind of music is mainly used by the imperial court today. Some traditional music can be found in the performing arts like noh, kabuki, and bunraku theater with instruments such as the shamisen, shakuhachi, and taiko. These instruments can also be found in some contemporary music. I am personally a huge fan of mixing the best of new and old to create a whole different sound, style, or aesthetic. I equate it to the Fibonacci sequence, because this trend exponentially increases in creativity.

The most popular traditional music in Japanese culture, however, is called enka. Enka is more melancholy, focusing on deep love and emotions. The most renowned enka artist is Misora Hibari. She was only seven years old when she started singing, and her most popular song is “Kawa no nagare no yo ni.”

Japanese music today is interesting, because there is a strong relationship between music that is produced and video games, movies, and television. That is one of the best ways to get your name out there. Another great way to get your name out there is by playing in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park. This place is well-known for amateur musicians to go and play there music at.

The music that is probably the most well-known globally is J-Pop. It is short for “Japanese pop,” and J-WAVE radio coined the term around the early 90s. There are many sub genres of J-Pop and the artists range from edgy to bubblegum.

There is so much to explore in the realm of Japanese music. Inspiration is waiting.

Japan Study Abroad: Post Sixteen

I highly recommend not only this tour, but Asahi’s products if you have the chance.

Welcome to our sixteenth post here in Japan! Today we went to the Asahi beer factory. Asahi is a well-known brand and owns much more than just beer! They also make a variety of sodas and snacks.

The tour started by going into a theater to watch the short introductory film about how the beer is manufactured before walking through the factory. I was really impressed with the level of scientific research that takes place during the fermenting process! They observe the cultures with a microscope to ensure quality. After the beer becomes ready to drink, a team of professional taste testers samples small amounts of the drafts in order to give an adequate reading before the beer is sent off to stores. This might seem like the best job ever, but make no mistake – this job requires a lot of focus and has an intense requirements. One of the tests to qualify for the job is to be able to taste the difference between a beer that is about to go bad and a beer that is a week out of date. That timing is pretty close together!

As we went through the factory, we were able to see the cans being made and bottles getting sterilized. It was really neat to be able to see every step behind production. I always wonder how things are made.OtherAsahiProducts

At the end of the tour, the staff members presented us with a myriad of Asahi brand sodas to try for free! I gave the Mitsuya Cider a try and was not disappointed. It has a similar mouth feel and flavor to sprite, but crisper, as though less sugar is used. I really enjoyed it. They also make Mitsuya Cider candies that are quite a sensation. It feels like you are eating soda if you can imagine that! I highly recommend not only this tour, but Asahi’s products if you have the chance.

Japan Study Abroad: Post Fifteen

I’ve never seen so many noodles in one place!

Welcome back! By now, I’m sure we have all heard of ramen noodles. Internationally, ramen has made contact in some form or fashion. Growing up, I remember my mom making me the noodles that came in the plastic packaging from Maruchan. Upon learning more about the food culture in Japan, I realized that ramen was a general way of referring to a delicious bowl of noodle soup complete with vegetables, meats, and other toppings.

Since coming to Japan for study abroad, I have noticed how popular the Nissin brand has become. This is the company that owns Cup Noodle, and we had the privilege of taking a tour of the museum in Yokohama!

The inventor of Cup Noodle is the late Momofuku Ando. During the post-war period in Japan, there was still a shortage of food. After many failed attempts, Momofuku arrived at the idea of flash-frying the noodles to dry and preserve them until time for them to be prepared for the consumer’s enjoyment. Once hot water is added – presto! The hot water delivers a satisfying meal in a convenient portable cup.

When we went to the museum, we saw a short film explaining such history to us. Then we went to create our very own cups! First we personalized and colored the our cups with markers at a table. Then we took our cups to a line where attendants helped us choose our ingredients before sealing them up. After this, we were given interesting bags that inflated to carry our cup noodles!

As we walked through the rest of the museum, we saw an exhibit of cup noodles through time. I’ve never seen so many noodles in one place! It was really interesting to see how the packaging has changed through the years. I’m excited to try my cup noodle. I’m saving it for when I get back to America, so that I can savor more tastes of Japan!

Nissin Cup Noodle Museum

Japan Study Abroad: Post Fourteen

I took a lot of information from this and am excited to seek out new ways to make an impression on my surroundings.

Hello and welcome back! This is the fourteenth post of our study abroad trip in Japan. On this day, we made a visit to an elementary school, and spent some time teaching a bit of English to sixth graders! This made me a bit nervous, as I have very little experience with children. However, the idea of becoming an English teacher in Japan has been on my mind since declaring Japanese as a major. Therefore, this was a great way to test the waters.

Before going, we made three groups of two and one group of three of us students to take on each classroom. Then, we decided what kind of lesson we would teach them. We were allotted about twenty minutes after we all ate lunch together to instruct them. I had so much fun communicating with the children as we ate lunch. They were so inquisitive about my partner and I, and so polite and sweet.

When it was time for us to proceed with our lesson, my partner and I walked to the front of the classroom and drew a diagram of a stick figure on the chalkboard in order to label the parts of the body for “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” In Japanese, the song is actually translated as “head, shoulders, knees, and feet,” and we attempted to make this discrepancy clear to them. After we ran through the song in both languages a few times, we decided to proceed with Simon Says in order to quiz them on their English knowledge of the words. Thankfully, there was a child in the class that was fluent in both English and Japanese already, and translated the rules of the game to his fellow classmates.

After we completed our lesson, we helped them do their daily routine of cleaning up the room before returning to our seats to observe the rest of their school day. We observed a calligraphy lesson they were having. This was really amazing. The calligraphy teacher went as far as to notice my friend and I in the back of the classroom observing, ask us our names, and write them in kanji form. How thoughtful! As we were watching, my friend and I kept hearing the sound of a unique bird coming from outside and could not place in our minds what kind of bird it was. Luckily, at the end of the day, we all reconvened to observe some after-school activities and noticed that they had a peacock outside! How intriguing. ElementarySchoolPeacock

This experience really made me appreciate how diverse their curriculum is and how responsible they are teaching the children to be. I took a lot of information from this and am excited to seek out new ways to make an impression on my surroundings.

Japan Study Abroad: Post Thirteen

It is exciting to see the imagination of a man who’s been creating a whole other world for decades come to life in a completely different light with the advancement of technology at play.

Hello again! Thanks for joining us for our thirteenth blog post in Japan! Today was such an interesting day of discovering the inner workings of a famous Japanese artist. This man was Fujiko Fujio, and he’s the mastermind behind the popular children’s cartoon Doraemon. 

This museum was so much more than just displaying cartoon works. I had never before watched Doraemon, so I did not know what to expect going in. If you are also unfamiliar, Doraemon is a robotic cat sent from the future who makes friends with a hopeless boy. Doraemon always comes to the rescue with his numerous resourceful contraptions, quite a few of which I had at my disposal (memory bread anyone?)

Going beyond what the show is, I found myself absorbing as much as I could about this artist. As I made my way through the museum with my earpiece explaining everything to me, I realized how enticed I was with his art style. Fujio primarily worked with watercolors, and his lines were very precise. I really tried to study how he placed everything, as I want to improve as a sketch artist. Moreover, the way he blended his colors so quickly sent me into oblivion, because his gradients were so smooth. The content of his work is very sweet as well. It seemed to definitely be targeted towards children, but I still found great enjoyment in the types of themes one could find in his work.

My favorite theme that he worked with that is being continued even today is the idea of time travel. It seemed that Fujio was much deeper than basic kid entertainment. He incorporated ideas of anthropology and existentialism by assessing what Japan could have been like back in the paleo days. The scenarios that the main characters ended up in was actually pretty interesting; they included the likes of early human interaction and extinct animals with Latin-rooted names. Furthermore, I had read a blurb by Fujio about what inspired him to do these sorts of themes, and he explained how fascinated he was by the common ancestor all humans have, and the fact that we all share a common strand of DNA, thereby making us interconnected as brothers and sisters of Earth. After reading this, I myself was inspired to create something that reached further into the depths of my imagination. Also, a new Doraemon movie has come out this very year, no less! It is exciting to see the imagination of a man who’s been creating a whole other world for decades come to life in a completely different light with the advancement of technology at play. All in all, this day was indeed an engaging surprise for me.

Fujiko Fujio Anime Museum

Japan Study Abroad: Post Twelve

I believe, in this way, we are in a new era of entertainment.

Welcome back friends! In today’s class we engagingly discussed manga and anime. We discovered the origins, all the subcategories of each, popular figures in the realm, publishing aspects, etc. Let’s dive right in!

Manga has its roots in ukiyo-e from the Edo period, when the famous artist Hokusai had created a book of sketches in 1814. He came up with the term manga by combining what he imagined himself to be doing essentially – “whimsical sketches.” When printing evolved, manga began to be found in the comic section of newspapers. It was not taken as seriously as a part of pop culture, however, until Osamu Tezuka came along.

Osamu Tezuka was studying medicine before he was inspired to draw manga. He was most famous for producing Astro BoyBuddhaThe Phoenix, and Metropolis. His works cover subject matter from philosophy, religion, mythology, and more. He is known for changing the way people read manga and watched anime because of his ability to design deeper expression within the characters, allowing for the audience to connect on a different level with the characters. On average he would write about ten pages per day. He wrote over 150,000 pages of work and animated 60 movies before he passed away at the age of 60.

Nowadays, manga is a very pertinent part of Japanese society. Manga is read on trains and places called manga kissas, or cafe-like places where you can pay to read manga of your choice by the hour. Moreover, convenience stores and libraries alike sell manga. It’s no wonder then, why anime is also so popular, considering the content and art of both.

And of course, it would be highly inappropriate to write a blog about anime and manga without discussing Hayao Miyazaki. His most popular movie, Spirited Away, has won Oscars and Berlinale awards. He has a way of creating an on-screen magic that adults can make sense of. The dreaminess balanced with the strong plotlines allow the audience to engage in a way that was never possible before. Children and adults can obtain the same level of enjoyment from his films and watch them time and time again without getting bored. He makes movies that revitalizes the creative spark and inspires us to seek adventure at any age. I believe, in this way, we are in a new era of entertainment.