Blog #1 5/3/18

Today I went to the Owl Cafe with Halimia, Chris, and Gretchen. I have to say it was definitely one of the cooler experiences I have had in Japan upon my arrival. The owls were all very nice, easy to hold and pet. Their feathers were a lot softer than I thought. I had never seen an owl up close and personal before this experience. I did feel bad for them however. Their little legs were tethered together and to a chain so that they could be hooked back to their perch. I eventually noticed that they were constantly biting at their tether. It caused me to wonder whether or not they were happy. They owls there seem domesticated, but very unhappy to be forced to have human contact. The novelty of the owl cafe has worn off… I just hope they are not abused and can freely fly around when the cafe closes at night. The next day, I went to the cat cafe in Akihabara. It was incredible. Cat cafes in Japan are very different than ones in the United States. All the cats were not only friendly, but atypical. They had an assortment of Munchkin Cats, Scottish Folds, American Curls, among others. The majority of them were fluffy and they even had four kittens that could be played with. The cafe was very different than the ones in the US because cat cafes in Ann Arbor for example are used to get adopted. It was really helped many older (usually unwanted) cats adopted. Eve if patroons do not adopt the cats, the money goes toward helping take care of the cats and find them loving, forever homes. The cat cafe in Tokyo was fun, but I feel it could be used to help stray cats find loving homes, rather than generate a profit. After that, I went to Disneysea in Tokyo. I can finally say I have pleasant memories at a disney theme park. Zach in section two went with me as well. We both shared a love of Disney and wanted to pack our day with as many attractions as possible. We did just that. Our day was filled with roller coasters, shows, and other attractions. We caught a show by chance. The usher was calling people to come in, so we did. It was definitely my favorite experience at the park. The actors and dancers were amazing. However, the best part of the show was the lead actress who was also an incredible vocalist. I got to listen to her and her cast members sing. Even though I did not understand one word, it was a beautiful production, worth seeing. Zach and I left just before the park closed, ending our adventure at the Disney shop to buy merchandise. I am happy to say I bought my first shot glass at Disneysea.

Blog #4 5/16/18

Today I went to the Imperial Garden. The trip started out like any other; however it ended up being more than I bargained for. I ended up getting separated from the group and then reuniting with Aabi. I had no idea that Dr. Thorsten had left by this time, or that the majority of my peers had as well. Although the trip was disorderly, I think it was definitely worth seeing. Future classes should also be able to have this amazing experience; however, it should be planned more strategically. When we went the meeting place was not the point nearest the station we all got off at. We had to walk quite a distance to get to our meeting spot, only to find our that we were entering the garden from our original location. Once inside it was very beautiful. The pink lilies and ponds with koi were worth seeing. I hope the future students are allowed to go.

Soon after I returned to the hostel, I had one of the most interesting experiences of my life. I was taking nap in my bed when I felt the bed shake. Irritated that I woke up I screamed “EMMA STOP SHAKING THE BED!” Then I noticed my bunk make Emma was not even in the room. I looked at my other roommate across the room. She had a look of horror on her face. We were experiencing an earthquake. Previously we had emergency earthquake training. I was grateful for it; however, at the time everything I learned slipped my mind. All I did was curl up in a ball, in bed, and hold my butterfly pillow pet. The earthquake did not last long. It was the initial shock and realization of what was actually happening that made it so scary. I had never felt so unsafe in my life. Natural disasters happen in Michigan, but nothing close to this. When I posted it on Facebook, my family freaked out. I let them know that I was safe. Japan has some of the best earthquake-proof buildings, so I made sure they knew I was safe.

The next day, we left for Kyoto, and I rode on a Shinkansen for the first time. It’s very impressive form of transportation. The ride took two and a half hours and I sat by Zach. I slept most of the way there, but when I woke up my ears would not stop popping. This gave me a lot of anxiety. I started to feel claustrophobic and desperately wanted off the train. I looked over to Zach and asked “Can I please look through your backpack? I need a distraction to keep me occupied until we stop.” Like the gentleman he is Zach handed over his backpack (even though he thought it was an extremely bizarre request) and let me look through it. He was as prepared as a boy scout, even though he informed me that he had never been a boy scout. Finally my anxiety calmed. The train stopped and we were able to get off at the platform, and start our great adventure in the ancient city of Kyoto.

Blog 5/24/2018 #7

Tonight is my last night in Japan. I am heartbroken to leave this great country, and all of the fantastic people I have met. My only solace in this process is knowing that all of these students are University of Michigan students. We will be able to meet up again and continue to develop these relationships into life long friendships. The people I have met have made a lasting impact on my life. Not only the other students, but the staff (specifically, Dr Marie Thorston), but also the locals we met along the way. One person I will never forget is Yuka. She owned the bar close to where the youth hostel was. We would go there almost every night to see her. We would exchange stories, reach her English, she would teach us Japanese. Overall, it was a positive experience.

When reflecting back on the country itself, I will always remember the way different genders and races are understood in that society. Japan is a very natalionist county. I know some of my friends of African-American decent whom were on the trip had a harder time navigating the country’s perception on race. Being white, was almost an advantage compared to being Japanese. This fascinated me. It was very evident in their advertisements. Many of the models and actors were white. I learned of techniques to bleach one’s skin to become more white. This was not only sad, but a little uncomfortable for me as someone who is white.

Lastly, their misogynist society will always impact my perception of Japanese culture. Although I loved the country and the people I met, the issue of gender is something I, as a woman, struggle with in America. Going to a different country and experiencing it on a deeper level is something that I am glad I have a deeper understanding of. I do love Japan as a country. I love their standards for cleanliness and politeness. I love that they have a low rate of crime, and that Tokyo is so safe in comparison to other large cities. However, it allowed me to have a perspective I had not had before. I also found it very confusing. The parallel between masculinity and “Kawaii Culture” was something that greatly confused me. Nevertheless, my experience in Japan was very positive and I cannot wait to return.