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  • Sasha 10:55 pm on December 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Dear Japan… 

    Thank you for:

    1) Teaching me how to bike in a typhoon

    2) Letting me be a geek

    3) Pan (“pastries”)

    4) Making toe-socks cool!

    5) Teaching me how to ride a bike in a skirt

    6) Having streets so clean you can eat off of them

    7) The transit system

    8) Teaching me how to cook rice

    9) Showing me that the only big things in Japan are the spiders and the crows

    10) Window blinds. They are completely necessary, especially when the sun rises at 6 am. Every. Single. Day.

    11) Making bowling common (Yes. Bowling is in fact a sport!)

    12) No real cheese, regular milk, or index cards (anywhere!)

    13) Nice construction workers

    14) Japanese music

    15) Teaching me what nato is

    16) The most amazing food ever!

    17) Black swans

    18) Japanese doughnuts (which taste exactly the same as American doughnuts)

    19) Octopus tentacles

    20) Making history interesting

    21) Teaching me that it is perfectly acceptable, in fact encouraged, to wait until the cross walk says to “walk” rather than chancing it with passing cars

    22) The most lax airport security

    23) Kaitenzushi

    24) Colorful cars, buses, construction vehicles, and garbage trucks

    25) Motorcycle gangs dressed up as Santa

    (I’ve limited myself to only 25 things I would like to thank Japan for, as my list could go on and on.)

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  • viennamf 11:54 am on December 14, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Kenji 

    Kenji and me in Tokyo in October

    This is my friend Kenji.  I met him last year when I spent two weeks at Technos College in Tokyo through the Tanaka Educational Trust Scholarship, or the Technos International Week Program.  I can never get the name right, but it was  Kenji was one of the student leaders and constantly went out of his way to show us around and make sure that we were having a good time. We kept in contact over the past year via Facebook and when I visited Tokyo earlier this semester we had the chance to meet up. We got to go out to an izakaya (a sort of restaurant/bar type place that is everywhere in Japan) together and he got to meet two of my classmates from JCMU.  He also spent a good deal of his weekend with us, showing us around and wandering around Tokyo.  It was really great to be able to reconnect with someone who I had only really briefly met before.  Then in November Kenji was able to visit me in Hikone. Unfortunately it was a very brief visit and the weather was rainy, but it was really exciting to have him visit because he has never been to this part of Japan before.  It was interesting playing tour guide to a Japanese person in Japan.  I took him to Hikone Castle and the Roman Brewing Company in Nagahama and then took him to Kyoto for his first visit. We got to experience the light-up at Kiyomizudera together and it was really nice to just get to know him better. He is currently working at JTB, a Japanese travel agency, and is ambitious to improve his English and one day move to the US or New Zealand to open his own okinomiyaki shop. He is a very laid back and gentle person and has actually picked up a lot of American humor and sarcasm. I am really glad that I got the chance to reconnect with him and hopefully we will continue to be friends and we will meet up more in the future.

    Kenji at Hikone Castle

    On a small language side note, I really noticed the difference between Kansai-ben (the dialect of Japanese spoken in the Western part of Japan) and Tokyo-ben (the standard Japanese dialect that is based off of what they speak in Toyko and what is typically taught in Japanese classes).  I had already known that a lot of my problems with understanding what was said around me sometimes had to do with not understanding the Kansai dialect. However, I did not completely realize how drastically the two can be when I talked to Kenji and Kansai speakers at the same time. It was far easier for me to understand Kenji than my host family and I didn’t think that there was really that much of a difference before.  Kenji said that Kansai-ben sounded funny to him and that once he started hearing it he knew he was in the country.

     
  • DougReilly 2:38 pm on December 9, 2011 Permalink | Reply
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    Wrapping it Up! 

    First off, the weekly challenge winner for “advice” was Sasha!

    Next, it’s snowing out this morning in Geneva, the air is quiet, students are scurrying around in a sedate, last day of classes kind of way. The semester’s definitely going the way of last summer’s leaves, and it’s time to say a few words to wrap things up.

    I think I speak for Juliet as well when I say what a wonderful experience this blog has been. It’s been great for us to get a little window into your experience abroad; it’s been a long time since our own international studies. Thanks for your perseverance, dedication and willingness to share of yourselves. I’ll say all this again when we meet for lunch next semester. Juliet and I have been very impressed with your writing, photography, videography, but most of all, and independent of medium, your insight. We’ve learned a lot, so thanks teachers.

    On my way out of Japan, I decided to stop into Hikone again to try to rustle up a little group exploration (I still hope that might bear fruit–or croissants). While I waited for the Kyoto/Hikone train, I stopped for noodles at a little track-side restaurant…box. There were four chefs there, two young, two old, three women, one man. They were some of the first people I saw in Japan having a good time at their jobs. They were laughing and joking with each other as steam rose and noodles got tossed from pot to bowl. I had a blast watching them, and at the end I asked if I could take their portrait. I gave them an Asiapod moo card. I’m sure there were totally perplexed by my presence. Well, that photo was the best one from my Japan visit. And you know what? It’s gone. I left it on the ipad and then turned that loaner back in, and it was wiped…and now it’s gone forever. So I’ll end this little story with a question about the things we carry and the things we leave behind and the things we lose. Would I value this photo as much if I hadn’t lost it? And to make that question wider and perhaps more applicable to all of you who are too smart to hand back a loaner ipad without first saving the images on it: Is an ending necessary for the appreciation of the story?

    Discuss.

     
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