My final week in Japan has passed as well as my time abroad. My time learning Japanese at Ryukoku University was over and we took a shinkansen to Hiroshima and Tokyo to finish the program. The goal of these trips were to experience different aspects of Japanese culture as well as explore different parts of Japan.
My time on Hiroshima was short, but eventful. The most popular site in Hiroshima has to be Itsukushima shrine. It is a tall gate built on the shore of Mijima Island. I took a ferry across to Mijima Island and got to get a good look at the shrine from afar. The shrine was being renovated at the time, but there were smaller boats taking people even closer to the shrine.
It is fascinating to me that these historical relics continue to be protected and rebuilt. There are many times in history that structures of great historical importance are destroyed, but Japanese castles, shrines, and temples are rebuilt upon destruction and maintained for people to enjoy. I think it is important to preserve pieces of history because there are few left which makes the ones we do have all the more important, historically and culturally.
After a day in Hiroshima, I finally got to go to the place I was most looking forward to. Tokyo was one of Japan’s biggest cities and that was clear to see as soon as I reached the area. Tokyo was like another world
compared to Kyoto and Hiroshima. The buildings were huge and there were skyscrapers everywhere. I never had to crane my neck up to see a building before. It was an exciting experience.
Unfortunately, there was some trouble when we reached the Tokyo hotel I would be staying in for three days. The program director came down with a sickness that left her bedridden for all of our Tokyo stay. As a result, I navigated Tokyo and the surrounding areas alone. Once again, I used Google maps on my smartphone to find my way around Tokyo and the train stations without getting lost.
There were times the app stopped working, but the abundance of convenience stores with free Wi-Fi enabled me to start the app up again and continue walking in the correct direction. An additional issue was that without the program director, I was unable to fully comprehend what people were saying to me when I asked a question like “Where do I find the station employee?
I had to recall as much Japanese I learned over the summer and try to communicate using broken Japanese sentences and English. It took a while, but I was able to grasp what they were trying to communicate to me. I greatly appreciate their willingness to take time out of their work shift to make sure I understood what they were trying to say.
It showed me the most famous aspect of Japanese society: omotenashi. Omotenashi basically means hospitality in Japanese. Many visitors to Japan talk about how welcoming and helpful Japanese people are, and now I am one of them because I can attest to that fact. I managed to visit the Tokyo tower, a Japanese version of the Eiffel Tower. It is gigantic and can be seen from miles away. It humbled me to see this engineering marvel in person.
My time in Tokyo and Hiroshima was short, but very fulfilling. This study abroad was a great experience for me because I gained a new perspective on my life. I spent the past 5 weeks budgeting my money so it would last as long as possible. It really helped me learn the value of money.
One American dollar is about 100 Japanese yen so I had plenty to spend but I was hesitant to purchase anything but necessities like food. Therefore, I do not have a suitcase full of souvenirs, but I do feel more confident in properly saving and investing my finances.
This experience has really let me appreciate the United States more. It put me in the shoes of a minority in a country I did not completely understand. It is so much harder to accomplish when there is a language barrier. I think anyone who is interested should make the time to travel abroad for themselves and gain a direct understanding. I would like to thank the Fund for Education Abroad in allowing me the chance to experience it for myself.