O, The Mountains!

Read all the exciting things our scholars have been up to!

Another week has passed by.

This week I had the opportunity to witness a Japanese tea ceremony (chadô 茶道) and then made my very own matcha (抹茶)stone ground Japanese-style green tea. I visited the famous Arashiyama bamboo grove, Tenryû-ji temple, and met a geiko (the term for geisha in Kyoto) and maiko (geiko apprentice) and shamisen musician.



Chadô (茶道) Ceremony


The Matcha I Made


Arashiyama Bamboo Grove


Me In The Grove


Tenryû-Ji Temple


Maiko (Geiko Apprentice)


Geiko (Kyoto Geisha)


Maiko, Me, Geiko

Not to mention, I continued to have several awkward and humorous interactions in Japanese, due to my limited knowledge, with several program coordinators and student volunteers.

Living in Japan with such limited Japanese is oftentimes stressful. I wholeheartedly wish to make friends and communicate with local people everyday. And though I try my best, I wish I could do more.

I find myself, time and time again, devising some simple way of expressing a complex thought because I’ve not yet studied enough advanced grammar, vocabulary, etc. Though I’ve discovered that much can be expressed even with my limited knowledge, so long as I have ample creativity, it is not enough for me to couple a few strategically chosen words together with hand gestures in order to communicate. I want to learn to express so much more. When speaking with the Japanese student volunteers I can usually only muster short phrases. Because the questions they ask require more than I know in order to answer, I rarely have the chance to speak in full sentences. The difficulty stunts most conversations and both sides are left to assume what can’t be properly stated or understood.

When speaking at length with one volunteer about his hometown, I struggled to ask questions about what life was like where he came from and grew incredibly frustrated.

Not only that, sometimes the most simple things slip my mind. Most Japanese students use casual speech. I do not have much practice with it (since honorific speech is usually stressed in the classroom) and so I tend to forget or take too long to properly conjugate words. I end up using formal speech, thereby sacrificing the casual mood of the conversation in order to get the point across.

I can be painfully shy, but I find myself wishing, ironically, to convey in Japanese what I usually wouldn’t bring myself to in English.

Kyoto is a beautiful sight and it helps ameliorate frustration and disappointment. I’ve fallen in love with the mountains that envelop the city on all sides, the hot days and cool nights, the sloping hills and cliff peaks.

The sight of Arashiyama, upon stepping off the bus was enough to make me gasp, laugh and tear up. The cool whip of wind coming up the Ôi river, the men and women, dressed in kimono, crossing the Togetsukyô bridge, and the gulls flying to and fro made my heart swoon. I’ll never forget that sight!


Arashiyama District


Crossing Togetsukyô Bridge

Though I struggle and trip up, there is always something in Kyoto that breaks my fall.

Bye for now…