On my second week in Japan, I had the chance to introduce my university to Japanese students, and travel to the Osaka and Nara prefectures.
Before I traveled to Japan, I had the assignment of creating a PowerPoint describing the school I attended, Albany State University, as well as the City of Albany. With my program director, I managed to construct a 10-minute long slideshow describing facts about Albany State University like its creation by Joseph Holley and its status as a Historically Black College and University. I also touched on my favorite locations in the city of Albany like Chehaw Park, Thronateeska Heritage Center, and the Flint River Aquarium.
The unfortunate reality is that I had to present in English but my audience were Japanese college students who had some difficulty in understanding me, but my presentation was well-received by all present so I believe I can call it a success. Also the students had an assignment to present a slideshow to me. They made a presentation on the social issues facing Japan such as a rapidly aging population. One of their solutions was introducing more foreigners to Japan, but a big hurdle for foreigners, as well as myself, is understanding the complex language known as Japanese. Learning Japanese is not something that can be done in a month or two.
It requires a lifelong commitment to maintain memory and knowledge of all the nuances and grammar present in the language. This issue was one the class hopes to solve by implementing what they call “Easy Japanese.” It is simply the Japanese made as simple as possible so communication with foreigners is easier. This system would make Japan a more inviting place to move to as well as make disaster relief efforts easier due to easy communication. I think the venture has merit and should definitely be adopted. Overall, I had a good time introducing something new to people, listening to their presentation, and talking with them afterwards.
Also during this week, my program director and I went to the Nara prefecture to see the Todaiji temple, but I think the most interesting thing about Nara are the many, many deer littering the land. Now it was rarity to see deer in my city of Albany. I always saw them at a distance from a car, and they were very timid, but these Nara deer were the complete opposite. These deer were everywhere and unafraid of humans.
They actively went up to humans, most likely expecting something to eat. In fact, capitalizing on these deers’ tameness were stands selling “Shika Senbei” or deer crackers. Buy a pack and deer will swarm you until you give them a bite. I admit that getting large animals chasing you around was a little intimidating but the deer were definitely harmless. The only thing you had to be careful of was stepping in their poo.
At Todaiji was a large Buddha statue and several smaller statues of important figures in Buddhist lore. The most interesting thing that happened there was that I had the chance to crawl through a hole in one of the pillars. The act is said to bring happiness. After getting enough, we walked to a Nara building and got a good view at the top. After that, we walked back to the nearest and retired for the day.
The next place we visited was the Osaka prefecture. Osaka was the furthest location by far so we had to switch trains quite a bit. Fortunately for the health conscious, getting around Japan requires lots of walking which we did. I saw some unique artwork in the station along the way. The first place we visited was Expo City. It was a large department store filled with tons of stores.
It was also home the Japan’s largest Ferris wheel. I have an aggressive fear of heights so I immediately declined getting on. Instead, we walked through the mall and I ate a pizza. Afterwards, we left and took a train to the location of Osaka castle. It was an ancient castle built by a major daimyo named Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Now it was a museum exhibiting ancient Japanese artifacts. Unfortunately, there were rules against photographing some objects, but I did capture some interesting pieces. We also got a great view from the top of the tower which was packed with people. Later, we walked to another Japanese restaurant where we had some squid soba and squid okonomiyaki. It was pretty good and I was full afterwards. Then we walked through a local food market and walked back to the train station and took a long train ride back.
It was a very eventful week and I very much enjoyed Nara and Osaka. I cannot wait to see where we go next.