I had been to Tokyo once before, but this summer I got the opportunity to return to Japan and study abroad for seven weeks at Senshu University. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity. I learned a lot about the Japanese language, but more importantly, got to experience the culture and make friends from all over the world.
We were able to experience many aspects of Japanese culture, traditional and modern. One of my favorite days this summer (despite the humid heat) was the trip to Kamakura, an old part of Japan just outside of Tokyo that houses many shrines and temples. We went to half a dozen shrines that day. At one we hiked up the side of a hill where the hydrangeas were blooming. After, we all got paper fortunes- omikuji. The next shine was Daibustu, with a giant statue of Buddha. At another shrine, we hiked through a forest of tall bamboo. And at another, we saw a traditional Japanese wedding taking place in the bright red building in the center. Before we returned that day, we also went to the beach at Enoshima and one of our Canadian friends got to see the ocean for the first time. On other occasions we went to Kabuki theatre and a folk museum.
The streets of Tokyo are crowded, much different than Oregon where I have spent my whole life. Sometimes the crowded trains and thoroughfares could be overwhelming, but there was also an energy there that I miss. It’s weird to leave my house now and not be around hundreds of people at a time. Tokyo is the biggest and most populous city in the world, and I think even if I spent 7 years there, let alone the seven months I had, I don’t think I would even begin to scratch the surface of all it has to offer. It made every day that we went to the metropolitan area an adventure.
But by far the most rewarding aspect of my time abroad is the new friendships that I forged there. Classes were long, but we still had plenty of time afterwards just to explore Tokyo and spend time with the other students.Whenever we made plans, whether we were going across Tokyo to Ikebukuro or Akihabara or just walking down near the train station for karaoke, it was always an invitation. Everyone was so open and inviting. And since we lived in an international dorm with students from all around the world, on any given day, I would be hanging out with not just Americans and Japanese, but I also made bonds with new Korean, Chinese, French, Vietnamese, German, Canadian, Italian, and English friends. They have, all of them, opened my eyes to the world.Overall, the experience made me aware of how big the world is. It can be so easy to get caught up in our comfortable lives, not even really aware of just how much goes on outside of our own city, state, or country. I hope I never lose the perspective of how much else there is out there, and how many people there are with completely different experiences. In meeting so many friends from around the globe, it opens your eyes to how easy it is to make a bind with people who may seem completely different from yourself on the surface.
-Blair Prater, Summer 2016