Japan is a time machine.
It’s harmony driven, melding together the old and the new as if there was never a separation between the two.
This term, I have been living in Japan. For the first two weeks, I was a part of a small program called Kyoto Inspirations which stems out of Kyoto Seika University and is represented by Ken Rodgers (https://www.kyoto-seika.ac.jp/eng/kyoto_inspiration/). Mr. Rodgers, originally from Australia, has lived in Kyoto for over 30 years. He teaches English, started a volunteer magazine, and adores Kyoto so much that he made it a point to share its uniqueness with others, using Kyoto Inspirations as his outlet. During my time there, I attended lectures, visited several shrines and gardens, slept in a temple, and got to experience first-hand what exactly makes Kyoto separate from the rest of the world.
For most, when they hear about Kyoto, they may envision an older, more traditional Japan. Culture and structure are the backbone of Kyoto, but there is much more than that. There is a blend between modernity and traditional that has spread, reflecting the inner qualities of its people. Downtown, there are large buildings, clusters of people, and brand names from corner to corner. But, in between it all, there are also traditional homes and storefronts, mountains, Torii gates, and shrines and gardens that keep time at a standstill.
While in Kyoto, I got to go off on my own and try new things. I ate a baby octopus and quail egg in Nishiki Market, traveled to Fushimi Inari-taisha, experienced a tea ceremony, and attended Gion Matsuri where I caught a glimpse of a couple of Geisha walking around at night.
The morning after my first time at an onsen, a hot spring, and sleeping in a temple, I was able to watch the monks perform their morning chants and prayers. While visiting the temple, it felt as though I was longer in the city, but, just passed the gates, there were crowded streets.
Before I move on to Osaka and Tokyo, I am studying the Japanese language at the YAMASA Institute in Aichi, Japan (https://www.yamasa.org/en/index.html). YAMASA’s goal is to teach Japanese to any who wish to learn it. They do it kind-heartedly, their instructors go above and beyond to ensure that their students experience as much of Japan that they possibly can. The classes are engaging and there are weekend trips available. Here, at YAMASA, I have met several people form all over the world including Spain, England, and Taiwan. From my time in Aichi, I hope to bring back an overall progressed understanding of Japanese and a fair amount of independence. Since I’ve been out of country, I have learned how to navigate a subway system, a train station, and have ridden the city bus – something that I never thought of doing in America.
All of these experiences, and so much more, are what I hope to bring back with me when I return to Antioch in the Fall.