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The Trip to Japan

In January 2023 I was lucky enough to be chosen to participate in a study tour one of my favourite places in the world, Japan.

The tour was structured with daily organised activities, but all accommodation, food, travel, and activities in your free time were self-guided. Figuring out how to survive on my own in a foreign place and coming to understand things like the JR and metro systems in Tokyo,(which seem nightmarishly complicated at first) granted me a sense of independence which I have really come to appreciate, as I now feel greater confidence in myself to travel solo in other countries too.

Across the cities we visited, we stayed in several accomodation typologies, such as microapartmentsin Tokyo, traditional machiyas in Kyoto, ryokans in Kanazawa, and capsulehotels in Fukuoka. It was interesting to discover the inhabitation of Japanese people fromancient to modern, and how the layout of their dwellings often reflected unique culturalvalues and situations of the time. The tour also took us to the headquarters of specificDesign firms, such as Nendo; the company that designed the Olympic Torch for Tokyo2021. Getting to experience such unique and normally non-accessible spaces was anincredible privilege.

The day we visited Nendo was also the first day we saw snow on thetrip, which resulted in the group having a snowball fight and building snowmen together.Other renowned works we visited included the famous Art House projects, Yayoi Kusama’syellow pumpkin, Tadao Ando’s Chichu Museum and the immensely stunning Teshima ArtMuseum.

There are so many little highlights of my time in Japan that I could write about, like tryingall the convenience store snacks, meeting otters at an otter cafe, and bike riding on the ArtIslands, but one of the most personally surprising was staying at a temple in Koyasan; amountain village highly significant to Japanese Buddhism that is accessed via cable car.We stayed as a group in traditional tatami rooms, hosted by the monks who lived there,and were treated with the most extravagant vegetarian meal I’ve ever eaten as well aspartaking in a Japanese Buddhist morning ritual.

The amount of places we visited within only two weeks was insane, and many of them, like Koyasan, were places I probably never would have visited otherwise. While this meant hours of travel on some days, it actually added to the experience; the time spent flying through the countryside on Shinkansen and eating delicious ‘ekiben’ were actually some of my favourite parts of the trip.

As someone who would usually only visit the big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, and generally prefers ‘modern’ Japan over traditional, the trip really showed me the value of stepping out of usual boundaries; exploring the many facets that a country has to offer and opening yourself to experiences that you normally wouldn’t think to do, because they might just subvert your expectations and become some of the best memories.

Anderson, Claire

Global Short Program Student (Faculty-Led)

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