I realize that I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, but it is because of all the fun and exciting activities NUCB has organized for us exchange students!
First off, the Japanese Culture Club at NUCB organized a Tea Ceremony for all exchange students so we could experience the tradition by seeing how the tea is made and going through the steps of a proper ceremony. I have to say, I find it very impressive how long Japanese people are able to stay kneeling on the Tami mats. All of the foreign students, myself included, had a very difficult time doing so and eventually sat cross-legged (once we received permission of course!). The tea and Japanese treats that were offered to us were unlike any I’ve tasted before. The treats were very sweet and so they are offered first, followed by the tea which is fairly bitter. This is done to balance out the taste in your mouth.
Following the ceremony, we all had the opportunity to practice our Kanji and calligraphy skills on fans provided by the club. I was in awe of the accuracy and fluidity of the calligraphy done by the Japanese students who mentioned that most of them start learning this skill at the age of 6.
Following suit with this cultural experience, I headed to Kyoto a few days later. The trip was organized by the Contemporary Japanese Culture course at NUCB. We learned about the two main religions in Japan, Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto is the religion of the indigenous people of Japan and focuses on the harmony of all people, believing in many gods and living a pure and respectful lifestyle. We visited one Shinto shrine called Fushimi Inari which takes a few hours to walk through all the paths and see everything the shrine has to offer. It was definitely a beautiful and interesting site to see, with many people coming to pray and admire the intricacy of the walking paths and statues.
Next, we visited two Buddhist temples. The first of which was called Sanjusangendo where we were not allowed to take any photos. This temple was filled with 1000 statues of Kannon with one large Kannon statue in the middle of the temple that is 11.5 feet tall. This was an impressive site to see as each statue was incredibly detailed, each with different facial features and more than 740 years old. I spent a few hours just staring at the different faces. It is said that if you find a Kannon statue that looks like you, it is good luck. I was not so lucky as to find one, but I was mesmerized none the less.
Next we visited Kinkaku-ji, a Buddhist temple covered in gold sitting on the water, ever so peacefully.
The last stop on our trip in Kyoto was the Kyoto International Manga Museum. The museum was filled with thousands of Manga books and hundreds of people reading them. People were sitting, standing and laying in the museum with their heads buried in these books. Visiting this museum definitely demonstrated the huge Japanese cultural phenomenon that is Manga.
Visiting all of the places and experiencing the many different aspects of Japanese culture and religion has been incredibly interesting. These out-of-class experiences have really added to what I’m being taught in my courses. As cheesy as it sounds, I can’t wait to keep learning more!!