Written by Erin Felvus ’22
Japan has long been near the top of my to-be-visited list, so getting to actually visit the country and do and see so much there was definitely a cool experience. Despite being in the country for only about three weeks, it felt like we here able to see a lot of it, or at least of Kyushu, and the people, especially the university visits, were although not on my list of things to do, were really interesting.
Ask almost anyone to associate a word with Japan, and they’ll probably say Tokyo; the two are almost synonymous, even if there are definitely differences, but it makes sense that that was one of the most impactful places, but also in part because we spent the most time there as a group and subsequently did the most. Not to say the other places we visited won’t get a mention, merely Tokyo had more opportunities. Admittedly part of the focus of the trip was tradition and modernity, but is still a jarring experience to go from the centuries old practices and styles of Kabuki theatre to the sensory overload that is Shinjuku, and they both have their own charms. The former is entertaining, yet with a rather more history buff type of entertaining, conversely, shinjuku has a much stronger “anything goes,” feel, popular with those who enjoy the nightlife.
To take a polar opposite direction, beyond seeing Tokyo and the wide variety that it offers, a not-to-be missed place would probably be Hiroshima and specifically the Peace Museum, and the Peace Park in conjunction but mostly the museum. It was a sobering and emotional experience, and while not without emotional complications considering the very topic of the museum and my own nationality, but there was no judgement beyond what the one’s own mind conjured up and it was, if not a highlight, one of the most moving and grave moments that I can recall to date. The Peace Park outside was not the emotional and informational impact of the museum—better for more sensitive or younger audiences perhaps— however, it was a lovely place to spend time as the grounds were both archives and a social spot for the denizens of Hiroshima. The city itself was a surprise, I personally was not expecting the thriving city, I don’t think I’m alone in saying that Hiroshima is always connected to the bomb in my mind, and thus the beautiful city took me by surprise.
We mostly stayed in cities, and the majority of visitors to Japan probably do, but the natural beauty, as well as meaning that we saw elsewhere was equally valuable to the city-time. I grew up with cherry trees, there is very little about then that evokes great emotion in me, yet, on the train to Takayama, picking out the white and pink islands amongst the rest of the forest felt rather more special than familiarity would warrant. The temples and shrines sitting incongruously among the homes and businesses was similar feeling, stone and wood juxtaposed with metal and glass; not unique to Japan by any stretch, but it never failed to prompt some feeling at the natural way that the opposites fit together to make a comprehensive scene.
Of course, no discussion of Japan is complete without robots, or at least advanced or tech heavy tools. We had the opportunity to visit the Robo care center and even for someone who isn’t particularly interested with robots, there was an giddy, child-like glee in interacting with them. Beyond mere fun, there is also the practical or at least hoped for applications of the robots and technologies in future years, in keeping with their intended purpose of serving society.
To put it briefly then, there were so many aspects of the visit to Japan that were interesting or incredible, and after seeing one things, I’d get ideas for more and a repeat visit is definitely advisable.