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Final Thoughts and Reflections

Group picture

It’s really sad that my journey in Japan is over, it was an truly awesome experience that I will never forget. I’ve met some really interesting people, I got the chance to visit places that most people dreamed of visiting, and most importantly, I fulfilled my dream of actually going to Japan. I’ve really learned a lot from all of the companies we went to during our trip, but I also learned a little bit about myself as well.

Being out of the country for two weeks made me realize that there’s a whole world to explore, new things to experience, and new connections to make. I really would like to do more traveling in the future, I realize now that the world has a lot more to offer. If I do decide to travel more, I’m definitely coming back to Japan. There’s a lot I’ve missed the first time around, I really wanted to see more of Kyoto, and I would also like to see Mt. Fuji as well.

I’m really grateful that I had the opportunity to be on this trip, and hopefully the people who read this blog get inspired to get out of their comfort zones, and expand their horizons.

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Last Day: FutureScope/Digital Frontier and Yakiniku (Part 2 of 2)

FutureScope

After we visited DNP, we went to FutureScope, which is a company that distributes services and content for mobile phones. FutureScope is a member of the Fields Corporation Group, which primarily develop and sell pachinko machines. Fields is made up of other companies like Lucent Pictures and Digital Frontier for example. Lucent Pictures is a company that mainly produces animated features, some of which has won the Best Animated Feature Award. One interesting fact about FutureScope is that they actually own the distribution rights for the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise, which is like Gundam, another popular series in Japan.

Golden EVA-01

Afterwards, we met the group that worked for Digital Frontier, which is a motion picture company that specializes in full CG (computer generated) animation. Some of their most well know work include the live action versions of Death Note and GANTZ, both of which are very popular in Japan, the most recent animated Resident Evil movie, and they even worked on the animation for Metal Gear Solid 4. Digital Frontier also houses one of Asia’s largest motion capture studio, it would be interesting to see if that’s true or not.

Yakiniku dinner

After our visit with FutureScope, our professor took us all out for a yakiniku dinner. Yakiniku is where all of the meat is delivered raw, and we cook it ourselves in a table top grill. Some of the meat was interesting to say the least. While they did have the standard beef, there was also cow shoulder, tongue, and stomach. I think it would be wise for someone to actually do a little bit of research about yakiniku before they decide if they want to try it, just as a forewarning. It was nice to get everyone together before we went our separate ways, I really hope we all can get together again when we return to East Lansing.

Gundam Rising

Giant Gundam

During one of our free days, me and a few friends went to Odaiba. Odaiba is a man-made island that has lots to do and see there. There were a few of malls, a giant Ferris wheel, and even a replica of the Statue of Liberty. But that wasn’t the reason why we went.  In front of Diver City (one of the malls on the island) was the giant Gundam statue. For those that don’t know about Gundam, the franchise was created by Yoshiyuki Tomino in 1979 with the release of the anime Mobile Suit Gundam. Since then, the Gundam series has become one Japan’s most popular franchises spanning many anime series, video games, and models kits.  The statue was built to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the series, and seeing this thing up close is nothing short of amazing.

Diver City

Diver City itself was pretty amazing as well. The mall was like a combination of Great Lakes Crossing and the Mall of America put together, that’s how huge it was. The mall has seven floors, and there many stores on each of the levels.  There was also a floor that had nothing but restaurants, there was even a grocery store on that floor.

Gundam Front Tokyo

On the seventh floor, there was Gundam Front Tokyo, which is a museum dedicated to telling the history of the Gundam franchise. Once we got inside, there was a lot to see. We saw a timeline that gave details about each series in order of release, also we got to see actual storyboards from the original series. There was also some type of kiosk were you can look at  character profiles from each of the different shows  in the entire metaseries.

Gundam model gallery

One thing that was impressive about this place was the gallery of Gundam models near the entrance. There were big models, small models, and a few models of the spaceships that were used in the multiple shows in the metaseries. It’s interesting to see a franchise like Gundam to have such an impact on a country’s culture, but I find it a little disheartening that there isn’t a franchise that has such significance in the U.S.

And now for your viewing pleasure, here’s the Mobile Suit Gundam opening

Trip to Nara and Osaka Castle

During our last day in Osaka, we visited Nara to check out the Todai-ji temple.  Todai-ji is a temple that houses one of the largest Buddha statues in the world. Like Miyajima, deer roam around freely in the area that leads to the temple. Unlike last time, none of the deer tried to eat our maps. Instead, we fed them crackers that people can buy to feed them. I got a little nervous because it felt like my fingers were going to be bitten off trying to feed the deer.

Tōdai-ji, Nara

The main hall that houses the Buddha statue was magnificent, it was truly a sight to behold.  It was also awesome to see all the schoolchildren scattering about the area as well. We got a chance to interact with a few of them by saying hello to them, taking pictures, etc. It was really cool being famous for a day.

Giant Budda statue

Once inside, we finally saw the Buddha statue. This thing was massive, it was awesome to see this thing up close. We also saw other statues that represented other deities as well. Although I don’t know that much about Buddhism, but it was awesome to see the religion still has an impact on Japanese culture to this very day.

Osaka-jo

After we left Nara, we finally made our way to Osaka Castle. It was a bit of a walk trying to get to the castle, but once we got there it was truly a magnificent sight. Once we got to the top, we got a beautiful shot of the Osaka skyline. It would’ve been nice to see the inside of the castle, but seeing from the outside was good enough I guess. Osaka is a great city, hopefully I can get to come back when I return to Japan one day.

 

A Day in Kyoto

Going to Kyoto was already on my list of places that I wanted to see when I got to Japan. I always thought that Kyoto was the capital of Japan, but it was somewhat surprising to find out the capital moved to Tokyo during the Meji Restoration. Nonetheless, this city has so much rich history, and being here was truly awesome. The first place we went to on our trip was Kinkaku-ji, which is home to the Golden Pavilion. The pavilion was surrounded by a large pond that reflects the building in the water, it was truly an awesome sight.

Nijo Castle

The second place we visited was Nijo Castle, which was built by the Tokugawa shogunate. The most interesting part of this place was the palace on the castle grounds. Unfortunately, we weren’t allow to take pictures inside the palace, which was a shame because the inside of the building was interesting in terms of how it was designed. One interesting fact about the palace is that the floors were designed in such a way that every time you took a step, the floor would squeak. This was used as a defense mechanism to try and catch those that were trying to sneak in the palace.

Garden on the castle grounds

Like Kinkaku-ji, Nijo Castle was filled with gardens that were equally beautiful. The only difference between the gardens of Kinkaku-ji and the ones on the castle grounds is that it’s almost like as if you were walking around a park.

Kiyomizu-dera

The last place we visited in Kyoto was the Kiyomizu-dera shrine. I personally had somewhat of a love-hate experience with this particular site visit. The reason why I loved it is that the shrine was built on top of a hill, which gave you a great view of the city. The reason why this site visit wasn’t one of my favorites is for the fact that the shrine was built on top of a hill. Why would someone build a shrine near a mountain!

Graveyard in Kiyomizu-dera

But one of the most awe-inspiring thing I’ve seen during this site visit was the massive graveyard on the temple grounds. It was truly an amazing sight to see this many tombstones in one place, I couldn’t imagine seeing this place at night. Kyoto is such an amazing city, but it sucks that I didn’t get to see Nintendo HQ since it was founded in Kyoto. Hopefully, I might get to see it when I come back one day.

Japanese Food: A Different Breed of Cuisine

Ebi (Shrimp) Burger

Japanese food may look weird, but it can be really tasty depending on the dish. But be warned! Some food in Japan may look good, but you could be eating something that you’re not use to eating, and there could be a chance you might get sick. There are many restaurants that surround many of the streets and corners of Tokyo that serve traditional Japanese food like ramen and beef bowls, but some of the big name fast food places like Burger King and Krispy Kreme are also there to serve your craving for American food. But there’s one thing that a person should know about the fast food places in Japan. While they do have some of the foods that are popular in the U.S., they also have certain items that are unique and exclusive to Japan only. One prime example would be the Ebi (shrimp) Burger from McDonald’s, which is a tempura shrimp patty with a spicy mustard sauce. While I didn’t try this particular burger myself, but I’ve heard good things about it.

Okonomiyaki

There are other traditional dishes that confined by region. For example, okonomiyaki is mostly found in the Kansai and Hiroshima regions. Okonomiyaki is a kind of savory pancake-like dish that’s layered with cabbage, egg, different kinds of meats, noodles, and other items. Trying Okonomiyaki was one dish that I really wanted to try when I got to Japan, now that I finally had my chance to eat it, the wait was worth it.

Kobe Beef

But nothing compares to the beauty that is Kobe beef. Words cannot describe how tasty this particular dish is, it was like eating the steak of the Gods. The price of this dish for the restaurant we went to usually costs around 4,500 yen ($50), but it’s totally worth it for what you’re getting. While Japanese cuisine is good in some aspects, nothing beats a good old fashion cheeseburger.

Hiroshima: A symbol for Peace

Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima

Of all the places I’ve been to during my trip, going to Hiroshima was truly a somber experience. Hiroshima is known for being the first city to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon on August 6, 1945, and seeing some of the things I saw there was depressing and inspiring at the same time. The first thing we saw there was the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, or the Atomic Dome, which was designed by a Czech architect. When the bomb was detonated, the building was able withstand most of the force from the explosion. The building now stands in ruins, serving as a reminder of that fateful day.

Children's Memorial Park

After that, we went to Children’s Memorial Park, which serves as a memorial to the children that died because of the bombing. The statue represents a girl who died from radiation poisoning from the bomb. She believed that if she folded 1,000 paper cranes, she would be cured. The monument is now surrounded by paper cranes that people sent from around the world to Hiroshima.

Hiroshima Peace Museum

The last place we visited was the Hiroshima Peace Museum. In this place, we learned more about the city before and after the atomic bombing. Hearing the stuff about the bombing and how the people suffered really got to me. I also find it amazing that after so many years since the bombing, the Japanese feels no animosity towards the U.S. But seeing all of the schoolchildren during our visit to the museum was really inspiring. Going to Hiroshima will be something that I’ll never forget.

 

Miyajima

Goju-no-to Pagoda

Miyajima is a small town located on the island of Itsukushima in the Hiroshima Prefecture. One word to describe this town would be beautiful. There were many shrines and temples on the island, but there was one thing that was really interesting about this town.

Deer in Miyajima

There were deer that roamed in the area around the visitor’s center. The deer were very tame, you could actually walk up to them and pet them. One of the deer actually ate my friend’s map, it was really funny.

Itsukushima Shrine

Miyajima is known for the famous Itsukushima Shrine and the torii (gate) that welcomes visitors to the island.  Unfortunately, the torii was under renovation, so I never actually got to see it in all its glory.

Torii near the Itsukushima Shrine

Overall, Miyajima is a beautiful island that’s rich with history. It’s a shame that there  aren’t many places like this back in America, I feel like going to places like Miyajima would be beneficial to people who are interested in learning about a different culture. Being on this study abroad trip has helped me to experience things that I probably wouldn’t get to experience back home, and I’m truly blessed to get the opportunity to gain first hand knowledge about a culture other than my own.

Transition to Osaka

Osaka

After spending 4 days in Tokyo, we finally made our transition to Osaka. Compared to Tokyo, Osaka was a new beast to conquer. There was a new subway system to memorize (which was somewhat of a pain), new places to discover, and plus I got the chance to ride on the Shinkansen (bullet train) multiple times.

Many restaurants in Osaka

Osaka had many places that one could go if they’re looking for something fun to do. While trying to find something to eat with my friends, we found a street that was lined with many restaurants and stores. We eventually found a restaurant that was really cheap, and served great food.

Advertisment for Gundam models in Den Den Town

One of the things that was interesting in Osaka was Den Den Town. Den Den Town is a shopping district that sold mostly electronics and other goods, similar to Akihabara in Tokyo. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of this place due to the fact that most of the stores close around 8:30 pm.  I’m making sure that I come back to Osaka again if I return to Japan, mostly just to go to Den Den Town when it’s open.

Shibuya: Tokyo’s Time Square

Shibuya

Shibuya is definitely one of the most interesting places I’ve been to on my trip. Like Asakusa, Shibuya is really busy due to the influx of people coming to and from the train station there.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya is known for its famous scramble crossing. The crossing is located in front of the train station, and it stops the traffic in all directions allowing people to cross the intersection. Experiencing something like this was really interesting, it would’ve been awesome to see a giant flash mob take place here.

Statue of Haciko

Another interesting thing about Shibuya is the statue of Hachiko near Shibuya Station. The story behind this statue is Hachiko would always greet his master near the train station every day. Even after his master died, Hachiko would always go to the station and wait for him. This continued on for nine years from 1924 to 1932, and the statue was erected as a symbol of his loyalty to his master.

Shibuya at night

There was a lot to do in Shibuya. There were many department stores, arcades, and a few bars that people can go to. It’s definitely a great place people can go to have a good night out.