During Orientation Week, Kansai Gaidai hosted their Asian Studies Program Opening Ceremony. They invited guests such as the US Consulate General of Osaka-Kobe, Allen Greenberg, who gave a speech on the complexities of today’s intercultural and political geographies. After this, we were treated to a Nankin Tamasudare,a traditional Japanese street performance utilizing bamboo blinds. The performers were all elder Japanese citizens, so I found this quite adorable.
The Asian Studies Program for the 2014-2015 semester (courtesy of Kansai Gaidai)
All the flags of the representative nations
View of the Nankin Tamasudare performance
Later on that day, the international students were led on tours to Kyoto. My group had two Japanese female student-guides. We had a blast visiting two shrines in Kyoto as well as trying green tea ice cream.
My group for the Kyoto Tour
The next day, since I tested into Japanese 3 I was required to attend a lab orientation. Since I was already at school, and my roommate Maria wanted to head to Hirakata Park, the local amusement park, I had her meet me and we rode our bikes down to it. Finding it was harder than it looked on Google Maps however….all we did was basically follow the train tracks down until we saw the Ferris wheel on our left, and eventually made our way to the entrance. The Park was hosting an event for a famous anime about basketball called Kuroko no Basket. My brother loves this show and so does Maria, so I thought I’d give it a look. I was surprised how much work went into this “exhibit” like event, where “memorabilia” was made for characters that don’t actually exist. It was truly for the most committed of fans. Even the cafe at the Park had drinks and desserts dedicated to some of the characters from the anime, for a limited time of course.
Maria and I at the Kuroko no Basket event
After the event, Maria and I wondered around the Park taking a few photos. When we went into the arcade section of the Park, we found a Purikura booth which actually takes photoshopped snippets of you. Maria and I tried it out and these were some of the results:
Purikura, ah, look at me (on the left) I look like an alien!
When we were about the leave, since the Park was closing in about an hour, we spotted a lot of Japanese sitting in a semicircle. We realized that during certain times of the year, the Park will host closing ceremonies everyday. Today was one of the last days of the Summer Ceremony. Thus, we sat down as well and proceeded to watch one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a while. Each of the characters had their own dance alongside back-up dancers and for everyone, the songs were obviously very unsuited. The old man wizard character danced to a dub-step piece and the main character elf to “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, for example. We then ate dinner at a Ramen Shop adjacent to the Hirakata Train Station.
The Summer Closing Ceremony
That same weekend, my Speaking Partner, Yu, and I met at the Starbucks at the station. I asked if she would like to take me anywhere interesting, and she professed Osaka Castle. We hopped aboard the next train. The changing of trains and where to stop was difficult for me at first, and I was glad to have Yu with me.
Yu and I at Osaka Castle
After seeing Osaka Castle, we decided to head to Namba, a district within Osaka that’s marketed for the younger crowd. The lines of shopping continues to what seems like no end. Yu took me into a store called Donkey Hotei, which has everything from food to beauty supplies to pop cultural gifts. After this, I finally tried Takayoki, in which Yu and I split.
Diagon Alley for young Japanese people, but one that never truly ends
Takoyaki (Fried Octopus into little balls)
Classes and Tests
The next day classes began and decided to try my hand at the test for moving up to Spoken Japanese 4. Although we had an initial test via online to get a placement, in order to prove ourselves worthy we needed to take ANOTHER examination by the end of the week. Students had the choice whether they wanted to take the test for the next level up. It is possible to move up but you needed to talk to your current professor in order to do so. That week I had to sit in on Japanese 4 classes and participate. Since the tests are graded at a curve, depending on your classes’ abilities, you may be made to move up or down. By the end of the week I needed to take two tests, one to prove I could do Japanese 3, and another to see if I could pass with the Japanese 4 students. At the end of the day I was notified that I was moved up into 4. This is already the second week of class, and already I know that this program is a very intensive one. It’s come to my attention that although most of us would like to explore all the time and have fun with friends, this is not the program catered towards that.
With Maria and two other girls from my Seminar House, we head to another part of Namba, which is basically a street full of anime, manga, and video games and the Akihabara of Osaka. This part is often referred to as “Nippon Bashi” or “DenDen Town”. I bought some gifts for others and interesting things that I found for myself as well. We only spent about 3 hours there, but with the amount of people and the goods for sale, it become overwhelming. After eating at a nice restaurant within the Namba station we headed home.
Nippon Bashi/Denden Town
Examples of merchandise
The next day I invited three of my friends to go on a 2 hour hike with me to the Fushimi-Inari- Shrine. I found this website for some good hikes in Kyoto (http://www.insidekyoto.com/best-kyoto-hikes). The directions helped a lot while we were climbing and confused about where to go. Passing through tori, or the red arches, while immersed in nature and alongside Japanese architecture was phenomenal. It was such a great experience being able to do this alongside friends as well, since we challenged one another along the way (especially by climbing those stairs farther up repeatedly). After returning to the initial starting point, we decided to head into a local Neko Cafe, or Cat Cafe, where one can eat and drink while being in the company of cats. I love cats, so this was the best. We had ice cream at the local shop as well, me and Stephen having green tea tofu, Jadia having ramune, or soda ice cream, and Katrina with purple sweet potato ice cream. Wanting real food though, we took the train ride to the 11 floor Kyoto Station and decided on an omelet cafe. After shopping around we headed back home. Can’t wait till next time! まってね！
Climbing the stairs…
Offering to the goddess Inari
Smaller shrines within the hike
Katrina, myself, Jaida, and Stephen after the hike (photo courtesy of Stephen Kahlow)
Me at the cat cafe, and a pet dog too.
The ice cream store with unique flavors
View of Kyoto Station
Yep, we climbed these stairs too to get to the 11th floor