Nagoya – June 24

26 06 2010

by Professor George Sanchez

The Nagoya Chamber of Commerce provided bus transportation for a full day of sightseeing exploring the history and culture of Nagoya, Japan’s fourth largest city. And throughout our travels, they also provided a wonderful English speaking guide, Yayo-san, who informed us about the city as we travelled throughout the day.

We began with a formal presentation on Nagoya’s history and economic development at the Nagoya city hall where city officials provided much information, maps, fact sheets, cell phone straps, and a bottle of Nagoya tap water to each student. Then we were entertaining by “Shoguns” guarding the entrance to Nagoya Castle, and climbed to one of the best spots to see the expanse of the metropolis. The Castle gave us time to shop (again) and learn much about the broader history of the region around Nagoya.

One of the highlights of this day was the opportunity to learn about and actually do the traditional art of “Shippo,” famous in the region, for its beautiful and intricate ceramic work. After a bento lunch and free time, we were taught this art form and each given a chance to produce our own individual creative piece. We learned about some with unexpected artistic talent, as well as some who will need time to master the form. After a visit to a local shrine, we were given the chance to explore the massive shopping district in the center of town. Our observations about Nagoya centered on this city as a more “working class” city, proud of its industrial role in the growth of the Japanese economy.

Our full day ended with a visit to the Nagoya Dome and learning the cheers for the Chunichi Dragons, the local team, against their rivals from Yokohama. Although “our” home team lost, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the game, becoming active and boisterous fans.


Student Reflections – June 23

25 06 2010

From Kyoto to Nagoya: Rich History Meets Modern Industry

by Paola Beas and Sergio Calix

Today we went to Kiyomizudera, a Buddhist temple. It is a beautiful temple located on a hill. The scenery was spectacular. Trees surrounded us and the weather was foggy and mysterious. We were able to drink refreshing water at the temple that came straight from the mountaintop. The fresh waterfall was very interesting because it included a mixture of the ancient tradition and modern technology.  For example, in order to kill the bacteria on the communal cups they used ultraviolet lights to disinfect them. Drinking from this waterfall is supposed to increase your lifespan and it not only helped quench our thirst, but also it allowed us to travel back in time. We were able to experience something that Japanese Buddhist priests experienced over a thousand years ago.

Right after the temple visit, we headed to the Shinkansen (bullet train) and were on our way to Nagoya. Our experience on the train once again proved to be marvelous and efficient.

Upon arrival, a man from the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed us and guided us to our hotel, the Mont Blanc. We got ready to go to a reception for the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce. When we arrived they had nametags for each of us and greeted us very nicely. After a formal introduction the president of the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce gave a speech about international exchange and the importance of the sister city relationship between Los Angeles and Nagoya. He shared with us how Nagoya is a growing industrial city that has a grand history. Then Dr. Sanchez addressed the audience to convey our common interests in economic and cultural exchange and also to share our journey so far with everyone else. During the rest of the reception we mixed with Japanese students and business people from Nagoya. It was a great networking experience. They were really glad to have us there and we were glad to be there. The Nagoya Chamber of Commerce and Industry reception was very nice, and we hope to maintain the relationship between the sister cities of Nagoya and Los Angeles in the future.

Kyoto – June 23

25 06 2010

by Professor George Sanchez

A rainy morning greeted us on our first day waking up in Kyoto. We split into multiple taxis to take the entire group to Kiyomizu-Dera Temple on the hillside overlooking the city of Kyoto. In what has to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world, this temple integrates the Japanese love of nature with the spiritual side of Shinto and Buddhist religions. By now, many of the students are accustomed to the traditions of praying at Shinto shrines, including purifying oneself by washing your hands, letting incense fill your lungs, and sometimes seeking your fortune for 100 yen. At this historic temple, over 1000 years old, our journey included drinking from the pure water that comes down from the mountaintop. After the visit, most went out for more souvenir shopping at the various stalls and businesses surrounding the temple, while a few headed for a more serene setting of the gardens at Heian Shrine.

We quickly gathered our things at our hotel and headed to the Kyoto train station, where we took another Shinkansen to Nagoya, an industrial city in the heart of Japan. Our hotel was just next to the train station, which made moving around the city especially easy. Our hosts for this part of the trip was the Nagoya Chamber of Commerce, who maintains an economic and cultural exchange with the city of Los Angeles, because the two have been sister cities for the past fifty years. After a restful break in the afternoon, the Chamber formally welcomed us to Nagoya, with a welcome reception dinner.

The students were surprised at the formal introduction and speeches that began the reception, as well as the traditional gift-giving. Even the American Consulate office in Nagoya came to greet us and give us tips for the city. They felt much more comfortable with the informal exchange which followed, with both city business leaders and a select group of college students from Nagoya City University. We certainly felt welcomed to this fascinating industrial city.

Student Reflections – June 22

25 06 2010

by Anthony Grimaldo

Kyoto seems to be a blend of traditional and modern homes, shopping centers, and businesses. As we walked to our destination I noticed that the homes and businesses were built traditional style along these narrow streets that seemed to be only one lane. But once we arrived at the shopping center it seemed as if we were in a completely different location. It was similar to an outdoor mall with dozens of vendors and shops trying to sell their products. The style of their clothing, shoes, and accessories vary from that of the United States. Also the customer service is also unique because it seems that they want to help as much as they can regardless of selling their product.

by Henry Franco

I was excited by the thought of meeting students from the Doshisha University in Kyoto. As we walked in the classroom they seemed as eager as we were to have a conversation with them. However, the moment I sat with my group of Japanese students my anticipation was transformed to disappointment.

Even though the Japanese students were humble they were extremely timid, shy and reserved. The two Japanese guys I sat with really didn’t ask me anything besides the safety of Los Angeles and if all Americans have guns. Apparently they had seen the movie, Crash, and believed that everyone owns a gun and experiences extreme racism on a daily basis. It’s interesting how the media reinforces fears and prior beliefs of what America is especially considering the class they are in, on American life and culture, focuses mostly on the Wild West and the Ku Klux Klan era in the deep South.

Interestingly enough they kept mentioning how unbelievable a world in which people own guns and experience violence would be for them. Apparently, the reality of life in my hometown, Los Angeles, is unbelievable to many Japanese people—this is especially so considering most of the Japanese students collectively agreed their society is safe. However, they also mentioned that certain areas in Japan are considered more dangerous than others because of the demographic ratio of foreigners in cities like Osaka; where American military personal live. Maybe it was due to their limited English vocabulary, but it felt like they were really giving me diplomatic answers, rather than really telling me their honest opinions. Or perhaps it is because they seem to be very polite and would not criticize Americans to their faces.

by Donald La

When we arrived at the Kyoto station it was very different compared to the Hiroshima station. The Kyoto station had a colossal shopping mall that was architecturally amazing, which attracted many people. The shopping mall that was completed in 1997 incorporated a hotel, movie theater, and department store, which is why the Kyoto station is densely populated throughout the day. One of the major differences between Kyoto and Hiroshima is that Hiroshima is a very modern city. Many may argue that Kyoto is a modern city as well, however, if you leave central Kyoto and cross over the Kamo-gawa River, you will soon discover traditional Kyoto. Dr. Fanon Che Wilkins, an associate professor at the Doshisha University in Kyoto, took us on a tour through modern Kyoto and traditional Kyoto to see and learn about the two different areas. Fanon told us, “When we cross this street, we will be in traditional Kyoto, look out for a Geisha.” Guess what? We saw a Geisha walking towards a taxi! We were able to snap a picture of her while she was walking across the street.

Doshisha University – June 22

25 06 2010

by Professor George Sanchez

Meeting Japanese college students has consistently been one of the highlights of our trip in Japan. After an early morning bullet train ride from Hiroshima, we had this opportunity at Doshisha University in the historic city of Kyoto. Unlike the students we met with at the University of Tokyo, who were primarily international students from outside Japan, the students at Doshisha we met with were all born in Japan and enrolled in Professor Masumi Izumi’s class in American Studies. They had a number of questions for us about Los Angeles because they had recently seen the Academy Award-winning film Crash, and they especially wanted to know about violence and guns in the U.S. We had questions about racial homogeneity in Japan, and we all engaged in a discussion regarding the fate of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa. Once again, small group discussions with individual students were the highlight of this class.

Doshisha then treated us to a wonderful lunch reception at their Amherst house, where we meet another professor, Fanon Wilkins, originally from Los Angeles and teaching in Kyoto the past three years. He led our group on a walking tour of downtown Kyoto, through their central shopping district and treated us to his favorite ice cream in the city.

For many of us, a highlight of our time in Kyoto was our final destination, the oldest Zen Buddhist temple and gardens in Kyoto in the Gion District. There we relaxed, and some slept or meditated, after the long walk in the hot sun. After checking into our traditional Japanese inn (the students all slept on mats on the floor), we gathered together near the river before splitting up to various restaurants to partake of different Kyoto specialties. It was an eventful and spirited first day in Kyoto.

Student Reflections – June 21

24 06 2010

This building is preserved by the government as the proof of the atomic bomb on August 6, 1945. More than 140,000 people died because of the event, including everyone in this building.

Hiroshima, here we come!

by Tina Chuvanjyan

Another rainy day here in Tokyo. We checked out of the Weekly Mansion Tokyo Akasaka at 8:30 a.m. and headed to the train station. It was our first time taking the Shinkansen, or bullet train.

Staring outside the train car windows, it was evident that the Japanese used every bit of land possible. There was never a moment when I would look out and see a completely empty plot of land. Apparently, around 60-75 percent of the land in Japan is mountainous, so there isn’t any room to waste.

The train ride was very smooth. Even though we were on one train for a little over three hours, and on the second train for about an hour and a half, the entire trip went by super quick. When we got in to the hotel we relaxed and prepared ourselves for tomorrow’s intense day at the Hiroshima A-Bomb Museum.

Before this trip, I had very limited knowledge about the details concerning World War II and the A-bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After visiting the Peace Memorial Museum, it was very difficult for me to put all my thoughts and emotions into words. I felt as though I had a lump in my throat and an aching in my heart.

The bombing of Hiroshima was talked about in school, of course; however, whatever knowledge I possessed before the museum tour was nothing compared to the wealth of knowledge I gained by the end of the tour. Certain topics such as why Hiroshima was the chosen city for attack, what the aftermath was like for the Japanese people, etc., were discussed and represented in the museum.

The purpose of the Peace Memorial Museum seemed pretty clear to me: to inform the public of the historical events that took place, to commemorate and honor the stories of the lives who were lost to the bomb, and to warn future generations of the possible consequences of nuclear warfare while enlightening them to move towards change and peace. We, as a group can create this change and promote peace. And I know all of us will do so after return home to the U.S. This museum and its message will stay with all of us for years to come.

It has been 23,695 days since the first dropping of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and 392 days since the latest nuclear test in North Korea. The world has never been the same since August 6, 1945, and the danger of atomic bomb will always be a threat for the world.

An Intense Visit to the A-Bomb Museum, Hiroshima

by William Baskerville

It’s not easy to put into words the feelings that one experiences before, during, and after entering the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. For one thing, everyone feels different emotions ranging from anger to sadness to guilt. It’s sometimes hard to comprehend what exactly happened in Hiroshima almost 65 years ago by simply reading a textbook, but it’s something else to be in the city where such destruction occurred. Our hotel is literally walking distance from the museum and if we were standing in the same spot that we are now 65 years ago, we would see horrors that no human being should ever have to face. But the reality remains that this did in fact happen. Going to the museum was a somber event, but it raised a lot of questions and sparked discussion not only on what exactly happened, but why it happened and whether such actions could ever be justified. Our experiences with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum will stay with us and we’ll be sure to not forget what we learned and share it with others who are unable to make it to the site in hopes of sparking further conversations and questions.

Christina Yokohama and Monica Rodriguez enjoy the evening at Miyajima Island. In the background is the famous landmark of Miyajima Island.

An Island of Reflection: Miyajima

by Amanda Peralta

After an emotionally draining experience at the peace memorial, we headed to Miyajima Island to relax for the afternoon. It took us 45 minutes to arrive by boat, which was certainly worth the trip because the island is beautiful. The first things we saw were friendly deer; Will chased one around for a bit because it was eating his paper, but he did not succeed at taking the pamphlet out of the deer’s mouth.

Yushi Yamasaki, our most beloved translator and the only Japanese person in our group, poses with a deer in Miyajima Island. Our trip to Miyajima Island was such a balance after being emotionally drained in Hiroshima.

During the first hour, we walked around the quaint town on the island and had lunch. For the first time in Japan we ate a meal in a traditional Japanese manner (sitting on cushions on the floor). We realized that American men are not suited for eating on the floor; the guys at my table struggled with crossing their legs and they kept shifting around to get comfortable. Felipe eventually gave up on immersing himself into the culture and knelt down to eat instead of sitting on his bottom.

After lunch, we headed to a temple on the island. It was a vibrant orange color that could be seen from hundreds of meters away, since it sharply contrasts the lush green vegetation from the forest in the backdrop. After appreciating the beauty of the temple, some of us sat on the wooden floor of the temple and faced the ocean to do some reflecting. Anthony and Henry chose to explore the Miyajima forest and found several waterfalls. Others did some souvenir shopping on the island. The shops sold unique knick-knacks we have not seen thus far in Japan.

I feel like we definitely needed the free time on Miyajima Island because we have not had very much down time since we arrived in Japan over a week ago. We were able to process a lot of what we have learned and experienced on this trip during the few hours we spent on the island, which has given us even more energy and motivation to engage in the activities that the advisors have in store for us in these upcoming days.

Hiroshima – June 21

24 06 2010

by Professor George Sanchez

Tears, anger, and upset stomachs. These are just three of the reactions that our students had to an emotionally intense visit to the Atomic Bomb Museum and Peace Park in Hiroshima. The goal of the museum is to encourage the destruction of all nuclear weapons and to insure that no other population ever suffers from the devastation caused by being a target of an atomic attack. Unlike the carefree group full of laughter that we have grown accustomed to, the students spent two hours at this museum as individuals, alone in their thoughts with an English language audio-guide and powerful interpretations and pictures of the impact of atomic destruction in the everyday lives of the Hiroshima citizens of 1945. We heard stories of instant horrific death and long-term radiation poisoning, children left orphans and Korean forced laborers dying indiscriminately. We walked rather silently through the Peace Park after the museum, each student alone in his or her thoughts.

We had planned for this intense experience, so we took a boat ride for the afternoon to Miyajima Island, one of the loveliest, most peaceful islands in Japan, for an unstructured afternoon. The students explored the island in small groups, some concentrating on shopping, eating in small groups, others visiting the many amazing shrines and temples on the island. There were even a hearty few who spent the afternoon hiking up the mountain to see the island in its entirety.

That evening, after returning from the ferry, train and streetcar rides to get us back to the hotel, we met as a group to talk about our feelings on the day. Amazing, articulate students talked passionately about their personal emotional reactions to that morning’s experience, and some expressed the guilt or shame they felt that the bombing had been initiated in name of all Americans. I was left amazed by the difference it makes to take something that most had read about in books and experience it firsthand in the city that had been a target of a U.S. atomic bomb. History came alive for these students today, and I was proud to be a part of that educational experience.

After a long day in Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, we have a discussion about atomic bomb. Discussions have been part of our days in Los Angeles and Japan.