This year has been the most intensely amazing year of my life without contest. I came to Tokyo hoping and expecting to fulfil all of my childhood and academic dreams. I wanted to shop in Harajuku, become a regular on some of the most famous streets in the world for pop culture, take Japanese trains, eat rice every day, and see my favourite Japanese artists in the flesh. I wanted to visit centuries old temples and shrines, understand Japanese religion, learn about Buddhism and the philosophies of ancient Asia. That was where I was at. But where am I at now?
Everyone in Japan hates Summer.
“But why, Summer is great! The sun, the heat…”
No, that’s Japanese SPRING. Here, Spring is the season of temperatures in their early twenties, beautiful flowers and sunshine. Summer is a different matter.
During the Summer, the weather becomes what we call ‘mushi atsui’ – literally ‘insect hot’. In other words, it becomes so hot and humid that all of the bugs come out to play. When the sun shines, it’s scorchingly hot, and when it doesn’t it’s raining and the dense clouds trap you in an uncomfortable earth prison of cockroaches and sweat. But there are some methods of surviving these awful conditions, as Japanese people do every year. So I’m going to share these with you! Continue reading
Being in Japan for a year, it seems silly not to take the opportunity to bob over to (South) Korea. And we did! For a long weekend of Korean fun.
The Republic of Korea is only two hours from Tokyo by plane as Japan’s closest neighbour. Although the two countries have shared many of the same cultures throughout history (Indian and Chinese philosophies and religions as well as the kanji writing system all passed through Korea from China to get to Japan in the past, and during the colonisation of Korea by Japan Japanese culture was forcibly imposed there to a large degree), today they have many stark cultural differences, and the Republic Korea maintains itself as a unique nation with a rich individual culture. Although me and Emily were only there for four days, this was really apparent! Continue reading
I recently made a post about things in Japan that aren’t amazing. When a country’s problems are summarised and presented to you one after another like that, it can probably be quite off-putting. So this one is about the aspects of Japanese society that stand out to me as particularly nice and not scary. Sometimes, regardless of its underlying serious problems, Tokyo seems kinda like an actual utopia compared to the UK. Continue reading
If you know anything about Japanese culture, you’ll know that Japan is really really into its cherry blossom (or ‘SAKURA’ 桜). The four seasons – and the flowers and colours associated with them – are celebrated a lot here, because a distinct Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter is something than many Asian countries don’t have. Spring is the most special for many reasons. It marks the start of a new academic year, the time for meeting new people, the weather is lovely and the flowers come out. But the best thing about Spring for many people here, and many tourists from Asia and beyond, is definitely the SAKURRAAAA!
Literally, everyone goes crazy for sakura. Continue reading
Until now I’ve mostly just gone on about how Japan is a wonderful fun-filled utopia. And it is, to a large extent. But like every country it isn’t without its social/political issues, or its little downsides. So this time I’m going to tell you all about the things in Japan that AREN’T amazing. (Note: although there are many things about Japan that aren’t amazing, overall it is still amazing.) Continue reading
It’s Winter break! Which is the longest for Japanese students (the academic year here officially begins in April). Faced with THREE MONTHS of free time, many exchange students are choosing to explore Asia or go home for a while, but with so much still yet to see in Japan (and an awareness that the rest of Japan is inevitably quite different to the huge and glorious Tokyo) I took to traveling within the country instead. Thus began my adventure to the Kansai region. Continue reading
Of all the Durham students who came to study in Tokyo, not one of us went home for Christmas. Not just because it’s really really far, but also because we all love Japan and want to experience as much of it as possible while we can.
The only thing that we all thought might be a downside to this choice was spending Christmas away from our families in the UK. There are a lot of things to potentially miss about Christmas Day, and Japanese Christmas is pretty much completely different. But it turned out fine! So I’m going to tell you a bit about how some of us spent Christmas, and after that New Year, in Tokyo. Continue reading
Commuting is something that we definitely do not have to do in Durham. Tokyo, however, is very different. The city is the size of the entirety of Yorkshire, and it’s very common for people to be travelling for about an hour to get to work or school.
For me, living in West Tokyo, it takes around forty minutes to get to Komaba campus and around an hour ten to get to Hongo campus. You might be like ‘WHAAAAAATTTT’, but it’s actually okay. For starters, it’s a taste of REAL LIFE away from Durham, the city in which we come to expect everything to be on our doorstep. It’s also the case that while in Durham we’d go to class and go home, at U Tokyo campus life thrives and lots of people stay on campus for a good chunk of the day. AND once you’re done with class, you can stop by some of the most awesome locations in the world for a shop or a drink before going home (Komaba campus is walking distance from Shibuya and Harajuku, and Hongo campus is right by the famous Ueno park as well as being close to Akihabara and loads of other cool places – it is seriously super awesome). Continue reading
Although I’m often going into Shibuya or Akihabara on the way to or from class, weekdays are usually very busy and there isn’t time to squeeze a substantial activity between club meetings, class time and homework. So I thought I would share with you some of the often kind of crazy and always wonderful things my friends and I get up to at the weekend when we have two whole days to spare! I’ll go in chronological order! Continue reading