“sumi ma sen”

“Sumi ma sen” translates from Japanese into English as “excuse me.” This is a phrase I’ve become very familiar with since coming to Japan! I never appreciated the ease of communication in America until coming here. Not being able to speak or read the language has put an interesting twist on everything. But the difficulty of communication has only more so exhibited the generosity and graciousness of the Japanese people! Locals here are so willing to help me navigate, and are so loving even through the few English words they know. I’m learning that communication transcends language; despite not being able to speak, I am learning so much about the Japanese people and their culture. And wow, it is incredible. 

If you’re interested, below is a quick day by day summary of what I’ve been up to in Japan! 

5/14/15 Thursday

Acclimation day in Kameoka (our home base). We toured the local castle, Kameoka-jo, went to a Saga-Arashiyama (nearby town) to shop, took a bike ride through the bamboo forrest, and ate dinner at our friend, Nagata-san’s, restaurant.  

street of Kameoka
  
learning how to cleanse our hands before entering a temple
  
ran into some friends! we were probably the first non-Japanese they’d ever seen
  
a typical small town train station
  
bike riding in the bamboo forrest!
  

shopping in Saga-Arashiyama

5/15/15 Friday
We went to Kiyo-Gakko, a local junior high school where our good friend, Nobuyoshi, is the Vice Principal. There were learned how to play the taiko drums, a beautiful and traditional Japanese music style! After that we went to Himeji Castle, one of the largest castles in Japan that was originally designed to bring peace to the warring feudal nation.   

after drumming with the students of Kiyo Gakko
 
Hallie, Kathryn, and me at Himeji Castle

Stapp’s favorite pose, “dome to dome,” in front of Himeji Castle
 
5/16/15 Saturday

We got to meet Nishijima-sensei, one of the most famous potters in Japan, who then instructed us in pottery and gave us some of his priceless pieces! After, we went to Kinkaku-ji, also known as “the golden pavilion.” 

 

trying my hand at pottery
  
Kinkaku-ji, completely plated in gold!
  
selfies with the golden pavilion, I couldn’t resist

 5/17/15 Sunday 

Our first free day in Japan! We found an onsen  in Kameoka, which is a natural spring hot tub. This was a rather interesting culture shock, as there are no clothes allowed in the onsen! After, we went to a boat festival in Saga-Arashiyama, where we rented boats and collected some of the beautiful fans the geishas drop in the water. Then we went on a “geisha hunt” in the Gion district of Kyoto! 

  

beautiful fan I received at the boat festival!
actually stalked a few geishas in Gion

5/18/15 Monday

Our first company visit! We toured the manufacturing facilities of Oyatsu, a successful snack company headquartered in Japan. That night our group adventured to a karaoke house, a very popular pastime in Japan!  

hanging with the mascots of Oyatsu snack company
  
karaoke with the whole squad

5/19/15 Tuesday

Another company visit! Toured Sharp electronics, learning about their history and their current technological endeavors. Then we headed to Nara for the night, a town full of beautiful shrines and temples.  

learning about new technology produced by Sharp

one of the pogodas in Nara

 

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we’re here!

From now on, I’m going to start dating my blog posts. Wifi is very limited here in Japan so my posts might actually have been written a couple days earlier!

May 13 
It was time to leave Hawaii and board the 9.5 hour flight to Osaka I’d been dreading, viewing it as a necessary evil. But wow, there was no reason to dread it! Japan Airline is so nice it’s insane. The Japanese people on the flight acted as if everything was the norm, but us Americans were freaking out. We probably looked like little kids in a candy story. The flight had personal TVs for every passenger, including free movies, music, and games. There was a bird’s eye view camera, and we were able to track our flight and check local times. Within the first hour, they had brought us warm hand towels, a snack, free drinks of any kind (all the Americans loved this part), and a free meal. And not just crappy vacuum sealed food, but a full Japanese meal with appetizers, salad, hot entrée, and ice cream. And then 5 hours later they brought another full meal! We were blown away by the friendliness and willingness to serve shown by the staff. It was probably hilarious to watch our reactions to the smallest things. It was such a stark comparison to our American flight to Hawaii the day before, with limited and unfriendly service. It’s only my first glance at the difference in cultures between Japan and America and I’m already astounded. The way people treat others is so different! 
The respect of the Japanese people can be traced back to Confucianism, which was introduced to Japan hundreds of years ago. The principles and beliefs of Confucianism can still be seen in their cultures today. In Confucianism, there’s a strict belief in respect for superiors, and this transcends multiple relationships – teacher/student, boss/subordinate, parent/child, elder/youngin’, elder sibling/younger sibling, and more. Confucianism is rooted in harmony – achieving it and maintaining it. The Confucian principles lead to a very respectful society; people Dd slow to engage in conflict and to cause dissent. All I’ve experienced is a plane ride and I can already see how different Japanese culture is from America’s. You could see the different mentalities when we were boarding the plane; the second they announced on the PA that we could begin boarding, our whole group rushed to the gate to beat the crow and get on the plane, but the Japanese people on the flight remained in their seats, slowly gathering their things. In Japanese society, individuals often sacrifice personal preferences for the success/happiness of the group. As an American, I’m used to an “every man for himself” mentality, and I think it’ll be hard to shake in Japan. Us Americans, we are so quick to do whatever it takes to get what we want! We think we are entitled to the best of everything. We don’t even realize it, but our culture is rooted in selfishness. It is so cool that for 5 weeks I’m going to slowly be ridding myself of that mentality (hopefully). Learning is going to transcend numbers, economies, businesses, etc. We’re going to learn a whole new way of thinking. And man, that is so awesome!!!

It’s time!!!

I have always vowed that I would never be the girl to start a blog. Writing has never been my forte, and I typically am too proud/stubborn to follow trends. But with the trip I’m about to take, I decided it was time to give up the cool girl act and write a blog. On this page I’ll try and update y’all on what I’m doing and what I’m learning in my time in Japan!

Oh did I mention I’m going to Japan? So a little bit of background of me and my trip:

I just finished my sophomore year at the University of Arkansas, I’m pursuing a Finance degree with minors in Economics and Marketing. I’m taking my first study abroad experience, the Japan Study Abroad Program, a 5-week program led by Dr. Robert Stapp. Dr. Stapp is an economics professor at Arkansas who lived in Japan in the 90s, and has been taking students on this trip for 17 years. So I know I’m in good hands! A lot of people have asked me, “why Japan?” and Dr. Stapp is usually a big part of that answer. He has such passion and experience when it comes to Japan, I’ll be getting an inside look at a country that many Americans never get to experience. Japan has very little Western influence in comparison to most countries; it’s not the kind of country Americans can just bop on over to and explore. This trip is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could not pass up!

The Japan program is pretty unique in that I will attend no classes in Japan. Rather, we (Dr. Stapp, 11 other U of A students, and myself) will be soaking up the culture in Japan while also observing how the Japanese economic system differs from America’s. We’ll do all the “touristy” things you can imagine, visiting temples, historical sites, memorials, landmarks, etc. We’ll be exposed to the business culture through multiple company visits, where we’ll do everything from touring manufacturing facilities to partaking in round table discussions with executives of major Japanese companies.

My classmates and I had to do A LOT of preparation in order to not look like fools in Japan. From learning Japanese etiquette traditions to researching the history of the companies we’re going to, I feel like we covered it all. In the spring, we all took a class with Dr. Stapp called “the Japanese Economic System” where we learned the ins and outs of Japan’s history, politically, socially, economically, religiously, culturally, and technologically. We also had to complete individual research. After many many hours, I can’t even begin to express how accomplished I felt turning in a 130 page paper on Japan! For a super in depth look at my research, the companies we’ll be touring, and the cultural sites we’ll be visiting, feel free to check out my Preliminary Research.

So needless to say, I’m excited! We are currently in Hawaii, leaving for Japan tomorrow. I think this trip is going to challenge me in ways I’ve never experienced, and I hope this blog can keep you informed on what’s happening in my life! I promise most of the posts will not be this long 🙂

Also… feel free to check out my instagram hashtag #japandrea for photos. Had to throw that in there.

saying good bye at the airport
saying good bye at the airport
most of the gang
most of the gang
view from our hotel
view from our hotel
Hawaii sunset
Hawaii sunset