CDM/MLA 675: Tokyo: Collective Identity, Mediated Selves, and the Built Environment
January 15, 2020
Busy day after busy day, we have been up to our usual activities. The day began pretty rainy, especially compared to the beautiful weather we have had so far. We started with a mass currency exchange at a local bank because nearly everyone was trying to change more yen. After that pilgrimage, we began a public transportation journey to the Tokyo Tower. With so many classmates, it can be quite the challenge during a packed Tokyo rush hour to keep everyone on the same page but normally we manage.
When we arrived at the Tower, it was quite different from the Skytree. The architecture was much more refined than the Skytree. The employees wore uniforms that replicated post-World War II opulence. While up on the observation platform, it was hard not to reflect.
Our trip is almost half-way over. Each person has become closely involved with the activities and provides their own perspective. Especially with such a diverse group, it has helped to refresh the conversation repeatedly when a different person’s background is introduced. Each member is so unique and has such a wonderful story to tell. They motivate me to make the most of this experience.
After our time in the tower, we took our first bus to the ramen alley in Tokyo train station. This station is the largest in Tokyo with a variety of retail and dining options. Another classmate and I chose to accompany our professor to a Japanese dipping noodle restaurant. As someone unskilled with chopsticks it was quite a challenge. It was worth the effort and a totally new experience.
For an important break in our day, we stopped in Harajuku and at the hedgehog cafe. It was truly a beautiful experience. The hedgehogs were free to (carefully) pick up and take pictures with. It was the cutest, although mine did poop on my hand and immediately burrow its head into the dirt. Since we had fully enjoyed that experience, it was time for dinner!
One short trainride later we were in Shinjuku, a busy entertainment-centric district. The vegetarian/vegan group, of which I am a part, broke off to enjoy a vegan restaurant. While the meal was amazing, the cheese was life-changing. It was vegan, and we’re not entirely sure what it was made of but likely cashews. It was a perfect recreation! The atmosphere also caught us ensnared, as we spent more than two hours enjoying our meal.
To close off our night, we reunited with the carnivores and started off towards our final destination: the jazz bars of Shinjuku. Not all of us could fit into one, so we were spread across three locations. My group was a in a beautifully low-lit and refined piano bar. It was an amazing setting to relax after a long day at work. Especially in a setting so fancy, I could never imagine arranging it myself. Our instructor was able to speak with the bouncer in Japanese for us to allow us entrance. I can’t even explain the emotions behind it, but I promise it was beyond worth it.
Tomorrow is another free day. Any plans are up in the air so I can only wonder what I’ll get up to. See you then!
About the Japan Study Tour
THE TRAVEL DATES
Jan. 10-25, 2020
Modern Languages Prof. Darwin Tsen
Students will get to explore and experience Tokyo, Japan, through several activities. As they are guided through the city, students will be examining the several works of art there and the multicultural and multimedia products they offer, such as literature, cinema, television, and digital design. With an emphasis on historical contexts, students will come to understand the social and cultural fundamentals that lead to modern ideas of Tokyo, the environment, and the people.