On March 26th, students of various nationalities from universities all over the US arrived safely at Narita Airport. Despite the jet lag, the students were generally in high spirits, and were eager to get out and experience all that Tokyo has to offer.
We started the program with a two-week Orientation. During those two weeks we had short excursions, a city-wide scavenger hunt, games, workshops, and team-building exercises.
Naritasan Shinshoji Temple
The morning following arrival, we headed to the nearby Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. Being over 1,000 years old, the temple has great cultural and historical significance to the surrounding area. We happened upon a Buddhist ceremony being conducted in the main hall. Visitors were invited to sit quietly and meditate as a Buddhist priest chanted and lit incense. For many of our students this was the first time to see a Japanese temple, and was a great way to kick off Orientation.
(Students learn about the custom of purifying oneself with water before entering the main temple grounds.)
Icebreakers and Activities
At the hotel and later at the Sophia University campus, we did icebreakers and a number of activities designed to increase cultural awareness.
(Getting to know each other.)
(In small groups, students played a 'memory' game to help them recognize common Japanese characters.)
The Life Safety Learning Center
As in any country, accidents, fires, and natural disasters sometimes occur in Japan. Fortunately, the Tokyo Fire Department provides lessons at the Life Safety Learning Center on what to do in such events. Because safety is a top priority in all our programs, we visited the Center and practiced using fire extinguishers, learned how to evacuate a burning building, and practiced what to do during an earthquake using an earthquake simulator.
(Taking cover in an earthquake simulation.)
(Learning how to use fire extinguishers.)
The Old Capital: Kamakura City
One of the old capitals of Japan, Kamakura City is a very popular tourist destination. With its natural beauty, elaborate temples, and cultural and historical richness, it is a must-see spot for anyone interested in Japan. During this day-long excursion we visited three of the city's well-known sites: Hachimangu Shrine, Hasedera Temple, and Daibutsu ('The Great Buddha'). The students split into small groups, which were each led by friendly tour guides from the Kamakura Welcome Guide Association.
(In front of the stairway leading up to Hachimangu Shrine)
(The sakura cherry blossoms were still in bloom at Hasedera Temple.)
(In front of the 43 feet tall Daibutsu)
Promoting Global Engagement at Sophia University
Classes for CIEE students started on April 14th. In addition to Japanese language courses, students enroll in courses offered by the Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA). With a truly international faculty and student body, Sophia University is well-known for its focus on globalization and fostering globally-minded citizens. Through the FLA, students will acquire knowledge about Japan's history, culture and politics, as well as the country's unique role in the Asian region and the world. At the end of each day, students have many opportunities to further develop their language and cross-cultural communication skills in their dorms or homestays.
It is our hope that by the end of the semester, students will have built lasting relationships, gained increased sensitivity to cultural differences, and developed a passion for global engagement.
Minna-san, ganbatte kudasai!