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3 posts from January 2017

01/18/2017

Cultural Immersion, Health, and Safety: CIEE Tokyo's Onsite Orientation

CIEE strives to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to immerse themselves in Japanese culture. One way we do this is by offering a number of activities throughout the program, including a daytrip to Kamakura City during the onsite orientation period just after students arrive. In Fall 2016 we continued this tradition and enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day at the city that served as Japan’s capital from the late 12th to early 14th century.

 Kamakura is rich in culture and history. It was during the Kamakura period that the samurai warrior class emerged to play a significant role in Japanese society. It is also the home of world-renowned cultural and religious sites. During our daytrip, local guides took us on a tour of three important sites: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Hasedera Temple, and the Great Buddha Statue. By seeing these sites and hearing the guides’ explanations firsthand, students had a helpful introduction to Japanese religious traditions; knowledge that is important to understanding the fundamentals of Japanese culture and society.

Daibutsu
In front of the Daibutsu "Great Buddha" statue in Kamakura.
Hachimangu
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in the distance.

 In addition to the Kamakura daytrip and other immersive activities, during the onsite orientation we conduct sessions on academics, daily life and cultural adaptation, and health and safety. We place great importance on all these subjects, and where health and safety are concerned we go above and beyond to help ensure the wellbeing of our students. As in past semesters, we visited the Life Safety Learning Center (LSLC), a facility operated by the Tokyo Fire Department where people are welcome to learn how to respond to emergency situations. Under the guidance of LSLC staff, students experienced a simulated earthquake and learned how to best protect themselves, learned how to escape a simulated burning building, and learned how to properly operate a fire extinguisher. Through the LSLC visit and other safety-related activities and discussions, we’re confident that students gain the tools to enjoy their life in Japan in a safe and responsible way.

Life Safety Learning Center
Resident Director Peter Morris (third from left) and students putting out a simulated fire at the Life Safety Learning Center.

01/11/2017

a day at mt fuji

A day at Mt. Fuji

    One of the benefits living in DK house Nerima is that we have many discounts for a lot of events happening in Tokyo.  For me Mt. Fuji was on my bucket list before I even came to japan, so when there was a one day trip to Fuji mountain, I didn’t thought twice about signing up!

    We met at 六本木 at 7 am next to the love sign, it took a while for everyone to gather, and I was surprised that most of the people going on this trip was tourists instead of students. Although many of them were elders, they spoke fluent English, and was able to communicate perfectly. At first I was kind of shy and afraid to talk to anyone, luckily someone from my dorm was also going, so I had someone to share my thoughts about my excitement about going on this trip! (picture 1)

     The tour guy explained on the way to our first stop that Mt. Fuji can only be climbed during July to early September due to snow and other purposes, but we were very lucky that day because the weather was perfect that day so we get to take some really great picture with our eyes.

     Our first stop was Lake Kawaguchi(one of Fuji five lakes), it was there I had my first clear view of Mt. Fuji , my first impression of it was elegant and full of love from the glaze of the sun. At the lake(picture 2) the water was really clear and we could see the natural reflection of mountain Fuji, back in where  I lived all the pools and lakes were heavily polluted.

     Next we went to Oshino Eight Seas, here we can see a lot of Japanese traditions and rural views which we don’t normally see in Tokyo. This is where I realized that I was no longer in the fancy part of japan. Instead I saw smiles after smiles, the pace was slower and the attitude was warmer. I bought some souvenirs and postcards to send to my friends, the old lady at the store even went to Taipei 20 years ago, for some reason, my heart felt really warm while I was here, and I’m pretty sure the sun was not the reason for it.(picture 3)

     For lunch which was covered in the money we paid at the beginning of the trip, we went to Oshino ninja village, where we had all kinds of food from sushi to a small hotpot, they were probably afraid that some of the tourist wasn’t used to Japanese food so they also had some American food such as potato fries and fried chicken. As we were eating, a ninja came in and everyone wanted a picture with her(picture 4) After taking pictures she performed martial arts in front of everyone, and it was really fun to see her running around with swords. I personally would give this lunch a 4 star out of 5 , even if this was a buffet the quality of the food was pretty delicious.

    Then we went to the highlight of the trip, fifth station of mt fuji, this is the closest we can get to mt fuji, up there it felt like heaven because the clouds were under us and the scenery was absolutely stunning, we could see the snow on top of mt fuji very clearly. Unfortunately I forgot my jacket on the bus so I was the only one in the area that was wearing a t-shirt. Upon looking at mt fuji I started to understand why it has such a large place in Japanese peoples’ hearts, after world war 2 , it stood there in the bad times and the good times, great weather, typhoons and earthquakes, it stood there strong and confident. (picture5 and 6)

   Before we went back to 新宿station and back to reality, we went to fuji q to experience a 4D plane ride, it was a really interesting event, we could smell the flowers and the feel the wind. We stopped at the food park near it to grab some food, I had a mt. fuji bread to end the trip, needless to say, it was delicious. (picture 7,8,)

      I hope to come back again and hike mountain fuji next year if possible , before then I will always have mountain fuji in my mind!

Picture1

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a night in shibuya

A NIGHT IN SHIBUYA

   It’s almost Halloween, back in the USA where I studied for the last 3 years, at this point of the time you can already see a lot of Halloween decorations. From downtown atmosphere to school starbucks, it’s always surrounded by this magical holiday. Luckily I’m in Tokyo, the place where Halloween is a must dress-up as well. From professors to newspapers, the place everybody recommends you to go for the Halloween weekend is Shibuya.

   Before the Halloween holiday, I’ve only been to Shibuya once for a dinner meeting with my Chinese friends. My memory of Shibuya is just a place with the famous Shibuya crossing, not a super fancy place like Shinjuku but a place with many delicious restaurants. After the night of the Halloween weekend everything changed.

   I’m in a club in Sohpia university called Sophia Communication, members have lunch 3 times a week together to talk about different cultures and interesting things about japan or their lives. They have big events every month, from hiking to trips around Tokyo, and for October they have a Halloween party in Shibuya on 10/31.

    After I picked up a costume at Donkihote, a magician costume (picture 1 ), I was ready to shine the night, our dorm had a small party from 4 to 6 which suits me perfectly because the party at Shibuya starts at 6:30, everyone in the dorm had already dressed up.(picture 23456).

You can see that a lot of people in the dorm like to play with makeup as fake blood which is a pretty genius idea. However I do not like the feeling of something sticking on my face for more than 10 seconds. Needless to say I rejected the idea of having paints on my face, but I did put some on my arm just for fun. After a couple of soft drinks and cookies I was ready to go to Shibuya with my friends to enjoy the night!

     As we arrived in Shibuya station, the girls had nowhere to change their costumes because all the restrooms in the station was closed and not allowed to change.  So we had to go to 7 eleven to change, as you can imagine the place was crowded. And it was at a point where if we didn’t hold each other’s hand we would get separated by the crowd. Every inch of the Shibuya crossing was covered by nothing more than dressed people. While we were on our way, we had the luxury to see a lot of well-dressed people around us. Many of them was taking pictures with each other. I had the chance on our way to take a few with many well prepared strangers, the most we seen was joker and little red riding hood for the costumes at Shibuya.(picture 7891011).

     After 40 minutes walking which was supposed to be 15 min on google map, we finally arrived at the party sohpia communication had prepared for us. We were in a small club that was booked specifically for us, there was music and movies playing on the screen tvs around us. Everyone was talking to each other, complementing on each others costumes and how the “traffic” outside was stuck. For the last 30 minutes of the party we played games sharing the love of Halloween, I even won a small souvenir to brag about when we left the party at 9.(picture 1213141516)

   At that time the crowd outside wasn’t as much as when it was 6, the funny part was that as we were getting out of the club, there were a group of people dressing like Donald trump and Hilary Clinton and arguing with each other, it sure captured everyone’s attention and gave us all a good laugh.

   The train was indeed packed with thousands of people on one train, but I safely arrived home before 12, I think this was a great experience but to be honest I don’t know if I want to do this again as I have no idea how I survived the crowd that was swallowing me!

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