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4 posts from January 2011


end of semester

To celebrate the end of the term, CIEE students, staff, our Sophia Academic Advisor, host families, dorm managers, and other program supporters gathered for an end-of-semester party near the Sophia University campus. Students contributed in various ways: one was emcee for the event, some delivered speeches in English or Japanese, and others gave presentations including slide shows of their experiences in Tokyo. All generously shared highlights and candid shots from their time at Sophia University, and this was thoroughly enjoyed by the audience. CIEE students were recognized for their fall semester academic achievements, and winning teams for the orientation week scavenger hunt (a team-building search for Tokyo landmarks) were awarded prizes.

For CYP (Calendar Year Program, a two-semester program that began in April 2010) and fall semester students, this was a chance to reflect upon their stay in Japan and celebrate with classmates and their host families. Students received program completion certificates and then had a chance to socialize and enjoy the excellent food at the reception.

For AYP (Academic Year Program, a two-semester program that began in fall 2010) students, the reception marks the halfway point of their two-semester program. Following the end of the term on February 4, AYP students have a two month break before returning for classes in early April. Some students will remain in Tokyo for volunteer work, part-time employment, and internships, while others plan to use the extended break to explore other parts of Japan and Asia, or make trips to visit family back home. Many AYP students will return to Tokyo in late March to serve as senpai assistants at CIEE’s spring semester orientation.


Students at party 


coming of age day

Monday, January 10 was seijin no hi, or Coming of Age Day, in Japan. On the second Monday of January, young Japanese people who have turned 20 during the past year celebrate becoming adult members of society. The day is a national holiday, and ward and city offices around the country hold official ceremonies for young people. Young women dress up in long-sleeved kimono called furisode, and usually have their hair and makeup done. Because most young women don’t know how to put on a kimono, beauty salons offer special packages for Coming of Age Day that include assistance with dressing. Men traditionally wore dark kimono and formal divided skirts called hakama, but in recent years, Western suits have become more common.

Following the official ceremony, participants often go out to celebrate and take photos with family and friends. Many CIEE students reported encountering groups of kimono-clad 20-year olds in the large entertainment districts of Shibuya and Shinjuku on January 10.


Several CIEE students joined their Japanese peers in celebrating Coming of Age Day by dressing up in traditional clothes and taking purikura photos at a photo booth in Shibuya.  (Photo courtesy of Jane Qiu)



As the scents of the late autumn winds mix with the breeze from the ocean, I stare out into the distance, while white puffy clouds along with numerous small islands and crystal blue water create the view before me.  This recalls to mind the numerous paintings I have seen in my East Asian art history class. 

A few weeks ago I went on the CIEE weekend trip to Hiroshima.  During our stay in Hiroshima we visited the Peace Museum and Miyajima.  The Peace Museum was very humbling, and while difficult at some points to walk through, it is worth experiencing completely.  We also had two lectures, one by a professor who talked to us about the dropping of the atomic bombs, and one by an atom bomb survivor.  Both were informative, and the talk by the atom bomb survivor was very moving.

On the second day we traveled to Miyajima, which is an island famous for its red shrine gate in the water and the numerous semi-tame deer everywhere.  To get to the island we took a ferry, which was fun and around a 20-30 minute ride.  After arriving at port we disembarked, and began walking towards the shrine.  On the way to the shrine we passed by lots of different gift shops which all sell various Hiroshima or Miyajima goods, and also lots of interesting food stands and small restaurants.  The shrine is very scenic and there was also a traditional Japanese wedding occurring when we were walking through it, so we were very lucky to see the bride and groom.  There was also a traditional performance taking place with a group of priests playing traditional Japanese instruments.  The mood and setting made it feel as if we were a hundred or more years in the past.

After the shrine we took the cable cars which lead to Mt. Misen at the top of Miyajima island.  The rides up are quick and fun, and offer a stunning view of the island and a chance to rest your feet after hiking up to them.  Even though it was late fall already, there were still plenty of fall colors to be seen on the trees that had already turned but not lost their leaves.  At the top of the island the view was stunning.  You could look out for miles and see the many different islands that scatter the area, and even look back and see Hiroshima in the distance.  The fresh scents of the different trees and the ocean air washed over us in an interesting and refreshing breeze.  One could easily spend many hours taking pictures from atop the island just sitting and enjoying the view, which is exactly what I did. 

Afterwards, I returned down the mountain on the cable cars to visit the various shops that are near the shore.  There are dozens of small shops with all kinds of food, and everything is absolutely delicious.  My favorites were the oysters, for which Miyajima is famous. They tasted amazing, and were the best I’ve ever had.  Then there are countless souvenir shops which had some very remarkable trinkets and items for sale that you don’t see on a regular basis.  Unfortunately my time was a bit limited as this point, so I didn’t spend too long looking around, but I did see a lot, and it was fun looking at everything.  All in all, it was a memorable trip and a very valuable experience.



photos from the ciee weekend trip to hiroshima and miyajima

The Memorial Cenotaph at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park


Miyajima torii 
The torii at Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima


 Miyajima 2

Students pose at the top of Mt. Misen on Miyajima