My Summer Experience in Japan ~ Ive Seen
By Nicole Brown
Senior Captain, Women's Volleyball
Nicole is in Japan on a summer exchange program. She will update us on her travels, about once a week, with her blog.
So far I have been enjoying a great time adapting to the culture and daily social practices in Japan. Japan is rated among the most frequently toured countries in Asia. Annually, foreigners from all over the globe come to bear witness to the many traditional temples and shrines, the unique infrastructure, and the growing pop-culture that together allow Japan to maintain its high-held name. Modern exhibits containing insight into the future of science and technology are of growing interest, and also bring in crowds of international researchers and students. To have so many world-renown sites, Japan is a fairly small island. However, its small area does not attest to the rich traditions and cultural history that are inevitably present. Fortunately, I have been able to view many historic and contemporary museums and other locations that have a lot to offer in terms of past, present, and future knowledge.
Perhaps Tokyo is well-known for its famous Tokyo Tower. The Tokyo Tower is a national landmark that sits near Roppongi Hills (Japan’s premier international and local business center) and is the highest structure in Tokyo. While visiting Tokyo Tower one can enjoy viewing Tokyo city from an elevation of over 330m. In the special observatory sections there a glass panels embedded into the flooring that allow one to look down to ground level from an elevated 250m. Tokyo Tower is home to an amazing Michael Jackson Lifetime Collection exhibit displaying musical excellence at its best. Other activities at Tokyo Tower include many restaurants, an aquarium, a wax theater, and many shops among other seasonal activities. What is most remarkable about Tokyo Tower is that it is a larger replica of the Eiffel Tower. Even more amazing is that soon the Tokyo Tower will be replaced by the Tokyo Sky Tree. Expected to come into effect next year 2011, The Tokyo Sky Tree’s towering 634 meters will surely be in competition for one of the highest buildings in the world. I can’t wait to return to Tokyo to witness this remarkable tower.
I’ve also had the experience of visiting Odaiba, a district that sits right outside of the heart of Tokyo. Odaiba is home to many attractions including: the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, Palette Town and Venus Fort (a large shopping mall), Toyota Mega Web (a large showcase room displaying Toyota’s innovations for “green” production and the future of electric vehicles), and the Fuji TV Building (one of Japan’s nationwide TV stations), among others. The National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation was perhaps the most unique technologically based museums I have ever visited. One of their coolest attractions was a world fact machine that keeps statistics by means of a computer generated system that not only records historical data but can also calculate factual data on the spot. For example, if one touches a button on the machine, they can calculate the number of infrared and other specific wave signals that have transmitted since the time the button was pressed. The information the system holds is unlimited.
Odaiba is also home to Asimo. Asimo is a Japanese manufactured robot that has humanistic capabilities. These abilities include, but are not limited to, voice recognition and response, playing sports, performing household tasks, and others. Japan may be potentially entering what some call the “robot age” because of their soon to be “lost generation.” As a result of increasing population decline, robots are being continually researched to potentially become a solution for this problem in the near future. Already, smaller toy and stuffed animal robots are being used at nursing homes to entertain elderly senior citizens who can not distinguish the voice of robots versus that of actual human beings.
Kamakura is a region close to Tokyo that is famous for the “Daibutsu- (the Great Big Buddha Statue).” While many famous shrines, like Hachimangu Shrine (which I’ve visited) are located in Kamakura, the Daibutsu (the second largest Buddha statue in Tokyo) attracts a lot of attention internationally. I was personally impressed by the massive size of the statue and the effort it took in making such a huge replica Buddha. Weighing 93 tons, the bronze statue replaces the original wooden statue that was wiped away in an earlier tsunami. Located near the statue are shoes that are estimated to fit the feet of the statue in case Buddha was to decide to stand up and walk around. (I thought that was very weird and frightening). One can enter the Daibutsu and view a small artifact museum, as well as look out of the back side of the Buddha through observatory windows. Although Japan is home to many shrines and temples, it is as a whole not nearly as religious as it used to be. In the early 13th Century there were many disputes over the ideals of Shinto, Buddhism, and Zen-Buddhism (as introduced by the Chinese). The Shinto religion is practiced at shrines, while Buddhism is practiced in temples. Many use the terms interchangeably. This has less of an effect now, considering, shrines and temples co-exist in Japan despite their traditional differences.
Some other smaller sites and activities I have been able to view and participate in include the Ueno Zoo, a Yukata and Tanabata festival, and Enoshima Beach in the summertime. Of the three mentioned, the Yukata and Tanabata festival was my favorite as I was able to dress up in a traditional kimono (it is called a Yukata in the summer time because its cloth is lighter as a means of resisting the sweltering humidity of the summer heat in Japan). The Tanabata festival is a time to offer wishes and celebrate with others in belief that one’s most sincere wishes will be granted. The wishes are written on slips of paper and hung on a bamboo branch as its leaves. There is of course great food at Tanabata festivals as well.
I am so grateful to be spending time in such an awesome city as Tokyo. My knowledge base has grown immensely and I have expanded the depth of my global interest. Unfortunately my time is winding down, but I will not forget the fantastic things I’ve seen and taken part of. It is incredibly fascinating to be able to personally witness the sites that millions marvel over, and that hundred of millions will never get the chance to experience.