That’s the one thing that stays with you after travelling. You may have pictures to look through and souvenirs that you might have picked up on your travels but, nostalgia lets you relive the experience. Today being my birthday (Happy Birthday to me! Yay!) and with Mbithe in Japan at the moment, I can’t help but feel a tad nostalgic over the time I went to Japan.
On August 27th 2013, I left for Japan for a 2 week Study-Tour Award Program for Outstanding Students of Japanese as the only Kenyan representative with 66 other participants from around the world and I was very excited about it. I remember being very surprised when I was selected for this program because I honestly did not think that I would get to go. The program is not something that you apply for; the Embassy of Japan Kenya, specifically the JICC selects participants based on their proficiency in the Japanese language which they gauge through a person’s performance in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) and/or performance in their annual Japanese Language Speech contests. I was shortlisted for the interview based on my performance in the JLPT which I did the previous year in December and after doing the interview, I was chosen to go. 😀
Here are a few highlights from my trip, enjoy! 😀
The Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai:
After a 14 hour flight to Kansai International Airport with a layover in Dubai (where I got lost :D), I finally arrived in Japan with a few other participants and this is where we all stayed, at the Japan Foundation Japanese Language Institute, Kansai located in Rinku Port, overlooking the Kansai International Airport and facing Osaka Bay. The staff at the centre were all so lovely and made me feel right at home straight away. They had arranged some classes and cultural activities to be part of the program. The class that I really enjoyed was the one on the Osaka dia
lect (Kansai-ben) because it’s used in most anime. My favourite word from this lesson is and was ちゃう (chau) (doesn’t it sound sort of Kawaii! :D) which is a contraction of ちがう (chigau) meaning ‘to be different’. 😀 The cultural activities they had planned for us at the Center were Kimono wearing (浴衣; ゆかた), Calligraphy (書道; しょどう), Flower arrangement (華道; かどう), Japanese drum (和太 鼓; わだいこ) and Aiki-jujutsu but, we could each only take part in two activities of which I chose the Kimono wearing and the Calligraphy which I really enjoyed. In addition to that, we were treated to an English Rakugo performance which is the traditional Japanese art of storytelling that you can read about here and watch here.
On my third day, two other participants, Max from Laos and C.C. from Georgia (Hi Guys!), and I got to spend a day with a very lovely host family in Osaka. We cooked and ate while sharing stories from Laos, Georgia, Japan, Kenya and Indonesia. Indonesia because Josephine, an Indonesian Japanese Language student, who was being hosted by one of our host family’s friends were also there for the party. Before we left to see some sites after lunch, they had us sign an autograph (?) book with signatures of people from all over the world; actually, it was more of a scrap book with each page having a picture, signature and national currency from various foreign students that they had hosted previously and this was for a period of over 10 years. It was really something to see and I’m glad that I am now a part of that.
This was the most exciting part of the trip because we got to tour parts of Japan, specifically Osaka, Nara, Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima.
- Osaka: Here, we visited one of Japan’s most famous and absolutely breathtaking Osaka Castle (which you can read about here). But, my absolute favourite place in Osaka had to be Den Den Town, specifically Otaku Road! There were endless anime, manga and gaming shops. It was an Otaku’s paradise with all sorts of costumes displayed for sale. I remember spending several hours here with my friends and trying really hard to control Momo who was literally going to buy everything. 😀
- Nara: Nara was a beautiful stop, I loved everything inch I saw of it. My feet are still cursing me for the punishment I gave them here but you know what feet, I would do it to you again in a heartbeat, and I don’t care if you actually fell off this time. It may have been a very tiring full day of walking with a long train ride to and from Osaka but, ultimately fulfilling. We visited Todaiji Temple, Kasuga Taisha and Kofukuji Temple and walked through the old Nara Town and Park.
- Tokyo: To get to Tokyo, we took a flight from Kansai International Airport where we spent 2 days. We visited the gorgeous Asakusa Temple and thereafter the very high and frightening Tokyo Tower where I got the most spectacular view of Tokyo. We also visited the Edo Tokyo Museum which was very interesting for me because it displayed the history of Tokyo in the Edo period with some displays even showing the gradual development of Tokyo. It was absolutely fantastic! But, where I got my high was in Akihabara. I did have my expectations after doing a little research and also after walking through Den Den Town but Akihabara was just mind blowing! Now this was an Otaku’s heaven. Akihabara is a MUST visit for all you Otakus out there. Bucket list item? Definitely!
- Hiroshima: I think this had to be the most beautiful place I visited while in Japan; beautiful for several reasons. We stayed at the Miyajima Grand Hotel which was a traditional Japanese style hotel. The experience here was indescribable because it was the authentic Japanese experience I had hoped to be included in before I left for the trip. Having a Japanese dinner together with friends wearing sth was just beautiful. Touring Miyajima island was also beautiful. Finally, visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and actually seeing first hand the devastation of the atomic bombings was sad yes, but had some beauty to it.
- Kyoto: This was the last place we visited and getting here was quite exciting because we rode the Shinkansen from Hiroshima to here. Here we visited the Kiyomizu temple, the grand Kinkakuji and the Fushimi Inari Shrine after which we went back to the Kansai Centre because this was our last stop. 🙁
After two weeks, the dream was over and I had to come back home but, I am so grateful for having been selected for this program, Mbithe went this year and I cannot wait to hear all about her trip proving that there are rewards to learning the Japanese Language so, you should all consider it. I hope I will get to go to Japan once again to see the rest of it but until then, I’ll keep dreaming.
Dreams are valid! 😀
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In a perfect world, Gillian would be travelling round the world in her red vintage VW T1 van (Hippie Van) gathering stories of the people she meets and retelling them to those ready to listen. She is in the process of building this world which is now going to have all of you in it.