Japan 2017

Quinn
Japan Blog 4
7/10/17
I apologize for waiting a week to write one of these blogs but to be perfectly honest; I have been extremely tired after class to do anything, much less be witty on the web and write about the bad decisions I make while abroad. So, the past week has been a tough one. The pair of hakama that I bought turned out to be too small for me and I was out 40 dollars until someone in the class who did fit into them bought them off of me. My sensei also thinks that I am the best kotsozumi player in the men’s group, so guess what I get to do this coming Friday…that’s right; I get to lead the male group in playing the shoulder drum in front of an audience. Even better news is that I graduated from the Seiobo dance to the Takasago dance!
Here is a quick break down of the story for Takasago; Takasago is about a god who is a pine tree who disguises himself along with his lover as an elderly couple sweeping the pine needles around the pine tree that is his wife. The other main character; a Buddhist priest asks the old couple about the lover pine trees (two pine trees separated by a river who lean toward each other showing that they are in love with one another). The old man tells him the story of the two pine trees being gods and alludes to him and his wife being the two gods of the pine trees before disappearing. Takasago reappears in his true form as a young god and sings about the pine trees, his lover and everlasting love. I dance as Takasago in his true form, as a god. It is a quick dance, but there is a lot of singing which makes it kind of hard to perform, but I have picked it up relatively quickly and love this dance a whole lot more because there are quite a few stamps and it is a huge ego boost to be dancing as a young and powerful god.
I also have started memorizing a chant known as Gekkyuden, which I will perform on the main stage this coming Friday. It is a strong piece about long life and wishing the best for the emperor. Gekkyuden can be sung at weddings and it is considered very good luck if sung for the happy couple. If anybody would like this to be sung at their wedding, I am available for weddings and birthday parties…just email me, I charge 500 dollars for entertainment to be paid in cash up front…just kidding…but seriously, I am available.

In my dragon yukata on the main stage of the Keita School.

In my dragon yukata on the main stage of the Keita School.

I have been rehearsing really, hard and trying to memorize everything in a totally, different language. It has been really, really, rough and I have been able to do it, but it has come at the cost of me passing out at 8pm sharp every night. Later on in the week, I went yukata shopping and hakama shopping for my personal use. I found a yukata with a really, cool dragon pattern along with hakama that fit and complemented the color of the yukata, and a white obi which brings together the whole outfit. This yukata makes me look really intimidating and powerful when paired with the mask that Takasago wears for his dance in his true form.

Sunrise over Tokyo after our adventures in the gay district.

Sunrise over Tokyo after our adventures in the gay district.

The week flew by and before I knew it, it was Friday! As soon as class was over I went home took a nap and got ready to go to the gay district of Tokyo. Quick disclaimer; Legal drinking age in Japan is 20…I am/was 20 at the time I went out to the gay district. Needless to say I had a good time and I remember everything that happened, but I have to save some stories for my friends…let’s just say it was a night I won’t forget anytime soon, along with my classmates. We made it until 5 am when the trains started running again. As soon as i got home, I fell asleep and wasted my Saturday. On Sunday, I went to the Tanabata Festival.

Me putting on a mask before my Takasago dance (note this is not the mask to be used for the dance, this was just for practice. This mask would be used for the Seiobo dance)

Me putting on a mask before my Takasago dance (note this is not the mask to be used for the dance, this was just for practice. This mask would be used for the Seiobo dance).

The Tanabata Festival is known as the Chinese Star Festival.The Japanese adopted the myth and the festival into their own culture and it has become a big deal here. The Tanabata Festival celebrates the day that two stars are allowed to see each other. The story goes that there are two stars who are in love,  but can never see each other because they live on opposite sides of a river known as the Milky Way. The gods decided that the two should be reunited on one day. So, on the seventh day of the seventh month the stars are allowed to cross the Milky Way to be with each other. The festival goes on to celebrate love and it is believed that during the festival you should write a wish and it will come true. Well, guess what I did at Tanabata…yup, I was selfish and wrote a wish down for myself…look, I have prayed for the world at a bunch of Shinto Shrines and Buddhist Temples, I thought it was time to look after myself now.

I am entering the last week of my class and I couldn’t  be more excited. I am going through an emotional rollercoaster, because in this week I will say goodbye to some really, good friends that I have made here as they travel back to their respective countries, while I explore Tokyo and the rest of Japan for the following two weeks.  But, I am also excited, because I can’t wait to perform on the Kita School’s main stage and make Professor Dubroff as well as Oshima Sensei, Nagashima Sensei, and the two Awaya Senseis proud with how much I was able to accomplish in only three weeks. To put this into perspective; most professional Noh actors have their debut on stage at the age of three with beginning their training around age two. I would also like to point out that I am twenty years old and I have been doing this for less than three weeks. Actually,  pre-professionals training in Noh, train with the senseis for months on one aspect of Noh, focusing on one piece and it takes them about six months or so to make the same progress I made in three weeks. I have studied two dances, three chants, and one instrument…I just can’t believe how much progress I have made

Making a wish at the Tanabata Festival.

Making a wish at the Tanabata Festival.

I can’t wait to learn even more this week, but I don’t want it to end because I won’t know what I am going to do with all my new free time when the class is over.
Another side note; sitting seiza is still killing me and I don’t understand how people can do this for over an hour when a full length Noh play is being performed.

Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes

Japan Blog #3

7/2/17

Chanting Gekkyuden in seize position.

Chanting Gekkyuden in seize position.

Sorry for not blogging about my Japan adventure but I have been very busy with my Noh Training. For those of you who don’t know why I am here in Tokyo, I am studying the traditional Japanese theatre form known as Noh theatre. The theatre form was created by Zeami in the 1300’s and became big when the first Shogun was created. Most of the noh plays revolve around the Tales of Genji and many of the plays focus around a main character that is otherworldly like ghosts, demons, and gods.

This theatre form focuses on the combination of singing, chanting, dancing, poetry, and instruments. All noh plays take about an hour and a half to perform even though the overall script usually is no more than 5 to 10 pages. Needless to say, noh plays move extremely slowly and the storylines are extremely tragic.

I am in Tokyo studying this ancient theatre form at the youngest of the five schools of noh; Kita. By school I am referring to the style of how the Noh is performed. There are five schools Kita being the youngest and I believe Kanze being the oldest school. I am actually studying at the same school as my professor, Professor Dubroff with the same teachers that he had! I just mention his first name and everyone at the school is like, “ah yes! Matthew!” It’s kind of like he is a Rockstar or something and I am elevated by sheer association.

I started my first day on Monday with 5 hours of noh. I thought I was ready for a couple of noh plays but I was sorely mistaken. The plays were sooooo sllloooowwww and I didn’t understand the Japanese being spoken but I was able to follow along with an English synopsis that was provided. The first two plays were kind of boring. The first one was about a dead poet who urged a priest to sleep under a cherry blossom, and the second one was about a woman spirit asking a priest to pray for Genji and when the priest prayed for Genji the woman turned into a dragon and disappeared. The last play was by far the most interesting. It was about a demon that lived in a rock. A priest exorcised the demon from the rock and on stage the rock exploded and out came a demon and the dance that the demon did was so intense you could feel the tension in the room as the demon repented and was exorcised from the rock.

shimai for Seiobo

That was my first day along with a group meal at a restaurant near the theatre in Meguro. On the second day we wasted no time getting into the meat of noh performance. We started the day off with a greeting and sat seiza for 20 mins chanting a very celebratory song called Gekkyuden. We were then broken up into two groups to learn shimai (dance) from two different plays. I am currently learning the shimai for Seiobo. The character that does the dance is a beautiful princess…yeah imagine me as a beautiful princess if you are capable of doing that. Over the first week I learned the shimai for Seiobo pretty well and I think I am ready to learn a harder shimai but I am not the master at this and they haven’t asked me to move on and they know better than I do…I just hope they ask me to learn another one because I would like to challenge myself in my shimai. We also learned some hiyashi (instruments). We started off learning how to play the    kotsozumi also known as a shoulder drum. The drum can make five different sounds depending on how you hold the drum. We have learned three so far known as Po, Chi, and Ta.

Learning kotsuzumi

Learning kotsuzumi

Out of Utai (chanting) Shimai (dancing) and Hiyashi (instruments) I enjoy shimai the most and hiyashi the least. For the most part, that happened everyday through Friday. On Friday I went into Harajuku proper and found a cheap pair of hakama (samurai pants) because I am putting together a traditional Japanese Yukata for the Atsumori play that Professor Dubroff will be putting on this coming spring semester. I also went down the busiest street in Harajuku and found the store and designer where Lady Gaga bought her outfits for her Fame Monster album. I really want to buy something from there, but I can’t completely justify purchasing anything from there.

The busy street in Harajuku.

The busy street in Harajuku.

On Saturday I went to the Ueno Zoo and saw my favorite animal ever; the Giant Panda. I  bought a small panda magnet for the fridge that I don’t own…I guess I know my next purchase before I head back to Hampden-Sydney… I went back to Harajuku and ate gyoza (pot stickers) for less than 3 dollars! I also went into Shinjuku’s gay district and got to look around at all the crazy nightlife that I will probably be partaking in next weekend with some friends. I also went to the extremely sketchy area of Shinjuku known as Kabukicho it is not as sketchy as Roppongi, which I will not be going to anytime soon. I was kind of concerned about getting pick pocketed but I made it out okay.

Giant panda at Ueno Zoo.

Giant panda at Ueno Zoo.

I am really enjoying my time here and I love the class even though sitting seiza is killing me. I hope I have some more adventures to talk about in the next week!

Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes
Japan Blog
6/24/17
It has been two days since my last blog post and already so much has happened! First off, I would like to say that the crazy and overwhelming city of Tokyo is now easier to navigate after I wised up. Now, before I leave, I look up the address of the places I want to go while I have Wi-Fi and then screenshot the map and the directions to get to that place. I also have decided to just let the whirlwind that is Tokyo, take me to where I need to go rather than try to control it and live by the idea that “it happens.”
Other good news is that some of my money has been deposited and I can’t convey to you just how happy I am! I was so worried that I would have to make about 100 dollars stretch for 3 weeks, which would more than likely be impossible in a city where one dish usually averages 10 USD. But, I have money now and I am eating more than one meal every two days, and my goodness the food here is so delicious!
One of the things that I was looking forward to the most, when I was preparing to go to Japan, was to visit Shinto and Buddhist Shrines and Temples. I had the privilege to visit a shrine relatively close to where I live. The shrine known as Meiji-Jingu is a Shinto shrine located in Yoyogi Park right in the center of Tokyo’s famous Harajuku. The shrine, encased by a huge park that drowns out the sounds of modern day Tokyo, makes anyone who visits feel like they are in a rural Japanese town. The towering skyscrapers around the area are replaced by huge trees, and the sound of Tokyo traffic is replaced with the sounds of the birds and crickets.

Meijijingu Shrine- purifying my hands before entering.

Meiji-Jingu Shrine, purifying my hands before entering.

Enshrined in Meiji-Jingu is Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, Japan’s most revered royal family. When the Emperor died, the Japanese people built the shrine to honor him. The shrine burned down during World War II but was rebuilt by the Japanese people and the original shrine will turn 100 in 2020. When I visited, the copper plates on the roof were being refurbished and replaced for the centennial celebration and the Olympic games in 2020. I was also extremely privileged to witness a Shinto wedding procession into Meiji-Jingu. I sadly did not take any pictures, because I didn’t want to be irreverent to the couple getting married, and I wasn’t too sure about the policy on photographing Shinto wedding ceremonies.
The bride and groom were in beautiful traditional clothing and were being led in on a carriage. In the front of the procession seemed to be the head Shinto priest, followed by a drum, and then a few more priests (I think they were priests) who were chanting, and then the bride and groom came in on the carriage. It was very beautiful to witness and I wish I had been able to take a few stealthy photos.
Once I was in the shrine, I went and prayed for world peace and universal harmony. Through my prayer at the alter, and through my ema (a wooden plaque where you write your wish and prayers on) I prayed for myself and I received an omikuji, a small poem written by Emperor Meiji, which tells you about what to expect for the year and words of wisdom to be followed. The whole shrine was very beautiful, and the people there were extremely kind and welcoming to all foreigners and their religions. One Japanese woman was asking every person that finished praying at the alter what their current religion is; a few of the answers were Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, B’hai, and Buddhist. It is very beautiful and wonderful to see religions that have had bad blood with one another, come together and be peaceful toward one another, and wish and pray for the same thing. It just shows how we are all human and want the same thing; to be loved by one another and be peaceful toward each other.
I returned to my share house at about the middle of the day and relaxed a little bit before heading out to Shinjuku to register for a class the following day (today). Out in Shinjuku, there are a lot of very tall skyscrapers and shopping areas, which reminded me of Midtown Manhattan in the way that it is sensory overload almost the whole time. I found this one place called the robot restaurant, which costs about 8,000 (80.00USD) yen for one dinner. It seems that the robot restaurant is one big show, along with a dinner, and the people that I saw leaving the restaurant said it was worth the 8,000 yen for the show alone. So, I think when my class is over and if I have enough money saved up, before I leave, I will go and see what the robot restaurant is all about.
Today I went to Asakusa, about an hour away from where I live, to take part in traditional Japanese arts and crafts. The share house company that I am staying with while in Tokyo is known as Sakura House, and they put on events for their residents every month. This month one of the last events was making traditional crafts in the form of Zabuton and Hanko.

My Zabuton

My Zabuton

A zabuton is a traditional Japanese cushion, which has a trademark of being balanced in all four corners. You are able to tell the quality of the cushion by holding it by the thread in the center of the cushion, and seeing it hold steady and flat while being suspended in the air. Needless to say, mine was less than perfect. One of my corners was too heavy, and if you tried to pick it up by the center thread, it leans to one side. Building this zabuton was a lot of work too! I had to rip the cotton apart, lay each layer out, open each layer, rip some more, then feel for depressions, and add left over cotton to my cushion before I could even shape it into a cushion! Then came getting it into the cover, which is another long and drawn out process. In total, making one zabuton took me over 3 hours!

 

Senso-Ji in front of the temple and incense burner

Senso-Ji in front of the temple and incense burner

I had a little break between the two crafts so I went to Senso-Ji, a Buddhist temple in Asakusa, which is famous for how massive it is as well as the shopping street in front of it. I got lost there for a few hours and had some really, good fried chicken. It wasn’t like Granny B’s where it was fried with a breading, but rather just straight chicken fried in sesame oil. Some of the best fried chicken I have had in a while, actually. I explored the surrounding area of Senso-Ji until it was time to make a hanko.
A Japanese hanko is a traditional name stamp used by the Japanese to sign their name on contracts and loans from the bank. Every person in Japan has a hanko and uses it for official documents. The process started with us writing our names and then having someone write out a few modern Japanese characters, which mimic the sounds of our name. My name, being hard for them to wrap their minds around, because Quinn doesn’t exist in their language, ended up being a square. As I waited for them to explain how to make the hanko, I stared at my character, extremely upset that my stamp will just be a square. I felt terrible and like it was a waste of time at this point. Then something amazing happened! One of the professionals came around with a book of ancient Japanese characters, saw our modern day characters and then translated them to the ancient characters that they came from.

My Hanko

My Hanko

My little square “gu” turned into this face with two outstretched opened hands. I asked the professional why we were using the ancient characters, she said the ancient characters are more symmetrical and can be given meaning to them more so than some of the modern day characters. I then asked what my character meant now, and she said that it means giver or offering to the gods. I was thrilled and to be perfectly honest, the character looks really cool! After she wrote the character onto our stamp, we took an engraving tool and etched our character into the stone. It was rough work to do it by hand, but it was extremely relaxing for some reason. My stamp turned out to look pretty good, and the professional didn’t have to do too much in order to fix it. After I finished making my hanko, I stopped for dinner at this little place known as McDonalds. I know, I know, hate on me as much as you want for eating McDonald’s in a foreign country. However, I had only 500 yen that I was willing to spend and I didn’t want to go looking for a place that was selling traditional Japanese food at 500 yen…so I ate at McDonalds. I will say that it is a lot better than American McDonalds. Here in Japan, when you order something off the menu, the item actually looks like the picture on the menu compared to when you order something and it looks like it was run over by a truck.
That pretty much concludes my past two days here, and tomorrow I start my class in Noh theatre. I can’t wait to meet everyone in my class! I know this class is about to be super intensive, but I am ready for it. The only thing I may have a problem with is sitting sezah for long periods of time.

Japan 2017

Quinn Sipes
Japan
6/22/17
I arrived in Japan extremely jet lagged and confused. My flights went over without many problems. It was a 13 hour flight from Toronto to Tokyo and I ended up staying awake the whole flight because the guy behind me decided to knee me in the back every few minutes. Luckily I was able to power through and saw that by staying up the whole flight would help me get onto Tokyo time.

Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya Crossing

I travelled to the heart of Tokyo in Shinjuku to sign over my life to Sakura House and receive my keys to my house near Yoyogi Hatichiman Station. I originally got off at the wrong station…actually I went on the wrong train line all together. To say that my brain was fried when I arrived is an understatement. While trying to navigate the train stations in Tokyo is hard enough; picture following signs that are in both English and Japanese but then suddenly turn into solely Japanese, during rush hour in Tokyo’s busiest train station with one hiking backpack and one suitcase weighing approximately 15 pounds and 26 pounds respectively. I was in total sensory overload and everything moved so fast that I had a really hard time trying to keep up!
I finally made it to my room and quickly unpacked while also stripping down to wash the grime of 24 hours of travel and 3 hours of Tokyo train hopping off. After getting comfortable in the quiet neighborhood where I will be spending the next month I quickly slipped into a coma. When I woke up I met my two roommates; one from Hawaii and the other from Tunisia. I woke up at about 5 am in Tokyo time and went outside to explore the area I now live in. Now comes literally all my advice; to make it easier to digest they will be listed below:
1. Nothing is open at 5 am in Tokyo, especially in a quiet residential area filled with elderly people and children.
2. Take out enough Yen in cash because card isn’t accepted everywhere.
3. Make sure you have enough money before coming here! (I do have enough, but I am actually waiting on it to all come through so I have to budget literally everything!
4. Don’t wander with no sense of direction…(I walked about 4.5 km in a big circle because I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going).
5. Before you leave write down as much information about the places you need to go, in case google maps and your phone decide to be dead weight (you guessed it I am going into this month long experience completely blind).
6. Watch what others do and just copy them, until you figure out what to do in certain situations.
7. Walk on the left! And on escalators you stand on the left walk on the right.
8. Wait in line for the subway and trains…don’t rush into the car!(this one came a little naturally for me, during rush hour everyone was in a line so it was easy to just follow behind).
9. Learn the language!! I can’t stress that one enough! I have 0 experience with this language that has 3 alphabets and sounds absolutely foreign when people are speaking (obviously it will be foreign…good observation Quinn…).
10. Buy a Passmo or start walking (a Passmo/Suica card is what gets you on the trains, subways, metros, and bus lines throughout Tokyo and other parts of Japan. Pass up a Passmo and you may as well just start walking because buying tickets at every stop is a real big hassle).
The above points are only some of my advice…if I added anymore it would be a sensory overload and I can’t do that to you. I got very lost the first full day in Tokyo.

Meguro shopping area

Meguro shopping area

I started walking in one direction hoping that if I got super lost I could consult Google Maps to get me back on track. However, my phone is not supported in Japan even if I bought a Japanese SIM card. I guess that’s what I get for getting some bootleg off brand smart phone. Also Japan is sorely lacking in its ability to provide free Wi-Fi so be prepared to buy a mobile hotspot if you really need it (like me). I somehow got from my house to where my class will be held at the Kita Nohgakudo in Meguro, a Tokyo neighborhood about 20 minutes from where I live, to Ikebukoro which is about an hour from where I live! How did I get there? I have no clue! Luckily I made it back to my house at about 8 pm and ate my first meal in two days: a cold soba noodle with tea from the 7/11 down the street from the station near my house.
After these past few days, I am so exhausted from all my walking and getting lost I really wish I studied this language a little bit more. I think when the class starts in a few days I should be okay as I will be in class for like 12 hours a day from 10 am to 10 pm with like a two hour break. I plan on doing a little more exploring, but maybe less spending until my outstanding checks make their way into my account! Until I go on another crazy adventure in a land where I am hardly in tune with the culture or language or direction of things, I guess that means tomorrow, have a wonderful day filled with a whole lot less confusion than mine! If you want to see pictures of the craziness that is Tokyo follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Reflections on Japan – May Term 2007

by Benjamin M. Brown ‘10

(At Kegon Fall – left to right, first row, sitting – Ben Brown ’10, David Bowen ’09 Second row, crouching – Andrew Wolfe ’08, Wes Julian ’08, Richard Shelby ’08, Cory Cutler ’08, Warren Beth ’09 Third row, standing – Clay Behl ’08, John Rothgeb ’08, Anson Bird ’08, Christian L’Heureux ’08, Alex Modny ’08, Matthew Dubroff, Eric Dinmore)

On a particularly dark night in May, twelve students embarked on a journey from Hampden-Sydney to the Land of the Rising Sun.  With Professors Eric Dinmore and Matthew Dubroff leading this procession through Japan, a land of dragons, samurai heritage, and timeless tradition, the group departed from America and landed a day later at Kansai Airport. We arrived with high expectations and anticipation of the sites to be seen.

From the airport in Osaka our journey began in Kyoto, a city where old ways meet the innovation of the present. The beauty and spiritual depth of Japan was revealed through encounters with the Golden and Silver Pavilions, ornate shrines, inspiring temples, and the many art forms that a person can spend a lifetime mastering.  One almost felt as if he were dreaming when wandering through the culture that defines traditional Japan.  Yet, everyone was reawakened periodically by the harsh reality that this trip was also an academic program, and reading, studying, and presentations broke the rhythm of an otherwise ebon flow.  This responsibility to maintain academic awareness amidst so many awe-inspiring wonders and unbelievable opportunities in fact exemplifies the concept of giri-ninjo, or duty versus desire, a theme expressed in traditional Japanese arts.

Not forgetting that the traditional side of Japan coexists with a contemporary hustle and bustle that stops only when halted by a red crosswalk signal, the group conversed with locals and explored the restaurants and nightlife with wide eyes and a true Hampden-Sydney curiosity. This was especially true in Tokyo, where the present actually moves toward a wondrous and ever-evolving future.  If ever there were a place that could be called a futuristic metropolis, Tokyo is that place.  Few have ever witnessed such awareness of fashion, technology, and activity as the group came upon while in the city.  In fact, by the time of the yakatabune harbor cruise and dinner that marked the end of the group’s visit to Japan, each member, including the professors, could call claim to a very personal superlative accompanied by a memorable trinket and story to tell.

From start to finish, there were many firsts on this journey.  For some, this trip meant their first ride on an airplane, train, or subway.  For others, it was an indulgence in new cuisines and countless new drinks from the many vending machines that lined the streets.  For yet others, it was their first time simply reflecting internally and documenting their evolution as they reevaluated themselves throughout the journey.  And further still, some took the true cultural plunge, from accidentally buying traditional undergarments, to singing uninhibited karaoke, to sumo wrestling in the subway, to getting lost on purpose simply to find themselves.  But whatever the memory, the consensus in our culturally enlightened group is undoubtedly that this journey through Japan was unforgettable.

Mt. Fuji from the air: photgraph takem by Richard Shelby

Buddhist Studies in Japan

by William J. Kawaihae ’04

at right in front of the Japanese Diet (parliament) Building

In the fall semester of 2002-2003, I participated in the Buddhist Studies in Japan program through Antioch College. I chose this program for many reasons: I have an interest in the Buddhist religion and Japanese culture and a desire to travel to Japan and see everything that the country has to offer. However, the main reason I participated was to make a connection with my ancestral Japanese roots.

First, I would like to tell students – if you are thinking about participating in this program – to make sure that you have an interest in learning about and practicing various forms of Buddhism, not just Zen. Also, you must be prepared to live in Buddhist temples and monasteries, be able to rise at 4:30 AM, to sleep on the floor, to eat only vegetarian food, and you should have an interest in learning about Japanese culture. If you have an adventuresome spirit, then this is the program for you.

The program involved a great deal of traveling, with the other program participants and alone. There were three main temples where we stayed for up to three weeks while in Japan and various other places where we only visited for a night or two. During the extended stays, we studied the various form of Buddhism. The Antioch program begins in California at a place called Zen Mountain Center where we stayed for several days of orientation. We learned  temple etiquette, Japanese customs, basic meditation forms, and had a chance to learn about other people in the group. Then we were off to Japan for three months where we traveled to Kyoto, Koyasan, Nara, the island of Shikoku, Hiroshima, Sakamoto, Tokyo, and many small villages.

I found that many people had problems, in the beginning, with the food. It was strictly vegetarian, which means a lot of rice and tofu. Also, many of the group did not know how to use hoshi (chopsticks), which were the only eating utensils available. A basic meal would consist of rice, tofu and shoshu (soy sauce), miso soup, and some type of vegetable. For the most part, the food was good, and I learned to like Japanese food very much. However, if you did not like tofu, too bad because you had to get use to it!  The sleeping arrangements were not that bad. Most of the time there would be two or three people in a room, but sometimes there would be up to six. The bedding consisted of a pillow filled with beans, a comforter, a sheet, and a futon; it actually was rather comfortable.

The program had many highlights. My favorite experience was the Shikoku Pilgrimage, where we backpacked around the island of Shikoku hiking sometimes long distances to various temples. Another, highlight was going to Hiroshima for a few days. We visited the Peace Park, toured the museum, and talked with a survivor of the A-Bomb.

At the end of the program, we had a two-week research period. We each received a rail pass, which allowed us ride on all JR (Japan Rails) rail lines for free, so we had the opportunity to travel around Japan on our own. I traveled to Misawa, Kyoto, Tokyo and Kyushu on the Bullet Train. Leaving Japan, the group traveled to Hawaii where we completed our research and made individual presentations to the group.

 In addition to the wonderful travel opportunities, the program offered many benefits, such as the Antioch leaders and teachers, fellow students, the monks, and the Japanese people as a whole. This was a great program to go on: an experience like no other, but it will only be memorable if you make the most of every situation. I would be glad to talk to any students interested in joining the Buddhist Studies Program in Japan in a future semester.