Friday, August 29, 2014

Japan Trip 2014 (Tokyo and Ishigaki Island)

I finally have a break today to write about my trip to Japan! I wrote chronologically how my trip went in my Japanese blog. (If you would like to see some of the pictures, please click here!) The main purpose of this trip was to see my new baby nephew, and spend a lot of time with my family, but I would like to write little bit differently here for a different audience.

You have to remember about me, when you read this, that I've always been interested in literature and languages. In my high school days, I studied English so that I could go to university in the States and study linguistics. Since I was 18, I have lived in the States and Canada (except the time I was serving as a missionary in Japan for 18 months. Even then I lived and worked with non-Japanese missionaries), and I now live in the area where it seems everything is so different from what I was used to when I lived in Osaka. 

So the places I was most interested in visiting were those that I could learn about Japanese literature and those who were considered great writers in Japanese literature. I have had this idea since I started paying more attention to English literature and history when learning English. I realized I did't have a strong background in the knowledge of Japanese culture and literature as I wished. (Although, at one point in high school, I wanted to be a high school Japanese teacher or Japanese teacher who teaches Japanese as a foreign language.)

When I think of Japanese literature we studied in high school, the first thing that pops in my mind would be "Maihime (dancing girl)" by Mori Ogai. "Botcchan" "Kokoro" by Souseki Natsume, "Rashomon" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa etc. When researching which area to visit in Tokyo, I found out about the Mori Ogai museum as well as the place where Mori Ogai used to live and wrote "Maihime". 

I just felt an amazing desire to be there. I mean, it felt like I time slipped back to the time of the Meiji restoration. Not only did I learn about Mori Ogai, at the museum, I learned about his family and the connections he had with other important writers of the period---letters written to him, for example---seeing what he might have seen, and standing where he stood, and walking on the path he might have walked were pretty cool experiences. 

Mori Ogai Memorial Museum

 He studied medicine and was a translator, as well as a writer. He also was a father who taught his children foreign languages. At the museum, there was a library of his books, and books written about him. I was there for about 30 mins but reading what his son said about him was most interesting to me. I listened to the recording of his daughter who talked about him as well.

Since I got home I've been reading some of the books I purchased in Japan. I just read about Fukuzawa Yukichi, another important author, and reformer of Meiji era.The common thing that I found in those two which really resonated with me are that they studied foreign languages, translated texts, and they were advocates of better education at home and in public.

Where I stayed in Tokyo was close to University of Tokyo, in Bunkyo ward, which is said to be the educational center, "Beginning in the Meiji period, literati like Natsume Sōseki, as well as scholars and politicians have lived there." (from Wiki) So it was definitely a great time to be able to learn about Japanese history. I understand a little bit more about that area of  Japanese culture that I wasn't really familiar with. (I wish I could go back to high school! I had an amazingly knowledgeable Japanese history teacher. I would have spent more time asking her questions!) 

Other than planning to visit Bunkyo ward, I didn't know much about the Ueno park and Ueno station area where I stayed. I was surprised to find the size of the park and the number of national museums around the park. I wish I had more time to visit each one, but I had other plans so I'll look forward to the day when I can go back again. 

Stature of Takamori Saigo in Ueno Park

I'm skipping many details of other things that I did in Tokyo, because I want to talk about Okinawa too. I will come back to talk about other experiences later. 

Here are pictures from the island!

So now that I shared my cultural experience in Tokyo, I would like to share about my root culture. After spending three days in Tokyo, I flew to Ishigaki island. It's a part of Okinawa prefecture, and I wrote about it on a previous blog post. I will let you Google image search on Ishigaki island. You will be jealous of how beautiful the color of the ocean is, I think :) 

When I visited there it was a Bon Festival season. (They celebrate Kyu-bon in Okinawa, which is Old bon) So my mom said the store was crowded more than usual (which I didn't think it was that crowded) and I got to visit relatives who live on the island. I vaguely remember the last time I visited them on Ishigaki island when I was a girl. I always feel something special about Okinawa whenever I visit, even though I'm not from there since I was raised in Osaka. It's beautiful, it's different, and it's spiritual. It really connects you with families who have gone before. Even if you don't have roots in Okinawa, I think you would feel it by seeing how the people worship their ancestors and really care for each other in their family. 

So, in the 2 weeks while I was in Japan, I visited my hometown of Osaka, Tokyo, and Ishigaki island. Before the trip, I expected it to be fun and adventurous: Reunion with old friends, family time and eating good food. It was great! In the end, I think it was more spiritual and more bonding.

I couldn't have experienced this meaningful and rewarding trip without so many people's help. One of the ways I can give back is to share my experience and continue to pass my cultural heritage down to my children. I also would like to cultivate the appreciation for different cultures and life styles. Life is beautiful.