As I continue to plan my study abroad in Japan I am frequently asked a series of questions by both close friends and family, as well as by complete strangers. The main questions tend to be ” why do you study Japanese?”, “what interests you in Japan?” and of course the “why did you/ why will you be going to Japan?” One of my close friends that are also planning to go abroad to Japan found an article in The Japan Timesonline called “Why we came to Japan — a different realm” that really blew me away with a way to explain our decisions. If you know me and were wondering this, you are thinking about why you yourself would consider going to Japan, or if this is just something you would like to know, I recommend you read this.
In case the link does not work, I will paste a copy of this article by AMY CHAVEZ
“Why did you come to Japan?” We’ve all been asked this question. I still can’t give a good answer.
I certainly know why I came here, but such a point-blank question, usually from someone you hardy know, calls for an equal and reticent answer. Thus, we tend to say what we think our questioner wants to hear: “I came to work,” or “I came to teach English,” etc. But our reasons for coming to Japan are likely more profound. After all, most of us could have stayed in our own countries to work. Some of our predecessors came to fight wars, occupy and help rebuild. Others came seeking a better life. But my generation came to study, to teach, to experience or sometimes just to understand their own ancestors.
Some of us are running away from something at home: love, family, or responsibility. Some of us are the first in our family to ever go abroad. Others are living the life their parents only dreamed of. And some of us are doing nothing of the sort. But one thing is for sure: We came to Japan because we wanted to step into a different realm.
We were bright, we were young, we were full of wonder. We wanted to know: What’s out there? We wanted to step off the airplane and feel the first moonstones beneath our feet. And even now, when we go home, people ask us: What’s it like over there?
We came to Japan because we wanted to know what it’s like to walk down her streets, to feel the history of the samurai, or the sexiness of a geisha sashaying in geta. We came to have our photos taken in front of torii gates and temples and to seek the meaning of dragons, giant Buddhas and ancient Shinto ways.
And this we share with others who have been doing for centuries, just like my great grandfather did when he came to Japan. He purchased Japanese kimono for his two young daughters and when he returned to the U.S., he dressed them and took their photos. This brief, unlikely moment — of my grandmother and her sister as young girls, wearing kimono and holding a parasol between them — is indelible in my mind now because of this photo that hung on the wall in the house I grew up in.
And when we arrive in Japan, depending on our expectations, we either reach for the life jacket or we jump into the rescue boat. We either choose assisted swimming, or a complete return to safety. Some of us will be wowed by the country while others will be disappointed. Some of us will be fascinated and intrigued to the point of wanting to prolong the adventure, while others will prefer to retrace their steps, returning to security of home and family.
Those of us who are frustrated because we can’t find the right shampoo, that we can’t do even the simplest transaction at the bank, or who don’t like sucking up to their bosses, will go home soon. Those of us who are fascinated by all the different kinds of shampoo, and will buy even the last odd bottle on the shelf of the old ladies’ decrepit corner shop, will stay.
Those of us who have a taste for seafood appendages will stay while those repulsed by the same will leave. Those who see the language as a challenge to embrace will stay while those who fear the language barrier, unless they find an assistant, may leave. Those who fall in love will stay while those who don’t may leave.
But we all enjoy our stint living in Japan, a cradle of politeness. Politeness, so often a case of mistaken identity, is not the Please-Thank you kind of politeness, but culturally defined by roles, manuals and rigorous training. Walk into any restaurant and the Way of Politeness orchestra begins. Yet some of us will condemn this politeness for its lack of sincerity. Some will insist that a smile should be genuine. So some of us will go back to where we came from, where the people may be more rude, but they are sincere in their rudeness.
Others of us will understand that the fake politeness is exactly the point. We aren’t always polite because we want to be polite, but because we should be polite. If someone says something we disagree with, is it our duty to disagree? Or can we just quietly, politely, accept their views even though they are not our own?
When we learn Japanese, one of the first things we are told is not to use the word hate. It is too strong. And so it is, in any language. Yet in English it so freely rolls off the tongue: I hate fish! I hate school! I hate that guy! Can we be proud of hating something? Isn’t hate, rather, a sign of weakness?
Japan teaches us that there are many ways to act and react. And that we are not limited to our own. We are presented with a plethora of discernments we never thought we had before, notions of ganbaru (doing our best), shoganai (leaving some things to fate) and kawaii (cuteness). We are challenged by concepts long forgotten such as shyness, stoicism, and modesty. Some peculiarities we may never understand such as shrill female voices, obsession with character goods and the next TV tarento. Yet these are the moonstones we’ve stepped onto as we stepped into this other realm. You don’t have to choose them. But then again, you can.
We all had that curiosity — what’s out there?
So when we do go home, if we do go home, we are changed. That’s why we came to Japan.
OK, on to the next question, “How long stay Japan?”
I just received my Official Certificate of Eligibility for study abroad in Japan at Kansai Gaidai University (関西外国語大学). This is the third time I am trying to study abroad in college and so far something has come up or changed to make it so I was unable to go. At the moment I have several challenges in front of me before I can call this definite but I have put everything on the line for this to work. I have purchased round trip plane tickets through United Airlines, I have withdrawn from my UMass dorm, been removed from UMass courses, and there is no turning back now. I am so happy that I am actually following through with this, but it is not without it’s risks.
When I was 4 years old I started training in TaeKwonDo in Florida. I continued for several years, entering in dozens of competitions along the way, traveling, meeting new people, and having amazing experiences. Then I moved to NH and went a few years before I felt a longing to get back into the martial arts world. I then moved to Kajukenpo and Pai lum kung fu, training in those styles for a few years and then injured myself, bringing my training to a sudden halt for about 2 years. Then switching back to Taekwondo after I had healed enough to train and getting my car so I could drive myself longer distances without relying on my parents. Once I entered college I continued practicing TaeKwonDo more and more and eventually entered my first collegiate competition.
Let’s just say it wasn’t my best set of results. But at the same time I loved it, it didn’t matter if I had won or lost, it was about pushing myself and seeing what I was capable of, as well as what others were capable of. From there I could see just how much work I needed to do to compete at their levels. I was having an amazing time while balancing coursework, a part time job, friends, and TKD. At the second competition I was leaner, faster, stronger, and smarter in the ways of competition fighting. I still had a long way to go before I would be able to compete with the highest ranking competitors from universities and colleges like Harvard, MIT, NYU, UCLA and more, but I was starting to hold my own. Saddly that was my last competition at the collegiate level since, I just finished my Junior year in college and I have recently come into contact with the people I had trained under as well as the people I trained with in Florida as a small kid.
Since talking with everyone I have realized that I could do so much more, push myself so much farther, but only if I was the one who truly wanted to, if I was going to push, if I was going to dedicate my whole self into this. There is no changing the past, and no use in wishing you had done something differently, there is only now, and the future that can be changed, but I will not let go of my past.
I have decided to dedicate myself to training every day in order to compete on the national level for TaeKwonDo. I will not, cannot, slack off. I will eat healthier, go distance running, body-weight train, possibly weight-train, bike to and from work (6 or so miles each way), and most importantly I will practice TaeKwonDo every day.
My goals to reach are as follows;
-win a local TKD Tournament
-run a 5K
-be in great health/ shape
-compete in nationals
-maybe more to come later
This will not be easy and I will not pretend that it will be. Yet that does not change the fact that I will give this everything I have.
It is 2012 and the end of the world as we knew it has commenced. A Neuro–virus has been released onto the majority of the students here at UMass. The fire sprinkler systems were broken into, the Neuro-virus added and then, at the peak of the day, they were all set off simultaneously, effectively drenching the unexpecting and quickly irritated students. The virus seeped into the body through cuts, scrapes, eyes and even the pores if left on the skin long enough. All thanks to a junior writing professor and his whimsical mind and sporadic distaste for monotony, a few others and myself ended up outside, sitting on the steps of the Campus Center when this all occurred. This spared us from the almost instantaneous Zombification process that occurred once the N-virus reached your blood system.
It was a sweltering summer day, not even the carnivorous mosquitoes had energy in them to find their prey. There were no clouds in the sky, the grass was parched, and while a couple laid in a hammock sweating just from the effort of their existence, a monumental decision had been reached. This called for a pool party. Within ten minutes of this thought being processed 50 people dove head first into the life saving arms of the chilly pool water. A deep sigh ushered from the depths of the pool by the twirling bodies, released with every wave on the surface. Abruptly, a pack of enraged men in torn clothing burst through the 6ft fence surrounding the yard and pool. Each ghastly hulk of a being took two to three people each, tying them together in an instant and demanding the leader to come forth and surrender the blessed pool of water.
Walking down the street I happened to look to the right, seeing a girl walking in a stylish black and green twirl of a scarf. Her hair is wind-brushed back, out of her eyes, yet still squinting due to that same crisp, chilly wind. My heart skips a beat and then moves in double time to make up for itself. My mind pulls at the idea of approaching her, introducing myself, and inviting her somewhere for a romantic and fun night out. In my mind it all works; she smiles while say “yeah, sure thing.” to my invitation. Without delay, as that thought ends, a bombarding onslaught of horrid rejections flood my mind, one after the other, holding nothing back. Grasped by the vice of fear I look back and forth between her and the original path I was taking. An eternity passes as two seconds tick by. Finally I build up my courage for a ten second burst, as that’s all it takes. She starts to turn a corner a and I took the chance to jog over to catch up.
Security Camera View
Late at night, approximately 9:00pm. A woman walks onto the screen. Shortly after a man in a black coat, hat and gloves comes into view on her left. She is walking slowly leaning forward slightly into the wind. The man starts to stare in her direction, putting his hands in his pockets, taking them out, and putting them in once more, all the while looking her way. He looks around and jogs after her as she rounds the corner of a building, going out of view.
Today was a definite sweat you butt off day. We started out with the usual warm-up and jumped right into a full body pusher.
Oddly enough it seems th
at the simplest of the drills are the hardest, probably since there is such a short time of span between each rep. Either way I think I have decided upon a favorite drill so far in the Insanity Workout collection, The Mummy kicks. This one is tough but simple and drains my arms more than anything else.
This week the abdominal workout was not included but I think it starts with the next session.
I have started to consider if my meals are the best for my goals, but as a college student I am relying on what is available from the dinning commons, for the most part, and locally in town on special occasions. Soooooo that can be anywhere from a great balanced meal to a meat lovers pizza… not the best in consistency I think haha. Then again before this I was only working out 2 days a week and now I am doing 6 so we will see if that is enough to make a significant difference or not.Tomorrow is the last day of our training before a rest day and I’m not sure whether I should be worried or excited to see what’s in store for us.
It seems that everyone was doing better today, not as beat and sore before the workout, and had a lot more energy to offer. The focus on slower movements was a blessing for 2 of my friends that had eaten just before showing up…I thought they would lose their food by the end of the 10th minute, but the change-up saved them 😉
Today marked Day 3 of my Insanity Challenge, and all I have to say is …OUCH!
my legs more than anything else are truly sore. This is pretty ironic seeing as I study a few forms of martial arts and one of them focuses specifically on the legs. I can really feel an intense streeeeetch if I do a squat. So far I don’t feel much in my abs, but it i
s there just a little bit saying hello.
Today’s workout was pretty intense and left me weak and exhausted by the time it had finished. That’s exactly what I want! I know I dread heading over to the workout zone of a lounge or basement in one of the dorms, moving furniture out of the way, then starting the insanity workout but I can already FEEL that a progress is being made (and I’ve only just begun).
I’m hoping that by day 15 I will be able to make it through every workout without needing to stop to catch my breath or such.
I can tell that I will need a lot of support from my 3 other friends that are doing this challenge with me. especially since I love to take naps so my usual allotted time for a nap is being handed over to Insanity craze camp.
I’m considering putting up photos of before and after… but I think I will only do that at the VERY end which is day 60 or so. Any thoughts?