Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Tuesday, 6/25

This is Roman again writing about our second day in Kyoto. Today our group did a plethora of fun activities, starting with a wagashi making class. We walked from our hotel to a small store that sells wagashi, a traditional Japanese sweet. All of them are beautifully sculpted, and we were shown how to make our own. I didn’t do too well, but had fun nonetheless. We took our wagashi with us as we left to go to our next stop, Fushimi Inari shrine.

During our walk, it started to heat up, much to our displeasure. Sensei told us this is real Japanese summer. Fushimi Inari is a shrine complex situated on a huge mountain , with various shrines scattered on the path up. The paths go through what seem like thousands of red torii gates. Given the heat and the fact that it was a mountain, the climb up was hard, but worth it. Walking up the path took us to astounding views of the Kyoto area. We tried to find relief here and there at small stores that sold ice cream. The shrine at the top was gorgeous.

We climbed back down and headed to Kyoto station, a modern building in contrast to traditional Kyoto. Here, we admired the views of the city and walked through the many stores located in the station, and took a short rest.

The last stop took us to a Japanese mall, where somehow we were able to spend about two hours. Most of us spent that time in the arcade, and towards the end we crammed into a photo booth to take what’s called purikura. Think instant photo booths but manipulating the photo after. It was a lot of fun.

Finally, we had dinner at a restaurant where they have deep fryers set into the table. It’s all you can eat, so you grab various meats and vegetables and deep fry them at your own pace. After over 90 minutes there, some (sensei) eating much more than others, we headed back to the hotel. Looking forward to tomorrow but not the day after.

Fushimi is also famous for its fox statues

The main gate

Deep frying


More deep frying 

Kyoto Tower from Kyoto station 

Guess the weight and your wish comes true 



How they are supposed to look 

Walking through the Torii

Roman amongst the Torii

It was also all you can eat dessert

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Monday, 6/24

I apologize for the lack of updates. The days have been crazy busy and students have been unable to submit their posts. Lots of exhausting sightseeing!

Hello! This is Amy, a senior at the high school, and I’d like to introduce our first day in Kyoto. This morning we had to say goodbye to our host families. It was incredibly sad as we took our final pictures and said our goodbyes. From there, we stopped at the hotel to drop off our luggage, and then began our tour with a trip to Sanjuusangendo, where our former assistant teacher, Inokuchi-sensei, came out from Hiroshima to meet us. We went into the temple, which is famous for its 1001 golden Buddha statues. It was really awe inspiring.

Our next stop was Kiyomizudera, a large temple complex at the top of a mountain overlooking Kyoto. The view was breathtaking. The contrast between the modern city in the background and the traditional buildings that surrounded us was unique. At the bottom of the complex, there are three springs, and drinking from one will give you luck in a certain area. One is for love, another for study, and the third for long life. I decided to drink from the third.

The street going down the mountain was lined with all kinds of shops, many of which are over a 100 years old. It was very crowded, but the snacks they sold were worth the crowds. For dinner we went to a Shabu Shabu restaurant. Here, set into the table, is a big pot of boiling soup. The waitresses would bring vegetables and thinly sliced meat to your table, and you would cook it yourself. The meat was so thin it would only take a couple of seconds before it was ready to eat. The added bonus is that the restaurant was all you can eat, and while some of us were too tired to really eat a lot, others really tried to beat the restaurant.

On our way back to the hotel, we had another round of goodbyes as we had to leave Inokuchi-sensei. It was another sad moment, because she is just the nicest person ever. We went back to the hotel, and found ourselves looking forward to the next day’s travel.

The springs at Kiyomizu

Shabu Shabu

Going for luck in study and love

Our last time with our hosts

Spring of long life 

The gates of Kiyomizu 

Roman and Totoro 

Sanjuusangendo’s gates

Shabu Shabu

If you can walk to one end of a path to the other with your eyes closed, you will find true love 


In front of the springs 

Yasaka Shrine 

Overlooking Kyoto

Saturday, June 22, 2019

6/22 Saturday

Hello! This is Balsomico-sensei. Being the weekend, students did not have to go to school, so it’s one of two days that I am not with them the whole day. As a result, I will give a brief introduction to part of the day, and students can provide some samples of what they did. I didn’t want to make them write too much on their day off.

We were together for a couple of hours towards the middle of the day. The Joys International Exchange Association, with whom I worked closely while in Japan, graciously helped us find the host families. In return, they asked me to give a presentation on the importance of international exchange, and after my presentation, community members had the opportunity to interact with our students. Many of the people that attended were my adult students from many years ago, and it was wonderful seeing our students talk with people from all kinds of backgrounds in Japan. I think it was a great opportunity for them. After the meeting, students left were their families and had their own adventures:

Today my host sister and I wore a yukata and went to Byodoin, a temple in Uji featured on the 10 yen coin. We went to a museum, and had matcha ice cream and dango on the way out. After sensei’s speech, we made shabu shabu and Haruka’s (my host sister) friend joined us and we played games together. Also, before going to Byodoin, a neighbor came over and showed me how to make Shimenawa, ropes found around Japanese shrines.

Today with my host mother, we went shopping, then went to an arcade. After the presentation we joined some other kids from Shaler and made okonomiyaki and yakisoba.

I was able to sleep in this morning, and then with my family had a type of cheese udon for lunch. After sensei’s presentation, I got to talk with a bunch of people. In the evening, Alex, Roman, Amy, and our host families gathered together for dinner.

Alex and Roman:
In the morning we went to a Japanese arcade and played some games, where I won nothing. In the evening we had an okonomiyaki party and took turns trying to figure out how to flip the okonomiyaki.

Today was an interesting day. I went shopping with my family at a store strangely called Don Quixote. I bought a lot of food that I had never seen before and thought it would be interesting to try. In the even8ng my family took me to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

Some of the pictures from today:
Carley and her family at Byodoin

Okonomiyaki party

More okonomiyaki


Some of Sensei’s former students with Nate 

Carley’s host mother and sister. Check out the Heinz pickle pin sensei gave her over 15 years ago

More okonomiyaki

Carley and her mother 

Can we flip okonomiyaki? 

Games with the family 

Friday, June 21, 2019

6/21 Friday

Hello everyone! I’m Meiling and I’d like to update you on our current status in Japan! Today was a very eventful day, because it was our last day at the Japanese school. Everyone was a little disheartened at the thought of leaving Ritsumekan, but we tried to make today as memorable and joyous as possible. I and everyone else have grown rather fond of the school and the people in it, and saying goodbye was harder than expected. The atmosphere and the overall feeling of attending Ritsumekan was like no other. We have learned so much and met so many wonderful people during our time at this outstanding school. This experience could not be traded or subtitled with anything. This trip has been worth while and if I could do it over again, or stay longer, I would do so without hesitation. We have grown from our experiences and have become more educated about Japanese culture. I will without a doubt miss Ritsumekan. 
The day began bright and early at 5:30 for me. I woke up to be sure to have enough time to get ready and catch the train. My host family did not wake until 6:30 and they kindly prepared breakfast. My two adorable host sisters, Juuna and Rinka, sat at the table with me and ate fruit and toast. After breakfast was finished my host mother and I set out for the station, where I was dropped off and thanked her for taking me. I met up with everyone and headed to school. 
We arrived and said our goodbyes and thank yous to the staff for allowing such an amazing opportunity. We presented the staff with gifts from Shaler, as is customary in Japan. Throughout the day, everyone told me they would miss me and warmly greeted me when they saw me. I am still not used to all the attention, but it is flattering nonetheless. I’m touched by the acceptance and generosity of everyone in the class. I appreciate the willingness to try and help or talk to me. I also appreciate the teachers who tried their best to help us and find ways for us to understand the lesson. Everyone I saw and met wanted a picture with me and it genuinely made me happy. I had both boys and girls taking pictures with me. Some were taken in groups and some were not. I was even stopped by students I. The hallway for a picture. People from other classes also wanted to take pictures with me.The feeling of being cared for by the people of the school is heart warming. I will really miss everyone I met and I hope I one day get to meet them again. 

We attended our regular classes. It’s interesting how every day the schedule is completely different. The one exception today is that we got pulled out of our classes so that one of the Japanese language teachers could teach us how to properly write a formal letter in Japanese. It was a departure from both the classes we have had here, and from Balsomico-sensei’s Japanese class. We learned some things that we would not have had the time to learn back home. 
To end our day,  we attempted a traditional part of japesne culture. This traditional and important part is known as shodo, or Japanese calligraphy. Calligraphy in Japan is a method in which one is able to express themselves through lines and Japanese characters. Each stroke holds the feelings of its creator and a little piece of their soul. It is beautiful how one kanji can change so much, depending on the mood and it’s creator. Carley was very skillful at this and I was less so. Calligraphy is a beautiful piece of Japanese culture. We watched the club perform for us before they helped us create pieces of calligraphy to take home. Everyone used their brushes to express themselves. It was the a great opportunity to express ourselves and have a deeper, more meaningful  part of ourselves interact with Japanese culture.

Finally, we had to say our goodbyes. The principal met with us and invited us back, and gave us some advice on if we would want to study abroad in college. The three main teachers who helped us throughout the week took us to the exit, and the rainy day reflected how we felt. As Alex said, “I never imagined I could become so attached to people in so short a time.” We will say that is was just the rain on most of our faces.

Japanese class

Shodo Club

Shodo Club

Shodo club 


Us with the Shodo club and the large poster they made for us, set to song and dance

Shodo Club 


Shodo Club 


The finished product
Our teachers that helped us 


With the principal
Jason’s Class

Alex’s class

Meiling and Tommy with classmates 

Nate’s class