Photo Essay: CET Japan

Photos by Lowell Feldhahn, (University of Minnesota) Student Correspondent CET Japan, Fall 2018

 

One of my favorite aspects of modern Japan is the nation’s effort to preserve history as its society has advanced. This image shows a large torii gate first built in 712 standing tall and bright in the courtyard of an office building built in 2011 in Kyoto.

 

I am someone who proudly boasts a love for horror movies, dark/ heavy music, and all things spooky, so many find it hard to believe that the sight of the smallest arachnid leaves me immobile with fear. 5 months ago, I would have never gotten within feet of one of these bad boys, yet thanks to the frequency with which I encountered them throughout the Kansai region of Japan I have been able to (somewhat) conquer this fear and proudly consider these 8 legged creepy crawlies my spindly siblings (and take a neat picture without even using the zoom!!!).

 

Me with a life-size cutout of an ekiin (train station worker). My friends have taken to referring to me as “Shingeki no Lowell,” wordplay on the famous Japanese anime Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan).

 

My Japanese Psychotherapies class took a day trip to Bishamon-do Temple in Higashiyama, Kyoto to experience the environment in which Buddhist monks were raised and still continue to practice Naikan, a traditional Japanese therapy we studied this semester centered around reflecting on our involvement in our interpersonal relationships.

 

The garden behind Bishamon-do Temple showcasing Kyoto’s momiji (colors of autumn).

 

The central bridge on Shijo Dori street in the ever-bustling city center of Kawaramachi, Kyoto. The bank of Kamo river is widely renowned as a romantic date spot, with couples (passive) aggressively fighting for the prime view of the mini waterfall that is just barely visible in the bottom left of this corner.

 

Lanterns hanging from the exterior of Yasaka Shrine on the edge of Kawaramachi in Maruyama park. The park’s rich history attracts foreigners and nihon-jin (Japanese people) alike, with many Japanese couples opting for wafuku (traditional Japanese clothing) over casualwear to immerse themselves in funiki (mood, atmosphere) of the evening.

 

We ended our class trip to Kyoto with a visit to one of Kyoto’s liveliest izakaya, which featured Japanese shabu shabu (self serve hot pot) and nomihoudai (all you can drink beverages). I would have never expected I would have such an educational, fun-filled, and overall chill day with one of my favorite Senseis and couldn’t be more grateful to have been able to.

 

For the CET Osaka Fall 2018 program trip, we decided to go to Tottori of the Chūgoku region of Japan! Tottori is famous for its sand dunes along the coast of the Sea of Japan, sand dunes with steep inclines we struggled to climb.

 

Though climbing was a struggle, man, was it worth it- who doesn’t want to have their High School Musical moment in front of the sea?

 

The inn we stayed at in Tottori blessed us with a delectable buffet of Japanese foods for dinner and breakfast. As people around me began enjoying desert, I shamelessly began indulging in my fourth plate of karaage (fried chicken), crab and shrimp puffs, steamed veggies, and fresh fruits.

 

While some chose to relax after a long day of travels by reading or playing cards, others prioritized did so by… growing more tired? Perhaps in an effort to work off the dinner calories, several program members spent a solid 45 minutes following workout routines uploaded by amateur Youtube fitness gurus. Otsukaresamadeshita! (You worked hard today!)

 

We stopped at Shigeru Mizuki road on the second day of our trip, a road named after the famous Japanese horror manga and anime creator. A family friendly place with a Halloween vibe year round, I cannot recommend this place enough to anyone with the time to travel a bit outside of Osaka.

 

Shigeru Mizuki road has around 200 mini statues of Mizuki’s creations dispersed over the span of about a mile.

 

Me and one of many new friends I made while taking a stroll.

 

Two cats being ridiculously adorable in Tottori. Something I’ve been consistently surprised about during my time in Osaka has been the amount of (feral?) cats that wander the streets and do as they please. These cuties can be found anywhere from the most suburban, residential areas of Suita-shi to the streets packed with bars and clubs in Namba and Umeda.

 

On the bus ride back to Osaka from Tottori, we watched various anime such as Detective Conan and Nausica of the Valley of the Wind.

 

Though the color doesn’t show up very well in the picture, I painted me and my housemate’s nails the same glittery iridescent as we spoke about gender roles in America and Japan. I explained how I find gender to be completely socially constructed and subsequently why I enjoy breaking down the barriers between masculinity and femininity and she told me she didn’t know anyone could be a feminist but that she’d quite like to be. My heart melted a bit.