Rose Buchberg Waseda University
CSU Monterey Bay - Majoring in World Languages & Cultures
Growing up in L.A., I was exposed to many cultures. I've been fortunate to have great opportunities to travel, but never to Asia. My interest in Japan peaked at the age of 16, after seeing a Japanese TV drama. The IP program at Waseda seemed the best choice for me. Waseda is one of the best schools in Japan, with connections to top universities worldwide. While I was worried about lack of language skills and culture shock, this year in Japan has turned out to be the best year of my life! And being at Waseda has inspired and solidified my dream of one day working in Japanese media.
The first field trip out of Tokyo that the CSU group took was to Narai and Matsumoto. Matsumoto Castle, located in Nagano, is one of the oldest surviving castles in Japan. It is considered a national treasure. After a rainy day in the old town of Narai, we bused to the castle and began the tour. It's quite a trip climbing the steep stairs to the top—literally. One gets a real feel for the Japanese medieval times-what with the simple architecture and low ceilings—how life must have been and how short people were.
This is another type of castle. In February, a couple CSU Japan friends and I travelled to Sapporo, Hokkaido, to attend the famed Yuki Matsuri or Snow Festival. It is here where magnificent statues, such as the one pictured, are made entirely out of snow and ice. This one is modeled after Tsuruga Castle in Fukushima Prefecture, used during the Tokugawa period. Apart from being a beautiful and happening city, the experience in Sapporo was life changing. Coming from Los Angeles, I rarely get the chance to experience a true winter. Another highlight of this trip was trekking through the snow to the Sapporo Beer Museum, where delicious beer tasting ensued.
Keeping in tune with statues, here is a picture of the celebrated Okuma statue. Mr. Okuma was the founder of Waseda University; his statue rests in the middle of Waseda's main campus. Okuma statue is a popular place to meet friends before or after class. A fun fact: Waseda's mascot is oo-kuma, or Big Bear (a cartoon bear), which is a funny play on words using the founder's name!
Here is an example of the great Japanese pastime, Purikura. Purikura is the Japanese photo booth machine. A fun game to play is to see how many people you can fit in the machine and take pictures! After the "photo shoot," you can decorate the pictures with stamps and graphics provided on the attached computerized screen. Pictured here is a CSU reunion of students from my home school CSU Monterey Bay and past Japanese exchange students. We are posing as cats!
Adjacent to Waseda's main campus is the beautiful Okuma Garden or park. Here is an example of Japan's rich, historical culture thriving in the middle of industrial, new Tokyo. The park is a wonderful place to go if you need a break from the busy atmosphere. There are often club events, like picnics, held in this park. It's a great place to get your green on.
One of the more interesting aspects of Japanese culture is the attention paid to maturity and adulthood. Here is a picture of me at the Seijin Shiki or "Coming of Age" ceremony. The ceremony takes place on the second Monday of every January. Only those who turn 20 on or in the year preceding the ceremony are allowed to attend. The local Japanese government encourages foreign students to come; I felt very welcomed. After the ceremony, the Itabashi-ku ward threw all of us 20-year-olds a party. It was fun witnessing the reunions of fellow Japanese adults who hadn't seen each other since elementary school.
Probably one of the best things about coming to Japan is all the delicious cuisine. My favorite Japanese food, besides toro, is shabu shabu. Shabu shabu, literally "swish swish," is practiced by dipping thinly sliced beef or pork into boiling hot water and swishing it around for a few seconds with your chopsticks. You can also cook vegetables like cabbage, carrots, mushrooms or Chinese cabbage (bok choi) as well as popular staples harusame (glass noodles) or tofu. This particular restaurant, MoMo Paradise, is a tabehodai (all you can eat) located in Takadanobaba, just a 15-minute walk from Waseda campus. It's a popular destination for club outings.
As an adult in Japan, you get to enjoy many adult things such as sampling Japanese Nihonshu, or sake (rice wine). This picture was actually taken at the Seijin Shiki. Pictured is the sake barrel and the traditional serving ladle. While delicious, sake is high in alcohol, so don't enjoy it too much!
Located off the Asakusa Subway Line, Tsukiji is the famous fish market in Tokyo, where great tuna auctions are held at 5 a.m. This picture was taken during the day when I went with my senpai Tamashiro (who attended Waseda through the CSU program two years prior) and another friend. Apart from being a fantastic place to use all your senses—there are things to see, smell and touch—Tsukiji is the best place to get your fill of fresh sushi at a reasonable price! It's very crowded though, so be prepared to take your time while visiting!
What can really be said of the Pokémon plane? While I pride myself for being one whose interest in Japan does not stem from anime, I can't deny watching countless hours of Pokémon during my elementary school days. It was really such a treat to ride the Pokémon airplane on my trip to Sapporo—the seats were bigger, the head rest covers had Pikachu on them, and the sheer idea of riding a commercial airplane covered in adorable creatures was enough to make me positively giddy!
I was blessed with a truly wonderful and relaxed host family. Here is a picture of us at my "Welcome to Japan" party. While not all of these people live in the house (just three of those pictured), I have been able to build a relationship with my host family's friends through countless interactions. Living with a host family has given innumerable chances to practice Japanese. While there are some conversation difficulties, my host family works very hard with me to maximize my language learning. My host mom even gives me Japanese cooking lessons! Living with a host family has also given me insight into the ways Japanese families function. I truly recommend having a host family.
There's that old saying: "When in Rome." Well in this case, I think I'm turning Japanese... During winter break on a trip to visit my host family's hometown in Iwate, I had the opportunity to try on kimono. Donning the beautiful green silk, I truly felt that all my studying of Japanese and Japanese culture was worth it; I felt like I understood what Japan is about. There are many recycle shops in Japan where one can buy a used kimono for a reasonable price (though new ones can cost up to $10,000!). Kimono are delicate, beautiful examples of Japanese culture; wearing one is an experience I will never forget!
Learn more about the study abroad program in Japan.