Name: Erin
Major(s): Graphic Design
Program: Temple University Japan
Where: Tokyo, Japan
When: Spring 2008

Favorite Course: Japanese Art History

Highlight: traveling

Best Excursion: Kyoto

Favorite Dish: Katsudon, Cheese Ramen, Inari, Gyoza!

Least Favorite Dish: Sashimi

Next Destination: hopefully back to Japan!



What did you learn to love about the culture(s)?

One could not comprehend just how willing Japanese people are to help until you experience it firsthand.  If you asked someone for directions, they would often draw little maps on scraps of paper, or, if the place was close by, even walk you there themselves.  Even with language barriers, any Japanese person I encountered tried hard to understand my needs.  With a mix of English and Japanese, I would always work through my problems with the great help of a Japanese citizen.  I can remember when I was trying to hurriedly exchange train tickets to Nikko, or when I was trying to get a bus to my hotel one night in Hakone; in both instances, these people went out of their way to help me!  It’s not easy to feel like you can always rely on such kind people in America. 

Also, I’m sure almost any visitor from Philadelphia or other large city will be amazed at how clean it is in Tokyo (and throughout Japan)!  Everyday you could see someone sweeping up on the streets or scrubbing the ground in the subway.  The Japanese believe cleanliness is a community effort, and everyone does their part.  Also, their trash system seems to promote efficient and proper waste disposal by separating burnable, non-burnable, and recyclable trash— something that I personally appreciate!

How has this experience changed you?

I have been interested in Japan for a long time, and have always dreamed of going there.  One of the reasons I chose to go to school at Temple (Tyler School of Art) was that I knew they offered an abroad program in Tokyo.  Living in Tokyo is not like taking a vacation.  Being there for several months means you get immersed in the culture and start living life the Japanese way.  I would not trade this experience for anything; it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience Japanese culture firsthand.  After living in Tokyo, I now want, even more than ever, another chance to be in Japan.  Japanese culture is just so easy and comfortable to me that I have realized it is truly a part of me now.


How do you see this experience affecting your future?

I definitely feel that my experience in Japan will continually affect me, whether influencing my choices in job opportunities or just making me want to somehow get back to Japan.  Even now, I can’t help but be reminded of being there.  Sometimes I feel as if I left a part of myself in Tokyo, and have a very itchy urge to go back!  I want to continue my learning of the Japanese language and culture, and perhaps one day live in Japan again.  No matter what happens, my stay in Japan will forevermore give me fond memories and experiences of a lifetime.

Describe your best travel experience.

Well, it’s hard to choose one travel experience, because I just love to travel and went to as many places as I could during my four-month stay in Japan.  My friend(s) and I went on self-planned excursions to Nikko, Hakone, and Kyoto!  For one, getting there is half the adventure!  We took rather direct and easy routes to these places, but I was always more relaxed once we finally got there!  In Nikko, we were able to see many famous temples and shrines, and visit the mountain-top town of Chuzenji!  One of the best things about this trip was that we stayed in a traditional Japanese ryokan!  We slept in futons, had a traditional Japanese dinner, and had our first tastes of the wonderful experience that is the onsen.

When we went to Hakone, a town that I had wanted to visit for years and years, my friend and I visited many interesting places, such as Odawara castle, Owaku-dani, and the Hakone Checkpoint.  Despite clouds most of the weekend, my favorite part of the Hakone trip was seeing Mount Fuji, of course!  There is nothing quite like seeing Fuji-san in person.

We later took the Shinkansen to Kyoto, and spent three wonderful days visiting a dozen or so of the best attractions there.  You could easily spend a week in Kyoto!  But alas, there is school.  Some of my favorite places we visited were the Sanjusangendo, the Kinkakuji, the Fushimi Inari Shrine, and the Byodoin.  It was mind-blowing to get to see the things I learned about in art history class in person!  Traveling was truly the best part of my stay in Japan… next I definitely want to go to Sapporo, Osaka, Nara, and more!