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Archive for April, 2010

TRAVEL BLOG: Racism

26 Apr

Hello, everyone.  Let me first start by saying that I’m a bit nervous about this particular post.  I don’t want people to think that I am labeling the Japanese as a racist group of people, nor do I want you to think that I am an expert on racism (white, middle-class upbringing).  I chose to write about this issue because this is the first time where I have assumed the position of a racial minority.  Also, this position plays a heavy role in my study abroad experience of learning about a new culture.  How are foreigners seen by the people and what stereotypes do we generate?  Having said that, I want to write about how racism can be seen in Japan by foreigners.  Americans have a stereotype that all Japanese persons are super polite and very hospitable towards American students and travelers.  As is the case with stereotypes, there is some truth to this.  Foreigners in Nagoya are very rare, unlike Kyoto and Tokyo.  Thus, some people are intrigued by foreigners.  However, there are some cases where some people may seem nervous, or cautious, of foreigners (especially of different skin colors).  Back to stereotypes, it seems that a popular stereotype is that all white foreigners are from the United States.  I agree that many white persons in Nagoya are from America, but there also happen to be many French, British, Dutch, German and other European persons here.  For example, when I find a spot in the subway to stand or sit, some people simply move away from me, even if he/she is already a space away.  Also, there are some occasions where a person loses patience with an Asian-American student because of the assumption that they are actually from Asia (and thus proficient in Japanese).  I have also noticed some animosity towards other Asian persons, mainly against Koreans and Chinese.  Similarly, I have noticed, in some cases, negative feelings from Koreans and Chinese against the Japanese, probably stemming from Japan’s role in World War II.  Although this is generally disappearing with the younger generation, some older persons have bitter feelings towards these two nations.  Once again, I need to stress that this is from my point of view and this does not reflect the common opinion held by the Japanese, Koreans or Chinese.  I am merely making note of what I have witnessed in SOME situations.  Having said that, for the first time, I can begin to understand the obstacles, faced by racial minorities everyday in Japan.  I never really grasped the problems of racial minorities in the United States, especially living in a state where over 95% of the population is White.  But that aspect of being abroad only further enhances my experience here.  It can be a bit hard to make friends with Japanese students as a result of my race, but it beats clumping with other white people and just sticking together in a group.  Being abroad is about going out and getting a first-hand experience of life as a foreigner in an unfamiliar setting.  It’s about learning to live as an outsider.  And that’s exactly what I’m doing here.  I think I have covered my points here.  I hope this came out the way I intended it to.  Thank you for reading this week’s installment.  Next week covers smoking in Japan.  It sounds boring, but it really isn’t.  Thanks again and until next time, Jaa Ne.

 
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TRAVEL BLOG: Drinks in Japan

21 Apr

No, readers, this isn’t about the alcohol (I swear I hear people clicking out of my blog after reading that).  Instead, I want to write about the various soft drinks Japan has to offer.  Back at UVM, a lot of people drink water, tea, coffee and soda.  That pretty much seems to be the case in Japan.  The difference here is the types of drinks available.  Of course you can still drink Coke products and Pepsi products, but I have some better soft drinks in mind:  Pocari Sweat and Calpis.  Let me start with Calpis:  Before I continue on, it should be noted that it is pronounced “Kalpeesu” (The pronunciation we use might be a bit creepy).  It’s a really popular drink here.  It tastes kind of like plain-flavored yogurt, but sweeter and tastier.  I have a photo of me drinking it out of a jumbo-can (Note the obscenely long hair).  It’s probably my favorite soft drink here.  Also, if you don’t like carbonated beverages, you can get Calpis Water (the non-carbonated version).  Is it just me, or does it sound like I’m promoting their products?  Oh, well.  My next favorite drink is called Pocari Sweat (don’t these drinks have weird names?)  Why do I keep using parentheses?  Anyway, this only comes, as far as I know, in non-carbonated form.  It kind of tastes like grapefruit, but I’m bad with this sort of thing.  It’s supposed to be used to hydrate you after physical work.  In this sense, it’s almost like Gatorade, but with one flavor instead of multiple.  Not that these are the only drinks available.  In fact, there are lots of unique drinks available:  For example, for the release of the new Final Fantasy, a soda was created featuring various characters on every can.  I never really tried it, but it looked amazing.  Also, for Spring, many limited edition drinks are released.  Most of these drinks have a “Sakura” flavor (Which tastes like Smarties to me, but that’s just my opinion).  My friends have even found cucumber-flavored Pepsi (I haven’t found it, but I’m still looking).  It tastes pretty good, actually, and is worth a try.  That’s all I have for today.  Let me warn all of you in advance that my next blogs will be a bit more serious and deal with racism, smoking and other topics (if they work).  Thank you again for reading my blog and Jaa, ne!

 
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TRAVEL BLOG: Nara

12 Apr

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Hello, readers! So this past weekend, my abroad group and I went to the old city of Nara to view the historic temples and indulge in Hanami (flower viewing). Needless to say, the trip was incredible. The weather couldn’t have been better: 75º and sunny the entire two days. We first went to old capital (from 710AD – 784AD) to see sights like Todaiji and the surrounding park. The first thing one will notice, if they have been here before, is the abundance of deer. These deer, keep in mind, are not shy of people and will frequently try to take things away from you, such as food or maps. Before you enter the main part of Todaiji (I’ll explain what this is in a bit, so don’t worry), you pass through a giant gate, featuring two very large and very famous statues (unfortunately, I can’t decipher the Chinese characters. Sorry). I have a picture of them to go with this post. In my opinion, the colors of the statue make it look almost like a painting. Next, we entered the Todaiji. Now, for my explanation: This is a very old Buddhist temple, dating back to the 700’s that also happens to be the largest wooden structure in the world (See the attached photo). Inside the temple is the largest sitting Buddha statue in the world, made from bronze. It makes one’s jaw drop to see this place in person. If you ever get the ability to go to Japan, you need to stop by this city and see it for yourself. We spent the night at a near-by Ryokan and then had a Hanami picnic. Many families take a day in April during Sakura blossom season to have a picnic with their families and enjoy the view while it lasts (about two-and-a-half weeks). Surrounding hot-spots for these picnics are vendors of all sorts, selling candy, Takoyaki, Yakisoba, drinks and all sorts of goodies. Nothing is better than sitting with friends under the Sakura and eating a caramel-filled Taiyaki while drinking Calpis (a flavored softdrink). I had a real blast with this trip. Unfortunately, this trip was also our last for the semester. I don’t have a lot of time left here, but I want to have fun with this group while I still can. Thank you for reading this week’s entry about my travels. I don’t have anything planned for next week’s entry, but I’ll think of something. Jaa, ne!
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