Honors tokyo 2017
A Guide to Getting Lost in Tokyo
It’s been 3 weeks now since the start of the program, and it really went past in a blur (the days seemed to go by faster as the program progressed!) Throughout the really packed past few weeks, the journey was both fun, exhilarating, and intense. Due to the fast-paced schedule, however, I unfortunately became sick for the majority of the last week, so I missed out on some undoubtedly interesting lectures, art museums, and a tour of Toyo University. Despite that, I still really enjoyed the program as a whole, and now looking back, I realized that I’ve gained so much insight into a variety of topics that I don’t even remember explicitly trying to learn about. I think that’s one of the most valuable and unique experiences in studying abroad: I’m able to just absorb new information now without even being aware of it sometimes.
Click the button above to view the culmination of 3 weeks of research in Japan : my final presentation on anime and fan culture in Japan!
~Presented at NYC on September 15th, 2017 at 3:30 PM.
In my last research update on 8/30, almost two weeks ago, I was going to try to find specific anime advertisements around the city, or look for street art or graffiti that used anime to convey certain messages. However, after exploring much of Tokyo, including the anime capital of Akihabara and the nearby hub of Ikebukuro, I have come to realize that there is a lot less anime on the streets than I expected. In the second week, I adventured around Western Japan and walked around Kyoto, Hiroshima, Osaka, Miyajima Island, and Nara, and got the same result: my thought that there would be billboards covered in anime is a blatant misperception. So far, I’ve been trying to figure out where my misperceptions came from; have I seen any anime that have advertised an image of Japan as anime-land? I can’t think of any specifically right now, but I also have realized now that especially overseas, each country/area is only known for a couple things. After visiting Shin-Okubo, a city in Tokyo prefecture known for its ‘Koreatown’, I saw that the only things there were Kpop idol merchandise, and beauty products, which are the two main things Korea is known for overseas. As for Japan, it’s known for sakura (cherry blossoms), and anime, mostly amongst younger generations. I want to research more into how these images of each country are made; does Japan intentionally propagate such an image of sakura and anime for itself? I’m also interested in how Japanese anime targets certain demographics to advertise and sell to its mostly young viewers. I’ve already gathered that they build on the assumption that everyone is homosexual and cisgender, but I also want to look at racial and ethnic qualities. What kind of image does anime spread about mixed-race or ‘ha-fus’, or foreign nationals in Japan?
Because my time in Japan is unfortunately coming to an end, however, I’m not certain how many of these questions I can find answers to before I leave. However, now that I’ve found a direction to dive into that’s more specific than simply “anime media’s influences on the younger generations”, I hope to keep these questions in mind and one day return to answer them.
The second week of the program has gone by in a whirlwind as we as a class traveled around 6 hours by shinkansen down to Hiroshima on Monday, and then back up to Kyoto on Tuesday. After visiting numerous well-known sites, like the Peace Memorial Museum of WWII in Hiroshima, and cultural sites like Kinkakuji and Ryoanji (and Nijo Castle, which I got a premium experience of), I’ve gotten to see many bits and pieces of Japan’s cultural diversity and development in all the cities I explored. After class dismissed on Thursday, I traveled around Kyoto with Alison and Laura, and in the evening, I went by myself to a smaller, local natural onsen (温泉, hot spring) around our Airbnb. It was the first time I went to one of these more local places, rather than a large spa or something catered to tourists. Thus, there were no signs in English, and I was probably one of the only foreigners. The onsen was a lot less flashy than the ones I’ve previously gone to, and I truly experienced the calm, quiet, and peace of the slow-paced, relaxing Japanese onsen atmosphere. I was also one of the youngest people there, which is more evidence to Japan’s aging population, especially in smaller suburban areas. Looking back, there were actually many places where there was a surprisingly large amount of elderly people; I’ve noticed that there are rarely places in Japan where there’s a special discount for seniors, which says a lot about the normality of seniors going out and about. Even when I hiked up Mt.Misen, a mountain on Miyajima island, I saw many older people also going up, slowly, but surely. Alison, Laura, and I even commented on how rare seeing seniors climb a mountain would be in the U.S since most retired Americans tend to stay more at home, or inside retirement homes/camps instead of walking outside (based on my observations). . .
Last year when I came to Japan to travel, I actually already paid a visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. However, I don’t remember too many of the details from it, so I’m excited to go again this year and see if it’s like what I remembered. Also, what’s different from my visit last year is the new tension present due to the U. S’s 2016 presidential elections. As Parker explains in “Japan’s shift in the Nuclear Debate Explained”, Japan is becoming increasingly mistrustful of their ally in the U.S. As the issue with North Korea is approaching a stalemate (since there’s nothing much more the U.S and Japan can do if Japan doesn’t have nuclear weapons to counter North Korea), Japan will have to decide on what stance they want to take soon. I expect that as the problems that Japan faces becomes more tangible, the museum will be a location of controversial disagreements. On one hand, seeing the devastation that the museum showcases as the result of an atom bomb should be enough to convince people of the danger that nuclear weapons come with. Since the museum is a peace memorial, the destruction should speak to the importance of not having more nuclear weapons if we ever want peace. However, the other part of the museum is a memorial of all the suffering and ruin inflicted on many innocent civilians in the war. Remembering what could happen if Japan remains defenseless against North Korea and other world powers, having nuclear weapons might seem more important.
With my new background knowledge about Japan’s shifting national identities, and its history of acting solely as the victim without owning up to its own victimizing acts, I look forward to hearing the narratives of all the people involved in WWII and see how people react to the history with these upcoming crises.