Lion in Tokyo

The Story so Far: part III

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Welcome to the third installment in the “The Story so Far” series! Since I last updated you guys on what I’ve been doing a month and a half ago, I’ve traveled across half of Japan in 2 weeks, started the fall semester of the junior year, joined some amazing clubs, and ate a ton of different types of foods from all across Japan. Life now is definitely very different from life over summer, when there was a sense of urgency to do everything since most people were only staying for 6 weeks. I mean, not that there’s no urgency right now, since the semester ends in only 2 months, but my life is definitely more settled in and everyday has more or less turned into the grind that’s not unlike the days at Penn.

Dude talking about school makes want to go to sleep. Tell us the more exciting stuff like your trip first!

Alright alright. So right after the summer course ended, I went on a trip with some kids I met over the summer across Western Japan to fill in for the 2 week break I have before fall term starts. It was quite the adventure; we got lost a few times, met up with friends, got helped by random nice Japanese people, got lost some more, and ate really good food. Here I would like to personally thank Google Maps for saving our sorry asses time and time again.
The trip was not without its shenanigans, but honestly what’s a group trip without a little conflict and fk ups right?

Damn two weeks of just traveling. Where exactly did you go?

We spent the first 3 days in the Kansai region, where we visited the famous Osaka castle in Osaka, had Kobe beef in Kobe, and took selfies with deers in Nara (the city straight up has a huge ass park where deer are just chilling everywhere). The next 2 days were spent in Hiroshima and Miyajima, the island with the famous floating Arches that you see all the time on pictures of Japan. We then went to Fukuoka, located in the Kyushu area, where we did…absolutely nothing. Seriously, the city was big and modern but there wasn’t anything specific to do there. We mostly just wandered around to random places and had food.
At the end of the trip, we went to Kyoto and spent the last 5 days there. The city was so full of history and culture you can’t walk a block in any direction without running into a temple or something. In fact I was so cultured-out after Kyoto, going to anything vaguely culture related after that just doesn’t impress me anymore.

Well good job on describing possibly your most interesting 2 weeks in the most boring way possible. I think I flooded a few basements with the drools I had after falling asleep at your story.

Wow…that was a very unnecessarily mean and hyperbolic comment.

Your mom’s an unnecessarily mean and hyperbolic comment.

Thank you for your kind words.

Before I fall asleep again, how is actual school?

Actual school is pretty good! The first day of class started after a week of orientations that began right after I came back from my trip. International Christian University is a small liberal arts college of 3,000 people, so there was only about like 100 new students that entered this term. My high school had more students than this place lol.
The college is known for its international education and its foreign language programs, thus there are very limited amounts of courses for engineers. Consequently, I’m taking classes that has absolutely nothing to do with my major. They do go towards my East Asian Language and Civilization minor though, which, admittedly, I only decided to get after realizing that my time here in Japan would otherwise contribute absolutely nothing to my college career.
I can’t really complain though, because the classes are teaching me a lot about Japanese society and history, which is exactly what I came here for (other than games, anime and food, of course). Mostly importantly, the classes are all fairly easy compared to the intense engineering classes that I’m used to. So I mostly just cruise through each day in a stupor, mentally checking out through entire classes and coming alive only after class everyday.

Sounds like school alright. Is any of it interesting then?

Of course! As with things back at Penn, the best part of college are the student activities. The one I’ve personally devoted myself to is the Wadaiko (和太鼓) club, which is basically a Japanese Traditional Drumming troupe. It’s possibly the most intense thing I’ve ever done: the club practices 3 times a week for 15-18 hours total. To put it in prospective, Lion Dancing back home, even with board responsibilities, usually didn’t take more than 10 hours a week. To make it worse, the club meets on both weekends for like 5 hours each, which effectively kills any of my plans to go out on weekends. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to commit to this if I didn’t already explore a good part of the city over the summer or if I had harder classes.
Don’t get me wrong though: this is my favorite part of every week by far. Everyone here is super good and super dedicated, and when they come together, they pull off really mind-blowing and professional looking performances. As opposed to drumming in lion dancing where the purpose was to just mainly provide a rhythm for the lion to dance to, in Wadaiko the act of drumming itself is meant to convey a particular image. That means that the rhythm isn’t the whole picture; all the drummers must also maintain proper stance, strike each beat in a particular way and sometimes move their entire arms and even body around in a dance like motion, and most importantly, achieve a perfect synchronization with everyone else as to perform everything in unison. It sounds super complicated and it is, which is what makes being in it such a delightful experience. I’m learning new things every practice, and even when I’m not learning much, it feels nice just to drum the crap out of the drums for an extended amount of time until you hands are all bruised.

So what you’re saying is you’re going to come back and suddenly become a drumming master or something.

Exactly.

Good joke.

Thanks. I’m a funny guy.

Any other things you want to say before we call it a day?

Read about my previous adventures here: part 1 and part 2.

Shameless plug is shameless.

Hateful reader is hateful.

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One thought on “The Story so Far: part III

  1. You don’t understand how happy this makes me.

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