…ok ok I know it’s a little crude and unnecessary but no other words can sum up the experiences I had in these past few days…
Thursday, 10.15.09 “ahh… so desu… now I get it... and I’m in Mother F*cking Japan!”
…I participated in the Japanese Exchange program for many reasons and one of those reasons is the miscommunication between people. Call me crazy but having a little bit of confusion is tanoshii (fun). So here is the story, it’s the 3rd week of school and it was my first time in the “studio” part of my Industrial Design Class… because everything was written in kanji, so I when a random Japanese helped me read the name of my professor, she only read one.. so I didn’t know that my class in part 1 is lecture and part 2 is studio… so after meeting my studio professor for the first time in 3 weeks, it all made sense to my why the Japanese kids stick around after the lecture portion of the class… ahh so desu… anyways another I had a another miscommunication happen when I saw other students design and then mines… I was told (in my written English syllabus) that the project was to design for play… but the thing is, it’s not just play… it’s “Play Structure” so it made sense to me that those crazy sketches from other were not toys but more like a jungle gym of some sort. So this is a pleasant surprise because I can integrate both my classes’ project because in my architecture planning class I’m proposing a children’s park and on my industrial design class I need to design a play structure…
Friday, 10.16.09 “I just pulled an all-nighter but I feel great because I’m in Mother F*cking Japan!
… after speaking to him about my architecture project, Fujihara Sensei, my lab professor gave me books to use. And since we needed to come up with more concrete plans of the site which is due the next day I pulled an all-nighter. But it was a different feeling, so stress at all, even with an impending deadline it was just “chill”. Walking to the train station (because we were too tired to bike back to our dormitory to take a shower) and seeing the sunshine permeate the city together with the slightly nippy temperature; I just can’t help but appreciate the fact that I just pulled an all-nighter in Japan.
…oh later that evening each one of us exchange students coincidentally had a welcoming party organized by our own laboratories. My other fellow exchange students had a combined bbq party but since my lab is for grad students we had a different one. We had “Nabe” which this simple Japanese dish consisting of some sort of protein, in this case tori niku (chicken) and a plethora of veggies and some udon. I finally met all the people in my laboratory and we had a great time eating and drinking.. and some more drinking…
Saturday, 10.17.09 “…[speechless but thinking… I’m in Mother F*cking Japan!]”
…after somewhat drinking the night away, I had to be in Fujihara Sensei’s open lecture. I just found out about this lecture the night before and was not really sure what was going on more than we needed to bring our camera and notebooks. So I thought that it was a real lecture or some sort of site visit but it wasn’t… Fujihara Sensei’s Open Lecture is this field trip to whatever the topic was at that time… and in this instance, we were going to visit a couple of jiin (shrines) in Kumamoto Prefecture in the middle of Kyushu… We first went to Aso Shrine which is unusual because it doesn’t line up quite perfectly. There we learned about the architecture and structure of the shrine, as well as the rituals that you do as you approach the shrine like the washing our hands, gargle and drink water which comes from a natural spring and the proper way to pray and give thanks which is “Arigatai” instead of “Arigato”. After this temple we had lunch in this one resutoran… we had a special bento box which contained a sampler of all the products that the town had to offer, from tofu to random veggies and some really good soup to uma niku (horse meat), everything was oiishi desu (delicious). Then we went to another temple… which I can’t remember right now… but it is also in Kumamoto Prefecture. According to my tutor/sensei Nakamura san, this temple is where all the 800 or so Buddhist Gods meet. There was this very steep flight of stairs that leads you to this really, really old shrine which had intricate wood carvings which narrates the story of all the gods meeting up. Then behind the temple there is this path that goes through the forest and down some hill which leads you to another shrine with special spring water that is so special even famous Japanese personalities and politicians make a pilgrimage to this site and drink from this bamboo spout.
Sunday, 10.18.2009 “Am I still in Japan???… I am pretty sure I’m in Mother F*cking Japan!”
…In this day we met up in Hakata port to Genkai Jima Island… the day started with a couple of mishaps I left my camera’s memory card in my computer so I was only limited to a number of photos that is stored through my camera’s internal memory… then biking to the port Theodore, my bicycle, and I had some trouble… his chains got stuck but luckily I was biking with a couple of girls. Lica san gave me her bike to use and together with Toke san the both rode 1 bike and me on the other… we barely made it on time but luckily we did… In the ferry ride we discussed what the day is about… we were going to do some field work in this island because there is a hidden social problem that the town is not addressing. Three or so years ago a big earthquake struck the fishing town of Genkai Jima Island. This Island was so badly damaged that all the houses were destroyed. Normally it takes about 10 years for a town to completely re-build but Genkai Jima did it in 3… and there lies the issue… Before the earthquake, there were 700 people living in this island, fishing industry was thriving and all the people knew each other and the town was vibrant and lively but after the earthquake it completely went the opposite way. Only 500 residents came back, the government decided to build institutionalized apartments instead of what was there before. Then the architecture language of this island also changed, now it looks like a builder’s made, track housing that stood awkwardly in this hilly site. It was so generic that it could be in Irvine and it would not make a difference. Back then, according to my Sensei, the houses were attached to each other which had this hodge-podge vernacular house feel which was partly responsible to the closeness that the residents of this island had. But not the single-family homes plus the apartment buildings created this new town full of distant people. Walking around town there was this eerie ghost-town feel, the parks, streets and even the port was empty. In order to revitalize the island we need to come up with a proposal on how to solve the problem. Fujihara Sensei thought of bring art in the island to attract outsiders to this island and it residents to their own town. Everybody in class is going to make a proposal and whoever’s proposal is more plausible then that proposal will be implemented. (photos of this place will come soon as I find my camera’s cord.)
Monday, 10.19.2009 …its 3:09 am and I feel very grateful to be in Mother F*cking Japan!!!