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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Frances Kenney: Summer Study in Japan

Senior English major Frances Kenney studied in Japan this summer.  Her narrative of the experience, with pictures, follows.

Over the summer I had the opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan, with about 60 other students. The program consisted of a six-week language intensive course, a homestay, multiple field trips, and many opportunities to learn about Japanese society and culture. Our dorms were located in the heart of Tokyo, which was perfect for accessing major tourist spots.

We enjoyed a three-day excursion to the picturesque Nikko, home to Toshogu shrine and beautiful mountainside views. Students were able to stay in a Japanese ryokan or inn. The rooms were furnished with both western style beds and traditional Japanese futons. A few rooms had tatami matt floors and sliding doors, which are standard in most traditional style Japanese homes.
Frances (right) in the English department t-shirt in Nikko (the farthest the t-shirt has ever been from Villanova!)
Toshogu Shrine
Japanese Inn
There are many character cafes in Japan, particularly in the city. These cafes serve food in the shapes and colors of popular anime or game characters. One cafe in particular was the Chibiusa Cafe, a limited edition cafe on the 52nd floor of Roppongi Hills in honor of the 20th anniversary of popular anime/manga series, Sailor Moon.

Chibiusa Cafe
My classmates and I got to visit the Tokyo Skytree for our class field trip. The Tokyo Skytree is 2,080 feet tall and is the second tallest structure in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. The viewing area has glass floors where you can look down at the cityscape below you. The Skytree also has 8 floors full of shops for buying clothes, games, anime merchandise, or sitting down for some fine Japanese cuisine.

The view from Skytree
Tokyo is home to many unique districts such as Harajuku, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, and Shibuya. Harajuku is known for its influence on fashion, which is exemplified by Takeshita Street, a strip of stores offering the most wild and up-to-date clothing options. Akihabara, also known as electric town, is full of maid cafes, game arcades and anime merchandise shops. Ikebukuro is famous for Sunshine City, a large shopping mall which contains the Pokemon Center store, where you can find anything and everything Pokemon. In Shibuya, there is always something to do, whether it’s visiting the famous Hachiko Statue, crossing the crowded Shibuya Scramble, shopping at Shibuya 109, or enjoying a night of karaoke with friends.

Pokemon Center store in Ikebukuro
The program offered an optional weekend homestay in a small town called Mobara just outside of Tokyo. Before meeting our host families, we spent a day with students at the local high school. Each of us was divided into groups and participated in fun activities to help the students, who were currently learning English. Later on, many of the female students participated in a tea ceremony held in honor of our visit.

Frances at Mobara High School
My homestay family was very kind and welcoming! They had two children around my age, and a corgi named Nana. Together we enjoyed a barbecue, visits to local shrines and temples, and also some time at the beach! The view was amazing, and it was nice to get a view of the ocean without crowds of people in the way.

Mobara Beach
My final trip was to Sanrio Puroland. Think Disneyland, but for popular Japanese characters like Hello Kitty, Pom Pom Purin, and Cinnamoroll. The indoor park offered many attractions from rides, parades, and shops to character cafes with elaborate food designs. I ordered Cinnamoroll curry and a chocolate dessert. Your eyes aren’t fooling you, the curry was actually blue. Thankfully, it tasted good too!

Sanrio Puroland
Blue curry at Sanrio Puroland
One of my favorite aspects of the program was the E-pal system. Each of us was assigned a native Japanese student with whom we kept in touch before arrival and were able to meet once we landed in Japan. My E-pal, Teppei, was an 18-year old student studying English. He showed a few of us around  Akihabara and helped us practice speaking Japanese. I also became friends with many other E-pals who took us to Tokyo Dome, haunted houses, Odaiba City, and many karaoke bars. When the time arrived, saying goodbye was very difficult!

Frances' e-pals