I can’t remember all the excursions we went on or all the assignments we were given as a part of our CJS 281 syllabus (there was a lot packed into three weeks!), but I’ll do my best to describe the main ones in this post.
We began our first full day in Tokyo by going to the Tsukiji fish market early in the morning. In preparation for our trip to the market, we were also assigned a reading on the market, which discussed the importance of the Tsukiji fish market in Japanese cuisine as well as the economics behind the market.
Unlike most tourist places, the Tsukiji fish market is a place where tourists are paid that much attention because the people there have much more important things to do – their actual jobs. I spent the morning oscillating between being fascinated by the range of offerings available at the market and a little squeamish because, well, I was surrounded by either a lot of dead sea creatures or ones on death row. Most of the students ended up having (delicious) sushi for breakfast at a restaurant near the market.
Later on in the trip, we went to Tsukishima, an island made out of reclaimed land. We were given a tour of the island by a Japanese professor whose research focused on the island and were joined by his architecture students. We concluded the day by eating monjayaki, a fried batter that’s made on an iron grill table. While making it was a long process, the end result was a 100 percent worth it. It was definitely one of my favorite dishes during my trip to Tokyo!
One of our main projects was to do a scavenger hunt with a small group throughout Tokyo. The purpose of the scavenger hunt was for us to become comfortable navigating the city on our own. Each group had at least one student who was a proficient Japanese speaker and the rest were a mix of beginners as well as those who did not know the language at all (like me). Despite this even distribution of skill sets, the scavenger hunt was still very difficult. We spent almost the entire day hunting down our objects and were exhausted by the end. But we also definitely became more comfortable about venturing out into the city on our own and my group bonded with each other. It was good exercise, too.
Like I mentioned in my last post, we had to do very little writing while in Tokyo. However, this did not mean that we weren’t actively reflecting on our experiences in Tokyo. Our last assignment was a group photo essay. My group traveled to Tokyo Bay and created a photo essay highlighting the manmade and technological aspects of the bay. We also had reading assignments which we discussed in class by linking them with our excursions around the city. We also had classes with Japanese students at both Waseda University and others like Meiji Gakuin University.
For more information on the GCC Japan program, visit the CGIS website.