Dartmouth Japan LSA+ Summer 2012

The official blog of the Dartmouth Japanese LSA+ program. Updates on what the students are up to, information about where we visit, and photos will abound.

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Anonymous said: What is this program called? Is it only for Dartmouth students? Does it run during the spring and fall semesters as well?

It’s called the Dartmouth Japan LSA+ (Language Study Abroad) Program, and it is only for Dartmouth students. It counts as a regular Dartmouth term, and you get three Dartmouth course credits for completing it, so no worrying about getting credits to transfer. Because the Japanese department is fairly small, this program only runs in the summer quarter. Some LSA programs for other languages are offered in more than one term per year.

If you’re interested in spending a transfer term at Kanda University of International Studies and you’re not a Dartmouth student, they have other exchange opportunities. See their English webpage here.

Hope that answers everything you need to know!

Optional Volunteer Trip to Ishinomaki

Hello all! This is my last post, as all the activities of the Dartmouth LSA+ in Japan, Summer 2012, are over!

Most of the students headed out after classes were over one week ago. That night there was a farewell party, where the homestay families all bid their final farewells to the students who they’ve come to know over the past two months.

Two of the students, along with myself and Prof. Dorsey, stayed in Japan for an optional trip to a city called Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture. Ishinomaki was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11th, 2011. We headed up on Sunday afternoon with Peace Boat, a volunteer organization.

From Monday to Thursday, we spent our days helping the fishermen in the area.

Their specialty is a seafood called “hoya”, known in English as “sea pineapple” — it is a popular food in Japan and Korea. The fishermen in Ishinomaki raise hoya by growing them on strings of recycled oyster shells, over the course of three years. They grow them in rotation, so that they always have a fresh supply to sell. When the tsunami hit, the hoya farms they’d been preparing for the previous three years were all destroyed, leaving them with no source of income for the next three years, and an impossible amount of labor remaking the farms in the meantime.

Our job was to help string the shells together for use in raising hoya.

We stayed in a Peace Boat lodge converted from a traditional Japanese bar (an izakaya) which closed after the tsunami.

We returned to the Tokyo area yesterday, and once we arrived all of the program’s activities were complete!

Thanks to everyone who made this LSA such a great success, both at Dartmouth and at Kanda University of International Studies!

Signing off,

Evan Ross

Assistant to the Director

Dartmouth Japan LSA+ Summer 2012

Hundreds of wind-chimes sounding at Kiyomizudera Temple


Hello all! We just got back from our week-long trip to the Kansai region on Sunday evening, and boy was it a doozy! The students had an incredible chance to bond while experiencing some of the most famous and beautiful places in Japan.

This post is detailing a very busy week, so it will be a doozy! I’ll try to keep the amount of text to a bare minimum. :)

First we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto, where we left our bags at our hotel and did a bit of afternoon sightseeing at Kiyomizudera Temple.

Students pose for a photo atop the famous butai (jutting stage) of Kiyomizudera Temple

The butai of Kiyomizudera Temple as seen from the side

Kiyomizudera was all we had time for the first day, so we returned to our hotel area and broke for dinner and shopping. We also played a bit of cards and cleaned off in the hotel’s public bath which was filled with tea water, supposedly very healthful!

The next day we were scheduled to head to Nara, but due to reports of heavy rains, some of the trains were shut down and we all agreed we’d prefer to hang out with the deer when they weren’t wet and disgruntled. So we shifted our plans around and instead spent the day in Kyoto sightseeing. Despite the forecast, almost no rain fell.

Our first stop was the famous rock garden at Ryoanji Temple where we contemplated existence.

A rock, with other rocks

Next we headed over to Kinkakuji, the Temple of the Golden Pavillion. 

Richard prepares to toll a bell for Peace at Kinkakuji. Coincidentally, the character on his t-shirt reads “peace”.

It is called the Temple of the Golden Pavillion for good reason

Next we went to Ginkakuji, the Temple of Silver Pavillion. Unfortunately, they ran out of money after they bought all that gold for Kinkakuji, so the pavillion at Ginkakuji is not silver-plated. It is still a beautiful site, in a more traditionally sparse Japanese aesthetic.

A view of Ginakakuji Temple from above. The Pavillion that would have been silver is to the left, the rock garden in the middle, and a beautiful view in the background too.

Our last stop for the day was Heian Jingu Shrine.

The courtyard of Heian Jingu

The students and Prof. Dorsey balance like delicate cranes atop this stepstone bridge at Heian Jingu

The next day we spent the morning at Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, and the rest of the day in Nara, a city an hour away from Kyoto.

Fushimi Inari is a shrine dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of the harvest and fertility. Inari is represented by a fox, and Fushimi Inari is covered with fox statues. It’s famous for the tunnels made of thousands upon thousands of torii gates, of which there are ordinarily only a few per shrine. 

Students pose in front of the endless tunnel of torii

A fox

After hanging out around Fushimi Inari Shrine in the morning, we all traveled over to Nara, a city which used to be the capital of Japan (over a thousand years ago). It is famous for its huge population of deer which wander about freely and eat people’s shopping bags expecting food inside. They’re adorable!

Hannah getting up close and personal with a deer on the walk up to Kasuga Taisha Shrine

Our first stop after arriving in Nara was the Kasuga Taisha Shrine, which we ended up going to twice — once in the day, and once at night when all the lanterns around the area were lit up.

In addition to lots of deer, Kasuga Taisha is home to an enormous ancient Japanese cedar, whose circumference is almost 8 meters, and whose age is estimated to be around 1000 years.

Latesia stands in awe near a very very old tree.

Next we all frolicked in a field with the deer for a while, feeding them “shika-sembei” (deer crackers).

Even the fawns came out to play!

A buck licks Etai’s hand, trying to ascertain whether he can eat it.

Next stop was Todaiji Temple, home of the famous Daibutsu statue of the Buddha which stands nearly fifty feet high.

Unfortunately this photo does not capture the vastness of the Nara Daibutsu

The students pose in front of Todaiji Temple, which houses the Daibutsu

At a lantern festival at Kasuga Shrine. That day was Thomas’ birthday, so he was the obvious choice for lantern-bearer.

That night we returned to Kyoto, with much walking (the buses stopped running by the time the lantern festival was over, so we walked a good way back to the train station!)

The next day in Kyoto was a free day. A few of the students made the trek out to Osaka and spent the day there, and the rest remained in Kyoto.

The day after that we headed out early to make our way to Himeji-jo Castle and then to Hiroshima. Himeji-jo is one of the few feudal era castles that stand today, surviving both the extensive bombing of the city of Himeji during World War II and the devastating Kobe Earthquake of 1995.

Prof. Dorsey hooked us up with a local of Himeji, whose English skills and knowledge of the castle’s history and architecture blew us away.

The students pose for a picture with our wonderful guide Yoshiko

Inside the castle complex

After leaving Himeji we went down to Hiroshima to visit the Peace Museum. It was an emotionally draining experience for the students to say the least. The museum is designed to ensure that nobody who goes through it believes that nuclear weapons have any place in human society.

The Atomic Bomb Dome - one of the only buildings that remained standing near the epicenter of the bomb. It was spared complete disintegration because the bomb was detonated almost directly above it. The bulk of the bomb’s power was directed outward, not downward, so as to affect as wide an area of the city as possible.

After the museum everyone lifted their spirits with a plate of the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki. Okonomiyaki is a dish enjoyed most everywhere in Japan, but the Hiroshima variety puts fried noodles inside. Yum!

The next day we took a train and then a ferry to the sacred island of Miyajima, where we enjoyed more deer, some swimming on the beach, hiking up to a mountain temple, and seeing arguably the most beautiful shrine in Japan.

On a boat

Itsukushima Shrine is built on stilts and appears to float above the water at high tide. The torii gate out in the water is one of the most iconic images of Japanese culture. In this picture a boat is seen traversing the torii.

At night the torii is lit up, and is a beautiful sight to behold.

The group poses in front of the lit-up torii. We used a slow shutter speed, and had the students everyone run away halfway through to get the light of torii in the image. What a creepy effect!

That’s all, folks! Hope you enjoyed these pictures and tidbits.

Photos from the baseball game

Photos from the fireworks show.

Homestay Family Events: Fireworks + Baseball

We’ve just had a double-header of fun-filled group events with the homestay families and students. The first was a fireworks show last Saturday evening. The second was a baseball game (the Chiba Marines versus the Saitama Lions) last night.

The fireworks display - a quintessential Japanese summer activity - was beautiful and elaborate. Some of the fireworks were shaped like hearts and stars, or cartoon characters like Doraemon (a blue cat robot) and Anpanman (a superhero whose head is a Japanese pastry).

The Chiba Marines unfortunately lost the baseball game, but it was a blast nonetheless!

Not much more to say than that! Photos coming soon! :)

Trip to Nikko

This weekend, we had our second major excursion outside of the greater Tokyo area. This time we traveled to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture, the final resting place of the first Tokugawa shogun and home to natural hot springs and some of the most beautiful scenery in Japan.

Once we arrived in Nikko, our first sightseeing stop was the Toshogu Shrine and the surrounding complex of smaller shrines, built by Tokugawa Ieyasu’s grandson to commemorate his grandfather and to display their family’s great wealth. Every inch of the shrine is intricately hand-carved, or gilded, or both. The shrine is also home to the famous “Hear No Evil, Speak no Evil, See No Evil” monkeys.

These monkeys came into existence because of a silly pun using an archaic Japanese grammatical construction that sounds like “monkey”.

Students pass through the torii (archway marking sacred spaces) on their way into the Futarasan Shrine nearby to Toshogu.

The students and Prof. Dorsey stand atop the Sacred Bridge near the Shrine Complex. The bridge spans the Daiyagawa River, which is one of the countless natural beauties of Nikko.

After our sightseeing was done for the day, we headed back to a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) where we stayed for one night. The ryokan sat atop a natural hot spring, where guests of the inn are free to bathe. All of the students took at least one bath in the hot, relaxing water.

Dinner and breakfast at the ryokan were traditional as well - the meal comprised many small dishes rather than one huge main course. At breakfast a few brave souls were even willing to eat the natto, a fermented soy bean dish infamous for its “pungent” flavor and “unique” texture. Because of its strong smell, natto is always served in hermetically sealed plastic packages.

Day two in Nikko sent us over to Kegon Falls and Lake Chuzenji.

Kegon Falls is often hailed as the most beautiful waterfall in Japan. Rainbows are often visible at the bottom.

The group went for a spin around Chuzenji Lake on swan-shaped pedal boats.

Everyone had a smashing good time on the swan boats! At least until one boat’s pedals disengaged, making it impossible to drive. Another of our boats pushed the other to the dock, and everyone involved got vouchers for half-priced ice cream. So worth it!

We headed back to the Tokyo area that evening. All in all it was a fun-filled, beauty-filled, awesome experience!

Reblogged from brendatryingtosurvivejapan

Ping Pong Tourney!

On Saturday, the homestay families taking care of the students for the duration of the program met together for a fun-filled event in the KUIS gymnasium: a ping pong tournament! The competition was fierce, but it was all in good fun. It was a great bonding experience for students and their families, among the students, and among the families.

Dorsey-sensei shows some of his advanced techniques.

The final battle. Richard and his homestay brother’s ping-pong prowess put them on top, besting even the cat-like reflexes of Thomas and his homestay sister.

Reblogged from hanachaninjapan

Disney Sea!

Hello there! Here is a quick report of yesterday’s adventures at Tokyo Disney Sea Resort. (Sister park to Disney Land — but separate admission so we didn’t get to go to both.)

All ten of us, plus our friend Naho who will be attending Dartmouth starting in the fall, spent the day after school at Disney Sea! We rode thrilling rides like Tower of Terror, and Center of the Earth, and Indiana Jones! And some more peaceful ones like a Little Mermaid themed teacups ride and Sindbad’s Storybook Adventure. Some of the less theme-park experienced students will have more eloquent descriptions of their first thrill-ride adventures, so I’ll reblog their descriptions when they come. For now: some photos!

More Nihonmatsu Photos!

The damaged historical building/museum at Asaka High School. The main structure of the building was remarkably in tact, but the earthquake caused all the plaster to fall from the walls.

"Caution overhead"

Etai and Hannah running down the stairs at Kasumigajo Castle

Offering incense in memory of Kan’ichi Asakawa

Asawaka-sensei. He means business.

Meet n’ Greet with the middle schoolers

Making origami with the middle schoolers

Everyone made signs encouraging Nihonmatsu City on its way to recovery!

Here are translations of everyone’s signs:

  • Etai: Hanover LOVES Nihonmatsu!
  • Hannah: I want to come back to Nihonmatsu!
  • Thomas: What I like: Nihonmatsu (and cats)
  • Evan: To Nihonmatsu, hang in there!
  • Wesley: Nihonmatsu, thank you for everything.
  • Brenda: To Nihonmatsu, truly, thank you.
  • Latesia: To Nihonmatsu, Love ya!
  • Tom: Nihonmatsu: The best!
  • Richard: Hanover and Nihonmatsu: Beautiful scenery
  • Lillian: We love you, Nihonmatsu.

Hannah greeting her mini-homestay family. The banner says “Welcome to Nihonmatsu”.

The reception

Our triumphant return to Tokyo Station

Trip to Nihonmatsu

Yesterday we returned to the greater Tokyo area from our trip up north to Nihonmatsu City in Fukushima Prefecture! Nihonmatsu is sister city to Hanover, NH, and it is Dartmouth Japanese LSA tradition to make an excursion up there and strengthen the bonds between the two towns.

The relationship between Hanover and Nihonmatsu began with Dartmouth’s first-ever Japanese national student, a man named Kan’ichi Asakawa. He was born in Nihonmatsu and attended Dartmouth College as an undergraduate. He later became a historian, professor and pacifist.

Our trip began on Friday morning. We met in Tokyo Station and took a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Fukushima Prefecture. Then we were on a bus ride to go sightseeing around the area. Our first stop was Asaka High School, Asakawa-sensei’s other Alma Mater, and the top high school in the area. It has a beautiful historic building that was damaged by last year’s record-breaking earthquake, so we all donned hardhats and explored the reconstruction zone a bit.

We also got a tour of the high school’s buildings that are currently in use. Some of us walked in on an English class and conversed with the students a bit. They were quite surprised to see a group of Americans waltz right into their classroom!

After the high school we had a buffet lunch nearby. Then we made a quick stop at Kasumigajo Castle, a landmark of Nihonmatsu. Kasumigajo is famous for soldiers as young as twelve who died there attempting to protect Nihonmatsu’s feudal autonomy during the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. After the battle was lost, the castle was destroyed by the Emperor’s forces. The fortification was rebuilt, and that is all that currently remains.

The students stand in front of Kasumigajo Castle’s wall and statues of the adolescent soldiers.

Next, we headed to city hall where we had an audience with the Mayor of Nihonmatsu. After a few speeches and introducing ourselves, we headed out to the graveyard behind city hall to pay our respects at Asakawa-sensei’s grave. His remains are actually in the United States, where he lived out his days, but we offered flowers and incense there in his honor.

Next we returned to City Hall to meet a group of middle school students who will departing for the U.S. in a couple weeks to visit Hanover and other places. The students showed us crafts and games they plan to show the Hanover delegation when they arrive, and we had a fun time!

Then we headed over to the reception where we met our Nihonmatsu homestay families and had a nice bento-box dinner. Students departed from there and spent all day Saturday with their homestay families. Everyone met at Nihonmatsu train station Sunday morning and we arrived back without a hitch!

There will be more photos to come tomorrow, and perhaps a guest post or two about what the students did on Saturday!

Two photos from one of our joint-classes with Sekiya-sensei, and three from our time at Makuhari Elementary School on Tuesday!