KAISER, Peter Murano
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Waseda Summer Session, June-July 2018
My grandmother was born and grew up in Japan and my interest in Japanese culture stems from the first time our family took a trip there when I was in middle school. I knew I wanted the opportunity to spend some time studying Japan from within. That’s when I found the Waseda Summer Program which seemed to be perfect for me. I already knew of Waseda’s high caliber as a university and the opportunity to learn there was a major draw to the program.
While studying at Waseda I took the Culture III, History I, and Japanese I classes. Both Culture III and History I were taught by the same professor, so I had the unique experience of being able to get to know one professor very well. A major theme discussed in depth in both classes was Japan’s aging population and the long term affects this problem could have both politically and culturally. To further solidify our understanding of the class topics, we had many guest lecturers come in to speak to our class. The lecturers were at the top of their fields ranging from experts on specific subject matters from other universities, master rakugo performers, the head of a marketing company, and the head of an art collection. These experts brought a new level of understanding through their work in a non-classroom setting and imparted their knowledge on us. Additionally, we took numerous class trips which really let us see some of the places and cultural identities we were learning about in person such as the Edo Tokyo Museum, to the district of Akihabara, and even going to Tsukiji Fish Market early in the morning for breakfast. The Japanese class gave me the chance to learn about the culture in a more intimate way.
I had never lived in a city, so I was pretty nervous, but Tokyo soon easily felt like a home. One thing I was surprised by was how I always felt safe while in there, even though it is one of the most populous cities in the world. I stayed at the Tokiwadai Flexstay Inn, which was about a 45 minute commute from campus. At first, the crowded subway was intimidating but after only a couple of days I felt I was navigating them like a pro. Some of the best friends I made in the program were from the Tokiwadai Flexstay and we would explore Tokyo together when not in class, going to the Mori Digital Art Museum in Odaiba or heading to a karaoke bar in Shinjuku for example. In fact, the program is built so that there is plenty of time for us to explore Japan on our own, and so many people would go on excursions to Tokyo’s surrounding areas over the weekends. The field trip to Nikko allowed us to get to know other members of the program really well. From the amazing Japanese dinner, traditional ryokan accommodation, and the cultural experiences on the way (such as Edo Wonderland and the Toshogu Shrine) the Nikko trip really helped bring together the entire experience.
Beyond the program’s amenities, I found that the program consisted of driven open-minded students from all over the world. Everyone I met there genuinely wanted to experience Japan’s culture and everything it had to offer and were amongst the friendliest people I had ever met. The Waseda Summer Session was unlike anything I had ever done before and I am truly glad that I was able to participate in it. I will never forget the many friendships I made that span the globe.