Beautiful country, amazing people
We landed at the Narita International airport on 16th June 2009. Narita Airport was far from the main city. We boarded the bus that would take us to Asakusa View Hotel. When the bus came on the highway, my initial reaction was one of amazement at the awareness level about environment and at the proliferation of trees on the sides of the road as we approached Tokyo. Everything looked so enchanting. I saw the tall skyscrapers, numerous flyovers, and wide roads. I saw buildings of various famous international companies. Everything was so discipline and well planned. It was wonder beyond description.
Soon the bus entered the city area and it was dazzling. Tokyo, the capital city of Japan holds 10% of Japan’s population. It is also the most populous city of the world. But you would never feel it crowded. I saw lots of speeding cars and trucks on the streets of Tokyo. But there was no traffic jam at all. I saw every citizen following her/his duty and never putting a toe out of line when the signal was red. The city was busy all day but there was no noise. I didn’t hear a single motor-horn in Japan. I saw provisions for the blind people to walk on the footpaths and cross the street safely. Roads were pollution-free and everything was so clean. Surprisingly there was no policeman stationed at any crossing. Many of the office goers were riding bicycles to get to office. It is an environment - friendly and an economically viable option.
Park: Central Tokyo
Our accommodation at Asakusa View Hotel was superb. Hospitality was the first thing that hit me there. People there were polite beyond words, courteous, always ready to help, responsible, and entirely meticulous.
Entrance of the Emperor's Palace
Asahi Beer Hall: Famous Gold Flame at the top by architect Philippe Starck
Shinjuku at Night
TEMPURA at the Japanese restaurant "AOI MARUSHIN"
Bangladeshi Restaurant "SHAGORIKA"
Punctuality and honesty
On day 2 we had a lecture on Japan and Japanese. The lecture began at 9:00 a.m. sharp, as scheduled. The lecture was quite an eye-opener for me. We were guests to Japan for cultural and educational exchange. So, it was quite natural that we would be shown about the positive side of Japan. We were definitely shown the technological advancement that Japan achieved and the progress that Japan made in the sphere of social and human life over the decades. But I was astounded when the lecturer also chose to highlight some negative aspects of Japan, the mistakes Japan had committed in the past. He explained how Korean War brought undue prosperity for Japan, how Japan was still coping with gender discrimination at the work place. I loved this tremendous honesty and self-criticism – a good sign for the progress of any nation. My respect towards them increased manifold after this good gesture. Learning from mistakes: that’s what Japan did.
View from the hotel window
Tokyo at Night
Five-storied Pagoda near Sen-Shouji Temple
Shinjuku: Always busy
Home that was Kobe
On the third day in Japan we moved to Kobe, the port city in Hyogo prefecture, by one of the newest shinkansen, Nozoni(hope)15. At the speed of 280km/h, it took around 2 & 1/2 hours. This place was our home for the next five days. The ride in the Shinkansen was superb. It didn't really seem all that fast, the landscape and houses alongside the tracks didn't fly by like I had expected. But it was really very swift and comfortable, not to mention its’ punctuality.
View from Shinkansen
Kobe Port Tower
View from Port Tower
At Indian restaurant "HAATHI": With our professor from Mukogawa Women University
Kobe is a picturesque city. The quiet bay and green mountains in the background would stun you instantly. What also very impressive was the presence of trees along the streets, and number of parks in and around. Getting on top of the port tower and looking at the entire city from that height was magnificent. But for me Kobe is also a symbol of tenacity and resilience of the people of Japan. The city has almost completely been rebuilt after the devastating earthquake and now you could not find a single trace of that calamity. Their ability to rebound is amazing! Be it the second world-war or the earthquakes, they can reborn from the ashes just like the proverbial Phoenix.
Sangita San with our Kansai coordinator
Mukogawa Women University
MINT Kobe: With professor who taught us the art of calligraphy
Young Friends: MINT Kobe Cultural Centre
Environment & Garbage Disposal
Mottainai (勿体無い) is a popular environmental idea in Japan which means “we shouldn’t waste”. This includes space, food, water, garbage, energy, everything. It is based on an old Japanese concept of ”waste nothing, want nothing”. They know the need to carefully conserve their resources and possessions. The 3R, reduce, reuse and recycle is the motto that every Japanese people practice every day. Environmental education has got a high priority in the Japanese education system.
Technological advancement is put to best use. And they recycle or reuse everything. During our visit to Nishinomiya West Municipal Refusal Disposal Center, we came to understand how they turn garbage into resources. For that they follow the concept of分ければ資源、混ぜれば塵. At this plant they recover valuable metals like copper, brass, iron, aluminum etc, sort noncombustibles such as bottles and sell them to industries. They also generate electricity from combustible waste, part of which is used to maintain the operation of the plant; the other part is sold to the neighboring households. This way, the plant runs on commercial basis without support from the government. The cutting edge technology here is protecting the environment by reducing the waste to 20% of it actual volume, thereby saving Japan from being drown by garbage and also bring economic benefits.
Control Room: Nishinomiya West Municipal Refusal Disposal Centre
Port from a distance
The most wonderful part in this program was when I got a chance of having a home stay in a small town named Kawanishi. Home stay with the Japanese Host family was the best way to learn and to become a part of the Japanese Culture and Language and to immerse oneself in their way of life. It was a wonderful experience. I have rarely spent time with people more warmhearted, hospitable and generous.
With Ojiisan and Obaa San
It was not only about learning the Japanese culture and language, but I also had the chance to teach my own language and culture to achieve the cultural exchange. Through this home stay program I realized that Japanese people are quite open. They preserve their culture and customs well, but they are equally welcoming to people who had different cultural values.
Dinner at a Nepali restaurant with our ane and her friends
I stayed with the sweet Inoue family. I absolutely loved the family. They were extremely polite, hospitable and everyone in the family did their best to make me comfortable. My hosts kept asking us about me, wanting to find out as much as they could about me. They were so kind and friendly to me; when my stay ended I was sad to leave. I’m really grateful of knowing them.
Kyoto: the ‘old capital’ stole my heart
On 20th June my host family took me to Kyoto, the fifth largest city in Japan. It is one of the few places in Japan with an extreme abundance of pre-war buildings, and is packed with national treasures. I also noticed a distinct lack of high rise buildings as Kyoto attempted to keep the city’s old skyline which allowed an uncluttered view of the mountains in the distance. Kyoto has the most interesting mix of people, places and culture. it has a lot of temples and shrines
Oil-Store of Edo era
Kiyomizu Temple: My first stop was the stunningly beautiful Kiyomizu Temple or 清水寺. It is situated on the forested hills overlooking Kyoto. On the way there, we strolled down a narrow street for about half a kilometer filled with little souvenir shops and food stands. The entrance from the street is very eye catching and bright. The main hall of the temple comprises a verdana with very tall pillars that offer a spectacular view of Kyoto. This view of the city of Kyoto is one of the things that distinctly identify the temple. An old Edo period tradition was that anyone who could survive the 13 meter plunge from the edge of the veranda would have their wish granted.
Nijo castle: Next we went to Nijo Castle, home of the Shogun. Originally built between 1601 and 1603 under the supervision of Itakura Katsushige, Nijo Castle epitomized the political and military power of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The principal structure was made up of 33 rooms and was located on the eastern edge of a 70 acre compound. I see the amazing decorations on the walls and ceilings. My favorite part was the Nightingale Floor (Uguisu-Bari), the corridor of the Ninomaru Palace, because it makes a squeaking sound when one walked on. So in the olden days if anybody tried to sneak in they would hear them.
I am still amazed at how unique Kyoto is, because it has the daily hustle and bustle of life, but the old, beautiful and peaceful Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines are still embedded in the landscape and the culture of the people he
Very Very Enjoyable !!!
Never rest on its’ laurels
On 17th of June we visited TEPIA Advanced Technology Exhibition Hall. It showcased the cutting-age world of Japanese technology and gives a glimpse of the future of science and technology in Japan. The science museum linked us directly to the new wisdom of 21st century. The exhibits were featuring some of the most advanced products, services, technologies and systems. The museum demonstrated how these technologies applied in the areas of communication, health and medicine, urban life as well as environment and energy. It also showed how they could improve lives and communities. The people of Japan are continuously aspiring for new technologies, inventing innovative machine to help people to do their things, like robots.
Japan is an amazing country consists of outstanding people. It, as a country has a cultural background that is wide ranging and special. It is a country of typical hypermodern technology, but deeply rooted in its’ culture, tradition and customs and preserved them for a very long time. There are few aspects in their social and daily life that made an indelible impression on me. Japanese people are not quite religious but they obey certain basic social norms such as not to steal, be polite, not to waste time, be punctual, and they train their children to this way of life at the very young age. They give high importance to cleanliness and keep everything immaculately clean.
Another thing that struck me was their perfectionism and attention to detail. Even the parking attendants, which are pretty much a necessity in the busy and crowded parking lots here, go about their job with a focus that is quite remarkable, regardless of weather or time of day.
It’s all about the details here. For example, when I bought a souvenir from a shop, the women asked if it was a present, and then proceeded to take a piece of washi, the handmade paper and turned them into the most exquisite gift-wrapping. On a related note, talking about presentation: even the bento boxes you buy from a cheap roadside stand look gorgeous.
Their custom of presenting gifts is also fascinating. They exchange gifts on every occasion to share happiness. Even during our trip to Kyoto my host mother presented a small gift to our taxi driver as a gesture of thanks. Gift giving is the glue that binds Japanese society.
Japanese culture is just so diverse and interesting. The above are just some of the many facets of the East Asian country's rich background that I came across during my 10 days there. The trip was a great learning experience and the qualities that I would like to imbibe from them are hard work, patriotism and how to be discipline with the time. It was an unforgettable experience and I hope to go back to Japan again someday soon.
Ja Mata Ne!