Language and Culture in Tokyo

Asia, blog, Travel

After completing my exchange program at MCI, I will be traveling (back) to Tokyo, Japan to complete a summer language and culture program called Summer Courses in Japanese. The program is facilitated by International Christian University (ICU) and each year the school accepts about 100 university/college students from around the world to participate.

Princess Mako age 23, a granddaughter of the Emperor of Japan, graduated from ICU (International Christian University) in March 2014. And her younger sister Princess Kako, 20, will be attending ICU in this month! I’m studying among Japanese royalty!

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I say “traveling back” to Tokyo because I spent a summer living in Japan. It was actually when I first began casually blogging and documenting several photos and stories online (when I thought it was really cool to filter and put frames around each photo).

It was the first time, at 18, I was traveling and living abroad on my own. I remember when I first moved in by myself I was equally as excited as I was scared. I remember living in a tiny apartment where I was in arms reach from almost everything, and all my appliances (fridge, washing machine, dryer…) were stacked on top of each other to save space. You learn to be crafty and utilize space when you live in a tiny apartment! IMG_1527

I was living on top of a train line and the apartment rattled every time a train passed by underneath. I couldn’t sleep for weeks, and thought to myself several times that I wasn’t going to be able to make it through the summer. But the fear subsided quickly and by the end my time in Tokyo, the rattle of the train passing underneath became a gentle rocking that helped me sleep.

Now, I don’t think too much about traveling and leaving home – it feels strangely comforting to be somewhere I’ve never been.

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ICU Campus

Timing wise the start date of the Japanese language program fit perfectly with the end date of MCI. While timing was one of the factors that drew me to the program, I was more inclined to participate because this opportunity meant that I could focus learning Japanese in Japan.

When I was young I took both Japanese and Chinese lessons, then I stopped for a while before picking up Japanese again in high school. At home Japanese and Chinese floats in and out of our daily conversations, but learning a language outside a country where it’s from is just not the same – being truly immersed in a language and its culture has such a profound impact on your ability to retain and think in that language – I experienced this learning when I was in Tokyo and so that is why I’m looking forward to going back!

Tokyo, Japan

My mom is Japanese and I am so proud of my Japanese heritage, as I am equally proud of my Chinese background from my father’s side. This pride and deep respect for my background has only strongly developed in recent years. Looking back now I wish I grew up with a stronger understanding of the traditions, culture and history that shaped China, Hong Kong and Japan. Growing up my parents instilled the value of travel, with frequent visits to Asia I was reminded of who I am and where my parents came from.

I don’t want to lose this connection to my to my identify, and in the future I want my children to also understand where they came from and appreciate the beauty of their Asian culture –  this was the primary motivation for applying to ICU. While an intensive six-weeks cannot capture the culture and traditions of Japan, it will allow for me to focus on reading, writing and speaking the language. In hopes of fluency and increased reading and writing comprehension!
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So yes, there will be a lot of school in my summer. But I really don’t mind any of those things if I’m doing what I enjoy doing! I have chosen to participate in this program for personal growth and learning. I am studying abroad to meet new people, to push beyond my comfort zone and challenging myself both mentally and physically. I want to continue to find joy in different corners of the earth!

がんばります (“I will try my best”)

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Finding myself in nature. Expressing myself through art, writing and photography. Join me on this adventure!