So my trip in Japan has come to an end and I am excited yet sad. I am looking forward to getting back home and seeing everyone I love and care about but I feel the need to reflect on what I love about Japan and what I will miss.
Things I will miss:
- Delicious Japanese Food
- Organic, fresh, tasty, locally grown foods
- The friends I have made and the kind people I have met
- The quiet trains, buses, and cities
- The amazing deer i met in Nara Park
- Punctual and courteous public transportation
- Practicing Japanese with locals
- Being completely dumbfounded when I cannot understand someone
- The beautiful architecture
- Peaceful temples and shrines
- Sustainable practices including recycling, fuel-efficient cars, and solar panels
Yes all of these things about Japan are amazing and I truly will miss them. But, on my travels I noticed that Japan was not as different as I thought it would be. Numerous people warned me of “culture shock”,something I was excited to experience, but never did.
Maybe I just had unrealistic expectations, but Japan was more similar to America than what I initially thought, whether it be because of globalization or because people have coinciding characteristics and values. Nonetheless, I did see things that were different and many of them I could see being implemented in America for the better. Things like local farming, 70 mpg cars, efficient public transportation, and a effective recycling program.
Overall, I enjoyed my stay in Japan and I am glad to have met such nice people while being immersed in culture, language, organic farming, and sustainability. I hope to take the experiences I have acquired and utilize them at some point whether it be in an academic, professional, or personal part of my life. Thank you to everyone who visited my blog, left comments and messages, and/or had meaningful discussions with me. I will hopefully have more study abroad experiences in the future and who knows, maybe I will blog once again on amazing opportunities such as this.
While in Japan I have had some amazing food. I am a vegan and I thought it would be difficult to find foods that I could eat but by knowing a little Japanese and kanji, I was able to order foods at restaurants and buy foods at the store with no problems. One thing I will definitely miss is the delicious food so I decided to do a post dedicated to everything I will miss when I leave.
Yaki udon with veggies
Aburaage with enoki mushrooms inside
Gyoza with rice and edamame
Okara doughnut. Okara comes from soybeans making these relatively healthy for doughnut standards
Soba with eggplant and vegetable rice
Best Dessert Ever. These are mochi with walnut pieces inside and covered with soy powder
Plates of veggies, tofu, fruit, and miso soup
Where else can you find tofu being sold on the side of the street?
Tofu flavored ice cream
Udon with Aburaage. Pea rice on the side
Udon with Aburaage. Eggplant, onion, and carrot tempura. Inari-zushi
Green Tea Bread
Okonomiyaki (Vegan Version)
Veggies, soup, and rice
Mochi, onigiri, and eggplant
Vegetable tempura with soba noodles
The other day I saw a commercial for a Japanese car it said it got 30.2 km/l (car shown above). I was interested to know what this translated to in mpg because I had always heard that Japanese cars had better fuel efficiency. Well, I looked up what 30.2 km/l was in mpg and it is about 71 mpg! I was amazed and shocked at this number because never would I have imagined a 71 mpg car being sold to average citizens in any country. After finding this out I did some looking around at car dealerships and found that there are multiple Japanese cars that have around the same fuel efficiency. I can understand why this case. The whole time I have been in Japan I have not seen any bulky cars besides large company trucks driven by professional drivers. I have not seen any citizens driving trucks, besides the ones that are very small compared to American trucks (picture shown below).
So if this mpg information is correct then there is both good and bad news. The good news is that Japan has really fuel efficient cars that from what I have heard have an average of 40 mpg. The bad news is that if these cars exist, why are there none in America? Our highest mpg hybrids are around 40 which is the average in Japan, and is much lower than 71 mpg car I saw advertised on Japanese commercials.
In America the gas prices are much cheaper than in Japan but I see no reason why this should excuse the lower fuel efficiency of most cars. Like I said I was interested in knowing how Japanese cars compared to those in America and now that I do know I am kind of disappointed. Nonetheless, I remain hopeful in the fact that foreign cars are gaining popularity and this is causing American companies to produce more eco-friendly cars themselves. I hope that this trend continues not only in Japan but all over the world, for the sake of the environment and the overall health of the planet.
Teenagers in a private box singing karaoke
Hello everyone I am sure you all know what karaoke is and have probably performed once or twice using the technology. In Japan karaoke is very popular and it is common for people to go out to karaoke bars and sing songs with friends and/or colleagues from work. There are karaoke bars all over Japan and a majority of them have private rooms or “private boxes” for anywhere from two people to a large party. When you rent these rooms usually food and drink is also provided so that everyone can relax and enjoy themselves talking, eating, drinking, and singing of course.
There is a karaoke jockey who normally announces song titles along with whose turn it is to sing. In older karaoke shops it is also his job to change CDs for the customers if the songs are not digital ( a lot of work!). In Japan there is something called juhachiban which is a song that a particular person likes to sing because they very good at singing it. Now if you go to karaoke with a friend or colleague do not sing there juhachiban song because it makes it seem like you are trying to show them up and it is rude.
Also, karaoke is not always performed in groups. There is something called hitokara which basically means “one person karaoke”, where a single person sings by themselves. In addition to this there is something called Movioke, where people can play as actors from movies, reenacting their favorite scenes.
Karaoke has grown in popularity and still is as new forms are still emerging. Private in-home karaoke players are becoming more popular, and now karaoke players and songs can be downloaded directly from the internet giving people access to thousands of songs at the push of a button.
In 1936, Mokichi Okada established “no pesticide farming”, otherwise known as “nature farming”. Nature farming was described in an early post so I will briefly provide the five main theories behind the practice of Kyusei Nature Farming.
1. It must produce safe and nutritious food to enhance human health.
2. It must be economically and spiritually beneficial to both producers and consumers.
3. It must be sustainable and easily practiced.
4. It must conform to nature and protect the environment.
5. It must produce sufficient food of high quality for an expanding world population.
So I have already explained what nature farming is in a past post, but today I wanted to introduce effective microorganism farming or EM farming for short. Before I talk about the farming method let me first explain why bacteria and microorganisms are important for the health of soil. Microorganisms in soil basically break down organic material and synthesize new chemicals that are beneficial to the health of the soil, directly affecting the nutrition and minerals plants receive. Now this process has been explained in detail by people who are much smarter than I, but for our purposes the basic idea is sufficient. So simply put, the idea is that the right mixture of microorganisms create a balanced environment for plants to thrive in.
EM farming has been researched by a man named Teruo Higa, and it is the idea of utilizing microorganisms along with nature farming to produce the healthiest and most abundant crops possible. Nature farming eliminates the use of pesticides and fertilizers while EM treatments increase crop productions and decrease diseases that could possibly ruin crops. This is possible because the microorganisms produce antioxidants that eliminate free radicals in the soil that are associated with certain diseases. They also simulate the “rotation effect” which promotes the grow of healthy organisms and suppresses the growth of harmful ones. Also, in some instances EM treated naturally farmed crops have been claimed to have produced more food than conventional farming methods alone meaning people could produce more food without harmful fertilizers and pesticides.
These are very strong claims for EM farming but the problem is the lack of reproducibility and consistent results. There are many factors that contribute to the effectiveness of the EM treatments, and all the information needed to improve it and make it commercialized as not been found. There are tests and experiments being conducted to test the usefulness and effects that EM farming has claimed to have. I hope that this technology can be improved and spread worldwide so that people can eat healthier food while keeping the environment clean.
Hello everyone today I am going to be posting about noise. I did not really notice how many sounds there were in America (or at least Florida) until I came to Japan. Everywhere I have been in Japan in relatively quiet. Temples, trains, streets, buses, etc have all been quiet and it was kind of strange thinking back on it so i figured I would post about it. I talked to one of my Japanese friends about it and he said that most of the time it is Japanese people trying to be polite. For example, talking on a phone while on a train or bus in Japan is rude. Yes the majority of people who do this are probably foreigners not knowing the customs but there are also some Japanese people who do it. It is not like it never happens among Japanese people, it is just considered rude. Also, people are not blaring music when they are driving or relaxing at home which I experience in Florida on occasion. It is nice to ride a train or take a car ride in almost complete silence, different but nice. Also, the people speak softly compared to America where some people are loud, some are average, and some are quiet. I have not heard a loud Japanese person since I have been here, so i am guessing that it is part of the culture to be mostly quiet and reserved which I would say is opposite of most Americans. Like I said it is definitely something different and I am sure there are a list of pros and cons to being reserved or outgoing.
Nadia and I traveled to Nara recently and had an amazing time looking at all the sights. We went to Todaiji Temple that was magnificent, saw some deer in Nara park, and walked around the city. Below are some pictures you can take a look at. If there is no caption scroll over the picture and it will have a short description.
These deer were all around Nara park and they would walk right up to us and let us pet them.
According to the history of Kasuga Shrine, this god descended into Nara on a white deer to protect the newly built capital, Heijo-Kyo.
This was a pillar inside the temple that when crawled through was supposed to give that person good luck. I don't think I would have fit.
This is a beautiful fountain that we found. They are found all around the temple. Some are used for washing your hands and mouth before entering the temple and some are used for drinking as well.
So it must have been a field trip day to Nara because everywhere we went there were schoolkids of all ages walking around. At two separate times, groups of elementary schoolkids stopped us and starting speaking fluent English which surprised us both and then we surprised them when we responded to their questions in Japanese. They asked us where we were from, if we liked Japan, etc. They wanted pictures with us so we felt like rock stars. Anyway, I just thought I would add that in since we had a fun time talking and interacting with them.
I visited a shrine called Omiwa Jinja and I decided to post pictures of it since I had a really nice time there. I am a nature person and I have noticed that the buildings at the shrines and temples are not the only beautiful things to observe. The temples and shrines I visited had beautiful paths through the forest with gorgeous plants, flowers, and streams. It was very relaxing and calm as there were almost no sounds except for an occasional bird chirping or stream flowing. It was very peaceful and I honestly cannot come close to explaining it with words so I will just say it is an experience I advise anyone to try.
We also visited Hasedera Temple which was also beautiful and interesting.
Many steps. Reach the top. Turn. More steps. Reach the top. Turn. More steps. Yeah there were a lot of steps but it was amazing
Since I have been in Japan I have noticed a trend that I have not seen very often in the United States. In the towns I have been to there are many houses with plots of land next to them with vegetables and fruit being grown. It was strange seeing a small garden of food or a plot of different vegetables and fruits next to almost every house I passed. I asked one of my Japanese friends if it was popular and he said that there are many small family owned farms that grow food and sell it to local stores and markets. He also said that the food you buy in the store is normally the food that was picked from a local crop and sold to the store that same day. This means that the food is not only being grown by small, local, family owned farms, but that the food that is bought at the stores is very fresh compared to American food that is picked weeks early in order to stay fresh for packaging, shipping, and shelf life at the store.
Since most of the food comes from small family owned farms, each individual fruit and vegetable is better taken care of than those grown on a large farm. This is not because farmers who have large crops don’t care about their food, it simply the fact that it is easier to take care of each plant when there are a smaller amount total.
Below are some pictures of family owned farms along with some of the fresh food that is produced. I can tell you that most of the vegetables and fruits I have eaten in Japan have looked and tasted better than the food I normally have in the states. For example, tomatoes in the states are a light red/orange color, bland in taste, and this is why I usually do not eat them. Japanese tomatoes (as seen below), are a bright red color and I can tell you that they taste much better than the ones sold in most stores in the states.
Delicious Japanese Tomatoes
Today I am going to post about public transportation in Japan. First off, public transportation in Japan is very popular compared to that in America. There are multiple reasons I can think of that make people want to use trains, buses, and shinkansens (bullet trains).
From my experience in Japan, the public transportation system is very efficient and punctual. My train was supposed to leave at 8:30 arrive at the first station at 10:00, the second at 11:35 and the third at 12:45. Nadia and I timed the train and it stopped and left every station at the exact time it said on the ticket which was amazing to us because we both knew how unreliable public transportation in Florida was. This occurred with every bus and train we took to travel and we knew if the ticket said the train was leaving at 8:30 and we got there at 8:31 the train was already gone.
Besides being punctual, riding on the bus or train is actually very nice as you often get to see the Japanese countryside without noises coming from other people. The trains and buses were very quiet except for the driver telling people which stop was next. I could have easily fallen asleep without being disturbed on every single train I rode on, I was just so excited about being in Japan and seeing the countryside that I decided to stay awake. So courtesy is also another reason why I find Japanese public transportation to be pleasant instead of a nightmare.
The biggest reason why I think public transportation is so popular is because there is so much of it in Japan. Anywhere you go you only a five minute walk from some form of public transportation that goes to all kinds of different tourist attractions, stations and cities. Also, it is easy to go from one point in Japan to any other point even if it is across the country because there is such a large selection of trains and buses that leave frequently so you can mix and match them to fit perfectly into your schedule. You ride a train to one station, look for the next station and find a bus that leaves soon, take that bus to the next station and repeat the process until you reach your destination. It is relatively simple and like I said it is easy to travel around the country using only public transportation which in America would be unimaginable.
For these reasons and more I applaud Japan for their public transportation. It is punctual, courteous, and widespread allowing people to travel short and long distances in locations all over the country.
Since I have been in Japan I have seen numerous recycling bins such as what is shown above by roads, shops, and at other sporadic locations. In America I do not usually see so many recycling bins at so many locations so I was kind of surprised. I also do not know if this is only the case in the cities I went to or if there really are more recycling bins in Japan in general. They have many bins for every type of recycling including paper, plastic, aluminum, steel, and PET bottles (plastic bottles). From these observations I decided to do some research to see if Japan recycled as much as it seems. I found that Japan has passed many laws that promote recycling goods including old cars, home appliances, plastics, aluminum products, steel cans, concrete, wood, food, etc. I have also found that Japan is a model country for recycling as they have some really good rates of recycling for a variety of products. For example, Japan sends only 16% of its solid waste to landfills compared to America’s 70%. Also, Japan is known as one of the best countries in steel can recycling as they had the highest rate in the world in 2006 at 88.1% of cans recycled. Even though the recycling of steel cans was not regulated by law, 99% of cities still collected and recycled them. Since I am a proponent of recycling for the environment’s sake, I found this information to be quite intriguing. If you would like to know more information you can visit the link I put on the right side of the blog labeled Japan Recycling.