This is a guest post by Alena Klindziuk ’18
Stepping out of the subway into the damp, foggy morning, I knew that Tsukiji Market is not going to be like the other tourist attractions in Tokyo. A smell of fish filled the air. A colorful crowd turned left and crossed an intersection. My friend Eriko and I followed. We were brought to a row of decrepit, two story houses. Japanese ladies shopping for fish, wide-eyed tourists looking for authenticity, and hungry Tokyo residents looking forward to a fresh sashimi lunch, were trying all to squeeze between the rows of shops buildings. Eriko and I joined them.
The shops sold Japanese delicacies, kitchen appliances and souvenirs: tamagoyaki, butcher knives, bags of rice. The tiny restaurants had large queues of people waiting to get in. These were the cheaper ones – TripAdviser recommended. TripAdviser did not disappoint. The restaurant we went for lunch was so tiny it was difficult to get to our seats at the bar without accidentally kicking seated customers in the back. Yet, the raw fish donburi we got was on point. I tried sea urchin for the first time. The mustard-colored, gooey mass turned out not to be my favorite sashimi. But it was an experience.
Eriko and I went through all the rows shops. I bought Shitaki mushroom tea, but didn’t have enough courage to get the seaweed one. We then went to the portion of the market where fish was sold. The fish auction takes place early in the morning, so we only saw the aftermath. There was still some smaller fish being sold. Tiny electrical trucks stealthily zoomed back and forth carrying water, tubs, and tools. One could easily get run over without being careful. The floor was wet. So were most of the counters and surfaces. Men in rubber aprons and gloves were out and about wiping, cleaning, drawing rickshaw-like carts. It was dark. The ancient roof of the market did not allow any sunlight to pass. It is sad to know that old fish market will soon be shut down and moved to a new place. However, once upon a time Tsukiji was also a new establishment. I am excited to see the new fish market that will take Tsukiji’s place
This is a guest post by Alena Klindziuk ’18
Sitting out on the wooden open-air porch, looking out on the mountains steeped in fog, hearing the bamboo fountain stock hit a rock as it overfills with water, hearing the wind chime gently sing in the breeze…
I had two images of Japan. One was of modern Japan, best embodied by Shibuya or Shinjuku. The other was of old japan. A collection of images from books, movies, amines. Wooden porches, paper doors, maple leaves, calligraphy scrolls captivated my imagination since childhood. The traditional Japan came to be embodied by Koya-san.
It was not merely because I saw a collection of traditional things there. Even though the pace of our travels is rather relaxed, it is nevertheless difficult to fully immerse oneself in a place – to feel its energy. To see it not as an outsider, being amused and distracted by its peculiarities, but to behold it wholly – to understand its purpose, the flow of energy that gives the life and vitality to a place.
Often when I am traveling, it is difficult to connect to a place in such a way. Yet, when I stepped into a cool, damp, foggy air of Koya-san, I felt immersed. The rain drove away a portion of the tourists, leaving the place more or less pristine. The fog and shadows of giant cedar trees filled the sacred mountain with mystery. The incense, chanting of sutras, monks’ colorful robes gave the place an enchanting quality. The quiet walks through the centuries-old cemetery, and the wonderful wooden bath at the temple filled me with peace. I spent an evening on a porch overlooking the garden meditating, observing the koi fish in the pond and the reddening leaves of the Japanese maple. I wish I could somehow preserve this feeling from Koya san and take it with me.
[Guest post from Tenney Sprague]
Sept. 25 (1st day in Japan on bus)
We have just arrived in Japan and are now on the bus to Tokyo. Granted, I feel like I need to sleep for a day and perhaps shower even longer, but everywhere looks so different I won’t forgive myself if I do sleep. Already I have seen rice patty fields, dense bamboo forests, and even a hotel with black sparkled walls on the outside. But I have also seen smaller things like little houses in the distance from the highway. Familiar in that I know what Japanese style homes look like but completely different seeing them in person.
Perhaps it is only my strange perception knowing that I am in a new place, but the sky feels higher too, like there’s a larger distance between me and the big fluffy clouds than back home. And I keep expecting to see mountains in the distance. I was so excited to go to Japan, but no matter how close the departure date got, I didn’t feel like I was going anytime soon. (It was like a dream or a nice idea, but I was never actually going to be able to go.) So now here, I’m regretting not doing more research on such things like maps, knowing where mountains are, and speaking Japanese – I did practice some, but speaking bumbling Japanese to an actual native speaker is a whole other level of embarrassment and mistakes.
But still, I’m in JAPAN, probably a place that I’d never be able to go to and experience (and try my bumbling Japanese) without this 360 program. So maybe I’m still in a dream, and my mind is letting me think that I am this lucky. But I just saw an ad for ramen from the highway, so I’m really hoping I’m not dreaming, or at least, that this dream would last a bit longer.
Thank you so So much Dr. Glassman, Dr. Francl, Dr. Schulz, and Bryn Mawr College for all your hard work that went into planning this trip and for helping my dream come true of eating ramen in Japan!