Hello, My name is Britt Hohn and I am a Film Major, EAE emphasis in my Jr Year. This summer from May 22 until July 2, I was in Habikino Japan studying Japanese at Shitennoji University. This trip was my first experience out of the country so I admit to being a bit nervous due to having no idea what to expect. For me the first week was the worst. I never considered myself as having a bad sense of direction but I seemed to always be getting lost at first. The way cities are arranged in Asia is very different from what I am used to and things all seemed to look the same. Add to the equation the block setup and no street names to go by and it is not too hard to get lost. After the first week or 2 though I could figure out my own way to and back from the nearby station, Fujiidera which was about 45 min away.
But anyway, my lack of navigation aside, Japan is a very pretty country. I love taking pictures and plenty of things to shoot. The trees and plant life they have there is awesome I really liked the gardens. All of the shrines and temples were cool as well. I was always surprised where you could find a shrine or temple. You would be walking to the store, and “Hey a mini shrine!” or turn around and see the gate of a pretty big temple.
One of my favorite temples was a temple we walked by almost every day on the way to Fujiidera. It was a pretty old temple and the ruins of one of the pagodas dated to around 1500 years ago. Since we live in a fairly young country I thoroughly enjoyed seeing things that were a part of the current culture and yet so ancient. It was a bit odd to me that this Temple and attaché shrine were right in the middle of the city and yet so apart from it. I liked walking there after annoying days of class. It was very peaceful and quiet within the walls. However as soon as one left the gate it was quite noisy.
Some of the other areas we visited were the actual Shitennoji, or Temple of the 4 Kings, Fujiidera, or Fuji Temple and Osaka Castle in Osaka. Shitennoji is a functioning Buddist Temple and was quite large. They had raked gravel all through the inside and all the buildings were white with red trim. It was near here that we had the class scheduled Tea Ceremony. Also near the Ceremony area was a beautiful garden. I admit that is something I would love to have here at home. I love the Japanese style gardens. Jeff who posted earlier about the same Study Abroad trip had a nice picture showing the pond, so I won’t post another. At least not another shot of that view.
Fujiidera was a smaller temple but still quite large in my mind and had some gorgeous statuary. This temple was actually the first temple we went and saw and it was a great introduction in my mind. I only wish that I had taken my DSLR along on that trip. My little green point and shoot is great but not the same. The last main thing we saw in Osaka was Osaka Castle. This was very pretty and I learned a lot while there but it was totally a tourist trap. Not saying that people should not go and check it out, it is very worth seeing, but just know there will be a ton of people and a ton of people trying to get you to buy something. Warning of spending aside, the Castle was beautiful and it was a lot of fun learning about the various important Samurai who were connected to that Castle. The entire inside is a museum about the history of the castle and you can even go to the top to look around the city. It was quite the view.
When we went to Kyoto we got to go see Kyomizudera or the Temple of Clear Water. It is named for the spring of water that people line up to partake of. It was fun to see the actual Fountain that the temple was named for. Besides the Fountain, which is one of the last things one sees when visiting this temple, there is an amazing forest around the area. When you go into the Main temple building you are able to look out at the forest around and it was one of my favorite things about the trip. I know a lot of the people would think I am crazy but an old forest viewed from the top of an ancient temple is Spectacular. Also while there at the temple, some of the others and I got our fortunes told. This is something usually done at the New Year, but hey we are tourists, anytime is good. ;) How fortunes are decided is by shaking a wooden box containing wooden sticks with a number on it, the number corresponds to a fortune. So you shake the box, tip it to get a stick out and see what you got. I got second lucky so I was happy. Most of the guys got best luck. :P Guess they are just luckier.
The last area I wanted to talk about is Nara; there I got to go to Todaiji, the oldest wooden structure in Japan and home of one of the biggest Dibutsu or Big Buddha statues. I have mentioned my love of statues earlier and this place was the best of all. The front gate had two huge guardian statues and there were statues of the 4 gods around the temple as well. Inside the main building however was the Daibutsu and when they said big, they meant it. The statue was immense! Just the lotus petals around the statue were near 6’ in height. I don’t have many good pictures from inside the temple due to the dark lighting but it was still amazing.
All in all, the trip to Japan was fun, I learned a lot, realized that there are a lot of similarities and was able to make friends, take pictures and eat food. No complaints there. ^_^