There and Back Again: A JASC 67 Reflection (Abridged)

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(This version is abridged from a nearly 3000-word edition; please visit this link to have a more complete context of JASC 67).

My blog posts always have cheesy but personally relevant titles. Here’s an explanation: There and Back Again is an alternate title for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which is one of my favorite books. As a phrase, though, it carries (for me) not only highly nerdy resonance, but also personal relevance in regards to my academic and internal interest in Japan as a nation, people, and culture.

I’m using this theme to reflect on my experience as a delegate in the 67th Japan America Student Conference, held in Hiroshima, Shimane, Kyoto, and Tokyo this summer. It, I think, best captures my feelings towards the place JASC has in my academic journey — past, present, and future.

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There and Back Again; A Reflection on JASC 67

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For those who may know me well, my blog titles are either chosen with extreme consideration OR (if I’m too tired) with none at all. Today’s title is of the former sort — and for those who know me even better, it’s quite obvious that the first half of the title is Tolkien-inspired and likely carries some internal existential weight.

Let me explain.

There and Back Again is an alternate title for J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, which is one of my favorite books based in one of my favorite fictional worlds. As a phrase, though, it carries (for me) not only highly nerdy resonance, but also personal relevance in regards to my travels, my academic/professional life, and my learning as a fellow human on this planet. Continue Reading…

JASC 67 Experience: And So, it Begins

It’s nearly 11PM here in sunny Pomona, California, and all the JASC 67 American Delegates (affectionately known as Amedeles) have combined forces to create an ultra mega force of superhuman abilities and strengths.

Or rather — those of us who flew in and experienced LA traffic for the first time are either passed out in bed, or trekking to In-N-Out (on foot — two miles away), getting to know each other better, or lurking on the internet (the last of which I’m doing right now).

Let’s see. That makes it about four hours since the bus of airport-weary Amedeles arrived, and about six since I had. I live nearby, so it was a nice and clear drive over — and that also meant I got to procrastinate on packing even more than usual! At any rate, the first thing we did as a group was sit in a lobby and socialize — then sit in the conference room and socialize — and then eat dinner and socialize — and finally play some icebreakers.

To my relief, the icebreakers weren’t high-pressure, put-you-on-the-spot type icebreakers. But then again, this group of 35 eager students was more than game to introduce themselves, share a little more about their background, and earnestly begin breaking down the barriers of strangerdom.

It certainly helped to know a few familiar faces (your RT groups) beforehand, and even more gratifying to meet everyone in person! Some of my RT members were taller than anticipated or shorter than anticipated, so surprises were definitely present — but adjustment was quick and all the friendliness took over immediately. It’s nice to put a human being to a shoddy internet thumbnail, and to be able to seamlessly interact without the failures of technology and wireless internet.

We briefly went over rules and guidelines to set the tone of our behavior, and after dinner, the American Culture Presentation group gathered briefly to discuss how we’d structure a two-hour-long freeform presentation on a particularly difficult topic (more on that later!), and I’m excited to work with a group of bright, earnest people who all contribute to encouraging conversation.

All in all, it’s just been fabulous meeting everyone in the flesh. Whatever fears I had or impressions I’d made before meeting them today have been erased and instead I now have every confidence in this group of people and the things we’ll accomplish together.

With that being said, there’s a weird spot on my LED screen that somewhat concerns me — so I’ll just end this here. All you need to know is that the excitement I had before has increased exponentially! It’ll be a wild three weeks ahead of us. Our itinerary suggests a fast-paced, back-to-back schedule, which is exactly what I like doing but often don’t have the time to properly schedule out and itemize. We’ll be busy, but I’ve got a strong feeling that the learning and friendships will all be worth it,

Up tomorrow to be in business formal by 7AM! It begins!

JASC 67 Experience: The Time Has Come, the Walrus Said…

It’s July 30th at long last — a day I and my fellow delegates have been thinking about since our acceptances into the Japan-America Student Conference more than 6 months ago.

What is JASC, you ask? Well, with an hour before I leave for the American Delegation Orientation — I don’t have the time to explain this for you, but this website can. It’s more or less a student-run conference comprised of ~30 US students and ~30 Japanese students, and… wait. I mentioned this in an earlier blog post somewhere (oops).

…… Let’s start over.

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Packing: Tetris for the Restless

Every few months or so, I find myself back in the same situation: packing.

With no permanent home I call my own (my parent’s home is HQ, but I don’t really have the bulk of my daily-life items there), I’ve been flitting between university dorms every semester. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — but the move-out process means I have to haul everything with me or leave it behind.

That being said, to save myself from going insane I shall keep a running commentary of this packing spree.

  • Seem to have packed 66% of the big suitcase rather quickly. It’s suspicious.
  • I always acquire so much paper!!! But I can’t bring myself to part from it all, especially because A) I need them to write my papers with and B) I like reading them…
  • Liquids. Ah, liquids.
  • Why did I buy so many damn souvenirs…
  • And why are ~80% of my souvenirs food items……………….
  • At least it’s not like I’m wearing light clothes and packing for changing seasons (as when I moved to Japan for the semester). At least I’m validated in the 20000 layers I’m trying to put on to save space.
  • Well… validated until I get to LA, in which I’ll be peeling them off.
  • Or until my skin gets fed up with the recycled plane air and shrivels up, thus beginning the hassle of putting on lotion on the plane.
  • Funny how I’m leaving at ~7PM and arriving at noon the same day. Time zone differences are great; I’m a time traveler!
  • I HAVE SO MANY FREAKING THINGS
  • And most not only have to go to LA, but to Boston…
  • So ready for flip flops. And shorts. Because Californian winters mean it’s only below 40F between the hours of 10p-8a.
  • And Chinese food — PROPER Chinese.
  • I forgot about my shoes. I didn’t even bring all of them and somehow there are still a lot?????
  • Okay my paper hoarding is a little ridiculous. Stacks on stacks on stacks.
  • Christmas music is absolutely horrible to pack to. Ensue K-Pop party!
  • Of course the first song is HyunA’s “Change.” This means dance party > packing…
  • Much more stuff than I thought.
  • What does 50 pounds feel like without a scale?
  • This is a deceptively large pile of paper.

Delayed Reality and Living Passively, or “Dang! I’ve Been Living in Japan!”

If you know me personally in any sort of range closer than brief acquaintances or distant classmates, you’ll know that I have a horrible sense of reality. Not reality in the sense that I’m avoiding adulthood or hiding from the truths of life, but in the sense that certain things don’t really click in my head until much much later.

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People and Panda Watching

Back in the States, I’d started watching an anime called “Shirokuma Cafe” (Polar Bear Cafe), in which an adorable café is run by a gentle polar bear and frequently visited by a lazy panda, love struck penguin, and an array of other fuzzy talking animals.

It’s a pretty ridiculous anime, but it’s incredibly cute and features speech at a speed ideal for beginner Japanese learners like me to listen to.

At any rate, every week I frequent the Waseda University/Takadanobaba area in Shinjuku, where the real-life outpost of Shirokuma Cafe exists.

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Ramen Adventures — First Installment

…. I say “first installment” because the ramen life never ends.

All through my ramen-eating memory, I’ve gone to good places. Or perhaps not just good — raved about. There’s Shin-sen-gumi Hakata Ramen and Daikokuya in LA, then Sapporo and Yume wo Katare in Boston/Cambridge.

But nothing in my American ramen experience (which, mind you, is as authentic as it gets in the states) prepared me for the smorgasbord of sodium-filled soups that Japan has. You’d think I’d have come prepared — it is Japan, after all — but my high expectations (“of course ramen in Japan will blow my mind”) were blown clear out of the water.

I don’t know if I can go back. Real ramen may have ruined me!

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