Sunday, November 06, 2005

A is for Action

Having just finished one paper and started another, I have decided now might be a good time to discuss the academic side of the Pacific Rim adventure. Here in Kyoto we are currently embroiled in two classes; Asian Classics and History of the Kansai Region. A backlge of assignments and readings has forced us into a particular amount of work due all in a rather short period of time in the beginning of November, in a country when I feel like I should be working on my thesis and starting a search on where I might find myself when this program is over. I however can find no grounds for complaint, I spend most of my days sightseeing in and around an area appoximately 12 to 14 centuries old in a land far from, well, everything else. All and all, even this rough period, when compared to a work load at UPS, is rather light and managable. Sometimes its hard to beleive I'm receiving credit for the whole trip, much less financial aid and scholarship funding allowing me to go in the trek. I suppose that, all and all, is the beauty of the American university study abroad ethic.

Asian Classics has discussions about twice a week on four books we have casually strolled through on our way through the last three countries and is the source of the papers I am currently in the process of writing. Our history course has had about two lectures a week but has been supplemented by numerous field trips to areas in the greater Kyoto/Kansai area. The overall effect of the class is not enough to create any sort of expert on Japanese politcal history prior to the tokugawa period, but if I ever was to follow up with actually intense studies Historical east asia, I feel like I have gained a little bit in the way of a unique perspective by having had a chance to view much of the sites of that history. But to further illustrate the laidback manner of our academic atmosphere, I will point out that we have had four professors lecture in our class, and with the final (and only) examination coming up we have had no word not only on what the test will be like or how to study for it, but we have little idea of who is actually in charge of writing and grading the exam.

On the un-academic side of things I will say that life in Japan has treated me decently. The extreme amount of vegetables and general healthy asian cuisine being fed to me by my host family is messing with my system, but I got a little bit of American norishment at a downtown kyoto novelty resteraunt called "Grease: 60's American Diner"despite that fact that the socalled diner has no genuine american malts. My two hour (and $5 ) each way commute is wearing away on me as well and, like mutton in mongolia, is a part of this country's culture I am fairly certain I will not relish. Japanese TV, however, has been very educational. Some of us are hoping to get a hike in one of the surrounding hills later this week, which will be interesting for seeing how far away "from it all" one can actually get in Japan. A relative commented earlier that Japan seems like it is one giant continuous urban area from north to south, and indeed, the view from the trains often affirms this view. There is much more to the land aside from the Hankyu Line I take from my home in Ibaraki everyday, though, and later in November I hope to explore some of the more issolated and rural parts of Japan. But overall impression, however, is that Japan is much like america's northwest in that while some areas are more rural than others, practically everything not explicity protected in a national park reserve has been developed to the extent that it can be.