Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Dashing around Japan

Whew, again, a lot has happened within the past few days. Because I found those articles on contemporary Kirishitan in Tokyo, I decided to change my route to Nagasaki and stop by Nagoya along the way. Which had me scurrying around for a few days, canceling my bus to Nagasaki and booking a flight from Nagoya to Fukuoka instead (super cheap Air Asia flight for 2280 yen!) and a bus from Fukuoka to Nagasaki, postponing my takkyubin pickup, and figuring out how to pick up my apartment key later at the Nagasaki post office. (In the end, I realized I wouldn’t be able to pick up my key the night that I arrived in Nagasaki, so I’ll be crashing for the night in Fukuoka instead before heading out to Nagasaki in the morning.) One thing learned – prepare to be FLEXIBLE when it comes to research. But enough about logistics…

I had a little more free time the last few days in Tokyo, so I caught up with a lot of friends amongst the hectic rearranging of travel plans. I saw friends from school, church, as well as the dance group I sort of randomly found myself in when I took the gap year. Doesn’t seem like time has changed at all, really, because after all, it’s only been a year since I left Japan. I went to my old Japanese language school at IUC for this year’s graduation party in Yokohama and walked around some familiar places. Yokohama is honestly a gorgeous city. Tokyo is fun and everything is there, but I do have a special place in my heart for this city. The graduation party was also interesting, if only because I met IUC alums who were doing everything from managing their own startup in Japan for a couple years to a professor emeritus at Sophia University who had lived in Japan for who knows how long. Makes me wonder if I can live in another country for that long – up to 10 years maybe, but something tells me I belong in America in the end.

My favorite spot in Yokohama~

Then it was off to Kyoto where I didn’t do much sightseeing at all because I was in Osaka and Nara for the two days I stayed in Kansai. Osaka for – hehehe, what else? – a TVXQ concert (!@#$ still good-looking as ever) and Nara to visit Tenri University.

久しぶりに大阪! And you can't forget the deer in Nara...

I had been to Nara 3 summers ago, but it was my first time going to the Tenri area. I somehow skipped Tenri station and not notice until 10 stations later when I saw that I was deep in 田舎– but good thing I was super early, so I could hop back on the opposite direction. On my way to the university, I saw a huge temple complex, which turned out to be the headquarters of Tenrikyou, and checked it out later. Interestingly enough, all of the people praying at the temple (and there were a lot in that ginormous temple!) seemed to be students (maybe from the high school nearby?) and there was even a guy wearing an official “Tenrikyo overseas youth mission movement” or something like that. I looked it up on Wikipedia later, and there are currently 2 million followers of Tenrikyou in Japan. I wonder if “followers” meant nominally, like a lot of Buddhist/Shinto followers in Japan, or regular practitioners. Either way, I was impressed by the youthfulness of the group I saw. 

It’s kind of far away, but you can see Tenrikyou written on the the black robes.

At Tenri University, I talked with a professor who I had read for one of my papers back at Yale. It was a short discussion, but what I took away from it was that my questions should focus on the Religious Studies perspective, rather than veer too much toward the anthropological. Because I like working with primary texts and analyzing literature, I usually write my papers more from the theological angle, but I guess the prospect of fieldwork with the Kakure Kirishitan has made me incorporate a lot more anthropology as well. Which is still important, but I was reminded what motivates me is more of the theology behind their rituals.

He also gave me a quick tour around the Tenri University library and was kind enough to show me the centuries-old Kirishitan documents he had painstakingly gone through while writing his dissertation. When he touched the books again, I could tell – he really, really valued these materials and what it meant to his research. Like he knew where every book was in that collection and also probably what page number certain prayers were written down in. (Which makes me wonder again - will I be this devoted to a topic if I went into academia? Agghhh decisions).

Also, visiting all these places for the second or third time has made me appreciate each city more in Japan somehow. I didn't do much sightseeing, but even walking around reminded me each city has its own atmosphere. I remember I thought I couldn't see myself living in Kyoto long-term because of all the tourists, but somehow it seemed more liveable this time around, maybe because I was staying with a friend. And I could see why people compared Osaka to Seoul, having been to Seoul now. 

Will post about Nagoya soon - pretty overwhelming as well… 

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