Monday, August 22, 2011

Home

Hi friends!

Sorry for not having posted much from Tokyo, it ended up being one of our busiest sites and I didn't have access to the internet. Just wanted to let everyone know that I arrived home safely yesterday! I woke up at 8:00am on the 20th, didn't go to sleep between the 20th and the 21st, left Tokyo for Chicago at 11:00am on the 21st, and arrived in Chicago at 8:00am on the 21st. The longest day of my life to say the least, not sleeping and crossing the international date line!

Before I conclude this blog finished, I just wanted to share a little bit of what happened for JASC in Tokyo! One of my favorite activities was the reception that Colonel Tilley invited us to that I mentioned before. It was such a fabulous evening, with some of the best fireworks I've seen in my life! The reception took place in Yokohama, and we were ushered to the VIP dock that had a beautiful view of the pier. It was a smaller party with about 4 small tents, a nice buffet, and an amazing jazz band playing in the background. Colonel Tilley was so kind to us, and he really made us feel welcome! I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to experience this.

The day after the reception, the Japan-America Student Conference hosted its most important event: Final Forum. Final Forum is where all the roundtables give 20 minute presentations to an audience of esteemed guests and alumni about what they have been learning about and discussing this past month. It was really neat to see what all the other roundtables had been working on since I had been working primarily with my own roundtable and focusing mainly on globalization, and I learned so much from my fellow delegates! After the presentation was done, we had a reception at a fancy hotel in Tokyo. From there, my roundtable went to celebrate by doing karaoke! I'm not sure if we had all this pent up energy from working on our presentation for so long, be we were able to let it all out and had such a blast together! After that we went and did purikura in Shibuya, which is a Japanese style photo booth, so I'm proud to say I was able to knock out two stereotypical Japanese activities in one evening.

Kuni and I at Yokohama North Dock, before walking over to our VIP party!


Security and Globalization at Yokohama North Dock!


Some of the fabulous fireworks.


Final Forum.


At the post-Final Forum reception.


My wonderful roundtable, Globalization!


Sightseeing at Meiji-Jingu, and guess who we randomly ran into??? Bennies and Johnnies all over the world! (This seriously was a random encounter, in Tokyo of all places!)


Tokyo.


So now I'm back home and happy to be taking it easy after an incredibly busy month! I'm so glad that I was able to have had this experience. Because our schedule was so tight and fixed with so many events, it was mentioned at the conference that it was more like we went to JASC than we went to Japan. We didn't get to see as much of Japan as a traditional vacation or study abroad experience might have, but I learned so so much and met so many amazing people and saw so many wonderful places! I think that this is going to conclude my blog, but I'm still reflecting on the conference so feel free to ask me any more questions and I would love to talk to you about it! Thank you so much everyone!

Joy,
Courtney

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

We're in Tokyo!

Hi everyone!

This is Courtney updating you from our final location here at the Japan-America Student Conference: Tokyo! Not too much to share since our Final Forum is tomorrow and we're working hard on our presentations, but tonight Kuni and I have an amazing opportunity! One of the guest speakers at our Final Forum is Colonel Tilly, the current commander of all U.S. military bases in Japan, and Kuni's and my roundtables (Security and Globalization) have been invited to join him for a military reception tonight. We are really looking forward to making some connections at this event tonight, and are also excited to relax a little since the event includes a fireworks show. We don't have continuous internet access here, but hopefully I'll be able to share how it goes!

Thanks!
Courtney

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Okinawa 2

Hi friends!

This is Courtney here again! Tonight is our last night in Okinawa before we head for Tokyo tomorrow! Tokyo is the final sight for the conference, and it's crazy how fast things have been going!

Today was less focused on the U.S. base presence in Okinawa and was more reflective on Okinawa's role in World War II. We started out visiting the Okinawa Peace Memorial Park where we learned about the Battle of Okinawa. From there we went to a "gama," a large underground cave network that the Japanese Army used as a hideout, hospital, and civilian shelter during the war. After that we visited the Himeyuri Peace Museum in honor of the Himeyuri nurses (most of them girls between the ages of 15 to 19), and after that our final destination was the Arasaki beach and cliffs where many Japanese lost their lives during the war.Visiting all of these sights, especially the cave and the Himeyuri museum, was an incredible experience in the sense that it truly revealed the horrors of war to all of us, and it was a really moving and powerful day for us here at the Japan-America Student Conference. Before we move on to Tokyo tomorrow we will have the opportunity to speak with a survivor from the Battle of Okinawa, and I'm looking forward to hearing what she has to say and reflecting on all the experiences I've had here in Okinawa.

The stunning Okinawa Peace Memorial Park


Kuni and I at another Obon festival in Naha City, Okinawa.


Also, yesterday we had our Okinawa Forum at Okinawa International University, and many local high school and college students were invited to attend. And since CSB/SJU has so many connections to Okinawa, I happened to stumble upon two of the students who will be coming to St. Ben's/St. John's this year! Just another beautiful example of how our lovely school exists both locally and globally at the same time, so get ready to welcome my new friends Jinyu and Haruka to CSB/SJU!


Off to Tokyo tomorrow! Not sure what the internet situation is going to look like for us, but I'll try and update again soon. Thanks!

Love,
Courtney

Friday, August 12, 2011

Okinawa

Hi everyone!

This is Courtney, sending you this update from beautiful Okinawa! Sorry that it's been a while since the last update, but this is the first time I have had internet access.

So, we arrived in Okinawa on the 10th, which was also Kuni's birthday! It was so fun to celebrate his birthday in his own home town! So far our accomodations in Okinawa have been crazy! Right now we're in a hotel on a really busy street, with 7 showers for the 70 of us, a literal jungle growing in the lobby, and we have to pay per hour to use the air conditioning. And about showering, 4 of the showers are located in another building which is about a 7 minute walk away...through the busy busy night streets, which I traversed with a towel wrapped around my head...But, it's so beautiful here and we're having a great time!


I took this photo standing in the doorway of my room. One step away from our indoor jungle!


Today the Japan-America Student Conference was fortunate enough to be able to travel around Okinawa to various places related to the U.S. bases in Okinawa. First we visited Henoko, the place where the base is trying to relocate, and spoke with activists who oppose the base's relocation. Then we were able to visit Camp Foster and speak with the marines there and find out what the base has been up to in terms of community involvement, disaster relief, and military operations. Finally, we visited a local school next to the Futenma Air Base that has struggled with noise and air pollution related to the military's touch and go airplane practice. At the elementary school I was also blessed by another amazing opportunity, and was interviewed by a local television network about my thoughts on the Futenma Air Base issue. Some of the questions I was asked were kind of difficult, but if I come across the news segment anywhere I will let you know!

On a more fun note that isn't related to the base issue, yesterday a group of us decided to go to the beach (at 11:00 pm!). On the way we heard drums in the street, and were fortunate enough to stumble upon the Bonodori parade for the festival of Obon! After that we made our way to the Pacific Ocean. It was my first time visiting the Pacific, and I loved how calm and warm it was.

Here is a video of the Obon Festival we stumbled across!

video

So far our schedule has been absolutely packed. But we do have internet at this location, so I hope to post one more time from Okinawa. Thanks!
Love,
Courtney

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Okishima

Hi friends!

Just another update from the good old Japan-America Student Conference. Today we visited Lake Biwa located in Shiga prefecture. Lake Biwa is the largest lake in Japan, as well as the most widely used fresh water resource in the world. As a native of the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," I greatly appreciated the lake related discussions that ensued. We boarded a ferry that toured us around this absolutely gorgeous body of water, and spent the day on the boat hearing lectures about environmental issues concerning the lake.

After the lectures, the ferry dropped us off at Okishima, an island town with a population of about 400 people in the middle of Lake Biwa. Okishima was the most beautiful place I have every seen in my life thus far, and it is my favorite location that JASC has explored. We were able to walk through the town and the mountain forest paths to a beach where we had a net fishing demonstration, and there we learned about the island communities struggles with foreign fish invading Lake Biwa, as well as the struggles with keeping the fisherman tradition alive. Everyone at this site was so welcoming to us, and they truly made the trip a beautiful experience!


Kuni and I on the ferry on Lake Biwa.

 Okishima village.

 The breathtaking path we walked to get to the beach.

 At the beach for a net fishing demonstration by the locals. We were able to help pull the fish in, and one of the fisherman who led the demonstration is famous for his craft, and has even been featured in National Geographic.

Okishima. :) 

On a final note, here are some of my thoughts about Japan, through the eyes of a foreigner:
1. It's really hot here.
2. I have only seen one drinking fountain since our arrival.
3. My hands are becoming very toned due to the extensive chopstick usage.
4. I am not sure of the identity of 30% of the food I am eating (it's all delicious though!).
5. Mountains everywhere, it's fabulous.

That's all for now!
Joy,
Courtney

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kyoto

Hi everyone, this is Courtney again!

Sorry that we haven't been able to post too often! In addition to being incredibly busy, only the Executive Committee here has continuous access to internet, so this is only the second time that I have been able to use the internet so far.

As of now, all of us here at the Japan-America Student Conference are now on the bus heading for Kyoto! I have heard that we will have continuous internet access there, so I hope to update more often.

Since my last update, as a delegation we had the amazing opportunity to visit a nuclear power plant. We were able to discuss many issues such as the effects of nuclear energy, nuclear energy related to natural disasters, and the relationship between the nuclear power plant and the people. In addition to this, we broke into special topic discussions, where my group focused on looking at possible renewable energy sources and ideas related to public transportation. Visiting the power plant was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share in a dialogue and learn from the professionals in charge of provideing energy for Japan.


New friends!

 At the culture museum in Niigata.

Talk to you soon!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

We're In Japan

Hi eveyone!

This is Courtney, posting an update from the beautiful Niigata, Japan! Sorry that it took a few days to get a post rolling, but while we have the ability to access internet at any time, we don't often use it, so this is the first chance we got.

Travelling to Japan was crazy! We woke up at 3:00am to leave fore the airport, where we took a flight to Chicago. In Chicago we connected to Japan, and when we arrived we hopped on a bus to take us to our first sight, Niigata. The bus ride was estimated to be about 5 or 6 hours, but an historic amount of rain hit Niigata prefecture the day of our arrival, and as a result all of the roads were closed. So we ended up stranded at a truck stop for six hours (in the middle of the night!), and eventually arrived at our hotel after a 12 hour ride! We left for Japan on the 27th, and arrived at 3:30am on the 29th after 34 hours of non-stop travel. Then we got about 3-4 hours of sleep to wake up for the opening ceremonies. It was quite a trip, but we're here and we're safe!

Kuni and I stranded at a truck stop somewhere in Niigata. Around 1:00am, maybe?


So far we've been spending a lot of time in our round table study groups and getting to know each other, but today we had a really amazing experience discussing disaster relief. As a group we travelled to the village of Yamakoshi, an absolutely stunning mountanous region that has been struck by a multitude of natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, and flooding. Even though the earthquakes that struck Yamakoshi village happened in 2004, the event still affects the community today, and we were fortunate enough to be able to travel through and witness the beautiful resilience of the community. Afterwards we had a forum discussing disaster relief with many distinguished guests who are active in disaster relief efforts, as well as students who shared their personal experiences and volunteer testimonies. With the recent devastation of the Tohoku Earthquake that hit Japan in March, discussing what we can do as students to address natural disasters provide relief, and it was a really beautiful experience. Looking forward to sharing more as we move forward!

Joy,
Court