Land of the Rising Sun: A Prologue

I am currently sitting on the Japan Rail (JR) Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen Hikari train from Odawara to Kyoto, excited to embark on another wonderful Chazen adventure. This time as a participant instead of organizer.

Japan has been on my bucket list for far too long, I am so excited it’s finally happening as part of my business school experience! As an added bonus, my parents decided to join me for a few days before the official trip so we were able to tour part of Japan as a family.

I always thought Tokyo was cool, but it’s even more incredible in person. It is the intersection of ancient traditions and modern technology that makes it one of the most unique cities in the world. In the past few days, we stayed in the Shinjuku area where there are lots of shops as well as the super hip and local Yokocho area. We visited Senso-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. We also checked out the famous Tsukiji Fish Market where we had the renowned Daiwa sushi at 7am because you have to get there really early; needless to say the sushi was absolutely amazing. Other places that we visited include Ueno Park, Ginza, and the Meiji Jingu Shrine. And yesterday, we went outside of the city to visit Hakone, where we can take a gondola to see the awesome views of Mt. Fuji, ate black sulfur eggs, and spent the night in traditional Japanese hot spring bath after an incredible home-cooked meal. Speaking of meals, the food in Japan has been absolutely spectacular. There are so many varieties, and everything from the cheap quick meals of soba and sushi to the high-end kobe beef dinners, every detail of aesthetics and flavor has been carefully and masterfully executed from centuries of practice. I just know that the food is what I am going to miss the most when I go back to the States. Thank goodness our Chazen trip is only beginning tomorrow night!

Cheers (Kanpai) to the start of a new Chazen trip! I hope you’ll follow us on this blog and social media (Instagram @ColumbiaChazen and #CBSChazen and #ChazenJapanB2017) to see what’s happening on the Japan Chazen Section B adventures.

In the meantime, here are some fun facts about Japan:

  1. Japan is the last country in the world that can be called an empire. The Japanese imperial dynasty was never interrupted. Akihito, the reigning Emperor of Japan, is a direct descendant of the first Emperor Jimmu, who founded the empire in 711 BC.
  2. The Japanese language uses three different systems for writing: hiragana (syllabic system for writing Japanese words), katakana (an alphabet used to write non-Japanese borrowed words), and kanji (hieroglyphic writing).
  3. There are no foreign workers in Japan. According to Japanese law, the minimum wage for foreign workers is higher than the average salary of a Japanese citizen. That’s why companies in this country are more likely to hire a Japanese citizen than an immigrant.
  4. Almost all railways in Japan are private. The only exceptions are the shinkansen: high-speed trains connecting the big cities of Japan.
  5. Tokyo is the safest city in the world. Six-year-olds can travel on public transport on their own.
  6. There are no landfills in Japan because all garbage is recycled. Garbage is classified into four types: combustible trash, incombustible trash, glass containers, and recyclable waste.
  7. Property rights in Japan are highly respected. There are dozens of companies with more than a thousand-year history. For example, Houshi Ryokan hotel has been in business since 718, and the same family has run it for 46 generations.
  8. In Japanese, the notions of “being wrong“ and ”being different“ are expressed by the same word: “chigau.”
  9. Fish and meat are very cheap in this country. However, fruit is very expensive. An apple usually costs $2, while a bunch of bananas can be purchased for about $5. The most expensive fruit is melon: in Tokyo, it will cost around $200.
  10. In Japan, everyone knows that Hello Kitty was created in England.

-Katherine Li F’17

Japan Spring Study Tour Section B

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