Journey to Japan #3: Was It What I Thought It Would Be?

Before going to Japan, I spent a lot of time contemplating and researching what Japan would be like and what I should expect. I heard all about the incredibly advanced technology that’s available. At the same time, I saw many examples of how they uphold traditions. Some of these expectations were met on my trip, some were not, and some discoveries were made for which I had no expectations at all.

While abroad, I saw many ways in which the Japanese people upheld traditional practices and values. Just as my previous research had me anticipate, traditional culture blended in many ways with their modern lifestyle. For example, it was perfectly common to see both men and women walk in traditional dress styles, such as kimonos. The Kebuki Theatre also displayed these values with the classic speech, dress, and acting employed. The day we attended a festival in Tokyo, with men in old styles of dress and shrines being carried just as they would have hundreds of years ago, I saw just how much respect the people had for their history. Upholding these practices wasn’t considered outdated, but rather enjoyed by people both young and old. Japanese traditional and modern culture don’t seem to fight each other, but rather blend seamlessly, just as I had been made to believe it would.

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I did have some expectations that weren’t met, at least not to the extreme I thought they would be, though I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing. When doing research on Japan, you hear all about the technology they have and the advancements they’ve made. You hear about the hologram concerts, the robots, the hands-free shopping centers. While I’m sure these do exist in Japan, though, they don’t seem to be integrated into people’s lives the way western media portrays it to be. Japan has incredibly efficient public transportation with the Shinkansen trains and the many local stations. The toilets have more gadgets and functions than you can imagine. And of course, the arcades were an experience. But walking through Fujisawa, Hiroshima, and Kyoto, I didn’t see the automated parking garages, people with gadgets or robots, or any holograms. For day to day life, even if more efficient, their daily technological interactions seem to be very similar to our own.

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The part of Japanese culture I didn’t even know to expect was the attitude of the people. I knew that Japanese culture was very polite and respectful, but I didn’t know how genuinely kind the people would be. Now of course everyone is different and every country has both good and bad people, still their positive attitudes surprised and impressed me. For example, at the baseball game we attended in Tokyo, I never once heard the crowd boo or shout insults like at American games. If the umpire made what seemed like an iffy call, no one got angry or started yelling. When a batter was up, rather than shouts from opposing fans to distract or insult, cheers from their own fans were used to encourage. We were a big group and most of us didn’t speak Japanese. I’m sure we were often frustrating and difficult to deal with. But everywhere we went, they tried to help us as much as possible. I was nervous about going to Japan and annoying the natives, but they were so welcoming, it didn’t feel that way at all.

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So if you do decide to go to Japan or another country, its good to do your research and prepare for your visit, but remember to be open-minded and ready for it to differ from your expectations.

Journey to Japan # 2: Japanese Media

I was well aware before my trip that Japan is renowned for their entertainment and gaming culture. Of course before going I had heard all about the games, anime, arcades, and manga, but one aspect I wasn’t as aware of is the Japanese people’s love for baseball.

In the US, or at least where I’m from, we think of these as the opposite of each other. Arcades and gaming are for the visual people – for those who like to sit and be alone. On the other hand, baseball, and sports in general, are for those who like to be out and active, to be a part of a team and work together. For the way things are done in the US, this may be true, but I’ve noticed in my time here that at least in Japan, they may not be so different.

While I’m sure I didn’t even scratch the surface on Japanese arcade games, of the ones I took a shot at there was one that stood out for me and my fellow students. A rhythm game called Chunithm is a game designed to emulate piano playing. Moving your fingers across a light-up, piano-like screen, you match movements to the indicators on screen and to the music. The game requires you to do everything from combinations, alternating hits, keyboard slides, and more. For the advanced players, the game moves at a lightning pace, and to on-lookers, it really does look like playing the piano. The game can be found in Segas, or dark Japanese arcades filled with flashing lights, music and other gaming sounds, and serious players who even bring their own supplies.

So you may be wondering how this is at all similar to a game of baseball, played out in the open and in a team with a crowd gathered to watch. But there are more similarities than you would think. Baseball, like Chunithm is filled with sounds, both familiar and new. In the baseball diamond, there is the sound of the game: the ball hitting the bat or the glove, the players running, the yells of the umpire or the coaches. But there is other stimuli, constantly trying to draw your attention.

The sounds of the announcers, the shouts and cheers of the crowd, the call of the food vendors, and music over the loudspeakers may seem like it would draw your attention away from the game. But instead, it draws you in. The constant stimuli force you to focus on what is happening in front of you and keeps the game from growing dull. In the same way, Japanese segas, and the constant noise of the many games, doesn’t distract you, but makes you pay closer attention. When playing Chunithm, hearing the rhythm you are supposed to be matching is just as important as seeing the markers on the screen. The sounds of the other games make you listen harder and become even more focused on the game to achieve success.

Both also use familiarity to draw in their audience. During the baseball game, popular songs were often played, whether it be to indicate success or just to fill in passing time. Set fan chants or fan songs could also be heard frequently throughout the game. Fans couldn’t help joining in on the songs. In the same way, the game allowed users to play to popular songs, both from games and from the radio. When listeners hear a song they know, they immediately are more drawn in, feeling better able to rise to the challenge of the game, since its something they are already familiar with.

Both activities, unlike how we think of it in the US, could be considered social activities, as well. Baseball is a team activity, and fans are a secondary community created. Segas also create a community feel among visitors. Perhaps it’s that there is a destination, a place to go where these gamers gather together. You can see other people playing, even see their high scores that need to be overcome. You may even be playing the same exact level with someone right next to you or have someone watching right behind you. With  a place to gather, Japanese arcades fee like just as much of a social community as a baseball game.

So while the two activities, at least in my mind, seemed to be a world apart, there are far more similarities than I ever would have thought. Whether it be a game of baseball or a game at the arcade, the Japanese certainly seem to be experts in drawing in and maintaining a dedicated audience.

Journey to Japan: I CAN’T READ!

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Imagine waking up one morning and no longer remembering how to read. Scary right? That’s the best way to describe how I felt when I first came to Japan. I suddenly had no idea how to read.

As someone who is going to school to get a degree directly related to their love of reading, it hit me especially hard. But my first days in Japan, that’s really how it felt. Arriving at the hotel and then venturing out into the town, I felt lost without some knowledge of how to read the Japanese letters.

Before coming to Japan, I tried to learn at least a little bit of Japanese to help me with basic phrases. Things like “hello,” “excuse me,” “thank you,” etc. were a few phrases I learned. I believe that its not only helpful, but respectful, to attempt to learn some of the language of the country you are visiting. Ignoring the local language and expecting everyone to speak English to you is incredibly unfair. But while I attempted to learn how to say some common phrases, learning the alphabet didn’t cross my mind. I know it would have been too difficult to learn the entire thing on my own in such a short period, but being able to recognize a few key words or phrases can make a huge difference.

So when we arrived that first night in Fujisawa, I felt like I suddenly couldn’t read. At the restaurant, the menu didn’t have pictures, so I couldn’t begin to guess what was in the meals. Many signs on businesses and buildings were completely foreign. The only way I new what anything was was by asking my peers who had more knowledge of Japanese than me. If they didn’t know or weren’t around, I was left completely helpless. I pointed at random things on the menu to order. I blindly followed others as I couldn’t read the signs.

Not to be dramatic, but I began to wonder if this was what being truly illiterate was like. Feeling helpless and dumb, giving up easily because you don’t have any idea how to fix it. Putting faith in others and then feeling completely lost when they can’t help. Needless to say, its not a good feeling.

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But at the same time, it does make you realize how resourceful people can be. How many different ways you can find to communicate. Maybe you can’t read what it says, but you can smell it. Maybe you can find the words on a different sign. It can also make you more adventurous. If you can’t read the menu, just pick something and see what you get. You don’t know what that sign on a store means? Go inside and see for yourself.

I guess my point is that while going to a new place can feel scary and leave you feeling helpless, it can also be a liberating experience, one that will push to get out of your shell and your comfort zone, simply by necessity.

Frost by M.P. Kozlowsky: Review

Spoiler Free!

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Guess who finally read a book again! Are you shocked? If you saw my most recent post, then you know that I’ve been in a very long, very intense book slump for over a year now. I’m proud to say that with the release of A Court of Wings and Ruin only a few days away, I’ve finally gotten around to picking up a book again. Yay! Unfortunately, my first book back wasn’t the greatest.

Frost is the story of a sixteen year old girl by the same name, living in a post-apocolyptic, zombie-esque world. I picked up the book because this story is of a girl who leaves her safe refuge she’s been confined to her entire life in order to save the life of her pet, and honestly, well, same. I would do anything to save my dogs, so I thought this would be a fun read.

I was wrong.

Frost was entirely. . .underwhelming. It was a pretty typical zombie survival story with your evil human overlord controlling a portion of the city. Frost is another YA protagonist who suffers from Insta-love. I’m not normally one to complain at the romance in a novel, but I just wasn’t into the two leads talking about giving each other hope and making them see life in a whole new way in their second conversation. Flynn is the very first boy Frost has ever met. It just didn’t work for me. What also didn’t work for me was the ending. No spoilers, but it was anticlimactic and felt almost like it cut off in the middle of the story. Frost read a lot like the first book in a trilogy that will never be completed. Overall, the world building was lacking, and while not terrible, there was nothing stellar about this book for me.

Rating: 2

I’m super excited to read A Court of Wings and Ruin this week! What new releases are you looking forward to?

Longest Book Slump Ever

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Hey guys!

So I haven’t posted on this blog in 6 months  (WHOOPS) and I’m so sorry I haven’t been around. This summer I went through a long book slump – actually, I’m still in a bit of a slump to be honest. This summer I just wanted to focus on some other interests.

When I was finally ready to hit the books again this fall, school just made it impossible. I normally only have time to read about 20 pages a day, if even that. I’m going to work on making more time for books and this blog, but I probably won’t have much for the next month or so. I’m also thinking of playing around with different formats and content, so let me know if there’s anything you guys would be interested in or want to see more of!

I’m a publishing student learning about everything it takes to make a book. I’m taking classes in both editing and marketing. I’ve been learning about everything from acquisition decisions, editing methods, contract negotiation, and marketing strategies. If you guys are interested, I’d be happy to share what I’ve learned!

Feel free to comment down below!!!!

Throwback Thursday Book Recommendation

Every other Thursday I give a recommendation for a book published at least 5 years ago. Show some love to those books you might have missed out on when they were first released. Added bonus, many of these will probably be at your local library, or super cheap online. (If part of a series, the final book will be at least 5 years old).

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I figured it was about time to share one of my favorite classics with you all. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is the book I recommend to anyone who doesn’t enjoy the classics. It tells the story of a young governess, plain and little and disregarded by everyone, who goes to work at the home of a Mr. Rochester. Before long, she finds herself falling in love, but there is something strange lurking in the house, and all is not as it appears. Its the perfect mix of a historical setting and an intriguing mystery and will have you caught up in its romance while keeping you on the edge of your seat. You won’t regret reading this one.

 

Why I Love YA

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Even though I’m only 21, I’ve been asked a question a lot lately that is baffling: “You still read YA?” Many people of the general public seem to think that YA is only for reader ages 13-`18. Once you are officially an adult, its time to move on to more ‘sophisticated’ reads. But I do still read YA, and I probably always will. So when people ask me if I still read YA, I say yes. Yes I do, and here’s why you should too.

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