Trip Update: Japan

[I’ll be blogging from Asia for the rest of the summer, as I teach English and learn about the Church’s missionary efforts here. For more information, see my previous post detailing my summer plans.]

I depart for mainland China in a few hours to begin my teaching apostolate, but I’ll just give a quick update on the trip so far before I leave.

I spent a few days in Japan last week: Tokyo for one full day, and then Kyoto for two days. We took a walking tour of Tokyo, visiting a Buddhist temple, a Shinto shrine, and what I think is considered the world’s largest electronics store (though I could be mistaken). In Kyoto, we took a bus tour of the city, so we were able to see quite a bit more: Nijo Castle, the old Imperial Palace, the so-called “Golden Pavilion”, and a handful of temples and shrines.

One of the temples we visited on a mountain outside Kyoto

Just a few quick observations:

  • The Japanese are very cordial. I was surprised to see that they bow to one another (and even to foreigners like me!) at every encounter. Our guide told us–and I subsequently witnessed this–that when shops open in the morning, the staff is at the door bowing to customers who come in.
  • Our guide told us that China and Japan, though trying to meet the same challenge of accommodating a large number of people in a small space, basically take opposite approaches. The Japanese try to be as self-contained as possible and are careful to avoid being a nuisance to others, while the Chinese approach is to go about their business freely and not be bothered by others who do the same.
  • I and the others in my group observed more than once that we felt like we were in a video game, which makes sense, since Kyoto is the home of Nintendo.

I’ve also got some observations on religion in Japan and the state of the Church there, but it looks like those will have to wait until another day. In the mean time, please pray for my group’s safe travels to the mainland.

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About Emmett Hall

I'm a seminarian for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas, working on a theology degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. My views are solely my own, based on a reasonable grounding in the Western Tradition, and subject to correction if necessary. They do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer or any institution with which I am associated.
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