Touring Japan with Jeff Alexander
Editor's Note: UW-Parkside History Professor Jeff Alexander and 11 students are in Japan through June 13. They'll be touring and learning in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and Hiroshima. Dr. Alexander is tweeting updates and photos regularly and you can join his followers (there were 20 as of Wednesday morning, June 5) on Twitter at @jeffalexander99 and through Ranger Today and the university web site.
Japan Dispatch 1: Getting Ready to Learn how to do things "the Japanese Way"
This is the first of several dispatches from Japan, and our Study Abroad students are inbound as I write it, scheduled to touch down at Narita Airport in just a few hours. I've spent the last few days making many in-country arrangements, site inspections, and other plans with colleagues at Wakayama University and Hannan University. Our travel itinerary includes two very busy days in Tokyo, after which we will take the shinkansen (a.k.a. the "bullet train") to Kyoto, where we will stay for another week. From Kyoto, we will take day trips throughout the city and region, including to Osaka, Himeji Castle, and the Atomic Bomb Dome at Hiroshima. Our students are tasked with learning how to do things the Japanese way, which involves supporting the group, being observant and responsive, jumping in and taking part in unfamiliar activities, and working together to achieve our goals.
With a little time to spare, I also visited the Sumida River in Asakusa, where Tokyo's oldest Western-style bar, the "Kamiya Bar," stands on a busy street corner near the great Thunder Gate at Senso-ji Temple. Surprisingly, the bar, which has been in business since 1880 and at its current location since 1921, was closed for a week-long renovation. A well-worn institution famed for its signature, original cocktail, "Electric Brandy" (denki bran), the Kamiya Bar has experienced a real renaissance in the last year following the opening of the nearby "Tokyo Skytree" megatower. The tallest in Japan, the Skytree attracts thousands of tourists every week, many of whom pass right by Kamiya Bar on their way to the visitor shuttle bus stop, and often stop in for a drink. Long famed as the haunt of writers, artists, and colorful neighborhood characters, Kamiya Bar's quaint but storied interior was long past due for a makeover. Still, in typical Japanese fashion, the chaotic pile of rubble that I saw through the doorway will be a fully operational bar come Saturday. Expect the final dispatch to come from a seat inside.
Asakusa, Tokyo. 4 June 2013In the photo, the Tokyo Skytree and the Flamme d'Or atop the Asahi Beer Hall, Sumida ward, Tokyo.