January in Yamaguchi, Japan

Centre’s abundant study abroad opportunities provide students with unmatched possibilities to travel and study on every continent, save Antarctica (I’m not sure that this would be a particularly popular option anyway). I’d like to spotlight one of Centre’s study abroad locations: Yamaguchi Prefectural University (YPU) in Yamaguchi prefecture, Japan. This study abroad opportunity is somewhat different than most others in that students travel without a Centre professor.
I spent a few weeks this January teaching a course on International Cooperation and Conflict Resolution to an international group of students – 2 from Centre, 4 from YPU, 1 from Canada, 1 from Spain, and 1 from China – as an independent teaching project, rather than as a Centreterm course. What I experienced was unmatched hospitality, exceptional students, and a truly unique prefecture.
YPU’s exceptional professors offer both the types of courses that you might expect to take at Centre, in addition to unique cultural courses that you would be hard-pressed to find in any American school… think The Art of Flower Arrangement, Tea Ceremony, or Hagi-yaki Pottery. Their international office has done quite well in attracting students from across the globe, making it an ideal place not only to get acquainted with Japanese culture, language, and custom, but also to make friends from all over the world.
The university is centrally located in Yamaguchi prefecture and just a short bullet train ride away from a variety of fascinating places, making day travel easy. In fact, when I travel, I frequently return to the US wondering why we don’t have high-speed trains. Anyway, given the ease of transportation, I was able to visit Hagi, Hiroshima, Miyajima, and Shimonoseki during my short time in Japan. I’ll highlight two my favorite places.
First, Hiroshima Peace Park. The park commemorates the victims of the American nuclear bomb attack on the city that killed over 50,000 Japanese civilians on impact, and another nearly 100,000 from aftereffects of radiation. At the center of the park is the peace flame, which has been lit since 1964, and will continue to be until nuclear weapons are completely eliminated from the world… maybe into perpetuity? A few meters from the flame are booths filled with colorful origami cranes that symbolize the victims – especially children – of the war. The number of cranes is mind-blowing. It is hard to imagine the cranes representing human war casualties.
The main attraction is the Atomic Bomb Dome, the only building which was left largely in tact at the bomb’s epicenter. Again, it represents the aspiration of world peace.
It is impossible to do justice to the park, except to say that it is an incredibly moving place where I could not help but ponder the cruelty and vulnerability of humanity.
Next, Miyajima. It is about a 45-minute ferry ride from Hiroshima Peace Park. The island’s uniqueness first struck me as a disembarked and ran into a stray deer. In fact, the island is full of incredibly friendly, roaming deer. Well past my college-prime, I’m reluctant to admit that I couldn’t resist taking dozens of selfies with the deer. The highlight of the island is Itsukushima Shrine. The main point of interest is a giant torii gate, which at high tide, looks as though it is floating in the sea. I have seen dozens of Shinto shrines in past travels to Japan, and this one rivaled my favorite: Fushimi Inari in Kyoto.
If you are a fan of oysters, this is the place to go. There is an unimaginable abundance of oyster dishes supplied by either street vendors or restaurants.
Another fun activity for adventurers is Mt. Misen, which you can climb in about 90 minutes to 2 hours. The climb itself is picturesque with waterfalls, rock formations, and of course, deer, and the view from the top is spectacular.
I’ll spare you the rest of my travel log, but I would be more than happy to chat with anyone who is considering studying at YPU. I would also encourage you to speak to students who studied at YPU in the past who, in my experience, speak very highly of the program. In short, the experience was a fabulous one that I would repeat again in a heartbeat.
Posted by: Dina Badie

By |2015-02-04T11:39:01-05:00February 4th, 2015|Asian Studies blog|