Italy | The Coliseum

By Andrea Zachrich

My first impression of the Coliseum was that it was smaller than the Rosebowl. My second thought after that was that the Rosebowl was unlikely to still be standing 2,000 years from now in the same way the Coliseum is. My third thought was awe at the fact that this incredibly large structure has withstood the test of time (not without damage, of course, but what’s left is still pretty spectacular).

The Facts

Its Name

I love the story of how the Coliseum got its name. During the reign of Emperor Nero, he commissioned a massive bronze statue of himself as the sun god that was often called the “colossus” because of its huge size. (It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). This statue, which was nearly 100 feet tall, stood right next to the coliseum (with various reworkings of the face for different emperors) until an earthquake in 1000 toppled it, but by then the name of the amphitheater had already been determined. So the name Coliseum comes from the word colossus and essentially refers to a structure that is near the colossus statue of Nero. The true name of the amphitheater is Amphitheatrum Flavium in latin, or Flavian Amphitheater in English, because it was constructed during the Flavian dynasty. That name, however, is rarely used, and the word coliseum with a lowercase “c” has even come to be used for other amphitheaters from the Roman world.

Ancient History

The Coliseum was started around 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian, and was completed by his son Emperor Titus in 80 AD following Vespasian’s death. The name Flavian Amphitheater comes from these emperors, who were a part of the Flavian dynasty. It was paid for by using wealth acquired from booty during war. According to ancient sources, the inaugural games of the Coliseum lasted a full month, and 9,000 animals were killed and there were hundreds of gladiatorial fights and other spectacles. Some scholars even believe that the amphitheater may have even been filled with water and used for mock naval battles, but other scholars believe that this may have only happened once at the inaugural games or not at all (the Romans did have these mock naval battles, called naumachia, but the location usually made use of existing bodies of water and thus the Romans may not have needed/wanted to use the Coliseum for this purpose). It could seat around 50,000-80,000 people depending on the amount of wooden seating at the top and how packed in the people were. The structure has a series of underground tunnels (you can see them today because the wooden floor no longer exists) that would be used to raise wild animals into the arena or sometimes gladiators from special trapdoors. It also had a canvas cover on the top of the amphitheater called the vela or velarium, the latin word for sail (like from a sail boat) that served to protect viewers from the sun or rain. All of the games at the Coliseum were free to attend and were usually paid for by the emperor, but you had to secure a token with a seat on it prior to the event in order to be allowed in. But, if you were an elite, you didn’t need this token. The emperor had his own box, the senators had marble seats (you can still see this section of seating today), and many elite families had their own boxes in the Coliseum from which to watch the games.

Materials and Architecture

The Coliseum is really a remarkable structure, and has stood for nearly 2,000 years with minimal damage aside from deliberate material robbing. The Coliseum is the largest amphitheater from antiquity. It is mainly made of concrete, tufa (a volcanic stone common in Roman building), and travertine (another stone commonly used by the Romans). It was faced with marble and had statues facing outwards in all of the archways in antiquity. It has three stone layers of seatings (with ionic, doric, and corinthian capitals on the outside) and used to have a top, wooden layer of seating that was the Roman equivalent of the nosebleed seats which most likely burnt down. These wooden seats required near constant maintenance in antiquity, and were frequently subjected to fires and other damages that come from being outside. The structure had a central wooden platform (now completely gone – probably because it rotted away over time) that would have been covered with sand where all the spectacles took place. As discussed earlier, there is an extensive system of tunnels under this floor that were used to place animals and people into the arena. Below are some photos that show the series of tunnels under the floor.

Modern History

During the early medieval ages, the arches of the Coliseum housed shops and were used as housing. There was also a chapel built in the structure at this time. Around 1200 AD, the Frangipani family took over the entire Coliseum and used it as a fort and to house their family. In the mid 1300’s, an earthquake toppled much of one of the sides, and the stones that fell were reused in other buildings around Rome. Similar to many other buildings in Rome, the bronze clamps that held the stone together were actually dug out of the stone, and you can still see the holes that this left on the structure today (and makes it even more remarkable that the Coliseum is still standing). In the mid 1700’s, Pope Benedict XIV declared the site to be sacred and forbid further quarrying because he claimed that Christians had been martyred in the structure. While the Roman did prosecute Christians for much of their history, there is no historical evidence that executions took place in the Coliseum, and many scholars believe that no Christians were ever killed there for the crime of being Christian. There is, however, still a large cross inside of the Coliseum, and this Pope’s declaration did help save the amphitheater from further damage. The Coliseum was finally fully excavated under Mussolini, and underwent a massive restoration project from 1993-2000. There used to be a ton of cats that lived in the Coliseum, but there aren’t as many today. I saw one when we went as a class, and none when I went with my brother. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, and draws in massive amounts of revenue for the Italian government.

Random fun fact: gattara is the Italian word for an old lady who takes care of cats on the streets, and its one of my favorite words I learned in Italian (along with cucchioli which means puppies or kittens which I learned when visiting my Sicilian family and their puppy!) Writing about the stray cats in the Coliseum reminded me about this word.

The Gladiators

Now we get to the good part: the gladiators of the Coliseum. Contrary to popular belief, only about 10 percent of gladiators ever died in battle or from their wounds in battle. It was still a very risky profession, but not as dramatic as is often depicted in movies. Gladiators often did not battle to the death because a gladiator is an expensive investment for their ludus, or gladiator school, because they must be trained, housed, and clothed. It would not be economical to own gladiators if your investments die half the time they were used for a fight. Most gladiators were slaves, although some people did choose to be gladiators. They occupied an interesting place in society. Many were wealthy, as they often got paid large sums to fight, and good gladiators had a type of celebrity status in Rome, but they also were denied the right to citizenship, and many were slaves (although they could often afford to pay for their freedom with their battle fees). They could not marry Roman citizens (although there are stories of particularly famous gladiators consorting with senator’s wives), and had tattoos to signify that they were gladiators. The fame and wealth accompanied with the loss of rights meant that gladiators occupied this strange limbo ground in Roman society.

Going There

Honestly, getting into the Coliseum is really quite a process. As with most tourist attractions in Rome, I would recommend going early and maybe even getting in line before they open. I would also get tickets in advance, or get the super ticket from the Forum the day before so that you don’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket here. When we went as a class, we got there quite early, maybe around 8:30 and only had to wait in line about 30 minutes. My brother and I went a different time and got there around 9:30, and had to wait in line for a little over an hour before we even got to buy our tickets. It takes so long because they send you through security (of which they should have more open) and then have you purchase your ticket after, which, as you can imagine, is a slow moving process. The price of the ticket isn’t terrible, i believe its only 15 euros to visit both the Coliseum and the Roman Forum.

I really enjoy learning about the Coliseum. It is an iconic symbol of Rome, and reminder of the wacky types of entertainment the ancient Romand enjoyed. It’s name, history, construction, and the gladiators that fought (and died) here are all fascinating, and learning about them really enhanced my visit to this awesome place. It was even cooler to take my brother back a second time and teach him all of things that I had learned. In many ways, the Coliseum is symbolic of the ancient Romans: its massive and beautiful and opulent with a violent and bloody history.

Italy | Some handy Italian (and Rome) Tips

By Andrea Zachrich

I thought it might be useful to make a guidebook of things I learned in Italy and differences between the culture there and in the U.S. so that you don’t look like an idiot tourist like I did. Not all of these are super strict guidelines, and some only apply to Rome, but I hope they can help you in your future travels!

  1. You almost always pay after you eat (or drink, if its coffee), regardless of if you eat in a more traditional sit down restaurant, or a walk-up to the counter and order kind of place. Basically, they just trust you to pay after you finish eating. Trying to pay before usually leads to a lot crazy looks and most places will just tell you to wait.
  2. That being said, however, if you’re ordering something quick like a gelato or a drink, they often ask you to pay before you eat it, and then you walk up with your receipt to get your order. Giolitti’s, my favorite gelato place in Rome, functions like this. I would default to the first way of paying unless you see a register near the front of the store or notice someone else paying first.
  3. Grazie – this is the word for thank you. You will use it a lot. For the love of all that is holy, it is not pronounced “gra-zi”, but rather “gra-zi-aye”. I realize that sometimes it will sound like the first pronunciation because Italians often talk rather quickly, but they make fun of Americans who pronounce it the first way.
  4. Italians don’t really have a concept of lines or right of way, so often times if you’re tying to order something you have to be a little assertive and make sure you are heard. I don’t think its them being rude, but rather they assume that everyone behaves like that. Same goes with crossing the street. Drivers won’t stop for you unless you’re already in the street. True Italians just make eye contact with the driver while stepping in the street in front of traffic and assume the cars will stop.
  5. People in Italy eat pizza with a knife and a fork. This took a little getting used to, but I think it makes it better because you can get a better bite of pizza. I also saw my Sicilian relatives cut up parts of the pizza with a knife and fork, and then eat it in pieces with their hands, but I wouldn’t do that unless you see other people doing it (that could have been a more casual way to eat because we were with family too).
  6. For some reason, Google maps worked a lot better for me than Apple maps while I was in Rome. Apple maps would often take me to the wrong address, while Google maps was much more accurate. I’m not really sure why this is, but to save yourself the hassle of going to the wrong place, I would just start with Google maps. You can also use Google maps to figure out which public transportation line to take if you tap on the symbol that looks like a train (super useful!)
  7. If you’re in Rome, I would start with an English “hello” when you walk into a store or restaurant and not a “ciao” even though this goes against everything I stand for in terms of not looking like a tourist. The reason is that if you start with ciao, and you look Italian (as I do because my grandparents are from there), people will start rapid fire speaking to you Italian, and then have to repeat themselves in English after they realize you don’t speak their language when you blankly stare at them, and that’s frustrating for everyone involved. If you start with a hello, they know to start in English, and then if you’re trying to work on your Italian you can always tell them that and ask for some tips.
  8. Download the Italian language dictionary of google translate onto your phone so that you don’t have to use your data. Many museums won’t translate the placards by the art, so the app is useful to have to know what you’re looking at. Ditto for restaurant menus so you know what you’re ordering (at least at first until you get the hang of it).
  9. Watch your stuff , especially on public transportation, because there are a lot of pickpockets. (The amount of times I had an older Italian lady on the tram motion at me to close my bag was absurd. When I was in Catania, Sicily, an old couple even stopped their car in the middle of a busy street to tell me to close my bag, so clearly pickpocketing is an issue in Italy).
  10. Meal times are different there. Lunch is around normal time (usually 12 or 12:30 to 2:00), but dinner is later at around 8:30. If you can’t wait until then, you can head out and grab aperitivo, which is pre-dinner drinks and snacks. It usually starts at around 7:00 (honestly, its a great concept). Breakfast is usually something very simple such as a coffee with a small pastry.
  11. It’s hot in the summer. Like really hot, with humidity on top of it. Visiting sites in the morning and the late afternoon, with an A/C break and nap mid-day, is the way to go. You might feel like you’re missing out, but trying to move around in the middle of the day is miserable and makes you feel terrible.
  12. Get an Italian SIM card for your phone if you’re going to be there any substantial amount of time. It’s the easiest and most stress-free way to communicate. Yes, you do get a different phone number, but your friends and family can use Whatsapp with your old phone number to get in contact with you. Also, Vodafone offers amazing deals on internet usage I got 8GB of data for 10 euros (essentially unlimited data at that amount)! That’s unheard of in the US.
  13. Bring a reusable water fountain to fill up at the nasoni fountains that are all around town and save yourself some money!
  14. Always have cash on you. Many smaller gelato and coffee places only take cash, and even some bigger places act like its a huge inconvenience when you try to use your card. You can get cash at ATMs. Look for one that has a flat fee to pull out money. Make sure not to keep all your cash with you in case it get stolen. Also, get a travel credit card. Bank of America offers an awesome one that covers all international transaction fees.
  15. If you know Spanish, it will really help you in Italy. There was one person in our study abroad group who would just speak Spanish to waiters and servers, and they almost always knew what he meant. I’m not sure they appreciated him speaking Spanish, but it was an effective way to communicate. Most places in Rome have at least one person working there who speaks English, but Spanish may be better to start with if you’re fluent.
  16. Some useful words and phrases:
    1. “Ciao!” is hello and goodbye. I like this word a lot.
    2. “Prego” is translated into “you’re welcome”, but it’s used in more ways than that (although its still used as you’re welcome frequently). Often times, it could be better translated into the word “please” or “go ahead”. When servers are ready for you to order or a hostess takes you to your table, they will often say “prego” to let you know that they are ready for you to speak or that this is where you’re sitting.
  • To order: “per me, ________”, which means “for me, _______ and then whatever you want to order.
  1. The bill is “il conto”. Servers in Italy don’t get tipped for their service, so they generally care less than servers in the US. Don’t be surprised if you have to ask a couple times for the bill. You’re also kind of expected to sit and chill after you eat, so often times they won’t think to bring the bill right away if you don’t ask.
  2. How to say excuse me: this one is particularly useful. There are three phrases in Italian for the one English phrase of “excuse me” and I was a little confused about the usage of the different phrases at first…
    1. “con permesso”: excuse me when you are walking past people (very helpful on public transportation)
    2. “mi scusi”: excuse me when you are trying to get ones attention (such as in a restaurant)
    3. “scusa”: sorry to apologize for something (usually used by my clumsy self when I bumped into someone)
  3. “Dove il bagno?”: where’s the bathroom. You can also just ask “il bagno?” and they’ll usually point you in the right direction.
  • “caldo” and “freddo” are hot and cold, respectively, which is useful for when you’re trying to order coffee.
  • “andiamo” is let’s go! Professor Gurval used this often while trying to get our class places in Rome.
  1. And lastly “allora”. This is one of my favorite words in Italian. It’s basically a placeholder word, and functions as “um” or “well” does in English. If you hear someone say this, they’re probably thinking about what to say.

That’s all I can think of for now. Rome is a pretty easy city to figure out, between Google maps, the internet, and the fact that many people there speak English, you will be a-ok. Good luck on your travels!

Japan | My Favorite Things About Japan

1. Kawaii Culture

Kawaii is the culture of general cuteness that exists in Japan that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. From adorable mascots for historical locations and buildings, to Hello Kitty themed shinkansens, cuteness is everywhere. While cute culture in Japan can actually be traced back to the Edo period, it’s become incredibly popular since the 1970s. Of course, the obsession with cuteness at this time began with teenage girls, but since has grown to be appreciated by people of all ages. In my opinion, the presence of cuteness in everyday life simply improves the quality of life. Passing by guardrails shaped like little frogs, or getting a napkin with designs at lunch, can make you smile just a little bit more than you would on any other normal day.

2. Train Stations

In the United States, train stations are exactly what they sound like: a place where you get the train. But in Japan, they are so much more. Train stations have entire malls, restaurants, and rest spaces attached, making them a genuinely enjoyable place to be. This is extremely convenient for when you are hungry after a long journey, since you don’t even have to leave the station to enjoy a quality meal– one of my favorite pizza restaurants in Japan is actually located in the station itself. Similarly, it is really nice to be able to run an errand, like grocery shopping, without having to even leave the station to get what you need. Like with kawaii culture, the fact that train (and subway) stations are comfortable, clean, and well-designed makes your day just that much better than it otherwise might be.

3. Sento and Onsen

Taking baths at home always seem like a “treat yourself” kind of activity, but I always end up uncomfortable, unable to adjust the water to quite the right temperature. Sento and onsen, however, are extremely relaxing because everything is done for you! It’s like going in a hot tub, except there are five or more different hot tubs to choose from and you can stay for an unlimited about of time. Sento is more of a bathhouse, with many different tubs to choose from, while onsen are specifically sourced from fresh mountain spring water. I’ll admit that bathhouses aren’t for everyone, but there are also many locations that offer private booking so you don’t have to be there with anyone else.

4. Conveyer Belt Sushi

Conveyer belt sushi is admittedly probably the worst sushi you’ll get in Japan. But this is Japan: the worst sushi is just as delicious as good-quality sushi at home. And the best part? It’s often only $1.50 or less per plate! Whenever I eat at conveyer belt sushi restaurants, I can have a filling meal of tons of different kinds of sushi for only $7 or $8. Because this type of restaurant is a novelty in the United States, it often ends up costing the same or more than traditional sushi restaurants. While you’re in Japan, definitely make use of the amazing conveyer belt restaurants to get your fill of Japan’s most famous dish!

5. Nature and Seasonality

My absolute favorite part about living in Japan is the abundance of greenery and the appreciation of the changing seasons. Because Japan experiences all four seasons very strongly, many traditions are rooted in these changes. So, as the seasons change, there is always something exciting to look forward to, like a special seasonal food or activity. Similarly, there is always a great appreciation for the flowers that bloom every season. I spend much of my time at different gardens and temples, appreciating the flowers in bloom. I love seeing Japanese teenagers taking photoshoots with all the different flowers, old people in large groups birdwatching with extensive camera gear, and families with babies enjoying all the colors.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | “Why Japan?”

BY MACKENZIE LORKIS

When I first told people I was going to study abroad in Japan, their immediate response was a look of surprise, and then, “Why do you want to go to Japan?”. It’s fair to say that Japan isn’t the most popular study abroad destination for UC students, but there are a lot of reasons why someone would want to study in Japan. I decided to ask a few of my fellow UCEAP students why they chose Japan, and what their favorite thing about Japan has been over the past few months:  

Mika Post
UC Berkeley 
Junior 
 
“I came to Japan because I’ve always wanted to go to school in Japan. I love Japanese food and Japanese stationary, and I love the language too. It’s important to me to be here because I’m half Japanese, but my mom has never been here and doesn’t speak Japanese at all. My favorite place in Japan is Fushimi Inari, since it’s peaceful and tucked away in the woods.” 

Stephen Shelnutt 
UC Berkeley 
Junior 
 
“Initially I was interested in Japanese because I watched a lot of anime, but I think these days I’m more interested in the culture and people. Unlike newer countries like America, Japan has had thousands of years to develop its culture, and even in the modern age Japan is very “Japan”. The people are also very polite, and society is so well put together that I wanted to experience living here for awhile.” 

Jonathan Phenix 
UC Irvine 
Junior 
 
“I came [to Japan] for the art and older towns with rich history. Seeing the Standing Namabutsu Taishi and the Sakyamuni Bronze donated by Tokugawa Ieyasu 4th have been a couple highlights in art. City wise, I really enjoyed my time in Nachikatsuura and Shingū. Getting to see Porter Robinson at a basement venue in Kyoto was also quite the experience.” 

Mackie Lorkis (aka the author of this blog) 
UCLA 
Junior 
 
“I’ve always been interested in Japanese culture, and I wanted to challenge myself by studying in a country where I didn’t necessarily know the language and nobody else I know had been before. My favorite part of Japan is the appreciation for nature and the changing seasons. Seasonality is a really important part of Japanese culture, and is one of the biggest inspirations for architecture, art, food, fashion, and more. I’ve always lived in Southern California, so it’s been really exciting to be somewhere where the seasons are not only noticeable, but an important part of both art and everyday life”. 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | 4 Coolest Temples and Shrines in Kyoto

BY MACKENZIE LORKIS

Kyoto is known around Japan, and around the world, for having some of the oldest and most beautiful shrines and temples in the country. While I didn’t keep track of all the temples and shrines I went to in Kyoto alone, it undoubtedly is around twenty or thirty at least. Even though they’re all beautiful in their own way, these are my four favorite shrines and temples in Kyoto: 

Otagi Nenbetsu 

Otagi Nenbetsu, near Arashiyama, is one of the most unique temples I’ve seen in Japan. As soon as you walk in, you can see dozens of adorable Jizu Buddhas everywhere you look. But when you look closer, these aren’t any normal Jizu Buddhas! Many of the adorable statues were added to the temple in the late 1980s and 90s, so a few have some funny modern twists. For example, there are Buddhas with tennis racquets, holding up peace signs, and wearing sunglasses. What I loved about this temple is that it reminded me that religion is very much alive, and not all temples are as ancient as they may seem. 

Ninnen-ji 

While this temple may not be on the top of any tourist list, that is exactly why I love it so much. Visitors get the chance to look at the gorgeous screen art up close, and walk around the grounds much more freely than any other temples I’ve been to. Aside from the multiple gardens inside, the temple is on a large property with other beautiful buildings that visitors can look at for free. While I didn’t get to see it, they have late blooming sakura that make it an excellent temple to visit late into the season (around late April). 

Genko-an 

While certainly out of the way (and up a steep hill), Genko-an is certainly worth a visit. In the main hall, there are two large windows: a circle and a square. The square window represents confusion, while the round window represents enlightenment. The view from both these windows are different. However, the window isn’t the only thing that makes Genkoan unique. The ceiling of the main building is made out of recycled wood from Fushimi Castle, which was attacked hundreds of years ago. If you look hard enough, you can still see bloody hand and footprints on the ceiling. While this does lend a somewhat creepy atmosphere to the temple, using the battle-stained floorboards was intended to soothe the souls of the departed warriors and allow them an eternity of rest. 

Kiyomizu-dera 

I waited several months into my stay in Japan to finally make it to Kiyomizu-dera because I was worried about the crowds. However, once I realized that there will literally never be a time that Kiyomizu-dera isn’t crowded, I just went for it. It was totally worth it. The way up to the temple is long, but it’s lined with adorable and scenic omiyage and snack shops. Everywhere you look are visitors sporting beautiful kimono and taking in the atmosphere. Once you finally reach the temple, the uphill climb is made completely worth it because the mountain view is incredible. The temple complex itself is large, with some interactive aspects like drinking from the fountain water and practicing a Japanese superstition. The atmosphere, size, and all around fun that can be had at Kiyomizu-dera make facing the crowds almost unnoticeable 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Gion Masuri

BY MACKENZIE LORKIS

This week was one of the biggest festivals in Japan: Gion Matsuri! Gion Matsuri began in 869 AD, making it almost 1,150 years old. Originally, the festival began as a way to purify the Kyoto populace from plague. Since then, it’s become less about worship and more of a fun way to celebrate Japanese culture. The main event of the matsuri is always on July 17th, though it is preceded by three nights of festive street fairs called yoi-yama. In addition, there are smaller events throughout the entire month of July.

The biggest part of the festival officially began on Saturday (yoi-yoi-yoi-yama), but unfortunately I couldn’t go. On Sunday (yoi-yoi-yama), my friends and I walked around the smaller area of the festival closer to Yasaka Shrine and Gion. Considering the weather was SO hot this year, it was so nice to be able to be in a less crowded part of Kyoto. We walked around the streets, taking in the festive atmosphere, and came across a huge area on the street where you could meet maiko (training geisha)! For a very small fee, we got to meet and take photos with maiko- considering they are generally extremely elusive, this was an incredible opportunity.

The next day, we enjoyed the main part of the party happening in the Shijo area. There were hundreds of street food stalls, and although we couldn’t try everything, we made a valiant effort. From traditional ikayaki to juice served in baby bottles and light bulbs, you can really see the extent of Japanese street food culture. For children, there were tons of games like darts and goldfish catching that bring to mind street fairs from many American childhoods.

Aside from the delicious food, there’s so much more to see at the yoi-yama. Most young women and children dress up in traditional yukata for the festival, showing off colorful and unique patterns. Aside from floral patterns, we saw some goldfish, rainbow, and even Disney yukata! The floats used in the parade are also displayed around the streets at night; with their lanterns lit up, they are even more beautiful than during the day. A few of the floats can be explored and boarded; for a top view of the streets, my friend and I decided to go in. And, just as we did, so did all the musicians!

After all the fun, there was still more to the festival! On July 17th, my class went together with our sensei and some Japanese students to watch the procession. There are two kinds of floats: yama and hoko. Yama style floats are much larger, and are topped by long poles increasing their heights even more. Hoko floats, though less grand, are just as beautiful, often topped with scenes from famous Noh plays. Many of the floats are decorated with gorgeous Turkish rugs from the Kyotobased Nishijin textile company. In total, the parade runs from around 9am-3pm; we arrived at its midway point, and it took around an hour and a half to see all of the floats.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Kanazawa

BY MACKENZIE LORKIS

One of my favorite weekends here in Japan was spent visiting Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go with two of my classmates. We left shortly after school on a Friday, and took a pleasant bus ride up to Kanazawa. Once we got there, we ate dinner and relaxed, because we knew we had a busy weekend ahead of us.

We woke up early on Saturday morning ready for a fun day! Our hostel provided bikes for us to explore with, which made the weekend all the more fun. First, we went to the historic samurai district called Nagamachi to see some traditional homes. This was especially exciting because most of the historic sites in Kyoto are from hundreds, if not a thousand, years ago. So, it was really cool to see so much history from a period we rarely get to explore in Kyoto!

After that, we made our way to Myoryu-ji, otherwise known as Ninja-dera. The temple is called that because it contains many secret passageways and hidden doors to prepare for an attack from the local lord’s enemies. We couldn’t take any photos, but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen in Japan.

Then, we went to the D.T. Suzuki Museum, which is centered around a famous Zen Buddhist writer and philosopher. What makes this temple unique is that rather than just educate visitors about its subject, it attempts to fully integrate his teachings into the museum experience. It was so serene and the architecture was absolutely beautiful.

We hadn’t had enough of museums, so we made our way to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. This place was so cool! It is mainly known for the swimming pool exhibit, where you can take photos that make it look like you’re underwater. Perfect for the #gram. There was also a lot of interesting art that invites you to explore the museum in a unique and fullyengaged way, and art pieces surrounding the outside grounds of the museum that are free to the public. F

or lunch, we stopped at the Omicho Market, which is known for its fresh seafood. We splurged on donbori and ice cream with real gold leaf. There was so much more food to try- the market is two stories (!!)- but sadly we didn’t have time. We were really eager to see Oyama Shrine, especially since my friends collect shrine and temple calligraphy/stamps called goshuiin.

We ended our afternoon with a visit to the biggest historical entertainment district in Kanazawa, Higashiyama Higashi Chaya District. The buildings were so atmospheric, and although it was a perfect day, there weren’t too many people, which made it even better. We decided to visit a tea house that had been turned into a museum, where we could see Edo-period Geisha entertainment rooms and living quarters. There was even a museum guide who allows you to play the shamisen, and demonstrates playing other instruments as well.

To end our day, we went to Kanazawa Castle Park and watched a beautiful light show accompanied by lovely traditional music. Although it sounds like a lot, we didn’t feel rushed at all. Everything was so much fun, and we had just enough time to experience it all!

We woke up very early Sunday morning and went to Kenroku-en, one of the largest and most famous gardens in Japan. Before 7 am, entrance is free, so we decided to take advantage of the deal and make the most of our time here. After a few hours of exploring, we left for Shirakawa-go, a famous area in central Japan known for their thatched style homes.

We spent the day enjoying the gorgeous rural atmosphere, toured one of the buildings, and went to an open air museum located just a few minutes away from the central area. I highly recommend it because, although the area is intended to look rural, there are still modern amenities like omiyage shops and convenience stores that take away from the atmosphere just slightly. And the museum has an incredible soba shop and zipline, so it’s totally worth it.

We took the shinkansen home and made it back by late evening, so there was enough time to rest up for school the next day. Spending the weekend in Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go was one of my favorite memories in Japan. If you can, this is definitely a trip that everyone should take.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | A Day in the Life of a Nichibun Student

BY MACKENZIE LORKIS

Now that Ive been in class for seven (!!) weeks, Ive gotten more used to the daily schedule of my life in Japan. On the days that I have a lot of class, like today, I usually relax and get work done. On the days I have less class, I usually do a bit of sightseeing after class before going home in the evening. Even though every day is different, heres an example of a typical day as a Nichibun student: 

7:45 am 

Good morning! I wake up and get ready, and then go downstairs to make myself breakfast. My dorm, Casa Kitayama, has a shared kitchen, so I can cook for myself. Because I dont have a lot of time in the morning, I usually make rice at the beginning of the week and heat it up in the morning with a raw egg. This is called tamago gohan and is a traditional Japanese breakfast. After I eat, I put my shoes on and bike to school. 

9 am 

Now its time for Japanese class! Im a Level 1A student, and I have class every morning. Typically, the lowest level (aka my level) has very few students, which is quite nice because we can get more individual interaction with our senseis. There are 5 students in my class, including myself, and we are all UC students. Usually, we go over our workbook homework from the night before at the beginning of class, then spend time learning new vocabulary, grammar, and kanji. 

 

12:15 pm 

Now that class is over, its time for lunch. Most students eat in the cafeteria, or daigaku shokudou, because its generally really cheap; I usually spend $4 or so per meal. Menu options usually include fried chicken and other meat dishes, rice bowls, curry, noodles, a salad bar, and a variety of small side dishes. However, the exact options change weekly. If the weathers nice, students often buy bento boxes and sit outside- clubs and circles sometimes will perform! Today, the cheerleading squad performed in the main quad. 

1:10 pm 

If you have third period, its time for class again. I dont have third period today, so I relax in the grass for awhile until my next class at 2:55. I walk over to Karasuma Campus, which is about 10 minutes away, for my Institute of Liberal Arts class. Its taught in English, and is a lot more similar to the classes Im used to from the UC. 

4:30 pm 

Now that class is over, I run some errands before heading home. While there are convenience stores everywhere, its a lot cheaper to shop at supermarkets. 

6:00 pm 

After going home and putting away my groceries, my friends and I decide to walk by Kamogawa, which is the river that runs through Kyoto, and have some snacks. The river is my favorite place to relax, and we like to have picnics and go on walks in the nice weather. 

8:30 pm 

Since we have class every day, we also have homework every day. Usually it takes me around 30-45 minutes to complete, depending on how well I know the lesson, how much is assigned, and most importantly, how often I get distracted. 

9:30 pm 

I usually start getting ready for bed around this time, and give myself a lot of time to relax, clean my room before bed, and talk to my friends and family if theyre awake. I usually spend time at night researching and making plans for future trips as well. 

12:00 am 

The day is already over! I try to go to bed around midnight so I can wake up and be energized to learn more Japanese in the morning. 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Obubu Tea Farm

BY MACKENZIE LORKIS

Jessica, one of the other UCEAP students at Doshisha, interned at a tea farm in the remote village of Wazuka for three months before our program began. I was lucky enough to travel back to the farm with her on one of the first days we got here and learn all about Japanese tea farming!

From Imadegawa Station, where Doshisha is, we traveled to Kyoto Station and got a train towards Nara. After about an hour of travel, we boarded a small bus and drove another half hour to Wazuka. The drive was absolutely gorgeous, with abundant tea fields, flowing rivers, and blossoming sakura everywhere we looked.

First, Jessica showed us some of Obubu’s tea fields right outside of their house. She explained that tea must be picked with the pads of your fingers, rather than the nails, because ripping the leaves risks oxidizing them. This is super important because the variation in teas is actually due to oxidation! Green tea is oxidized the least, and black tea the most, but they actually all come from the same leaf.

After looking around the fields Jessica took us to the processing area and explained how the tea is processed. It goes through several machines that ultimately work to dry the leaves at a very high temperature without drying them out. Tea must be kept at a very specific moisture level (about 5%) and it is very important to keep the leaves from becoming too wet or too dry.

Once it got dark, Hiro-san, one of the owners of Obubu, drove us in the back of his truck back to the house. Jessica brewed us a few types of tea to sample. First, we tried sencha, the most premium type of tea in Japan. The leaves are prepared by hand in a grueling six-hour long process. You can watch a video (here) of farmers in Wazuka preparing sencha. The leaves are rolled into a needle shape, which is specific to Japan. Originally, this was useful in carrying tea from Kyoto, where it was farmed, to Tokyo, which was the capital during the Edo period. If you put sencha on your tongue, you can feel it unfurl- it fees like a pop rock! This kind of tea is highly prized due to the artisan labor involved in its creation.

We also tried XX, which is tea mixed with roasted rice. This was originally viewed as a people’s tea because the rice made it cheaper, and it has a lovely nutty taste. Next, we tried XX, a rare Japanese black tea. When Japan opened to England, they wanted to export a tea that would appeal to Western consumers more, but green tea was actually more popular anyway. This was my favorite tea because its naturally sweet and super delicious. It actually is more red than black, even though it has the same flavor profile as a black tea, because of the water. Water in Asia is softer than in Europe, meaning it has less minerals; when mixed with the tea leaves, it results in a red-colored tea rather than black.

Finally, we each had a chance to brew matcha. Though we didn’t practice a formal tea ceremony, the way in which matcha is brewed is extremely important. We each got a bowl, which is handmade in Kyoto with gorgeous designs, and a bamboo brush called a XX. First, you soften the bristles in water so they don’t bend. Then, you use a traditional spoon called a XX to take about a teaspoon of matcha powder and put it into your bowl. Then, we poured a little water into the bowl and mixed it with the matcha in order to create a paste. When we finished, we poured more hot water and quickly used the brush to make the tea frothy. The more umami flavor present in a Japanese tea, the more prized it is. Umami is a flavor that is a mix between savory and sweet, and has been compared to seaweed or sea creature.

I have a newfound respect for tea and all the work that goes into its creation thanks to this incredible experience. Tea farming is both a science and an art, and thankfully, a delicious one!

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Day Trips

BY MACKENZIE LORKIS

One of the best things about Kyoto is that its right in the middle of the Kansai region, with easy access to many of Japans most notable landmarks. While there are countless things to do in Kyoto, its exciting to explore the different cities of Japan. Here are a few of my favorite day trips that Ive taken so far: 

  1. Osaka 

Only 45 minutes away from central Kyoto by train, Osaka is a huge city with countless things to do. Immediately upon my arrival in Osaka, all I could think of is New York City. There are stores everywhere you look, incredible street food, and neon lights on every sign. Additionally, Osaka has loads of fun activities, including the Kaiyukan aquarium, which is one of the best in the world, its own baseball team, and Osaka Castle! Osaka is also widely known for its food scene, and I can confirm, its worth trying. Osaka okonomiyaki changed my life, but that may just be because I waited over an hour in line to get it. 

  1. Kobe 

While Kobe, which is about an hour and a half away from Kyoto, is most famous for its wagyu beef, theres plenty of other things to do in the big city. As Kobe is a port town, many foreign merchants set up their homes throughout Kobe. From Chinatown to Kitano-cho, which is known for its American and European-style homes, you can travel all over the world without even leaving Kansai. My favorite Kobe activity is the Kobe Animal Center, which has tons of animals you can get up close to, and sometimes even pet and feed! Finally, you cant leave Kobe without trying the famous beef. If you go at lunchtime, you can get a nice set meal for a very affordable price: between 1000 and 2500 yen. Trust me, its worth it. 

  1. Hikone and Nagahama 

Also an hour and a half away, Hikone Castle is one of the few original castles remaining in Japan and definitely worth seeing. Included in the admittance ticket is the Hikone Castle Museum, which was surprisingly incredible. The museum included a recreation of the lords living quarters, as well as housing numerous Edo period artifacts. As silly as it sounds, the museum really brought the castle alive and made me wonder about what the castle must have been like during the Edo period as I walked through its corridors.

Only twenty minutes away, Nagahama is a charming town with lovely architecture. If you plan on visiting this area, try to make it for the incredible hikiyama festival of childrens kabuki. Boys ages 5-13 are treated like celebrities for the weekend, performing professional-level kabuki plays atop marvelous floats. 

  1. Nara 

Before arriving in Japan, visiting Nara was at the top of my to-do list. In fact, I gathered a group together and went the very first weekend! And let me tell you, it totally lived up to the hype. There were adorable deer wandering around everywhere, and theyve even learned to bow and beg for food. Aside from the deer, though, Nara is home to some of Japans most incredible shrines and temples. The Daibatsu Buddha at Tōdai-ji literally took my breath away, and there are gorgeous sakura trees in and around Nara Park if you visit during the spring. As you walk around town, make sure not to miss the fresh mochi shop! You can watch mochi being pounded on the spot, and eat it while its still warm and fresh. Only 45 minutes away from Kyoto, Nara is well worth the short journey. 

  1. Uji 

Technically part of Kyoto, Uji is under thirty minutes away from Kyoto Station by train, making it a very easy day trip. Uji is known for its green tea: everywhere you look, there are tea shops, matcha ice cream, matcha noodles, and even matcha gyoza. Aside from matcha, Uji is also famous for being the home of Byodoin, or Phoenix Hall, as well as being the setting for the last 10 chapters of The Tale of Genji. For literature nerds like me, the Tale of Genji museum is a must-visit. In addition to full-scale representations of scenes from Genji, I really enjoyed being able to get a closer look at the dramatic plot of the story and seeing some of the settings for myself. 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018