English and Japanese major
Doshisha University, Japan
Academic Year 2016-2017
This past weekend was quite the busy weekend for me. On top of my usual load of homework (while it isn’t difficult, it’s tedious and a lot), Saturday was a full day of festivals (祭, matsuri). There were two, 時代祭(Jidai Matsuri), known in English as “the festival of the ages”, and 鞍馬の火祭(Kurama no hi matsuri), Kurama’s Fire Festival. While both were interesting, Jidai Matsuri was far more enjoyable than Kurama’s Fire Festival, and the fire festival was probably the first time I’ve been truly disappointed and had regretted doing something while abroad, but, and I’ll go into more detail later, while you may experience bad things while abroad, you can make it a good experience if you choose to learn something from it.
First, I’ll talk about Jidai Matsuri. It was a parade that started around 1:30, however, my friend and I tried to get there early, as there were 100 free seats reserved for international students in Kyoto (on a first-come-first-serve basis). Unfortunately, we didn’t get there soon enough and all the seats were taken. Which was fine, we could still stand for free and watch the parade. The parade consisted of people dressed in traditional clothes from each era starting from the Meiji restoration period to the Heian Period. While there was an announcer explaining each era, I have to admit I wasn’t really listening, but it was still such a cool experience. One thing that stuck out to me was how calm it was compared to American parades (particularly the 4th of July parade, as that’s pretty much the only American parade I’ve been to and watched). Everyone is so loud at the 4th of July parade, clapping and cheering. At this parade, while some people would clap if someone did something cool in the parade, or at the end of an era, it was quiet and respectful clapping. The noisiest spectator was a child crying at the end of the parade. It was calm, organized and respectful. That’s not to say that American’s aren’t respectful at our parades, but I feel we show our respect in a louder way. Neither way is right or wrong, it’s just interesting to see the differences; even more interesting is experiencing this first hand. (As a side note, the first picture wasn’t part of the actual parade, I’m not even entirely sure why he was there, but I’m assuming he was advertising some sort of attraction or a business of some kind.)
On the opposite end of the “fun” scale, the Kurama Fire Festival was extremely hectic
and crowded, borderline anxiety-inducing. Everyone was squeezed together when we weren’t moving, and when we were, people were pushing and they had police there to tell people to not take pictures and to keep moving (but everyone was still taking pictures and not moving). The festival was not what I was expecting. While I was warned by my teachers that it would be crowded, I assumed it would just be a lot of people in one spot, and we would be able to stand in one spot and watch the fire. Instead, it was a lot of people, being herded through a line. There was maybe 30-45 minutes of actual festival, and over two hours of waiting. Including waiting for the train to the mountain where the festival was held, riding the (extremely packed) train to the mountain, waiting again in line to get to where the festival was being held, and at least an hour of waiting to get back to the train. Overall, it was not worth it. Compared to the almost 200 pictures I took of Jidai Matsuri, I took maybe ten pictures of the Kurama Fire Festival, partially due to the fact that I was standing behind people most of the time, so I couldn’t get good pictures, and partially because we had to keep moving. On top of that, I had been standing and walking around since about 11:30. Jidai Matsuri went from about 1:30 pm until around 3 pm, and the Kurama Fire Festival was from 6 pm until 2 am. I was thoroughly exhausted, my legs and feet felt like they were about to fall off, and it was overall not a fun experience, though the festival itself was a cool and interesting concept. But I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the bad experience and see what I can learn from it. I’ve always heard people say “you only have a bad time if you choose to have a bad time” or something along the lines of choosing to be happy in bad situations. I never really understood that. I always thought along the lines that no matter how positive you try to be, bad things still happen, and you can only be happy and positive for so long. But this experience really made me think. While I cam[e] abroad to better my Japanese, I also want to make the most of such an amazing opportunity. Even if I end up not liking my time in Japan, or even the country itself, living abroad for a year is such a unique experience, and I want to learn what I can from it. On Saturday, I learned that while bad or unfortunate situations and events may happen, it’s all part of the experience (whether you’re looking at your study abroad experience or life in general). These events and experience make the good times that much better. And while I still don’t believe that everything will be good if you just choose to be happy, I think it’s important to experience the bad and reflect on how to avoid such times in the future.
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