We were all sitting under the cherry blossom tree in the middle of the afternoon.
The tree shades the ground
From the afternoon sun-
As its blossoms flutter to the ground.
This class taught me a lot of important things about Japanese culture that I did not know before, but more importantly it taught me valuable things about life. I learned that failure is inevitable, but then, so is success. It is best to just be at the zero level- of nothing- than to be either up or down because then you are always going to face the other extreme next. I also learned to appreciate lyrical moments. Instead of rushing around worrying where I have to be next, I now appreciate the things along the way- images, sounds, and smells of the world around me. Most importantly, this class was focused on evanescence. Knowing that everything is constantly changing gives me some comfort because now I’m ready for it. I won’t face change with sadness and despair, but with positivity for what is to come in the future. Maybe my happiness won’t last, but neither will sadness. And besides, there is beauty in sadness. After taking this class, I try to make sure I live every day like it could be my last, appreciating every moment for what it is worth.
As I was walking around campus a single cherry blossom fell and caught the sun’s light as it headed towards the ground.
There from your high height,
You fall and catch the sun’s light.
Graceful, in your plight.
When I first entered this course, I was just looking to deepen my understanding of Japanese culture. I had planned to study abroad in Japan and wanted more of a reason than my enjoyment of anime. I learned about hedonism, animism, and a new way to value space amongst many other lessons. Nothing has become everything and a person’s belief in a deity can be all encompassing of others. I’ve been amazed by the samurai’s code of honor and intrigued by the respectability of being a geisha. The idea of evanescence has giving me a way to describe aspects of life I had begun to notice. Also, the idea of evanescence has been one of my favorite topics I’ve learned this semester. Taking this course was the best decision I’ve made in choosing classes my entire freshman year. By the end of this course I realized that my enjoyment of Japan goes beyond anime. Now, as a raising sophomore, I am thinking of becoming a Japanese major so that I can pursue my interest to even greater extent.
I was walking outside the rain garden by Lewis at night when I looked up and a breeze blew through the cherry trees.
A cool night breeze
Sways dark branches
Petals flutter all around
This class was far from what I expected to be in a very good way. I came into this class expecting to learn more about the day-to-day life of the Japanese people, but came away with a much deeper understanding of why Japan is the way it is. I really appreciated the philosophical approach this class took to the understanding of Japanese culture. Because of this class, I’ve learned to appreciate life’s evanescence and the beauty that comes with not taking everything for granted. I look at things more carefully now and appreciate the beauty that doesn’t last (I appreciate “lyrical” moments much more than I used to).This class has taught me the importance of living in the moment and taking things as they come. I also realized just how Western my view of the world is, if that makes sense. I’ve been looking at things through such an American/Western lens my whole life and this class really helped open my eyes and helped me start thinking about things in a new way. The class was engaging, the work was interesting and thought provoking and so was the material. I feel like I learned a lot and will take this new knowledge with me a long way (even if it sounds cheesy).
During Kenny’s Kendo demonstration, I looked up at the cherry blossoms.
The Kendo Shinai’s
clack echoes -
A cherry petal falls.
The Hanami celebration was a time for me to truly feel at one with this class. Never mind the delicious food, sake, music, and absolutely PERFECT weather, for me, this few hours of celebration allowed me to solidify relationships with my peers and feel as though we had all accomplished something together. What we accomplished was a 14-week introduction to our understanding of Japanese culture. Although I believe we all have a long way to go if we want to truly understand evanescence and form, I think we can all come out of this class saying that we’ve learned an awful lot about them. Having such an outspoken class was essential to this process; during our debates and discussions in class, I was often enlightened by one of my classmates’ thoughts, which occasionally swayed my opinion on the subject at hand as well. These thoughts often marinated in my mind for a while outside of class, and I now see the world from a different perspective. I feel lucky that I took this course at such a pivotal stage in my life, and have learned so much about how I want to spend my last year in college and the years beyond.
Petals tickled by wind
Part with the tree
- A last farewell
Well we’ve reached the end. I don’t really know what to say. I can say I loved the class– sitting quietly absorbing and reflecting on the awesome discussions being had. I can say something about how the class changed me– how going into it, I had close to no idea what to expect. A freshmen engineering student, the abstract artsy world of this new Japanese culture class really intimidated me. And how by the end, I found myself walking quietly on Saturday mornings, taking in the sights and sounds of a near-deserted campus. I honestly don’t know quite how I would have dealt with the stress and workload of finals period without the lessons learned of quiet thinking and reflection–almost meditation. Looking back now, I can’t ever remember the point or goal of a week ever being this new ability to meditate, but it is absolutely a great consequence of taking the course.
I think in the end though, I am just thankful I chose to take the class! I knew there were some connections between my personal ideologies and personality and the general Japanese vibe– I felt it in Japan when I visited, when reading any number of Japanese authors, and even watching Miyazaki films! This class largely just put these undefinable connections into words; I’d almost say into categories. I guess it still isn’t really something I can describe at length! Anyways, I loved taking the class and am thrilled to have met everyone.
Gently falling blossoms
Drifting like flakes of snow
Winter in the spring
(I couldn’t get my scanner working, so in lieu of a sketch I’m posting this blurry picture I took from under the tree during hanami.)
I took this class as a full credit to round out my semester. I thought it would be an interesting experience, and hey, I hadn’t yet taken a small discussion-based “liberal arts” class at Tufts yet. When I came in to this course, I thought it would be easy, with some general discussion about how weird Japan is…I didn’t really know what to expect. However, the things that I’ve learned this semester have definitely come to shape my view of Japanese culture, but also my view of life in general. The theme of evanescence and form has really come to show me how life is easier when treated as restrained chaos; I know everything I do is impermanent, but also in its small way important in the tiny “form” of the period in which I am alive. While a lot of fatalism has been discussed in the class, I’ve never left Olin feeling defeatist after such a lecture, but rather more motivated to accomplish what I’ve set out to accomplish in the time that I have left (a weird thing to be saying at only 20). I’m very glad I’ve taken this course, and I’m looking forward to another semester with Inouye in the fall.