As the final days of my summer abroad in Tokyo approach, I have begun wondering whether I will get to spend another summer like this ever again. The thought, however, only lingers for a moment, as I am reassured by the unforgettable experiences that I have had here, and realize that I will undoubtedly by returning to Japan in the future.
At this moment, I am tempted to spend my remaining semesters at Yale taking Japanese, but I realize that my days at Yale are numbered like my days in Japan. To then keep the balance of Japanese study and my other subjects, I have resolved to continue studying Japanese by myself, by arranging a list of resources with exercises that I can use to stay in touch with and practice my Japanese. At this moment, the list is not that long, but it includes Maggie Sensei, a few Tumblr blogs, a few Murakami books, and Tofugu and potentially TextFugu, WaniKani, and Lang-8.
From Romanticizing to Understanding
Before this summer, my understanding of Japanese culture was based purely on the impressions left by anime, Japanese music, and the beginner level Japanese I had studied at school. My entire perception of this country was romanticized, so part of getting used to the culture and lifestyle here has been deconstructuing all of the assumptions and misunderstandings I had coming here
Assumption 1: Religion in Japan
One of my earliest misunderstandings was in regards to how religion is practiced in Japan. Having been raised in America, I had never comprehended what a polytheistic society would be like, and when I came to Japan, I was truly surprised. Although even polytheism may be too strong of a word for Japanese society. since their culture largely replaces what I would call religious fervor with societal and cultural engagement. Let me start by unpacking that a little bit.
In Japan there are two kinds of temples: Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. They are both equally popular in most cities, and each have their own list of gods and festivals.