Prof. Kristofer Chang Alexander
Japanese style study abroad
March 31 2018
I am from China and I have been interested in Asian culture for a long time. I feel so glad to have the opportunity to explore Japan. From my perspective, Japanese style not only is shown in Fashion, but also in People, Food, and Culture.
First of all, our study abroad program starts from visiting famous Tokyo shopping malls. I notice that Japanese clothes are elaborate elegant designs. For example, there is one floor of “Shibuya 109” selling tradition “uchikake” and shiro-maku” wedding kimonos. Those clothes consist of elegant designs and subdued colors. We also visit Bunka Fashion College in Kyoto. In that college, there is an exhibition on the first floor of the college. The clothes are all designed by the students in this college. They are formal dresses which are suitable for attending important festivals and formal occasions.
Second, the actual first thing that I have touched after entering Japan is “people”. The people in Japan are tidy, orderly and friendly. To be more exact, I never see any girls or women going outside without wearing makeup. Every female wears makeup and tidy clothes no matter where they are. In addition, during weekdays, most male I have seen are wearing suitable uniforms or suits. Even during rush hours of weekdays, there is no bad smelling in subway station or crowded stores. That’s because Japanese people care about their outlook and impression they left to other people. Moreover, people are orderly in elevator. For example, people in Kyoto all stand on the left side of the elevator. They purposely leave the right side for those who have emergencies. In the shopping mall, people all stand in a line to check out. Furthermore, the agents in customer service, cashier, and servers are all friendly. For example, they know we are Chinese, therefore they try to speak English slowly and clearly. If we do not understand, they will patiently explain that one more time. Thus, the first impression Japanese people left to me is excellent.
Third, the food in Japan is fresh, delicate, and health. We had our first Japan dinner in Gonpachi Nishiazabu. They provide sushi, grill, and noodles. Every dish is placed in a small plate. The out looking of food is delicate. Furthermore, the raw fish of Sushi is fresh because the color of the fish is red and has no wired or flavor. The food was served in “zen”, which is the trays with four short legs. A traditional meal could include several courses and each dinner is served in one “zen” for each course. Every course has several dishes. In addition, the food that I favorite most in Japan is ramen. My friend and I have tasted several types of ramen in Japan. Usually the ramen is served in a big bowl with sea weed, egg, noodles, meat and broth. The taste of ramen is similar with the noodles in my hometown. The dessert popular in Japan is Marifuku, a rice cake with Matcha flavored fresh cream. The Matcha cream is carefully wrapped in a very soft and stretchy rice cake.
Fourth, we explore Japanese traditional culture by experiencing Japanese tea culture and Kimono in Kyoto. We went to a tea ceremony in Kyoto. Before we taste the tea, we need to dress Japanese Kimono first. Kimono means “thing to wear”. It is a T-shaped, straight – line robes worn so that the hem falls a little bit above ankles. Its sleeves are long and wide. There are several steps to wear kimono. First of all, you should put on the white tabi socks. Then you can put on a slip called the “juban”, which consists of a white cotton top and shirt. Next, you can put on the kimono and back seam. To be more exact, you should wrap the right side of the kimono over your body to begin with. After that, you should bring the right side of the kimono towards the left side of your body. You should make sure to adjust the white slip collar to show evenly around the neck. Then you can adjust the length of your kimono. The length of kimono should be above your ankle. Next step is to tie “koshi himo” belt in the back and tie it in the front. If there is excess material, you should bring some down to cover the koshi himo belt itself. Finally, you can put the “obi makura” into place and wrap the obi. To be more exact, you should tie the ends of the obi together, and then fold it in across your waist and tighten it at the center. Then slide it to your back and you can finish dressing up kimono. After having dressing up your kimono, we enter into a room and begin to learn how to taste “Matcha” which is also called green tea. The preparation of green tea is complicated. It usually takes several hours to pick up green tea and prepare the broth. In order to serve it, the instructor of tea ceremony sifts the Matcha for a more mellow flavor and to remove any lumps. Then she places about 1 teaspoon of Matcha into the Chawan bowl. Next, she pours about 60 ml of hot water into Chawan. The hot water temperature should be about 176 F. Finally, she uses the bamboo Chasen to whick the Matcha until the rich foam is on the top. People should drink all of the tea and make some noise to show the best respect of the tea and host.
In sum, Tokyo is a fashion and trendy city with past-paced lifestyle. Kyoto is a natural and traditional city with fabric technologies. These cities are two representative cities showing to us what is Japan and what does Japanese style mean. I wish I could have one more opportunity in the future to explore Japanese style as much as possible.