Prologue. From the very beginning of my journey with Jacafa, I’ve set myself a goal, that once I will also go to Japan as a JVP participant. So, in 2019 I’ve finally reached my aim and genuinely saying it was worth that. It was worth all that 5 years of waiting and showing myself, as an alumnus, who truly deserves to visit such a beautiful country. About two weeks passed since my arrival from Japan, but I still remember the taste of the cuisine and politeness of Japanese people. I think that these memories will stay with me forever, and I’m so glad about it! Before our trip, I already had some idea about Japan, as a country of rapid economic growth, technology innovations, sushi, anime, and very interesting traditional culture. However, these all were just 40% of all that I have seen and learned during our trip. So much to learn from this country, so much to get inspired from!
Arrival to Japan: I arrived to Narita International Airport in the evening, and interesting fact that I have noticed is that there are lots of old people, who are working as airport staff. This thing actually wondered me until the end of the trip, since we saw old people working almost in every public facility. I remember the thought that came to my mind immediately: «In my country, they will never allow old people to work, since they care most about the image», but here I saw that government is giving lots of possibilities to old people. These old people are still counting as citizens, whose rights we should also consider. And important to say that these old people were doing their work so perfectly! There weren’t any queues of people who just landed or any misunderstandings between foreigners and the staff. From that time I have realized that Japanese people are doing their job perfectly, no matter 18 or 81 years old he or she is.
Day 1: Our first day have started with the trip to Kyoto. I remember how exciting all of us were when we just have entered into Tokyo subway: lots of people, many signs and bustle. Later on, we cached our station, our hotel was so close, so that we just made check-in, left our bags, and continued to discover this wonderful city. Our first destination was Kinkaku-ji or «Temple of Gold Pavilion». It has a huge area of beautiful gardens and other temples, with lots of tourists. Later on, we have visited Daitoku-ji, which is a large temple complex, where we had a chance to see Zen gardens. By the end of this day, we had not usual dinner for us, since a it was made right in front of us. Not forget to mention, it was also very delicious!
This day started with our visit to Kiyomizu-dera Temple, and the are full of streets near it. It was very authentic, since we saw so many people wearing Japanese national costumes: kimono. Everybody was wearing it: women, kids, men. Streets were full of shops with matcha sweets, gifts, tea and various spices. Streets were so colorful and crowded, so that it took us about half and hour to get to the Kiyomuzu temple itself! But when we finally reached it, we saw really Japanese beauty of architecture. These temples I saw only in old Japanese movies, and finally I had a chance to enter into it. Statue of Dragons at the front was so realistic! Due to the lack of time and huge area around these temple, we couldn’t see everything, but even seeing this temple was more than enough. Later on, we had our lunch in a very cozy cafe, where we have tried «Higoshiyama-zen». In addition to that, while eating we were also learning new words in Japanese, and how we should write our names.
Day 3 and Day 4: Were days with totally different topic. After learning some history and culture in Kyoto, now we had to learn the side of education and innovation that are present in University of Tsukuba. It was an amazing experience, since we had a chance to have conversations with lectures for various disciplines and realms, who are making their own impact on this world. For me, one of the most touching and inspiring visit was our meeting with Prof. Takeji Sakae from Proton Beam Therapy Center, where he explained us a new therapy, that can cure cancer. He showed us a huge machine behind the room, and only one thought entered into my mind that time: «All these efforts of smart people, all these huge machines just to kill small cells inside of a human body! Astonishing.» Later on, we also visit International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine and Center for Cybernetics Research. The dinner we made in a very nice Japanese cafe in the downtown of Tsukuba, where we tried sashimi and wild tuna fish. Next day, was very important for us, since we had our presentation. Before that, we visited Empowerment Studio, where with our own eyes we saw that AI-Future is somewhere near. Machine-like robots and a room with the 3D glasses for Virtual Reality – for a moment I was feeling myself like in a fantastic movie. During our lunchtime, we met some students from central Asian countries, who told us how it is to live and study in Japan, and in Tsukuba University. At the Conference different speakers had their moment to present and share their experience, with the following very sweet reception dinner, where all the guests and speaker had a chance to ask each other questions and learn more.
Day 5 and Day 6: Coming back to Tokyo, we had a very important meeting with Mr. Sasakawa, where we had a chance to express our gratitude and respect. At the end we gave him a present on behalf of all Jacafa alumnis. Moreover, we saw Nippon Foundation’s Headquarter: the place from where all good things start. After lunch we had another important meeting with the Advisor to the Prime Minister, Prof. Tomohiko Taniguchi, who told us how Japan’s foreign policy implemented. For me, as for student of International Relations, it was very interesting and I feel very grateful, that we had a chance to listen to some advises from him in the sense of our countries and policies that we should follow. The thing is that it was unbelievable, that we were so lucky to enter into the Prime Minister’s Residence. That made me think a lot about differences between our governments, since in my country nobody besides working staff is allowed to enter into the Residence or Parliament. In order to make our evening more relaxing we have decided to visit Shibuya district with its most crowded crossing and Hatchiko statue. The other day we spent at the office of the Paralympic Center, where we saw that Paralympic Games also becoming a trend, which can be sometimes even more popular than the Olympic games itself. It was very touching to see all these pictures and medals of Paralympic Players. By the end of this day, Mr.Mori took us to a special restaurant, which has its own history.
Last days in Japan: Our last days, we spent like a typical tourist: went to Harajiku district, walked around Akasaka area trying different types of Japanese cuisine and bought lot’s of matcha as a gift. But the place, which I was waiting during whole Japan trip was Mori Building Digital Art Museum: TeamLab. That place was in my bucket list, and luckily for me I had a chance to visit it with my friends and Kyoko-san. Overall, our trip to Odaiba island was very nice. Besides TeamLab we also saw Toyota’s center, many malls, parks and various installations.
Epilogue: Right now, without any doubts I can say that it wasn’t just a trip to another country, it was a life changing experience, since I had a chance to visit historical, cultural places, meet with people, who are making this world better and try delicious Japanese cuisine: and all with my friends, with Jacafa alumnis. Each day I woke up in this country, I knew that this day will be full of inspiration and knowledge, which hopefully later will help me to make some good changes in my country. Maybe I can bring this politeness of Japanese people, or their sense of belonging to a work, or their honesty… As Prof. Tamaguchi answered to my question: «Your countries need some fresh air», well maybe its us, young ambitious alumnis, who can be this «fresh air» and change something.
I sincerely want to thank Nippon Foundation and Mr.Sasakawa for giving us this opportunity, to widen our knowledge, for investing in us, for believing in us. James-san, Mori-san thank you for your efforts, and your kindness. Lastly, but not at least, I want to express my gratitude to Kyoko-san, who made this trip even more interesting and amazing!