Joy Yuzuriha (she/her) - Stanford in Kyoto
Major: Computer Science
College year while abroad: Junior
About the photo: This photo was taken at Maruyama Park in Kyoto during peak sakura (cherry blossom) season. We arrived in Kyoto just in time to experience the sakura and it was absolutely breathtaking!
Questions and Answers with Joy
Why did you choose to study abroad in Kyoto?
I chose to study abroad in Kyoto because my family is of Japanese descent and I wanted to learn more about the country and culture that my ancestors came from. Also, I take every opportunity I can to return to Japan because I have absolutely loved every previous trip I've had to this country.
What were your expectations before you went and how did those change once you arrived in Kyoto?
Since I had been to Japan multiple times before, my expectations were quite similar to what I ended up experiencing. However, I did expect the homestay experience to be quite challenging and potentially awkward at times, but my host mom ended up being the nicest person who wanted to do everything she could to make my study abroad experience the best it could be.
What were some of the academic benefits from studying abroad in Kyoto?
My Japanese language skills vastly improved during my time in Kyoto. Hearing and using the language in my homestay and everyday life made me feel more comfortable with speaking Japanese.
Also, I had the opportunity to take a Japanese religion class, which is a subject that I am genuinely interested in. The class was made even more enriching by the numerous field trips we took to various temples, shrines, and festivals, giving us first-hand experience with subjects we learned about in the classroom.
What did you learn about yourself while you were studying abroad?
While I was studying abroad, I learned how to be more independent and outgoing. Figuring out how to navigate a whole new city and transportation system by myself really boosted my confidence in travelling around Japan. And since I had a finite time in Japan with a million different things I wanted to do and see, I found myself taking every opportunity I could to try something new every single day, whether it was visiting a new site, trying a new restaurant, or meeting new people.
What was the most challenging experience you encountered while you were abroad and what did you learn from it?
While I was abroad, I struggled to comprehend and convey my cultural identity. Since I am full Japanese-American, many of the Japanese people would look at me and just assume that I was a local. They would immediately speak to me in Japanese, but when I replied with blank stares and broken Japanese, they could immediately tell I was a foreigner. Even though I grew up with a significant connection to my Japanese culture, the language barrier and my "American-ness" prevented me from fully belonging to Japanese society. I learned to embrace being an American, while still taking pride in my Japanese heritage.
What was the biggest cultural adjustment you had to make?
One of the most prolific differences between American and Japanese culture that I found is the Japanese people's consistent respect and consciousness for others. This was an adjustment as I had to be conscious of how loud my friends and I were in public, how much room I was taking up in the trains, and which side of the road I was walking on.
I also had to adjust to the blatant lack of garbage cans in Japan!
What was your favorite part of your everyday life in Kyoto?
My favorite part of everyday life in Kyoto would have to be my commute. My homestay was about an hour commute from the university and when I found this out, I was almost dreading having to spend about 2 hours everyday just to go to school. However, this turned out to be very enjoyable and relaxing. I saw it as an opportunity to unwind and put my mind at ease as I could do some homework, watch the beautiful scenery out the window, or even observe how Japanese people interact with one another.
What was the most memorable experience you had while you were in Kyoto?
The most memorable experience in Kyoto was watching my host mom perform with her taiko drumming group. I come from a family that is pretty involved with playing taiko drums, so when I attended my host mom's practices and performances, it felt like a little piece of being back at home. It was also inspiring to watch my host mom do something that she was so passionate about.
What 5 words would you use to describe your experience?
Enriching, memorable, fulfilling, 美味しい (delicious/tasty), やばい!
What was your favorite food you had in Kyoto?
Literally anything that my host mom put in front of me, from Japanese curry to okonomiyaki to sushi. You cannot beat Japanese home cooking!
What was the most valuable item you took with you on the program?
Quite literally, the most valuable item I brought with me on the trip was my clarinet. I wanted to find opportunities to play it during my time abroad and luckily I was able to join the university's orchestra for a couple of their rehearsals. It was so much fun!
What was your favorite music/band that you discovered in Kyoto?
During our time in Kyoto, we had a field trip to a traditional Noh Theater where we had a workshop and learned about all elements of the Japanese art form of Noh, including the costumes, the movements, and the music. I grew up listening to similar music and sounds, but I developed a deeper appreciation for the music of Noh as they let us try out some of the musical instruments, taught us how to sing one of the Noh songs, and we got to watch them perform live.