I am so terrible with titles that I have decided to skip it altogether.

Today (yesterday as of time of blogging) has been AWESOME. While I do procrastinate on a regular basis, the readings really give wonderful insight and different perspectives into what we are seeing in person. Super ironically, Ethan has been absent from every single site he discussed in his presentation, but hopefully his research is going well and our photo skills are worthy enough.

Three parts: general, kanpo, Edo-Tokyo Museum

General: I do notice that my general pace of living/walking has increased IMMENSELY. I can not only catch up with my Bowdoin peers but also somewhat match the speed of Tokyo office workers heading to their destinations. Very proud of myself for that. Despite having only been here for 2 days, I do feel like I am not in a “new, strange” place because of the previous weeks’ preparation and my personal interest in YouTuber food vloggers. We had Japanese style Thai cuisine for lunch (also interesting is the frequent marketing of the chicken rice combo, often associated with Singapore whereas, in USA, Thai restaurants usually promote pad thai or green curry). I think it is fascinating to try foods outside of their place of origin to see how they have changed to accustom the available ingredients and the palate of the consumers. Yakiniku, despite its Japanese name, is very much associated with Korea. Food can be enjoyed by many, even those who protest against other political issues.

Kanpo: Dr. Qiu was very very engaging even though my Japanese skills are abysmal. The most interesting part of the trip for me, since I have had a lot of encounters with traditional medicine, was the strict regulations of herbs by the Japanese agency for food and drugs. So meticulously guarded that the rich in China are willing to pay extra to buy their medicine from Japan despite the Chinese production. It is very different to consider kanpo as a “complement” or “alternative” to Western biomedicine, which somehow lowers the status of its legitimacy when I have grown up mainly reliant on Chinese traditional medicine. My home in Hangzhou, China is situated near not only the province’s TCM university hospital but also family-owned pharmacies that date back dynasties. It is sold as part of tourism. Especially with the increasing New Age spirituality movements, there is a preference for “nature” products from the “mystic East.” Hopefully, the interest develops as a well-rounded acknowledgment instead of as an enchanted, magical method. While sitting in Dr. Qiu’s clinic, I actually thought about reviving my interest to become a TCM doctor… but we shall see.

Edo-Tokyo Museum: I love interactive museums with moving exhibits and replicas. I am glad to have freshened up on Japan’s recent history last night to be able to better appreciate the exhibits. The skilled and extravagant exhibits, built with bubble money, show signs of a specific political, nationalistic agenda, but without the governmental support and funding, this masterpiece would not exist. Because of my very limited knowledge of Japanese history, I learned a lot about the Edo-dominated narrative of the Japanese identity through the tour. But, I want to discuss a bit about finally connecting my interests. In the Edo section of the museum, there are amazing replicas of kabuki theaters and Shinto festival parades. I am very much involved in the technical side of theater as well as the ritualization of religion. It clicked. Rituals are religions’ performances, altered and renewed through time. Some are discarded while others support the religion’s existence. The misconception, IMO, is to say that theater is an imitation of life. The stage is not reality but wants to become as “real” as possible. I do not agree. I think the stage is useful to construct a particular version of “real” that engages the audience to question and to doubt their idea of the “real.” The rituals grasp with abstract ideas and present them in more accessible forms for the people. I am not very articulate with these thoughts (yet), but I will definitely be thinking about it tomorrow as we venture to the insides of Meiji-Jingu.

(I would also to add that I appreciate the low amounts of sugars added to drinks and food in Japan.)

Author: Gerlin Leu '19

Hello readers! I am Gerlin, an Asian Studies major focusing on religion in South (and Southeast) Asia (although thinking about pursuing academic studies about food culture and power.) I have been studying Japanese for two years now. My original plan was to look at religious NPO's collaborative efforts after 3/11 and how that has redefined the role of religion in society. I am currently also very obsessed with the theories of subaltern and postcolonialism, so these themes will echo through my posts. I enjoy taking photos and talking in person (more than blogging). じゃ、よろしくお願いします。