The Japanese track is unique in many ways. Next to the China-trackers, its students travel furthest away from Philadelphia. Relative to the country’s GDP, the number of students always remains fairly small. And the summer immersion itself is separated into two very different phases: first the Kyoto area where we spend about one third of the summer, and then the Tokyo area where we spend the remaining part of the summer. While there is a strong focus on language throughout the two months, we tend to focus on culture and history in Kyoto and economy and business in Tokyo.
One of the most important visits of this first phase features two pillars of Japanese culture: Shintoism, with a visit to the Ise Shrine, and Buddhism, with a visit to Enryaku Temple. Of course, staying in Kyoto is also a great opportunity to enjoy the exceptional local cuisine and spend time in the historic sites that made this city famous. The garden of Ryoanji (see photo) is one of them. Entirely made of different types of stone, it is associated with the practice of Zen Buddhism. A place for meditation, this garden remains an enigma to this day with much speculation about the designer’s true intent when creating the masterpiece.
Just as mysterious as the stone garden of Ryoanji, Japan remains a complex country, and these first two months provide invaluable experience to improve our understanding of its culture and economy.
By: Alexandre Attia (Lauder Class of 2016, Japanese track)