Geog3700 is a field-based course offered by the Geography and Environmental Studies Department at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada. The Japan version of this course involves a two week field trip to Japan where we study the interactions between humans and their environment – for example, how walkable are Japanese cities, or how do cities in Japan cope with earthquake hazards? Usually, these observations involve comparisons with Canada. Many of the students who take this course are not majoring in geography, so I usually teach them the basics of geography before we go to Japan. We use Tokyo as a base for the field trip and take day trips around Tokyo and to surrounding places such as Tsukuba Science City and Ushiku City, a commuter city in Ibaraki Prefecture. We also travel to western Japan, along the local Tokaido line, so we can observe a variety of urban and rural land uses, such as fishing villages, oranges groves, and a variety of small and large cities, such as Kakegawa and Nagoya. This long day trip ends in the evening in Kyoto.
Another academic highlight was, while on the bus to Byodo temple, our interpreter Mr. Ken Yoshimura read out over the PA system some of the review questions that I had written for a geography article on Buddhist landscapes around Kyoto. One student who had done her homework by reading the material was able to answer several of the questions. This, I hope, motivated the students to learn more about Byodo temple, as it was talked about in the article. Also, it was nice to have our interpreter, Mr. Yoshimura, understand what our academic objectives were while in Uji and to assist us with our learning.
The students – and the support faculty – were kept busy on the Monday and Tuesday during our visit. On Monday, we met Mayor Yamamoto at Uji City Hall. This was followed by a series of lectures given by staff at the city hall on the background to Uji and planning issues. This worked out well because we were able to stay in the same building, and the room we were in was on an upper floor where we could get a good view of the city.
Waldichuk, Tom (instructor)
Lastly, I want to thank Professor Kikuko Isemura and the members of the Uji International Friendship Club for hosting us at our welcome/farewell party. Also, I want to give special thanks to Professor Isemura and Ms. Noriko Horie for planning all of the events in Uji.
I also appreciated the warmth of our hosts at the Maru Kyu Koyama tea factory. In spite of their busy schedule, both the owner and his son took the time to show us around their factoryand then chat with us informally. As well, the farmer of the tea field and his family patiently showed us their tea fields and explained how tea is grown.
This year 14 students and three instructors visited Uji from Sunday, May 18 to 6pm after spending the day in Kobe. We were met by Ms. Noriko Horie from Uji City Hall and Professor Kikuko Isemura of the Uji International Friendship Association, as well as members of eight families who had volunteered as homestay hosts, with one couple volunteering to take three students. We stayed three nights with these families.
We then stay in the adjacent city of Uji for a few days, which is the sister city of Kamloops. There we learn about the history of Uji, efforts to preserve its historical landscape, and Uji tea production. We also visit Kobe to study the effects of the 1995 earthquake, and we visit Kyoto to examine its street layout and some of its prominent Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines.
Impressions of visit by Geog3700W14 Field Course to Uji City from Sunday, May 18 to Wed., May 21, 2014
In terms of the cultural experience, I was happy with how the homestay experience went with the students. This year we stayed with the families for three nights, one more than in 2012. All the students were happy with their homestays – most of the students were overwhelmed with the kindness of their hosts. The couple that took me in, as well as one of my colleagues, was warm, generous and interesting to talk to. I hope that some lasting relationships will emerge out of the homestay experience.At the welcome/farewell party hosted by the Uji International Friendship Club The students really enjoyed themselves learning about traditional Japanese games and hobbies, as well as enjoying a delicious Japanese meal. It was nice that some of the students from Kyoto Bunkyo University could join us.
Academically, my happiest moment was meeting Dr. Daisuke Kobayashi from Kyoto Bunkyo University (KBU), who is knowledgeable about historic preservation, and having him walk with our students and the KBU students along Omotesando Street near Byodo temple to discuss the historic preservation of downtown Uji. The TRU students started to get to know the KBU students when we were invited to their campus for lunch and when we took the bus together to tour Byodo Temple. I was happy that Dr. Kobayashi and his students could join our students in our hour long seminar later in the afternoon, in which one of our students was giving a presentation on Japan. We had a discussion afterwards in both English and Japanese about sense of place and walkability. I hope this academic relationship with Dr. Kobayashi and his students can continue in the future. I was also happy that this year Mr. Hiroshi Sugimoto gave a lecture on historical changes in the Uji landscape earlier in the day at city hall (in 2012 he had given me a book on historical preservation in Uji).