Do you ever look back on something and think, “damn, I can’t believe I did all of that?” Well, after about three weeks — which included a quick stay back home in California, moving into my new apartment in Boston (with my dog!), and starting my final year of my M.A. program — I think I’ve had enough time to properly reflect on my second time in 日本 with the 67th Japan-America Student Conference (JASC).
Perhaps a little background might help. Last year on a whim, I applied to participate in a three-week intercultural conference between American and Japanese college students known as JASC. During the conference delegates were expected to come together as a sort of international think-tank and discuss, research, and propose solutions to current and potential challenges Japanese-American relations. In engaging and participating in such dialogue, delegates were supposed to learn more about the world, its people, and themselves. Finally, the lessons learned would be presented and shared during a Final Forum, in Tokyo.
Whew, now that that’s out of the way I can talk about the fun stuff. Sure, discussions with my roundtable (Society and Inequality) were great and we ultimately presented on a topic I am very passionate about (gender inequality in the workplace) I don’t think they were truly the most memorable experiences during my return to Japan. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to have participated in those meetings and we were able to touch upon a great deal of issues and ideas. They just weren’t the defining moments of JASC for me on a personal level.
Instead, the best parts of the trip all happened outside of official conference proceedings.
Izakaya and nomihōdai (all you can drink — need I say more) in Hiroshima; dinner and grocery shopping with my host parents and sister, Midori, during our homestay in the beautiful countryside of Shimane; climbing the monstrous hill to Kiyomizu-dera with my friend and unofficial tour guide Rena in Kyōto; hitting the bars and clubs in Shinjuku Ni-chōme (a.k.a. Tōkyō’s gay-borhood) and dancing to American Top-40 hits on stage with my kweenz Jackie, Jordan, Kevin, and John; and of course, becoming some sort of mother figure to a group formerly known as Tōkyō Men’s Club (now re-named to Tōkyō Camille’s Children or カミチル).
I’m not really sure what I did to deserve that last one, but it may have to do with my being the oldest American delegate in the conference…
So, regardless of the sighs, eye rolls, and obvious RBF I may have had during my time with JASC it was overall a memorable experience. It really wasn’t what I was expecting it to be, but what ever really is?
At the end of the day (or trip, I guess) I had an awesome time, drank awesome beer from various convenient stores (コンビル), listened to awesome people talk about awesome things, and then sat around and soaked up everyone’s awesomeness. I may have paraphrased that heavily from Janis Ian’s schpiel in the 2003 American masterpiece “Mean Girls,” but you get the point.