At the beginning of sophomore year, I could never have imagined that I would be visiting Japan in the near future. After a summer spent reading Hunger Games and playing Robot Unicorn Attack, I arrived at college refreshed and prepared. Little did I know that the synthesis of my passions for theology and Japan would define the year to come.
What led me to my exciting summer plans? The first component was my affinity for comparative theology. Although rooted in my Catholic faith, I enjoy nothing more than leaving my comfort zone to learn about other religions. Instead of undermining my own beliefs, I find that growing in understanding of other religions actually bolsters my own. At Boston College, I go to as many diverse events as possible. I have attended Shabbat with the Hillel, ceremonies at an Iskcon Mandir and a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall, as well as Buddhist and Muslim services.
Aside from my obsession with comparative religion, I have harbored a love of Japan for as long as I can remember. An interest that began with anime and sushi in middle school has expanded exponentially in college. In addition to taking Japanese language and history courses, I joined the Japan Club of Boston College, performing songs by Gackt and Ayaka on electric violin in this year’s culture show. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to conduct research with a wonderful BC professor. In preparation for a 2013 exhibit in the on-campus McMullen Museum featuring Japanese Namban screens, I scoured BC’s library resources for relevant maps and images. I also helped to gather data for a website to accompany an exhibit in BC’s Burns Library, which is still in the works. Here is a link to the online description of the exhibit:http://idesweb.bc.edu/bindingfriendship/. Through my research for these two projects, I learned a lot about the cultural exchange between the Portuguese Jesuits and the Japanese during the 17th century. A union of my academic passions, this research first piqued my interest in exploring the continued legacy of Christianity in Japan, inspiring me to apply for a grant later that year.
Receiving the grant brought both delight and anxiety. My initial reaction was to run in circles and happily cavort about campus. However, the gradual realization that I would soon be single handedly tackling the logistics of spending a month in Japan left me overwhelmed. Saying I’m an International Studies major may give the impression that I am well traveled (false), speak multiple languages (nope), or have lived in foreign countries (I wish). When I was 10 I visited London for a week. Other than that I have no experience abroad, a newbie to this whole international travel business.
While I will report my scholastic findings, this blog is first and foremost the account of a fledgling globe-trotter navigating the seemingly daunting realm of planning a trip to Japan. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to shoot them my way. Hopefully my future posts can help out those planning similar trips!