タグ: blog

From the balcony on the fourth floor

Online Writing Contest 1st Prize

by CAPRIOLI Nicole
Graduate School of International Culture and Communication Studies

The poem I wrote express the emotions I recently felt while I was looking from the balcony of my apartment in Tokyo. The outbreak of the Corona virus and its consequences made me think even more deeply about human nature and how it has been changed and affected by the environment through the years. At that time, I remembered Mishima’s words written in the epilogue of the book “Sun and Steel,” and as I was thinking about that, the image of the Teshima Art Museum and the emotions I felt that day made their way into my mind. So, this poem was born.

* * *

From the balcony on the fourth floor
of my apartment in Tokyo
I watch a man dig a hole
deep into the earth’s soul
to plant slabs of concrete
and grew up too tall.

I look up at the sky
I see people skimming the sky
atop birds of metal wings
gliding gently with the wind.
It reminds me of those words
written by the last Japanese who
grabbed a sword

“Do I, then, belong to the heavens? […]
Or do I
Belong, after all, to the earth?”*

And like a spell my shell
opened again, my mind
had to hide, to leave space
to the emptiness that was inside.
No pearl was there
nothing my heart could glare.
Many thoughts came by back then

Where’s the place
we humans should stand?

Once I felt I was between
the sky we long for, and the
earth, where we belong
I think:

A man had married his former
climbing the latter with a ring
then he let humans in.

Drops begin to fall from above,
touch the soil and start run slow
to the architecture’s core.

And people quietly are left to stare
naive and unaware.
And I think:
Neither sky nor earth,
And if there is no “I,”
Then the truth just hurts.

* Yukio Mishima, Sun and Steel


Online Writing Contest 2nd Prize

by YANG Hang
Graduate School of Social Sciences


* * *

4年前、初めて成田空港に着いた時、面白いところを見つけた。到着した人に挨拶文字として、英語は「Welcome to Japan」。それに対して、日本語は「おかえりなさい」と表記された。その時、言葉意味の違いを発見したが、深く考えを全くできなかった。だが、先日、母国から日本に戻り、「おかえりなさい」を見ると、由来もなく感動が湧いて、「ただいま」と心の中で返答した。4年間の留学生活は、私をこの国との絆を深くして、「私の中の日本」も日々変わって行き成長している。




Discover the Japan inside you

An Ibaraki Prefecture travelogue

Online Writing Contest 2nd Prize

Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Ibaraki Prefecture is considered the least popular prefecture for travel in Japan. I wanted to share my personal experience to not just talk about the beauty of Ibaraki prefecture, but to make other students consider traveling to unusual destinations in general, as this may become a very special experience.

We come to Japan, we go to study almost every day, we walk around the same city in our free time. But at some point, we inevitably realize we only see a small part of the country.

Such a regret awakened in me with the first cold winds of Autumn. Looking through the photos on the Internet, my choice fell on an unusual option – Ibaraki Prefecture.

The noisy Tokyo station brings you to the small city of Hitachinaka, and then it takes just a little to arrive at Hitachi Seaside Park. The main attraction in Autumn is red Kochia bushes. The summer cypress, gentle shade of green falling into the red, its leaves seem sharp, as if you touch it you will get pricked. A whole mountain wearing a dress of red leaves. But October is second to April in Ibaraki Prefecture when blue flowers of nemophila bloom, and the fields, endless fields, become a scene from another world you probably saw in dreams.

Image by author

As night fell, I was already sitting in a half-empty train, rushing into the darkness. I couldn’t get to Fukuroda Falls directly; the railroad that had broken down has not yet been repaired. Stations in the provinces are very different from those in big cities, there are no ticket gateways, and in the late hours, even people cease to be seen. Only lonely house lights and forests in the distance make up for the company. But even there some kind people who were driving in the same direction as my hostel gave me a ride. As I got into the car, I did not feel the slightest bit afraid, I just trusted – this is perhaps one of the great wonders of Japan.

Image by author

The hostel was more like a cottage – standing on a hill, an epitome of an idyll. Inside were old lights, souvenirs from various parts of Japan, and inscriptions from various countries. Now, of course, there are fewer. But I am sure they will come back for sure, some day we all are waiting for.

Image by author

After treating me to some breakfast (I had no idea that fresh natto could be so delicious), the inn owner took me to Fukuroda Falls. A small trail lined with local stores leads to an amazing place, a huge and majestic cascade of waterfalls. In summer its waters shine crystal bright, in fall they are framed by a veil of scarlet leaves, and in winter covered by a cap of ice, creating a whimsical, snow-white still shot.

Image by author

The path to the station was paved with numerous advertisements for orchards offering “apple hunts”. I did not have a chance to go to such an orchard, but I could buy one apple – sweet and crispy – from a nice grandmother on the side of the road.

Nevertheless, an obstacle was waiting for me at the end of the road.

“Hello, when is the train to Mito?”

“In two hours.”

“What am I supposed to do?”

“Go to the onsen. There’s nothing else around here.”

And so I went.

It was in the little onsen that I happened to strike up a conversation with Kawase-san. Kawase-san had once moved from Ibaraki to Tokyo, and I asked her a little bit about what she thought about Ibaraki Prefecture.

From what she said, Ibaraki’s geography is stretched and narrow, and the thinking of those who live closer to Tokyo and those who live closer to Fukushima is noticeably different. Ibaraki may seem like a remote province, but it is where Tsukuba Science City, Hitachi, Ltd., and Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute are located, so you can meet many foreigners there – a slice of globalization carved deep into the depths of Japan. Despite this, Ibaraki is famous as a rather conservative place. It was with Mito that the last Shogun was closely associated. Maybe that historical pride still lingers, finding a place not only in the old Edo-era wooden buildings in the city of Mito but also in the hearts of the people.

Ibaraki has a lot to offer. Landscapes, delicious food, hot springs. So why do so few people come there? My footsteps led me there, and this prefecture found a place in my heart, became a piece of “Japan inside me.”

I am not just trying to tell you to go to Ibaraki. Go beyond Tokyo and Kyoto, and you will find a Japan for yourself, one that is unique and precious. Japan inside you will become Japan around you. Discover it for yourself, so that it opens up to you. It has lots of treasures to share.

Where is your third space? How our third space has changed under COVID-19

by H.C.
ICC Student Staff Leader

What is “Third Space”?  

Have you heard of the term “third space”? Well, we have to first get to know what the “first” and “second” spaces are. First and second spaces are two different and sometimes conflicting spatial groupings that people interact within; first space is commonly known as our home where we perform private daily routines whereas second space is the public space, like our workplace. Third spaces are the in-between, where the first and second spaces work together to generate a new third space. Third space is usually a place for us to escape from both, where we want to be, and a place that provides us a sense of self. A couple common examples of third spaces are coffeehouses, museums, and nightclubs, where people can run away from their duties for a while. 

Japan’s third space 

According to OECD data, in Japan the percentage of employees that work long hours is 17.9%, which is higher than the average of 11%. Furthermore, in Japan full-time workers devote themselves mostly to their work and spend less time on personal care or leisure activities. Japan is ranked as the country with the 5th worst work-life balance (out of 40), so its people need a third place from time to time to relax and escape from reality. Therefore, Japanese coffeehouses, unlike other countries’, serve a unique purpose for the people in the hustle and bustle of the city. People go to the café mainly to be left undisturbed rather than having business connections like in the West. In other words, Japanese cafés offer a novel space for the urban taste and a time away with no characters attached, for both city people and those coming from the suburban areas. 

After COVID-19 

With the increasing cases of COVID-19, the government requires people to stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary, and most companies ask their employees to work from home. However, I realize that the coffeehouses are still busy or even busier than before. It makes me wonder if coffeehouses, serving as a third space for people to release stress, actually may become a social problem because its existence encourages people to go out instead of staying at home. I, personally, also like to go to coffeehouses a lot to try out different hand-brewed coffees and enjoy some time alone. It seems that I can no longer enjoy what I perceived as an escape under this circumstance. What could be our third space if we no longer can mobilize freely? How can we reduce our stress when our home becomes our workplace?

Where is your third space…?   












是非興味が湧いた方は、一度YouTubeなどで「フィールドホッケー」(または「Field Hockey」)と検索をかけてみてください! 














Food tour around Hanoi’s Old Quarter

Hi guys, today I will talk about my must-try-food in my favorite city’s most famous area which is also my hometown. A day is not enough for exploring and understanding all the delicious foods of this more than thousand-year old city but I hope that this blog will be useful for you if you just have a short time to enjoy Hanoi.

Hanoi’s Old Quarter has 36 ancient streets, after the 36 streets or guilds that used to make up the urban area of the city. The most famous trait of the Old Quarter is its areas dedicated to one specific trade or guild. Craftsmen from villages around the city used to gather in one area of their guild to sell their wares to merchants. The crafts or guilds of each area gave the names to the streets of the quarter, so that most streets acquired names starting with “hang” (“wares”), such as Hàng Bún street (” rice noodles street”) and Hàng Đào street (“peach street”).

Several of the streets are still specialized in the trade that gave them their names. Others still specialize in one specific trade, but a different one from their traditional specialty — such as Hàng Buồm street (“sails street”) which has become dominated by Vietnamese cakes and candy nowadays.

I would recommend you to book a hotel in this area since it’s very convenient to get around just by walking and most of all; almost all of Hanoi’s best cuisine is located in this area. Although the food culture of Vietnam is changing every day because of the customer’s habit, there are still many local restaurants as well as local vendors that are still super crowded. Thanks to their amazing delicious secret recipes that have been transferred across many generations, the younger generations can still experience the authentic taste of all the traditional foods. When we talk about Vietnamese food in general or Hanoi cuisine specifically, it is all about the balance of the dish. It’s like a classical song with all the instruments that make a perfect harmony. You can feel the sweetness from the bones of the broth, the saltiness of the fish sauce, the sourness of lime or a bit of spice from the fresh chili. All the flavors are dancing on your tongue and they make you miss it very soon after you finish it.

I think that everyone has been heard of Vietnamese Pho. When we talk about Vietnamese cuisine, we must talk about Pho. Just like ramen or soba, there are many restaurants that say they make the authentic Pho in Vietnam but after trying many restaurants, I would like to say Pho in Hanoi is the best and most authentic taste that you could search for. People eat Pho in the morning, at lunch or evening. You can have it anytime. There are a lot of ways to eat Pho but the best way is to enjoy it is with a little bit of fresh lime juice and some fresh chili. Talking about Pho, it’s all about the freshness and the balance of the flavor. When I went back to Hanoi for a few days after a long time, Pho is the first thing that I thought of (actually Pho was on my mind for a few days before I even went to the airport). One thing I can say is never have Pho in the airport, since it does not taste like the real one. There’re many good ones in Hanoi but these days, I believe that the restaurant shown below is the one that has the best taste of the real Pho. They have all the balance of the broth with the freshness of the noodles, beef and also the vegetables in one bowl. Especially they also have the good Quay, which is necessary for this dish. Put a bit fresh chili and a few drops of lime, then have a gulp of noodles, beef and taste some broth. This is the best way to start your day every day of the year. This restaurant usually runs out of all of their ingredients before lunch so I suggested that you should come from early morning to have the best kinds of beef that you want.

Full options of Pho

How to enjoy: Taste the broth, fix with lime juice or vinegar, chili sauce or fresh chili.

Price: ~250 yen or more, depending on which part of the beef you choose.

Recommend place: Phở Tuyết, 12 Hàng Than, Ba Đình, Hà Nội


The second dish that I want to introduce is called “Bun cha”. Normally I prefer to eat this one at home, which is made by my mom. However, making this one is very hard and tiring so sometimes I still have this one outside. After trying “Bun cha” in some restaurants, I realized that it’s the best to have it at the local vendors. The best aspect of Vietnamese food is you always can enjoy the food while provide to your body enough nutrition. “Bun cha” includes rice noodles, grilled pork, vegetables and delicious sauce. The sauce and the pork taste decide a lot of the flavor. I don’t recommend having this dish in a restaurant because they don’t make the grilled pork as fresh as the local vendors. The pork must be eaten immediately after being grilled by the chef. It can’t be too raw neither too cooked. The sauce is very important since it can decide the whole flavor of the dish.

Put some fresh chili for more flavor~

How to enjoy: Taste sauce: fix it with some vinegar or chili (more garlic if you prefer garlic). Put some noodles and vegetables into your bowl then dip them into the sauce. Take one gulp with everything (pork, noodles and vegetables)

Price: ~250 yen

Recommend place: 74 Hàng Quạt, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội.

The last one that I want to introduce today is Banh-mi. Banh mi is a typical Vietnamese sandwich is a fusion of meats and vegetables from native Vietnamese cuisine such as chả lụa (pork sausage), coriander leaf (cilantro), cucumber, pickled carrots, and pickled daikon combined with condiments from French cuisine such as pâté, along with chili and mayonnaise. However, a wide variety of popular fillings are used, from xíu mại to ice cream. In Vietnam, sandwiches are typically eaten for breakfast or as a snack. The Oxford Dictionary has already put Banh-mi as an English word: “a Vietnamese sandwich on a crisp baguette spread with mayonnaise, typically containing pork or chicken and pâté, with pickled vegetables, cucumber, and cilantro.” Banh mi is everywhere in Vietnam with a lot of options. However, if you want to try the most common one in Vietnam, just ask them for a full-option version of Banh mi (Thập cẩm). They will put everything they can onto the tiny bread so you can try all at once. I recommend that you ask the chef to give you some chili sauce to make the Banh mi more perfect.

You need to open your mouth wide~

How to enjoy: Open your mouth as wide as you can and… eat them all.

Price: ~200yen

Place: Bánh mì, 2-4 Hàng Chuối or 51 Trần Xuân Soạn.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope that you can enjoy them all someday! If you need any more information, please come and join the Vietnamese event later which will be held by the Waseda ICC ^^~~~

S.R. (Student Staff Leader)



Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén