Through the wonders of technology, we have been able to hold this Academy despite serious hurdles existing in the world around us. For our academy members today, we harnessed technology to allow us to tour the ancient capital city of Kyoto, track down the classical ghosts of Japan called youkai, and transverse space and time to speak live with students at Toyama University of International Studies High School (TUINS) in Toyama, Japan.
Our virtual tour of Kyoto was led by the Academy's own Awazu Sensei, a Kyoto native. She blended colorful pictures capturing Kyoto's energy and spirit with soaring angles and views provided by Google Earth. Students could easily visualize Kyoto's geological layout, and how it is entwined with feng shui beliefs. The symbolism and religious importance of the four city gates and their locations in relation to the city were easily understood as we floated about the city like Kiki on her broom. Students were suggested to try a bus pass or a Suica card during any future visits, however.
Kyoto still carries a great deal of Japan's ancient mysticism, and Awazu Sensei's lecture set the stage perfectly for Dr. Todd Munson, Professor and Director of Asian Studies at Randolph-Macon College. Dr. Munson spoke to our students about the facinating history of youkai in Japan. These spirits have long been a part of Japanese culture, and have recently seen a resurgence of interest thanks to a Japanese animation similar to Pokemon called "Youkai Watch". Students learned about many historical youkai and their meanings, and about the origins or youkai as a whole. Then, students were allowed to let their imaginations run wild as they created youkai of their own to help explain some of the unfortunate phenomena that occur in our daily lives. Creating a youkai to blame life's troubles on is a very cathartic activity! From youkai that secretly pull your charger plug out of the wall at night, to youkai that make your dog bark madly at seemingly nothing, the youkai accounted for everything! The youkai might get along well with the Gremlins....
Our day turned into night as we gathered in the evening to speak via the internet with students from TUINS High School. In Japan, the students were just starting their day at school. This was a wonderful opportunity for students from both countries to put their language studies into practice. Students fought against the language barrier and the distance barrier as they tried to communicate their ideas to each other. Time was unfortunately very short, but both classes were able to give a short presentation and engage in small group conversations until the bell rang in Japan and the students had to move on to their next class. Though the class time was fleeting, it encouraged the students to utilize another piece of technology, Flipgrids, to continue to keep in touch with their new friends on the other side of the world.
There are so many local treats available in Nishiki Market. This class was before lunch so everyone got so hungry. おいしそう～～～～