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Kyoto students invite understanding of Japan

USF welcomed 23 students from Kyoto Sangyo University (KSU) to explore the campus Monday and integrate with students studying Japanese to strengthen the bridge between Tampa and Kyoto established by the Kakehashi Project.

During the USF Kakehashi Community welcome event in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom, the Japanese students offered their invitation to USF students and faculty — “Come to Kyoto.”

Students from KSU gave presentations on Kyoto, a city in Japan with a population size mirroring Phoenix, Arizona and a land area just short of San Diego, California.

They invited students to experience Kyoto for themselves, and discussed the differences separating Kyoto from other larger metropolitan cities in Japan like Tokyo or Osaka.

Kyoto experiences four distinct seasons and escapes the hectic pacing of life in the city by regulating construction and environmental protocols more stringently than other cities.

By preserving artifacts and architecture of Kyoto’s rich, historic past and integrating new commerce and business practices in a sustainable way, Kyoto has become a venerable nucleus for university education. 

This concern has led to the preservation of monuments like “Koryu-ji”, the oldest temple in Kyoto, and “To-Ji”, a five-story pagoda built 1,200 years ago that is the tallest wooden tower in all of Japan.

“Nouryou-yuka” are traditional Japanese eating areas where people escape the heat and relax, similar to the popular coffee shops and cafes dotting the USF area.

When one KSU student displayed a picture of a large, anonymous city, and asked what city the crowd thought was pictured, “Kyoto” was the general consensus — but it was actually New York City.

A picture of Tokyo was displayed next, looking eerily similar to the biggest city in the U.S. 

On the other hand, Kyoto has very few skyscrapers, outdoor advertisements or other forms of urban visual pollution. This is due to an effort by the city to address landscaping issues that once diminished Kyoto’s natural beauty.

The mountains bordering Kyoto are almost always visible now that strict regulations regarding building height and visibility of advertisements have been implemented.

Popular companies such as Lawson and Starbucks have even redesigned certain locations bordering historic or natural landmarks to help complement the environment.

KSU presenters also dispelled incorrect notions of the character of Japanese people.

“What images do you have concerning Japanese people?” said one KSU student. “You think they are humble, studious, traditional, steady and punctual.”

The students likened themselves to Major League Baseball superstar Ichiro Suzuki, survivors of the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Kyoto doll artisans. They identified three defining traits of the Japanese person: being studious, honest and tenacious.

These qualities help strengthen the Japanese value of Omotenashi, a distinctive hospitality service that values treating guests with the utmost balance of care and respect.

USF provided Omotenashi to visitors from KSU by meeting the Japanese students at the airport. 

“Student exchanges and visits across the oceans are the heart of international studies,” said Stephan Schindler, chair and professor of the Department of World Languages. “Students learn more and more about each other by engaging in multilingual studies.”

Schindler, chair and professor of the Department of World Languages, said international studies “prepare students to become global citizens,” further mentioning Yoko Tawada, the Japanese author who lives in Germany and uses both German and Japanese languages in her writing, as an example.

Roger Brindley, the vice provost for USF World, said the USF system feels “an affinity for japan.” 

Closer ties formed ever since USF students were stranded in Japan during the historic tsunami that followed a 9.0 earthquake in 2011. “Japan is in our hearts,” Brindley said.

Six university agreements are established with universities in Japan, 20 Japanese students study full time for their degrees at USF and 42 faculty members engage in research in Japan.