After a week of academic and cultural excursions, SJMC Japan students took advantage of their much-deserved unstructured free time, which allowed everyone to explore Tokyo in their own unique ways. 

For sports fans, Tokyo Dome was the ultimate destination. The dome, also known as the “Big Egg,” buzzed with excitement as fans came in. A popular local destination, the stadium can seat up to 55,000 people. 

Eight students chose to attend a baseball game and experience one of Japan’s favorite pastimes. The the Yomiuri Giants hosted the defending Pacific League champions Orix Buffaloes, which completed a three-game sweep of the Giants, winning 4-1. Typical of a Japanese game, fans for both teams cheered nearly the entire game. In fact, fans of the Buffaloes filled most of the left-field section and had lots to celebrate throughout the game.

As a bonus, SJMC Japan Academic Program Director Gilbert D. Martinez arranged the baseball outing with his friend Toshi Ogura, who teaches at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo, and six of his students. The purpose, Martinez said, was to encourage cultural exchanges among the students during the game.

The atmosphere was electric. Students from both universities were greeted by the sight of thousands of fans donning team colors, waving banners and participating in synchronized chants. The energy was contagious.

Concession stands dotted the stadium, offering a wide array of unique snacks and meals. Among the most popular were the bento boxes, which are a favorite among players and fans alike. Each bento box featured favorite foods of some of the Giants players.

Even though the home team lost, students enjoyed watching one of the most storied teams in Japanese baseball history.

While some students cheered in the stands at the Tokyo Dome, others chose a different kind of adventure: Tokyo Disneyland. The theme park receives millions of people a year, and a ticket can range from 7,900 to 10,900 yen (about $50 to $70 U.S. dollars), depending on the day of the week. 

Students entered through the grand gates, greeted by the sight of the iconic Cinderella Castle. They were soon immersed in a world of fantasy featuring Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. Rides like Splash Mountain and Space Mountain offered adrenaline-pumping thrills, while attractions like “It’s a Small World” provided a whimsical charm.

However, it wasn’t all magic.

“The ride I really wanted to go on was the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ one,” Lauren Reid said, explaining that the ride cannot be found “outside of Tokyo Disneyland.

“The line was hellish (with a) 150 minute wait, Reid said, “but so worth it.”

Experiencing the enchantment of the day was made even more special by meeting beloved Disney characters, enjoying the vibrant parades and savoring delightful themed snacks.

Other students chose a more relaxing way to spend their free time by attending the Oedo Antique Market at the Tokyo International Forum. Held on the first and third Sunday of the month, antique fair allows locals and foreigners alike to appreciate antiques and other niches. It’s been held for the last 21 years.

As they wandered through the biggest outdoor market in Japan, students were greeted by a vast array of antiques and collectibles. From intricately designed Edo-period ceramics to vintage kimonos with beautiful patterns, each item had a story to tell. 

“I love going to different local flea markets back in America so this was a special opportunity,” Kaylie Kruk, electronic media senior, said. 

Some students engaged in conversations with the vendors, who shared fascinating tales about the origins and significance of their wares. 

“The Oedo international flea market was so amazing to experience,” Kruk said. “There were so many vendors with vintage clothing, small trinkets and other antique items.”

Later in the afternoon, a group of students went to the Torigoe Matsuri. The festival takes place on the Sunday nearest to June 9. During the celebration, the community comes together to carry a nearly four-ton portable shrine, called a mikoshi, through the local area, and then return it to the shrine. The secular aspects of the festival also drew interest. Festivities happen throughout the day but is especially spectacular during nightfall when tall lanterns light up the path while the mikoshi enters the shrine. 

Food stands are a vital part of summer festivals. Visitors enjoy food while watching the dancers’ performance. This festival attracts 10,000 people each year. 

“[This was] not only a (religious) immersion but a culinary adventure,” Laura Restrepo Posada, digital media innovation junior.

For graduate assistants Valerie Figueroa and Lisette Calderon, Sunday involved experiencing teamLab, an immersive art experience.

“It was a dream,” Figueroa said. “I’ve never experienced anything like it. The sights, the sounds, the smell of floral in the air and the water splashing on our feet was an unforgettable experience. It really was a dream. It was beautiful.”

All this, she said, for the equivalent of $20. What a bargain!

As the day came to a close, students trickled into the lobby of the hotel rushing to wrap up last-minute edits on their assignments and prepare for tomorrow’s company visit with Unseen Japan. Students also anticipated another highlight of the program — their first ride on the shinkansen (bullet train) when SJMC Japan shifts to Kyoto on Monday.

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