A Day of Change

Programs for this blog post

Open Campus Block

Authored By:

CIEE Kyoto

Authored by Alex Jo


I’ve discovered that in Japan, everyone waits for the crosswalk signals to cross the street. Even at 1 in the morning with zero cars, you would not catch many locals here ignoring the walk signal and proceeding on with their day. I also witnessed firsthand that the vast majority of Japanese people will sit in complete silence in the movie theater and watch the entire credit roll, all the way until the projector flicks off. These habits themselves are a bit strange, but it also begs the question of why I bring them up.



To say these last 12 weeks in Kyoto have been fun and life-changing is quite an understatement. This program is only one of many excuses that I’ll use if it means getting to travel to Japan, and I don’t regret a single thing from this unforgettable journey.

I really am grateful to both my family and CIEE that I was given this opportunity to experience all that Kyoto/Japan has to offer. Some of my favorite memories include taking a selfie with the famous Chef Motokichi, amassing a new collection of bug bites at Fushimi Inari, exploring rural Ohara, and getting to try a wagyu volcano (sponsored by my friend’s grandma)! 


But these memories aren’t even my biggest takeaway from this experience. It’s hard to pick just a select few things to write about (Kyoto really has that much to offer). So instead, I wanted to address how my time here in Kyoto has allowed me to truly appreciate life from a newfound perspective.  

On some nights leading up to my departure, I found myself wandering alone amongst the crowds of people. Whether that’d be strolling down Karasuma-dori, the riverbank, Kawaramachi, or the quiet neighborhood streets. Each time I did, I always made the conscious effort to observe my surroundings and pay attention to the people here. 




Despite the fact that the nuance of life is fundamentally the same across most cultures, the way that I was taught to live is vastly different compared to the people here. 

Here, the Japanese people live their lives guided by good virtue. They are very thorough in everything they do and always go the extra mile to perfect their craft. 

I bet many of us have asked how Japanese public transportation is so organized or why convenience store food is so good here. I mean, they even have heated toilet seats here. And I think the answer to those questions can be found somewhere deep in the nuance of Japanese culture and integrity.

I don’t want to speak for every Japanese person when I say this, but I find that they put a lot of time and consideration into everything they do. All the things I do on a scale from 1 to 10, they do it from 1 to 20, or a more effective ten, or they even try things from A to Z. 

Maybe for them, it just feels good to be thorough. Or perhaps they find value in pleasing others. I’m not really sure. Though I don’t yet understand the “why” of it all, I still have been inspired by the considerate and hard-working nature of this country.  


I learned in one of my Block I classes that Japanese society is driven by competition, achievement, and success. What I saw here in Japan is exactly that—a drive for excellence and perfection in both material production and presentation in nearly every aspect of life. 

Thus, I’m writing this here as a reminder to myself. To live a thorough and fulfilling life—one that strives for the same sort of excellence and that I’d be proud to look back on. As to how I’ll go about this, I have no idea. And if you still have no clue what I’m talking about, I don’t blame you. It’s honestly really hard to describe. And to be honest, everything I’ve talked about is really just glorified culture shock. It might be easier to just see for yourself, so I implore anyone going to Japan to try and see if you end up having any similar experiences!