A Cultural Swap for Lukas Hoffman
by Osazee Osaghae
On June 21, Lukas Hoffman, Adv. 906, left Chicago to partake in a once in a lifetime experience. Hoffman traveled to Nagoya, Japan, for a cultural exchange.
While he lived in Japan, Hoffman stayed with a host family. His host family introduced him to new customs and ideas from their culture that he has not experienced in Chicago. Hoffman told the Hoofbeat that the hardest thing to adjust to was the schooling in Japan, as opposed to the traditional American school system. American students get out of school between mid May to late June and typically use a semester system. However, the Japanese school year uses a trimester system. The first trimester starts in April and runs until around July 20, which is well into a typical American student’s summer vacation. “I basically had to go to school again, but it did not feel like school. I found it interesting and new,” Hoffman said. The kids get a short break, then they come back for the second term in early September, which runs until about December 25. The students get another small break and resume school for their final term from January to late March. After the final term, they get about a one month vacation, until they come back to school again in April.
Hoffman said that fitting in at school in Japan was completely different from acclimating to Northside as a freshman. The reason for this is because he was the one in a new place. Transferring to a new school may be tough, but attending one in a different country is much more difficult. Hoffman said that, although the new experience presented some difficulties, it was very valuable, because he was able to see how others learn in a way he had never known.
Outside of the schooling, Hoffman described the many sites around Nagoya that he visited, which included many temples and shrines. “Nagoya had an abundance of major buildings to see. I had the chance to visit some pretty famous buildings like the Atsuta Shrine and the Osu Kannon temple,” he said. The Atsuta Shrine is one of the most important shrines in Japan. It is devoted to the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, and is also the home of a sacred sword called the “Kusanagi No Tsurugi,” which translates to “the grass cutting sword.” The temple is fenced in and has a place for people to throw coins and pray. The shrine area where the sacred sword is kept is called “Betsugu Hakkengu.” There is another building on the left side of the shrine yard that is called “Kamichikama Jinja.” There is also a festival held there every June called Rei Sai.
Another temple Hoffman visited was the Osu Kannon Temple. This is a Buddhist temple where people worship the Goddess of mercy, Kanzeon-Bosatsu. The temple itself is situated high up from ground level and it is very hard to miss, especially because the main color of the temple is red. According to Hoffman, the Osu Kannon Temple holds a flea market on the 18th of every month, which has become a main attraction to tourists coming to Nagoya.
Although most aspects of the culture were new and interesting to him, the cuisine may have been his favorite. “All the food was delicious, and I would recommend trying okonomiyaki,” he said.
Hoffman returned home to Chicago in early August. He told the Hoofbeat that he thoroughly enjoyed his visit. “I would do it again if I was given the opportunity,” Hoffman said. Hoffman experienced something not many people have the opportunity to, and the knowledge gained from his trip is something that will stay with him beyond high school.