By: Cat Palm
We arrived in Tsukuba at 7 PM after a long day of trekking around in Tokyo. When we arrived, the town was dark. It was quite the contrast to what we were accustomed to seeing in Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo. In these cities, everything was bright, even at night, but Tsukuba had this sleepy feeling to it.
Sure enough, a quick google search revealed Tsukuba’s population hovers just above 214,000, while the other three are in the millions. What a contrast. Yes, with so much excitement in the major towns, this doesn’t mean Tsukuba is a town that should be ignored. Tsukuba is the home of the National Tsukuba University of Technology (NTUT) and the University of Tsukuba. Both are impressive, for different reasons. NTUT is Japan’s only deaf college. The University of Tsukuba is a prominent school in research and science. In a sense, it is similar to RIT, if both colleges were by each other.
Our first night in Tsukuba, we celebrated Tiandre’s birthday with a delicious tiny cake. Several of us did laundry afterward and that was how we discovered the hotel had a roof open for access. It is not uncommon to see fences atop roofs in Japan. The site allowed us to have a great view of Tsukuba (in the morning) and understand how it got its sign name. The sign for Tsukuba is like this, hold your hand “Y” backward, use the other hand’s index finger to follow the curve along the Y shape on top. If you look at the center of the first picture, you can see two small peaks right by each other. The pinkie finger represents girl, as the thumb represents boy.
The following day we all woke up excited and nervous about meeting our pen pals in person at NTUT after communicating with them via webcam for months. There was nothing to be nervous about, the day went by in a flash. Before everyone knew it, it was already time to go back to the hotel to get ready for dinner and let our new friends wrap up their day at school.
We all agreed to meet our pen pals at the hotel for dinner, some of us met our pen pals earlier, some met later. Some stayed in groups, some went individually. The only thing we had in common on that night, we all went into town to eat dinner.
After a night of fun, it was time to leave for Tokyo to enjoy our last full day in Japan.