2011-12 Travel Expedition

“Japan: Tradition and Change” is this year’s theme for the Wyatt Exploration Program.  Japan has a very long and rich history.  Ruled by chieftains during antiquity, aristocracy emerged and established the imperial system that governed all of Japan.  After centuries of rule, the samurai (aristocratic warriors) grabbed hegemony of Japan and maintain their hegemony until the mid 19th century.  Faced with the rapidly changing world of the 19th century brought upon by western nations’ thrust into the Pacific, the samurai dismantled their own world and instituted various reforms and changes for survival.  Not only did Japan survive but also became the first Asian nation to form a constitution that called for a constitutional monarchy.  By the beginning of the 20th century, Japan became a world power but this century was one of turmoil.  The democratic tradition was derailed and the militarists gained control of Japan.  The Second World War resulted in Japan’s first defeat and occupation by foreign powers, its industrial base and cities destroyed, and its people starving on the streets.  However, in less than a decade after the war, Japan was rebounding back and saw what is commonly known as an “economic miracle.”  This economic recovery resulted in an interesting dichotomy; Japan and the United States clashed viciously over trade issues, but at the same time acknowledged that the alliance between the two countries was indispensible.  Post war Japan also saw a boom in American popular culture.  Initially, fashion, movies, and music poured into Japan; then, in 1971, McDonald’s opened its first Asian store in Tokyo.  McDonald’s became part of the Japanese vocabulary.  By the late 20th century, Japanese culture became much more visible in the United States.  Generations grew up with Sony and Nintendo, and some immersed themselves in anime.  As things Japanese became more common in the United States, people-to-people contact increased as more Americans went to Japan.

Japan is a country that has experienced a number of changes, but despite these changes, tradition remains strong.  Japanese history has shown that its people are capable of accommodating foreign influences through selectiveness.  And, in the end, the foreign elements are assimilated into the Japanese culture, becoming distinctively Japanese.  As we journey through this year’s Wyatt Exploration Program, we will experience “tradition and change.”  The ancient capital of Kyoto retains much of its past.  You will navigate through streets that were walked by those in the 10th century and visit spectacular Buddhist institutions that have been sites of worship for centuries. Fukuoka is bustling city with its high rises and subway.  It is also a city with an interesting past.  Fukuoka has always been a gateway to Asia, but this was where the Mongols landed in their effort to invade Japan.  The magnitude of this invasion can be felt by visiting Borui (sea wall).  There is Daizaifu Tenmangu, a Shinto shrine built in the 10th century, where thousands of students pay homage each year.  Daizaifu’s deity is for scholarship; perhaps, we should also pay our respects. A visit to the beautiful city of Nagasaki will reveal its diverse nature, and you will be able to see the impact of western nations during the 19th century.

Visiting historical sites are meaningful.  It is possible to feel the past.  Another important aspect of this program is for the students to meet their Japanese counterparts; mingle, chat, and spend some time with Japanese students.  Thus, this program includes activities with students from Kitakyushu University and Kagoshima University.  The value of understanding each other’s culture is immeasurable and hopefully students would become builders of bridges between the two countries.


The seat of aristocratic rule during the Heian Period (794-1185).  Known as Heian-kyo, the emperors of Japan resided in this city until 1869.




The Temple of Golden Pavilion.  This site was originally a villa for a powerful Heian aristocrat. It was bought the Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, third shogun of the Muromachi Period (1333-1573), who constructed a garden complex.  After his death, Kinkakuji was converted to a Zen Buddhist temple.  

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.




Fukuoka is comprised of Hakata, a medieval city, and Fukuoka, an early modern city.  This city has always been a gateway to Asia, and parts of Fukuoka is said to be oldest urban areas of Japan.




This is a defensive sea wall built along the coast of Fukuoka and surrounding areas.  The construction started after the first Mongol invasion in 1274 and was completed prior to the second Mongol invasion in 1281.  This wall played a vital role in keeping the Mongols on the beachhead.


This city's history goes back to Warring States Period, when a regional ruler named Mori Terumoto made this place his seat of power in 1589.  Hiroshima is best known as the first city where the atomic bomb was dropped.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial:  It is better known as the Atomic Bomb Dome, but it is actually a large complex with several buildings and serves as memorial for those who died as the result of the atomic bomb that was dropped on this city on 6 August 1945.  

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.




Although this place is commonly referred to as Miyajima, which means "shrine island," its official name is Itsukushima Shrine.  Located less than an hour fromHiroshima, this shrine is famous for being built over the sea.  It was constructed by Taira no Kiyomori in 1168 as his family's shrine.  

This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.




Called "Window to the World" during the Edo Period (1600-1868), this port was one of the few places where foreign trade took place. The Dutch and Chinese were allowed to reside in restricted areas of this city.




Spectacles Bridge was constructed in 1634 and arches over the Nakashima River in Nagasaki. It is said that Dutch method was used to build this oldest stone arch bridge in Japan.  It is designated by the Japanese government as an Important Cultural Property.




Originally known as Satsuma, this city was the seat of power for the Shimazu family since the medieval period. In 1868, the samurai from Satsuma and Choshu (Yamaguchi) took the lead in toppling the Edo regime and instituted reforms along western lines.




Located about an hour from Kagoshima City, this city is well known for its green tea. Chiran's attractions include a well maintained samurai district and Kamikaze Museum. The Kamikaze pilots took off from Chiran.