I would like to dedicate this post to two inspiring Emirati women who have encouraged my blogging. Ms. Reham Al Nuaimi recently received her Master’s degree in Engineering. One of the kindest people you will meet. Ms. Maitha Almahri is an undergraduate student that made my day ever time I saw her with her fancy sunglasses. Both expressed an interest in Japan, so this is for you two. Please remember me when you are famous.
Ĺo This trip to Japan was very unique. I was asked to attend as a chaperone of sorts for Emirati students from Khalifa University. It is the top ranked university in the United Arab Emirates. Professors, administrators, staff and myself went on the trip which included both male and female students. We were to visit universities in Japan. We ended up staying in Tokyo and Nagoya as the snow prevented us from going to another city it was quite cold.
One of the things that made this trip fascinating was not only seeing Japan, but doing so with Middle Eastern, primarily muslim students and colleagues. It was like seeing Japan through a slightly different filter. I thoroughly enjoyed the time with everybody and we were able to further develop our relationships. The night we arrived, I was staying in a hotel with four Emirati academics. We set out to find halal food (food acceptable to muslims). They searched their phones to find such a restaurant. We took subways and walked and we were all very hungry. It took hours but we finally found a Turkish restaurant. I joked that there would be an article in the newspaper about a group of men that died searching for halal food. Quite different. Normally when I travel I want to try different cuisine, but the group needed to find halal food.
We started the trip in Tokyo. I don’t recall all the details but we eventually took a bullet train to Nagoya to visit a university. Visiting the universities was very interesting. One of the places we visited in Tokyo was demonstrating robots. We also went to a science center that had robots as well. One of the enjoyable things for me was to stroll around town in the evenings and select different foods to eat. In Nagoya I saw a spectacular collection of very expensive stringed instruments. We also visited a museum of bullet trains which traced the evolution of their super fast trains. When riding them it doesn’t actually seem so fast. Going from Tokyo to Nagoya we had views of Mt Fuji from the train. There was snow on the ground in Nagoya which makes the scene more memorable. There was a huge shopping center in Nagoya. They happened to be celebrating a big chocolate giving day so it was very busy.
In Tokyo there were restaurants where you ordered your food by looking at pictures of food and pushing a button. Eating with chopsticks is a good way for me to lose weight. Japan definitely has a very orderly society and people follow the rules. Extremely safe. My home country would do well to adopt the bullet trains and safety. As I was with Emiratis most of the time I did not get to interact with that many Japanese. One thing I do recall is that many Japanese already wore facemasks and this was years before Covid.
One of the days we traveled a long ways to go to a mosque where most of the group prayed. I was able to read some books about Islam during this time. I recall that after that my supervisor and I had a nice talk about Islam. We are friends to this day. He gave me a beautiful Quran that I have with me now. I loved the trip to Japan and thoroughly enjoyed my students and colleagues. Would love to return one day.