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Living in a small neighborhood in the outskirts of Yokohama, called Tsurumi, was a surreal experience. Tsurumi was simultaneously more urban than Boston—what with its incredible public transportation and myriads of stores, local bars, and ramen stands—and yet peaceful enough to be unnervingly quiet at times.
What I loved most about Tsurumi, though, were the cats that often roamed the streets. Many an evening, I would find myself wandering back to my apartment from the laboratory through a lovely forested path only to encounter strays—cared for by many residents of Tsurumi’s homes. A typical Tsurumi cat sports a shiny coat and well-fed demeanor.
Elsewhere in Japan, I met countless deer. Nara, one of the most important cities in the history of Japanese Buddhism, sparkles with its dazzling bronze Daibutsu statue, towering Todai-ji temple, and hills of endless shrines. In every corner of these sacred sites, large-eyed does with their small fawns and bucks with impressive antlers roam looking for the best bushes to eat and the odd snack from a tourist. (Beware, though, the aggressive adolescent deer who will eat cookies right out of your hand and then express its displeasure when the cookies run out by eating your clothes!)
In the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, monkeys run free on a mountain slope, within the Iwatayama Park. Here, baby monkeys learn to be comfortable with humans, and monkey youth snarl at koi in a pond. With their rippling gray hairs and vividly pink faces, they make for spectacular inhabitants in this park overlooking such a breathtaking view of the city of Kyoto.
Japan is a country lauded internationally for its urban good-looks, striking cultural trends, and millennium of history. Seeing the beauty of the country dotted with the curious sight of these animals was an unexpected surprise which enriched my summer stay in Japan.
Krystal K. Phu ’19, a Crimson multimedia editor, is a Human Developmental & Regenerative Biology concentrator in Pforzheimer House.
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