Mehmed Can Özkan 2019/01/21 – Kyoto Study Program 2019

Back then, I do not know if I was perfectly aware, but this idea of similarity-of-all-humanity has since been a key factor into my outlook of the world. I am EXTREMELY lucky and grateful to have traveled to nearly 20 countries tagging along to parents' appointed trips and some with saved up money... so maybe I did already have this idea, but especially after Secondary School Program 2018 at Harvard, I realized how much, honestly, dispite the occasional dissapointment I may feel for some people, I love people in general.

I find that our differences are not to be filed down, but celebrated, while recognizing that we are all human, share dreams, fears, and a common ecosystem. It is so easy to fall victim to the political winds of the era, "trends" of thought, that we often forget our values, what we actually believe in and think that matters.

In addition to this, I get very emotional thinking about how this experience developed, as I took the initiative to research, apply, contact my Japanese teacher for recommendation etc. inspired by a great Japanese friend. I was lucky to be chosen to this program of 23 individuals, with mostly the sponsor of the City of Kyoto and The Consortium of Universities Kyoto, stay at a beautiful central hotel and experience things even the locals seldom get to do, like to perform a short dance on a 400 year old Noh stage...

This allowed me the confidence into going through with my passions, and that I could achieve something, and it would mean an amazing deal for me when I actually achieved it.

I realize that if I hopefully have the chance, or can make the chance, to do what I love in science, I will get the most satisfaction while having the greatest social and scientific impact.

Thank you mom and dad, all the friends, for believing in me,

From the bubble,

Mehmed Can

"Mehmed Can Özkan 2019/01/21 - Kyoto Study Program 2019

How to Time Travel

Well, this was actually a trick question as I believe in Kyoto, you do not need to. Kyoto, as I once again experienced today in the lecture and as we toured around the city, I believe, is a wonderful example to how the past can be incorporated into the present and how the daily lives of many can be integrated into the artifacts of the past. To not replace each other but be reshaped under professional care and national passion to complement one another.

Japan is a country which is known to come up with countless innovations in a decade, such as ones in the entertainment industry, with fun characters such as Hatsune Miku, legends such as Hayao Miyazaki, in technology with brands such as Nintendo, Honda, Sony, and the super fast Shinkansen (dating back to 1964, first Olympiad in Asia, Tokadio Line between Tokyo and Osaka) while managing to leave its mark on the world as being able to retain a huge amount of its traditional values despite the globalizing nature of the modern world. In the lecture in the afternoon, as a part of Kyoto Study Program organized by the City of Kyoto and Consortium of Universities Kyoto, Ms. Tamaki Katayama shared with us the wonders of Japan. We talked about the spectacular view of the surprisingly symmetrical natural wonder that is one of the many symbols of Japan, the highest mountain in Japan, Fuji-san (3776m “mi na na ro”), the meaning behind the imperial crest of Chrysanthemum (菊one of my favorite flowers), and Japan’s 4 distinct seasons 四季 (for which the way the Japanese value these seasons have encouraged me to be grateful about and appreciate the 4 distinct seasons of my home country Turkey).

It was also heartwarming to remember some similarities between my own culture and Japanese culture. The schools, traditionally, and the fiscal year in Japan, we were told, begins in April, marking the awakening of the nature and the beginning of life after the direness of the winter landscape. As the Turkish we have certain celebrations around the time of the astronomical vernal equinox (19-21st of March) for similar reasons, although much of the tradition has faded away as they were forgotten by many. Everyone, however, still appreciates the revival of nature as spring arrives.

One of my favorite things about today’s program was the part where we talked about the National Anthem of Japan adopted as the country was in the progress of westernization. The waka “Kimigayo” poem dating back to 10th Century, Heian Period, apparently is rumored to be a love letter. I really enjoyed this fact, how it is possible that the love of someone from the 10th Century survived all these years in its own peculiar way to become the National Anthem of a nation with a current population of more than 126 million, scaling 378,000 kilometers squared, and is composed of more than 7000 islands. Isn’t that romantic? It was also amusing to learn that how the meaning this love was supposed to be passed down to the newer generation was influenced by the politics of the country, first being named as love towards the Emperor and after the war and the peace treaty in mid-20th Century in morphed into the love of citizens and the nation.

It is clear that Kyoto also aims to continue such success of bridging the past and the future with its 50 universities, which have brought home 10 Nobel Prizes out of 26 Nobel prizes obtained by Japan, and preservation of more than 1600 temples. The city, which was not bombed just like Nara and Kamakura during the Second World War continues to hold relics from the past. These are not only in the form of buildings however and can also be seen in the festivals 祭り of Kyoto. Aoi, Gion and Jidai festivals continue to be the highlights of the lives of the locals as well as the tourist.

It is crucial that we as Turkey, a nation with roots in Anatolia going back to 1071 AD, see example in this. To not only preserve the culture and knowledge of our on but all the civilizations that resided in Anatolia, including the Hittites, Ionians, Byzantine, Persians, and many more, and all that was gathered over the 600+ year reign of the Ottoman Empire.

Thank you for your time and interest,

The words in Japanese I have learned today: 菊 (chrysanthemum)、おこしやす(a traditional way to say welcome) 、近江ビーフ (a local type of beef from near Kyoto) "

Simply Inspired: Looking Back/Forward to Kyoto, Japan

At the end of January 2019, I achieved the most beautiful birthday gift and was on the plane to Kansai Airport Osaka, from which I would begin my two week individual dive into the Japanese culture, and the unique bridge between tradition and modern: Kyoto. As look back on the experience, I now realize the emotional impact it had on me, and the surprising realizations it led to regarding me as an individual. I miss all my friends from there so much, and all the smiles we shared. I somehow know that our paths will cross with some of them. Thank you everyone 🙂

Now, I would like to dedicate this week to a flashback into all the things I experienced, and how this short period of inspiration is shaping my outlook into the world right now. To future me, please travel Kyoto, please go to Japan, get lost there, use the language, share your own…


From the bubble