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  • Posted 7 years ago


Kakera (Fragments)

Painting a picture of study abroad in Japan.

By Hansohl Kim


The view from the top is incredible. I look over the railing at the sea of trees below - some of the cherry trees are beginning to bloom. As I brush my hand against the enormous wooden pillars, a thought crosses my mind: This gate’s been here for centuries. How long is that? How many lifetimes — how many generations stood here?


Frozen. All around me people go on with their daily lives. They’re used to it. But I’m frozen. The cherry blossoms have come full force and they’re breathtaking. The most mundane corners of the city become galleries for the drifting petals.


I’m glad I came. Our friend’s host mother invited us to meet her Taiko drumming group. I wasn’t expecting such an energetic and enthusiastic welcome. They prod us into dancing with them and invite us to try out the drums. As the stick meets the drum I feel the reverberations echo across my mind. The Taiko is satisfying in a mysterious way, as if each beat is a word from the soul.


The hike was worth it. A muddy mountain path with almost no illumination along the way – it made for a much more interesting trip. But the true prize was waiting for us at the top. Stars twinkle above and below us as we sit back, relax, and enjoy the night breeze.


Not quite what you’d expect to find in downtown Sapporo. Or anywhere, really. But the Stormtrooper was there, and it was a quiet reminder that there’s always some wonder and wackiness to be found where you least expect it.

Tainai Meguri

In summary: Tainai Meguri involves walking into the pitch-black basement of an old temple and wandering around with only a railing to guide you. Apparently the walls can be lined with terrifying images but you can’t see them anyways. This was my first time experiencing a complete lack of vision. I kept thinking about it long time after I left.


Admit it – playgrounds can still be fun for college students. We were walking home after a day spent exploring when we passed a small playground. It was well into the night and the streets were empty. It was time to draw out the inner child and have fun.

Spirited Away

The soft click of wooden sandals against the road echoes through the empty street. The warm glow of lanterns lights the way. As we reach the shore, the gate of Itsukushima Shrine looms over us like a ghostly apparition. We walk along the curving shore. Stone lanterns line the edge, flickering with life inside. In the distance, the bright lights of the city reflect and dance across the sea. A ferry glides silently over the water. We are alone on this island, removed from reality.


The assistant doesn’t know what language to use. I start a conversation in English and introduce myself as an intern working with one of the sponsors for this indie game festival. Manning my company’s booth at BitSummit is fun but stressful, especially when I need to explain our game in Japanese. I’m thankful my shift is over. Now I can finally try out the virtual reality gear at the Oculus booth. As the VR headgear slides over my face, I sit back in the chair and take a deep breath.

Festival Nights

Summer in Kyoto means festivals. More than I can remember. Paper lanterns and traditional music were omnipresent. Food, games, and yukata made summer nights unforgettable memories. As I wandered through the streets I felt myself relax as I was absorbed by the unique atmosphere of this ancient city.

Fragments (Kakera)

In spring quarter of 2015, I studied abroad in Kyoto, Japan. I remained in Kyoto for the summer to intern at a small game company. Altogether, I spent almost 5 months in Japan, with a brief, week-long intermission in Taiwan.

These disjointed fragments paint a small picture of those 5 months. As a Stanford student, it’s sometimes easy to forget how incredibly rich and vast the world is. The worldview narrows as classes become stressful and homework assignments start to pile up. We spend a lot of time and effort focusing on very specific topics, sometimes to the exclusion of everything else. My time in Japan reminded me that the relative merits of computer vision algorithms are not the be-all and end-all of my existence.

I study computer science for many reasons, not the least of which is true interest in the subject. But I also value the wide variety of these small memories. And because I have these fragments, my days are much richer indeed.

In collaboration with Tau Beta Pi

Tau Beta Pi is the only honor society representing the entire engineering profession across the nation. Their chapter at Stanford strives to promote academic excellence, leadership, and continued service to the larger engineering community. They host events and organize initiatives including peer mentoring, K-12 outreach, alumni panels, CEO dinners, project fairs and more. For more info, check out

Hansohl Kim

Hansohl ('16) enjoys travelling and has studied abroad in Japan, China, and Korea. He majored in CS (theory and AI) but used to be ChemE, and likes physics, drawing, rockets, coffee, tea, and piano.

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