Monday, June 21, 2010

A Long Time Coming and Going

So, the trip is nearing its end and I`ve had such difficulty posting this blog with full information, in part because my camera has no internet capability and in part because I have had little internet access. But I will do my best to fill you all in. I suppose I will start with Tokyo, the trip from last weekend.

We arrived on Friday, the 11th and boy was that a day. Our first task was to quickly acquire train passes, and then head to Odaiba, the city of couples. Understandably so, it had quite an amazing view both of the city and of the water, with many relaxing spots to view both. Odaiba, as I understand it, is actually a manmade island. After taking in the sights there, my companions and I, Laura, Fred, Sara and Myself, went to the nearby mall to do some shopping and some eating. Shortly after that we returned to our hotel in Tokyo proper. This was not the end of the night however, for we next went, as a group of 20, to Tokyo Tower, an amazing eiffel-like tower which offered a most beautiful view of Tokyo at night. I found myself wistful, looking at the beautiful city lights from 300+ ft up. After observing all that I could I visited the gift shop, roughly 10PM at this point, purchased a shirt, as I so love shirts, and then headed back to the hotel. Fred and I, room-mates, explored Tokyo at night for a little but headed back before 11:00 because.. well, let`s face it, the next day was far more interesting.

We began Saturday by taking a trip to Tsukiji fish market, a 400+ year old intricate system of fish shops, with an outer market for the common customer and an inner market for workers and priveleged shoppers, like stores and supermarkets. It was an amazing site to behold, in use since the Tokugawa era of the 1600`s. After going through a priveleged tour of the inner market by our guide Tom, we ate lunch just outside the market, a bountiful feast of tomatoes, tuna, clams, miso, and other such items. Tsukiji was a very interesting place and I wished we had more time to be there but the trip must move on, and so it did. Our next stop was Ginza, a shopping district. There is little to say about Ginza but I did visit an interesting paper shop where I retrieved some stationary. Next we went into the subway and from there we split into groups. Mine, consisting of Susan, Brian, James and myself, went to Akihabara. Despite what people think, it was a cool place. But before Akihabara we visitied Asakusa, a wonderful Meiji-era type street which had a full compliment of people and stalls to shop at where I picked up Jimbei and a Kimono. It also had a grand temple, which I was happy to visit and offer up prayer and thanks for this trip, as well as good wishes for the future.

Akihabara has great food, at really inexpensive prices. I had a full bowl of curry with Soba noodles for 300 yen. That is a full meal for roughly $3.15 US. But before we ate, we hired an adorable cosplaying tour-guide.. she was, in fact, a Rekishijou, History Girl, who was in Shinsengumi-wear. She was adorable and showed us this little known shrine to a fire god which she was embarrased to admit to worshipping but reluctantly did. Akihabara is also a great place for fandom and for affordable music and games and whatever an electronic person would want in Akihabara`s electronic town. After Akihabara, which was very lengthy, taking over four hours, we returned to the hotel and went to sleep. The next day was even better.

Shinjuku and Harajuku were the two places I visited Sunday, since we had to return to Mishima that day. Shinjuku was great. Fred and I split from the girls and found the way to Kabuki-cho, the red-light district of Tokyo. Aside from seeing some common people as you would see in NYC, I got the true feeling of the common Japanese day. Fred and I explored and we found a temple under construction, a shrine, and street vendor selling hand-drawn paintings which we HAD to purchase. If you don`t like to explore, don`t come to Japan but if you do.. you will find a whole new wonderful world. After Shinjuku Fred and I hit Harajuku, clothing central, and a great part of Tokyo.

I found wonderful shirts, of course I bought them, and a necklace accessory. But the most important and pertinent part of Harajuku was the discovery of the Meiji emperors shrine. That was a sight to behold and made the trip to Japan well worth it. After further eating, and meeting up with Laura and Sara, subsequently losing Laura, and more eating, we had to head back to the hotel in Tokyo proper. Sadly this was where the trip to Tokyo ended. The trip to Kyoto lay ahead on Wednesday, the 16th. We returned to Mishima on the 14th.

P.S. For anyone wondering on the food or what to bring along for such a trip, I will be making an addendum on returning to the states, so that you can grasp the full experience of what went on. For now, I will save describing Kyoto for the morning. As always, today was a full day of wonder and literal roller-coaster rides. Take care all!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Let`s play catch up!

Okay, so it is now Wednesday, June 9th and only now am I getting to add another entry into this blog. My time in Japan has kept me so busy, what with going to class in the morning and seeing the sights and meeting hundreds of new people, that I have had almost no time to do anything like this. Pictures will be posted soon enough but first I would like to explain my first week in Japan.

I am staying in Susono, a town outside of Mishima city where Japan University`s International Academics is located. It is a quaint little town with lots to explore. My host family, Nakayama, live in the midst of a rice paddy and so every morning I can see the rice growing before my eyes. On top of that, they are located very close to Mt. Fuji, which I get to see each morning on the walk to the train station. I have to take a train to get to the school, you see. But it is well worth the ten minutes it takes to roughly walk from home to the station. Also, Susono is located near Mt. Hakone and the famous Ashinoko lake. Each day I value the time I get to spend just appreciating the quaint town of Susono.

It hasn`t been all that, though. Schoolwork takes a little time and we are often going on trips, so there is little time on some days. Looking back on the first week in Japan I can say already that my life is quite full. So far in the first week I have gone to Mount Fuji with Frederick, a group-mate, which was quite the wonderous sight to see. If you ever do anything in life, climb mount Fuji. The mist alone is enough to warrant the trip. Since Nakayama family and Frederick`s family, the Nagatomo family, are close friends, we also went to Mount Hakone and Ashinoko lake together. Seeing all the sights I have seen in these three trips is enough to fill three pages, but there`s plenty more.

Japanese people are nice, very caring. They often go out of there way to help people, including those who cannot correctly read train schedules. So much that they accompanied my friend and I to our respective stations before turning around and going home. It is an interesting culture, to say the least. On top of that, I was invited to the Firefly Festival by one of the TAs and met probably 30 more people at that time. So to say the least it was hectic and I find myself now very tired but very aware of the enjoyment to be had. One of the most interesting aspects of Japan, however, is something called an Izakaya. It is basically a Japanese bar but it functions in a different way. Of course there is drinking and such but the table setups are phenomonal and one can get drunk off of just being in such a room of your friends. I have only gone twice but I find myself moving around a lot because we all talk together in different intervals.

There is plenty more to cover.. such as the Atami museam of art and the Police Station visit we took today but, that will be a conversation for my next post. As per responsibility I must return home to my host family who will provide me with dinner. They are great people and I am grateful to them for taking me in as they have. Until later, all of you take care out there. I will post pictures of this week as soon as I can.