18 September 2009

Tokyo o kudasai.

A bit of Tokyo love (because I loved Tokyo) for you:

Countryside on my bullet train ride. Most of Japan that you're actually in is nothing like this. It's jam packed as far as the eye can see with buildings.

The Imperial Palace Gardens. Seriously beautiful.

I could not find a picture that encapsulates Japan more. Everything about this country is a hybrid, and this picture showcases that. Taken from the the Imperial Palace walls, smack dab in the middle of Tokyo, and surrounded by high rises, it is old meets new.

There, this is more like what I saw, most of the time. Akihabara, the technology district of Tokyo.

Akihabara at night. More specifically, Yodabashi Camera, a ridiculous store with everything you could ever want. Including... the next picture.

That's right capsule toys. Those little vending machines at grocery stores filled with bouncy balls and crap, well they ain't got nothing on this place.

These are arcades. 8 story arcades, overflowing with adults. These aren't really kid places. There's smoking, drinking, and naturally some hard core video game playing. Oh Japan.

From the elevator at the hotel I stayed at. The Engrish begins.

This is a Japanese phenomenon. People obey the rules in Japan. Even if nobody is watching. Look at these escalators. You line up, single file, on the left side so people running up them can pass you. This happened everywhere. Its a small thing but it gives you an idea of the mentality in this country. Compare that with Americans ascending levels...

Naturally I had to go here. I wouldn't be a Japanophile if I didn't. And it was awesome.

And yes, that's Sephy. In the floor.

More to come. Like Harajuku. Huzzah!

06 September 2009

Nihon, Nihongo, and Oh-So-Much-More

Japan was incredible.

I start by saying this to anyone who asks how my trip was. That's because the moment I attempt to encapsulate the experience of living there for five weeks, words fail. I can't accurately summarize all that I felt and what the experience meant to me, and I suppose people don't really want me to either. They want to hear it was "good," and move on with their lives.

That doesn't keep me from wanting to express it. The beauty, the history, the spiritual aspects and the people... How do you explain that to someone who hasn't been there, in the moment? It's an undertaking that seems fairly impossible. I will elaborate as I see fit, but this will be closer to a collage of fragmented thoughts, moments and pictures in Japan.

Maybe that's best anyway. Maybe that's the way it really happened.

Landing. We came into the Kansai Intl Airport, a manmade island they built in the ocean, slowly sinking as the years go by.

View from the balcony of our dorms.

Breakfast of champions. Didn't think seaweed wrapped rice balls filled with fish sound delicious first thing in the morning? Well, you'd be wrong.

A fantastic photo of me. I must be overcome by all the excitement of Namba, a neon-lit shopping area where the trendy hang out. Trendy like me. And this look.

Ramen isn't just ramen. Although it is made in Osaka. Ramen shops specialize in incredible from-scratch varieties that chefs spend years in school learning to create. This remains one of the best meals I had. Maybe if you lick your computer screen you'll taste a bit of the incredible garlic flavor in this dish.

On the other hand, nothing quite grosses me out like Jello. Particularly coffee flavored jello. Utah would've stumbled on this first if they'd been into caffeinated beverages. Luckily Japan worked it out, so the world won't miss out on this delight.

And then there's Mos Burger. Think hamburger, with teriyaki sauce, lots of mayo, add curry and some onions on a delightful bun and you have Mos Burger. Better than it sounds. I promise.

Mass transit is all the rage in Japan. Occasionally very crowded, rather expensive on the whole, and totally convenient and clean. It puts ours to shame. Oh and that's Laurel in the background, another program member, dutifully doing as asked by the University, to wear masks around for the first week we're there, lest we kill everyone in Japan with swine flu. It didn't last quite so long with the rest of us...

I guess it would be appropriate to say this is a blog on my first impressions of Japan: food, surrounding areas and mass transit. So it seems like as good a bridge as any to end this post with my Shinkansen ride to Tokyo. We'll save Tokyo for next time, but these bullet trains are incredible. They literally leave and arrive the minute they say they will. The stewardess' are helpful and friendly, and the entire experience is just good.

More to come ...

02 September 2009

Alright, alright already...

To be updated soon: a brief blog on the wonders of Japan. Hopefully
you don't care if it's a lot of pictures. Cuz those are worth
thousands of words. Words I don't have to write.