Into Old Americana

Cruise down long stretches of US Route 301 through Maryland and Virginia, interrupted by the periodic lurch of stop-light riddled commercial plazas and the crumbling, somewhat terrifying span over the Potomac known as the Governor Nice Bridge, and you’ll gain an appreciation for the rural decay that has hollowed out so much of America in the past several decades.  You can take the same amount of time driving both interstate and old US highway routes through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Carolinas, and especially throughout the backwoods of Florida and see all of the same things: vine-snaked windows on crumbling houses, shops long-since boarded up with nothing having taken their places, and whole towns emptied of business, people, and any semblance of community save for a handful of old retirees too old to pack up and move on. Continue reading “Into Old Americana”

Japan is Over (for me)

Like dozens of others living on the correct side of the Atlantic Ocean, I am once again an occupant of Eastern Standard Time.  My body is back and subordinate to the same time as the sewage labyrinth of New York City, the putrid swamp of Washington D.C., and the musky Cuban paradise of Miami.  Perhaps as it should be.  It is not my intention to wax philosophical on where I do or do not belong, but as qnuw’s former Guy(?) In Japan and current Guy(?) No Longer In Japan I feel that some degree of closure is in order for the fragmented narrative any of you may have had the misfortune to read. Continue reading “Japan is Over (for me)”

Should you go to major city centers in Tokyo?

I have explored, relatively speaking, very little of the great metropolitan sewer of Tokyo.  An oval-shaped train line called the Yamanote runs through every major city center, and despite my making the full round of it many times, I doubt I have dismounted at half of the stops, and still fewer have I explored appreciably.  That being said, this is less of a guide and more of a short summation of my experiences at the three I spend time at the most: Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ikebukuro.  One can get their fill of impersonal big city ass-grabbing and shoving at any of these three, but like anything else groping is multifarious.  Your sphincter deserves to know the big differences and gritty details. Continue reading “Should you go to major city centers in Tokyo?”

On Americans and Japanese Dogs

During the month of February I volunteered at an animal rescue in the mountains of the Kansai area of Japan as one part of my study abroad program’s curriculum. Living in Tokyo causes one, no matter how inborn an amicable country bumpkin, to come to view others as bags of meat whose lone reason for existence is as an impediment to you, whether you are on your way to class, to go out drinking, or to the bathroom. Indeed, my bowels discriminate against those I consider less than human. Continue reading “On Americans and Japanese Dogs”

Log of Japan, Day 6

Thursday April 16, 9:55 PM. Clear Skies.

(This is the last log entry)

When I woke up yesterday, I assumed it was around 4:00 or 5:00. I didn’t sleep very well; I am not used to sleeping on a tatami mat. I was probably too heavy for the cushioning, because it was not supportive of my back at all. I don’t know if I would sleep that way again. I laid in my bed up to 6:30, and then went downstairs and sit down in one of the tall chairs until 7:00 (tall chairs meaning chairs we would normally use). I then took a shower and bath, which was pleasant. I liked the bathrobes; they were a simple unisex kimono that made me feel like a jedi (as opposed to some out-of-place foreigner wearing traditional clothing). I then had breakfast. It was consistent of what was likely broiled fish (I don’t know how they cooked it), omelette, salad, miso soup, mushrooms, seaweed and rice, some pickled stuff, and some sweet green stuff (both of the latter elements being vegetables). It was wonderful. Continue reading “Log of Japan, Day 6”

Log of Japan, Day 4

Tuesday April 14, 7:25AM. Overcast.

Today, I went to Kyoto. The commute to Shinagawa Station, the station that would allow me to board the Shinkansen to Kyoto, was without a hitch; I arrived fifteen minutes early. I reserved a window seat, which was nice. I saw some interesting things on the way there. While everyone is aware of the fact that the Shinkansen is very fast, it is something else to experience it. While you do go faster on an airplane, you never really experience it, because you do not have any reference points to see how fast you go. The Shinkansen has landmarks, so you see how fast you go. It is somewhat surreal. The Shinkansen went through various towns and villages; it reminded me of how, despite it being a technological powerhouse, Japan still had a considerable agricultural presence, at least within it’s own boundaries. Something that I thought was interesting was how there were paddies or farm-grounds embedded within residential areas, meaning that some houses would have farmland right in between each other. I don’t know if they are residentially owned or not (like a vegetable garden), but considering their size, I would doubt it (in New York, some buildings have community owned vegetable gardens on top of the apartments, that everyone can pick from; this is what I was thinking of when I said “residentially owned”). Continue reading “Log of Japan, Day 4”

Log of Japan, Day 3

Monday April 13, 9:00 p.m. Rain.

I missed a log yesterday, so I will write about yesterday today. I went to Akihabara and Asakusa yesterday. I didn’t do very much in Akihabara; I went to some anime centre where they had some sketchups of anime characters. I saw a girl with a funny shirt that had some engrish on it; I asked if I could take her picture, but she said no. I forgot what the shirt said, so it couldn’t have been that funny. Or maybe I was tired. After we went to the anime centre, we walked around and found a street market with anime figurines, some shirts, and some pillow cases with girls in suggestive positions. I saw a man in a suit, amongst other people, browsing their wares. I can’t tell if society really frowns upon this behavior or not; I hear that people really don’t like how people participate in this “otaku” culture, but then people participate so openly, as if nobody cared. It is strange. A normal sight in Akihabara are those girls who talk in cute voices who are dressed up like dolls, anime characters or maids trying to get you to look at their stuff. They concern me. I didn’t buy anything Akihabara, but in hindsight, I should’ve looked harder for the shirt that I was looking for (I was looking for a keyhole sweater; I bought it online after the trip). Continue reading “Log of Japan, Day 3”

Log of Japan, Day 2

9:15 PM Saturday April 10. Overcast.

I made French toast for them today. They really liked it, from what I could tell. After that, we left for the subway to get to a temple in some forest (Note: Later identified as the imperial garden; later additions to the logs will be in parentheticals and italicized). Its name is lost on me. It was quite sentimental. I took some good pictures of the place. There was apparently a marriage, as well as some monks walking about in formation. I took pictures of the monks, but not the marriage. I didn’t like how many people there were at the temple, but it was still nice to go. We then went into the city streets next to it. Alex told me how she didn’t like the smell of Japan: “cigarettes and farted cabbage.” I told her how I found that it smells like New York, but she feels that New York smells better. She never told me the last time she went to New York. Continue reading “Log of Japan, Day 2”

Log of Japan, Day 1

(This is a log of about the first half of my travels in Japan. I only did the first half because I usually wrote at the end of the day, and I was getting increasingly tired throughout the trip. I would fall asleep before I could write anything. To quickly summarize the half: I returned from Kyoto, went to Tsukiji Market, went to Hakone (where I ran into an Evangelion Store, a nude spa, and an outdoor art museum), then returned to America, all within the span of three days.)

Log of Japan

It is 7:00 PM Saturday April 9th. Overcast.

Flight was 13 hours long. It was rough, but I managed. They had good films and good food (to my surprise). I watched Good Will Hunting and The Imitation Game. Would recommend both. Turbulence was minimal. Continue reading “Log of Japan, Day 1”

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