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Journal Entry 2 or; Why Dorian is Freaking Out
5/12/11, 21:31 Tokyo Time, at the hotel

Listening to: Kill Hannah “Why I Have My Grandma’s Sad Eyes”
Okay, things aren’t going quite as smoothly as planned. Well, the plane landed just fine and we all found our way through the airport, train station, and taxi to the hotel (a couple of people almost got abandoned, but they figured it out) and now I’m sitting alone in my room, quietly freaking out. See, I have what some might call a pretty serious Internet addiction. Maybe it’s more of a connectivity addiction, because the fact that my phone’s not working is also contributing to the freak-out. My mother even got me an international plan, for emergencies, and I’d like to let her know I’m alive. I can’t text my mother or my boyfriend, can’t update my facebook status, can’t get reassuring, “oh, I feel like that when I’ve gone 30 hours without sleep too!” comments or messages. Nothing. I’m completely isolated in this little 8’X10′ box. Freakout.
Right, I forgot for a minute that this is a class journal and not a livejournal for emo kids. Well, on the plane (the view from which looked like this, by the way: #1) I read the first two chapters of Kyoto, A Cultural History. At first I found it rather dry but once I realized that it was discussing really cool things, I got more interested. I think the courtship/ affair rituals are fascinating and the fact that this formal approach to hooking up produced so much great literature is really cool. I also loved the author’s mention of Chaucer at the end of the second chapter- I tend to think of Chaucer as the oldest poet ever (in high school we were forced to memorize the first 16 lines of the Canterbury Tales, and to this day… Whan that aprill with his shoures saute the draute of march hath perced to the rote….) so setting the Heinan period even further back in history is cool. It’s been a while since I’ve had to think about things that happened before 1977.
As far as culture shock goes, we haven’t really experienced Tokyo yet. It was raining and gross when we took our taxi from the train station, and I don’t feel up to adventuring right now. Hopefully tomorrow. The language barrier hasn’t been much of a problem yet… a lot of ‘sumimasen’s on my part and the occasional gesture. We gave the taxi driver our hotel’s address and he took us there very politely. I’m not freaking out because of the culture shock, I think if I was in my right mind I’d be very comfortable here. It must be the sleep deprivation and lack of Internet.
Call me strange but my favorite part of my tiny hotel room is the bathroom. The tub is much deeper than American tubs, but is also shorter. This means that you bathe in a sitting position, but the water goes up to your shoulders. I enjoyed it. There’s also this (#2) cool sticker which I think must be about conserving water, and this (#3). Yes, that’s the instructions for the toilet. The toilets here require instructions, kids.

Journal Entry 3 or, My Only Full Day in Tokyo.
5/13/11, 19:38 Tokyo time, at hotel.
Listening to: Alkaline Trio “The Poison”
Tokyo is the first city that people tend to think of when they think of Japan, and for me the first image that comes to mind is a neon-lit five-way intersection. We didn’t see that today, but I think it’s pretty much the only thing we didn’t see. We saw several temples (and I mean SEVERAL, we tried using one as a landmark to navigate at one point, but then we passed three more, literally one on each block) as well as an astonishing multi-level game arcade, stores that sold only walkie-talkies or cables, and more than a few women in french maid costumes handing out fliers.
The first place we went was Senso-ji shrine, within walking distance of our hotel in the morning. I stopped on the way to buy green tea from a vending machine- I have already gotten used to and appreciative of the vending machines every 50 feet or so. The shrine was beautiful, with a touristy shopping area and a large temple/shrine (#4, I’m still not sure what the difference between a temple and a shrine is) where a huge cauldron of burning incense creates plumes of smoke. The tradition/belief is that if you wave the smoke onto yourself, your illnesses will be cured. (#5) After some shopping and wandering around the shrine’s neighborhood, we took a train over to Ueno, a park that had a memorial for the last Samurai (#6). While this park was interesting and had some lovely scenery, I was all too aware of the fact that I am leaving Tokyo tomorrow, so I was determined to see as many neighborhoods as possible.
The next stop was Akihabara, which is either translated as or nicknamed “electric town” which is the perfect name for it. The very first thing we saw after getting out of the train station was this (#7,) a multi-level video game arcade. Yes, the sign on the five-level SEGA building has a map that helps you locate the three other five-level SEGA buildings within easy walking distance. Insane. A few of our group were instantly drawn to the arcade, and the rest of us wandered around looking to fulfill our personal agendas. One was looking for vintage video games, one for rare trading cards, one for manga. As for myself, I was just along for the ride! I enjoyed all the sights, particularly a row of stores that only sold lightbulbs. I’m not kidding! (#8)
As far as the language barrier goes, I now have this theory: you only really need to know how to say “hello,” “excuse me,” “do you speak English,” “I’m sorry,” “I don’t understand,” and “thank you very, very much.” I think I’ve mastered these phrases. And I think it’s interesting that 90% of my interactions with strangers has been in the “hello,” “excuse me,” and “thank you very, very much” areas. I guess I don’t think about the words that I use with strangers at home, but it’s probably along the same line.
Somebody said earlier today, “It’s going to suck when we get back to America, and there’s litter everywhere and people are always in your way. Things are more efficient here.” I couldn’t sum it up more perfectly. Japan is extremely clean and organized. The sidewalks (which are very wide) are marked with one part for pedestrians and one part for bikes. The stairs in the subway are marked which side is up and which side is for walking down. I love it. It’s a little OCD but it makes things so much easier. If we acknowledge this after just a day in Japan, re-entry is going to be SERIOUSLY disturbing after three weeks here.
Today I bought this: (#9) it’s a scarf. No, it’s a Hello Kitty scarf. No, it’s a Hard Rock Cafe scarf. No, it’s a HELLO KITTY HARD ROCK CAFE SCARF. Love it. ❤

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One thought on “Entries 2 and 3, plus pictures!

  1. I love reading about this!! Do you think you could come up with some sort of plan to implement here in the States based on Japan's methods of keeping things clean and organized? You're the kind of person who could bring it up to someone "In Charge" and make it happen. I can't wait to hear more!

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