Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nippon Ichi v1.2

perhaps I should just break it down by day?

Day 1:
I awoke at the abysmal stroke of 4:30am. I had to get on the train at 6:20 in the morning. On the train, I met a woman who works in the school office at another high school in Gimcheon. Her name was ... 이지용... I think. It was nice because we have a common friend and some common acquaintances, as we would come to realize. I think when you meet someone in that kind of situation its like a gift that keeps on giving.

I took a shuttle bus to the airport and was able to check-in and go through security in a combined time of about 6 minutes. So I just was sending text messages to all of my friends that I would miss while I was in Japan. And all too soon, I was on the plane going to Japan!

On the plane I met a woman from Peru who is a student at KEIST university in Korea. It was interesting to hear the viewpoint of someone who is a student in Korea, rather than another teaching going through the same program as me.

After landing in Tokyo, I was able to call Yuriko and say hi, and she welcomed me to Japan. Since I wouldn't be meeting her until tomorrow, I decided I'd take the hour-long train towards downtown Tokyo so that I could find my hotel and get acquinted with the surroundings. On the train I was fortunate to meet a Japanese woman who quite helpful. She showed me all of the key places on the subway map and I was surprised to learn that she can speak some Korean. Actually, she is fluent in Chinese, English, and Japanese, and she can speak decent Korean also. When I meet people like that, I always admire them so much. Especially someone who worked so hard to learn the languages. Sometimes people grow up in a country or household that speaks 2 or more languages. But growing up in the United States and Japan, you really have to work hard to put yourself into situations to learn about other languages and cultures.

I explored the area for a couple hours before checking into my capsule hotel. The area is famous for the traditional sights and souvenirs, so it was a good place to see. I found a small shrine to Inari that was really peaceful and surprisingly well-taken care of. Considering how small and hard to find it was, I expected it to be somewhat neglected. I still dont understand why the fox statues were always wearing red bibs though. Maybe because people always make offerings of food to Inari when they pray for a good harvest or business success? Not that the stone statues can eat the food, though. Ironically, there were a number of cats that lived at the shrine. I think Inari (being a fox, and a member of the dog family) would be upset to know that cats were inhabiting his shrine.

My hotel was quite nice... but the staff spoke very bad English (which was surprising, as half or more of the guests were foreigners). Every room (I use the term "room" in the loosest sense of the word) had a TV and alarm clock! But I only got 1 channel on the TV. It was just there in case I wanted to rent adult videos (at an extra charge). But there was a community bathing room that was good. It had shampoo, conditioner, and body wash. Also, there was a hot tub (too hot for me), a sauna (too hot for me) and a balcony that you could go on to air dry or enjoy the scenery of Tokyo (its more beautiful if you're naked?).

At the hotel, I met a guy named Alfredo from Chile. As we were both flying solo that night, we decided to team up and explore Tokyo together. All of the best downtown areas were quite far from our hotel, though. First we went to Ueno. We ate some dinner there and saw lots of Pachinko parlors. We tried to go into a bar but they kicked us out because they don't serve foreigners. So, we headed to Ginza and got a couple drinks at a Spanish bar that we found. We saw a movie being filmed in one of the alleys outside of a restaurant/bar. But most things were already closing down, so we headed to Roppongi. It is known as the best place for foreigners. Actually, there were lots of black guys out on the street trying to lure customers into their establishments. These establishments were all quite questionable, however (or sometimes, there was no question about the type of establishment it was... but it certainly wasn't anything we were interested in.) Finally we found a nice place though. It had a unique mix of different foreign ethnicities as well as a number of Japanese people. I met some guys from Mexico and talked to some Japanese people. There were so many Japanese women in kimonos on this day because of the fireworks festival in Tokyo. And the kimono are so beautiful that sometimes I'd just see the dress and think that the woman is gorgeous, but after seeing her face I'd realize it was quite a different story altogether!

There were some crazy signs in the subways sometimes. I mean, this is common sense! DO IT AT THE BEACH!

Sadly, we could only stay for an hour because we wanted to catch the subway back to our hotel before the subway lines stopped at night. We made the mistake of taking a bathroom break before we went on the subway though! We just missed one train and ended up getting on the last train bound for Asakusa. The train didn't finish it's route, though >_< we got kicked off near Ginza as they made everyone leave the subway line. We tried to walk towards Asakusa.... but it was so far. We met four Japanese people who were standing on a bridge. They laughed at us when we told them we would walk to Asakusa. They said it will take us 3 hours or more. After chatting with them for a bit, we walked a little more and then just decided to get a taxi, which is quite expensive in Tokyo. I went to sleep so I could wake up relatively early the next day.

Of course, I had to check out the night view of Tokyo from the rooftop terrace before I went to sleep.

END of day 1.

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