Monday, August 16, 2010

A Nice Break

**By the way, this is my 101st post! Wow!**

It's Obon season in Japan right now, which is basically a holiday to honor your ancestors who have passed away. Many people go to their home towns to spend time with family, but... well I don't really have a 'back home' in Japan, so I thoroughly enjoyed my 'summer vacation' by spending a bunch of time in Tokyo. Which by the way, Tokyo was unusually quiet probably because most people were away in their home towns. And by 'quiet' I mean Tokyo was busy, and not a mass of people insanity like it usually is.

On Wednesday I went to see Kana off as she went back to her home town in Kyushuu (the southern most island of Japan, same island Nagasaki is on). So since I came into Tokyo (specifically Hamamatsucho) I decided to do some sightseeing as I've been slacking a bit these past few months.

Not too far to Hamamatsucho is Zojoji temple, from which there's a very nice view of Tokyo Tower right behind it (as if you couldn't see Tokyo Tower from anywhere else though. Its kinda big. Can't miss it.) The temple itself was one of the larger ones I've seen in the Tokyo area, so it was rather impressive. There was also a tree planted by President Grant back in 1879, which was kind of interesting to see some 'American' history in a heavy Japanese cultured place. One thing I really fond interesting about this temple was the contrast between the old cultural temple and the new modern Tokyo Tower just behind it. Both are very Japan in their own respects, just from different time periods. More pictures here.

While on the temple grounds I heard some chanting coming from inside the temple itself. I went to take a look, and sure enough some monks were doing a ceremony of some kind, and there were seats set up to watch/listen. There were a number of people there, foreigners and Japanese. Specifically I noticed one group of 4 foreigners sitting not too far from where I was standing. As I got a bit closer I seemed to recognize one of them. To my utter disbelief and amazement, turns out it was Bill (my boss) with his family that had come to visit. Of all places in the massive megalopolis that is Tokyo, what were the chances that I would run into them inside Zozoji temple in Hamamatsucho. I had just run into a friend of mine in Tokyo station from when I studied abroad 3 years ago too. Crazy.

After that I decided to hike over to Odaiba, the artificial island in Tokyo Bay, where Fuji TV is running a theme park in June and July. And as this is a Fuji TV event, of course all the exhibits and games and everything were themed around the different shows that they have, and quite frankly I think Fuji TV has the best shows on TV over here, so I quite enjoyed myself. The interesting thing about it though, was because this is a limited time event, and as its related to Japanese TV, there was no English at all, anywhere. Even if they made English pamphlets and signs, everything is related to a TV show somehow or another, and they don't exactly have running subtitles for them. Which means, no English, no foreigners (except for me). Meh, I'm used to it I guess. It's so weird to catch a look in a mirror cause my gut reaction is 'WOAH! Who is that forei-oh... right... me."

On Thursday I spent some time in walking around Roppongi Hills, which is a large high-class mall not too far from Tokyo Tower. Basically I found chopsticks that were selling for $80 a pair in this place. Good ol' Roppongi Hills (of course I didn't buy them though!). Here's a few pictures I snapped there.

Finally I spent Saturday and Sunday in Harajuku, Hamamatsucho, and Shinjuku. I met Bill and his family for dinner in Harajuku, at an Izakaya called Samukawa, where we'd gone to before when someone from the US came to visit. This place has a little wall in front of its very subtle front door, and inside it has half Japanese decor, but also these large wooden beams on the other half which felt "American" for some reason. They were playing Star Wars on a big projector screen the first time we went, and this time Kiki's Delivery Service (a famous anime by Hayao Miyazaki). And to top it off they had 40's jazz music playing in the background. What a place.

After dinner I met my friend at "one of his many homes" out in Hamamatsucho where he and some friends were hanging out after fireworks they went to earlier. I had a lot of fun as usual blowing the other Japanese friends there away with my Japanese. That never gets old. It works really well too when you introduce yourself in English or in Japanese with terrible pronunciation, and then start talking normally. Man that never gets old.

Anyways, it turned out to be a rather busy but very fun vacation. Spending time in Tokyo made me miss the place though. I really enjoy where I'm living now (especially the price out here), but there's definitely something special about the atmosphere in the city. The skyscrapers encompass you completely, folding you into the city where you can't really see the horizon. The trains and subway are so convenient, you can hop back and forth anywhere across the city itself in 30 min to an hour as well. Just being there, being a part of the city is something special. Hopefully sometime in the future I'll have the chance to live in Tokyo again. That or I'll also have to make many friends in Tokyo so I can have "many homes" of my own. :)


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