Tuesday, January 30, 2007

jaunt through Shibuya

Final update for at least a few days (I think this is four). So I walked around Shibuya after class today, and witnessed, what is possibly the busiest intersection in Tokyo. I also saw a restaurant with an interesting name and a crazy menu description (small words, might have to view full pic). Finally, I saw a HUGE countdown sign for the Windows Vista release -- apparently the Japanese are really excited.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Temples at Ueno

some pics of the temples... which one of these temples is not like the others??? :)

Also, check out a new video file I uploaded, I heard the music from afar and couldn't believe what it was. It's a big file, so download when you have some time. -- TO WATCH, you must RIGHT-click and choose save target as... then save it somewhere you can find it.

A day in Ueno

Today I went to Ueno Ueno is known by locals as the place where the Shogun tried to resist the new (at the time) Meiji government. Today, it's a great park lined by museums, statues and lakes. When you get off the train you immediately find yourself at the base of a huge statue of a dude with a dog on a leash. The guy's name was Saigo Takamori, he was probably the character that the main Japanese character played in the Last Samurai. In front of the statue, it turned out, was a nationalist spewing nationalist propaganda... which apparently will become more common as the election nears. Luckily, I was able to take pictures around him. After a walk through the park I eventually arrived at the Japanese National Museum. During my stroll I saw a number of temples. Interestingly some were Shinto and others were Buddhist. The Buddhist temple's architecture was very interesting.

The Museum was interesting and inexpensive (about 4 dollars). The museum includes a number of buildings, built at different times and with different architecture. Each building houses a different genre. I only looked through the main building. A travel book described this main building as a good introduction to Japanese art and History (including a scultpture by Rodin caled 'Eva')... so i figured it was a good place to start. The museum was great and was indeed a nice introduction. Also appealing was the fact that many of the signs were in English. What struck me as I perused the halls was the different mediums on which the Japanese painted and drew. Paper and cloth seemed much more prevalent than in the US and Europe. By far, the coolest part of the Museum was the swords. After a full day of Japanese history and art and culture, I figured nice Italian meal was in order. So for dinner I came back to my home in Gotanda and has some gnocchi with cream sauce and some white wine.

Gala pics

The name of the gentleman who is standing next to me is Henning. While, I am certainly short, he is 6'8" and drawfs even average size folk.

This is June Kitagawa, she is a professor at Temple and is the director of the Tokyo campus.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tokyo Tower and Law gala

Last night (Friday night) I attended a gala put on by Temple Law School. I'll post pictures when they're available. The gala was in the Tokyo area of Tokyo -- sort of like being in the Miami area of Miami (Dade) county. It was in a restaurant and was lots of fun. There were about 250 people who attended. About 50 were Temple law students. Most of the others were foreign lawyers (like German, American, Australian, etc.) with some business folk scattered about. I used the function as an opportunity to learn what Japan is like to a foreign professional. However, if I were looking for a job in Tokyo, last night would have been the place to find one. Mega international law firms and financial firms had partners who attended and were mingling - at least a few students got jobs last night.

After the gala we went city hopping until we ended up at Roppongi (a city you may know from reading the blogs, I am not such a big fan of). I enjoyed the watering holes we stumbled into, but when the clubs came, I left.

Today (Saturday) I went back to Tokyo Tower. I figured it were only a few clouds in the sky so the view would be good. The view was average. Apparently there were more clouds than I thought. Still, it was a lot of fun. The only downside to the tower is that there are lines at every turn. The tower is modeled after the Eiffel Tower, but is actually higher by about 10 meters. Personally, I think it’s higher because the lightening rode sticks up further than the Eiffel Tower. I didn’t have a ruler, but I distinctly remember the Eiffel Tower as a more imposing structure. In any event, the observations decks were at 150m and 250m. After waiting and crowding into tiny elevators I got to both decks. The sun was setting (i think behind mt. fuji) when I was at the lower deck, so that made for a couple nice shots. By the time I got to the upper deck, it was dark. The Tokyo skyline also made for some nice shots, but each deck was enclosed in glass, so the pictures weren’t as great as they could have been. To avoid the lines, I ended up climbing down about 1000 stairs to get to the bottom. At the bottom, I used the cool stitch function on my camera to take this massively long picture (a shrunken version seen here) of the tower. Then I had some spicy thai chicken for dinner – it was delicious.

On a side note, I began my Japanese language classes. The class meets every Tuesday and Thursday and will, I think, be a huge asset. Even though I haven’t learned all the conversational or directional tools I will need, speaking a little in Japanese goes a long way toward getting people to be responsive. Basically I explain I am learning Japanese and then tell them what I know. They invariably suggest new words and help with the conversation – so it’s working out.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

home for my videos

I have found a home for my videos. These are large files that you will have to download to watch. To easily remove the files after viewing, I suggest you find where on you computer they will download to. http://www.austintacious.net/upload/

Note - the link can also be found above, just below "Japan 2007"

Also, there was a vodeo that would not play... it now does

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday - A Temple and Electronics

Today I began to explore. I brought a couple travel books with me. One lists the 25 places to see in Tokyo, so I figured I'd start with that. I visited the Zojoji Temple. The Temple is near the Tokyo Tower (Japan's version of the Eiffel Tower). Interesting is the stark contrast between this old-style building and the new concrete skyscrapers that surround it. This is/was the chief temple of the Jodo-Buddhist sect (founded in 1323). I saw was, because much of the structure I visited was rebuilt after WW2. The temple is surrounded by a small park, part of which includes little dolls called Jizo, which is the Buddhist equivalent of an angel. I also took some pictures and walked up to the Tokyo Tower, but because it was a cloudy day, decided to come back when the view was nicer. I did notice that under the Tower crepes were sold (I guess that makes the tower more authentic). Ohhh speaking of authenticity, I almost got a shot of a monk at the temple watching tv on his cell phone, but by the time I pulled out my camera, the door to the room he was in, was closed. Oh well.

Next I traveled north to Akihabara. I could go on for days about this store, but will not. Sufficed to say, it is 9 floors of electronics. Every single electronic device you could imagine can be bought here. I was in this massive building for hours - and I loved every second of it. The only place I've been where I could spend more time is the Vatican.


I went out on Friday night to a part of Tokyo called Roppongi Hills. This is an ex-pat heavy location that's about a 15 minute walk from the Temple Campus. Roppongi Hills is incredibly nice. This is in stark contrast to Roppongi which is incredibly foreigner heavy and relative to other ares of Tokyo, criminal heavy. Locals often say every foreigner should go to Roppongi once... and only once - I've been more than once. Ropongi Hills, however, is clean and new and for Americans who having a hard time adapting to life in Tokyo, it is the place to go. I am having no trouble adapting, but this was the location of a Sake Tasting.

I come to learn that Sake is not a hard liquor, but more like a wine. It is created through a fermenting process rather than a distillation process. Also there are thousands of brands and kinds of sake. The reason I know this (and a lot more) is because prior to the tasting, was a mandatory instructional session. I say mandatory, because they sake was not passed out until the lecture was over.

Apparantly the 3 things that will increase the taste of sake, are the type of rice used, the level of grinding off of the fats and proteins from the rice, and the amount of the process that is done by hand (rather than by machine). The conclusion is that as the price of sake goes up, the quality also increases... however this correlation diminishes when you hit about 50 dollars.

I thought the sake was much better than sake I've had in the States. And no, there was no sake bombing involved. I am not a huge fan of sake to begin with, so it was nice to sample some really good sake. Now I know my dislike for sake is not just because I have been drinking cheap sake.

After sake, I traveled up and down roppongi and roppongi hills and found a couple watering holes. One was called heartland and the other is called Muse. I was at heartland for a long time and Muse only for a short while. Heartland has inexpensive beer, because it is there own variety. Apparently heartland is brewed throughout the world - someone from NYC said they had it there too. Muse was great, it's a really chill place with a lot of seating. I will definitely go there again. Heartland was fun, but it was overcrowded.

I am working on having my videos uploaded to a friend's website, if I can get that to work, I'll just link directly to them on this blog. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

new apartment

So, new events, new happenings… I found a new apartment – YAY. It is in a ward of Tokyo called Shinagawa. A ward is sort of like a neighborhood or an area. It would be like the village in NYC, except more defined. I am about a ten minute walk (can also take a shuttle) from the subway and my subway station is a little less than ten minutes from the school. The apartment is really nice and a decent size compared with most apartments in Tokyo. It’s brand new and furnished and it’s mine for the next four months. Above are some pics from inside and my view from outside on my balcony

School’s also going well. Since I finally moved into an apartment I was able to read for class. I am enrolled in 5 classes. East/West Negotiation, International Intellectual Property Licensing, International Criminal Law, Intro to Japanese Law, and Chinese finance and investment law. Except for the higher than expected amount of reading, the classes are all fine. The program is pass/fail anyway, so I need a C or better to pass.

Interesting things I noticed waking around the city. Japanese people don’t look up or move around at all on a subway. They stare at the floor or at their cell phones. As an aside, their cell phones are way more advanced that the ones in the US, but they are also much larger. Also Japanese people almost all follow pedestrian traffic laws. When the don’t walk sign is up, almost no one walks. About 1 out of 800 (pure conjecture) walk. Also no one talks on their cell phone while walking the streets and no one eats or drinks while walking. Everyone is extremely nice. I was carrying my bags across town to get to my new apartment and someone offered to help take my suitcase of stairs I had to climb. Also everyone bows here. Not a full 90 degree bow, but anytime there’s any sort of interchange between people there’s always a bow.

I’m going to take the next couple days to get random things I need for my apartment and also catch up on the rest of my reading. Hopefully this weekend I’ll get to new areas of Tokyo!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

some more pics

pics from shinjinku (1 of the 23 wards of Tokyo) and nearby areas.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sumo Wrestling

Ah, the weekend. More cold weather, more outings and more Tokyo. Temple University (the university through which I am on this four month stint) organized a sumo excursion. There are matches every other month and this one happened to be in Tokyo. These men are huge and they are loved here. National heroes it seems. One of my classmates suggested that sumo wrestlers would make great o-linemen, but then realized that women in the states probably wouldn’t appreciate their physique as much as Japanese women. Also surprising was the quickness of the sumo. They were very nimble and they slap each other repeatedly at impressive speeds.

Sumo was the bulk of my day. I also finally found a Citibank atm and withdrew money. There are probably 15 citibank atm’s in the city of Tokyo. That is about 15 more than any other bank in America. Still, there are none near where I am now. On the bright side, I am learning the subway routes. Of course, it’s kinda hard because there are 2 competing subway companies with different maps and often different stations. Tomorrow I will again look for housing (it’s an ongoing process). That’s it.

new things

So these last couple days have been hectic but very exciting. I’ve met all my classmates. They are a very diverse group with different goals for their study abroad experience. Some want to drink 24/7 and others seem to only wan to study. Luckily most are somewhere between the two. Apartment finding is still in full effect and I should have one by Monday. You’ll see from the pictures I have been venturing out in to Tokyo. I had some sushi, which was very fresh (so I am told) and not terrible. Also on Friday night a huge group of us decided to go out, and we ended up at a karaoke bar, which, apparently is an incredibly popular thing to do. The way it works is you pay for about 2 hours and during that time you can have all you can drink. It’s about 12 dollars per 2 hours (at least that’s what it was for our large group). I drank, I sang, I was merry.

I’ve had international criminal law and intro to Japanese law. The Criminal law class is taught by a husband wife team and will be just ok. The Japanese law class is taught by the associate dean of the law school who’s very interesting and I think will be a great teacher.

There’s definitely a learning curve coming here, but as I mentioned to a couple people already, for me, it’s more the difference in a big city to a small city than it is the difference between the US and Japan. That said, the culture is wayyyyy different too. Everyone is trusting and most are trustworthy, the city is very clean despite the inexplicable absence of garbage cans. The subway runs like a machine and oddly no one looks at anyone else while on the subway. This weekend (Saturday) I am going to a Sumo wrestling match, so that should be awesome, expect some pics of some large Asian men.