Wednesday, February 28, 2007

blogs to come

I have been busy running around Tokyo with Angela, but after she leaves, will post pics and stories from our sightseeing. Some really great stuff... get exited.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


On Thursday I, and a few others from the program, went to an area in the Northeastern (but not quite as far as Narita airport) part of Tokyo. We learned how to make, we made, and we ate soba noodles. Soba noodles are long thin buckwheat noodles. It was fun.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

random sightings

Some updates:

In case you haven’t heard, my girlfriend, Angela, is coming to Tokyo, so yay to that. Also, the past couple days I’ve been taking some random photos. There is a new pub that opened about 2 blocks from the University. This pub… is going to do VERY well. Half pints are a couple bucks and pints are a little more. They have appetizers and fast bar food like chicken, burgers, and dogs. It’s called 82 alehouse, no relation to the ale houses in Florida. It is literally on the way back to the train station from the university. Way too convenient. I don’t think the owner had any idea how much money he was going to make, but good for him. As a sort of announcement to the world that the pub was opening, small cups of free beer were distributed by a major pedestrian intersection near the train station. There are no open container laws and so the pub's activity was legal, and well received by students and locals. Also pictured is some sushi I ordered on the way to get my alien registration card. In case I haven’t complained about the alien registration process, let me take this opportunity to do so. Any foreigner who is in Japan for more than 90 days has to apply for National Health Insurance and an alien registration card. Interestingly, even though there is a national health system, each Ward (like a state) has its own registration. Therefore, when I first arrived and was living in a hotel I had to fill out a registration card for Minato Ward. Now that I live in an apartment, I had to fill out a card for Shinagawa Ward. The sushi in the picture below is from my trek to the Shinagawa Ward office. Also, I took this picture because I wanted to remember how inexpensive great sushi was. This sushi and the egg and soup and tea was less than $4.00.

Also, there are pictures (and a video) of a guest speaker Temple University brought. His name is Kunio Hamada. He is a former Japanese Supreme Court Justice. Most justices are appointed near the age of 65 and are required to retire by the age of 70. Therefore, of the 15 justices about 14 are within 5 years of each other. He discussed his role on the court, how he was appointed, and some of the reforms the Japanese judiciary is going through. It was a very interesting speech.

Lastly, as a gift, my mom sent me some hot chocolate. I was a little sick for a while, so I stayed away from it. However, now that I'm better, I boiled some water, mixed in the powder and had some delicious hot chocolate. Thanks mom.

Monday, February 12, 2007

NEW video website

I have a new video website. Get excited !!! :) This one is better too. Now you can simply click on a video and it will stream. That means no downloading. The files are much smaller too, so if you want to download, you can still do it, but much faster.

Harajuku, more of the area

I had a bunch of pictures I wanted to post, so I have 2 postings. Also be on the lookout for some new videos. I am going to upload them as soon as possible.

Today I went back to Harajuku. This is the area of Tokyo where I got my conveyor belt sushi before. I would split Harajuku into 3 main areas. The first is Takeshita-Dori, which is the area of crazily clad and oddly behaved people. Second, is the Meiji-Jingu, which is an incredibly authentic reconstruction of a Shinto-shrine. The third is a very upscale shopping district, reminiscent (as I mentioned in a earlier blog) of the Champs Elys̩es in Paris. I toured all three areas today. The first two with Frank, a guy from Villanova, and also part of the Temple program, and then the swank street (and more conveyor belt sushi) with some girls from the program. Also, while Frank and I were at Starbucks, we met a girl from San Francisco, who was visiting some relatives in Manila and was taking a short vacation in Tokyo Рso she joined us for dinner too.

I had never seen the craziness of Takeshita Dori, or the beautiful and serene Meiji temple before, so both were a great experience. People basically dress to shock you. Some like the attention, some, I’m sure are just using it as an artistic outlet, but they all deserve medals for going out in public (a very conservative public) and dressing and acting like they do. All fashions throughout history are represented. Gothic, middle-ages, moder, post-modern. Also, people will dress very much not their age. Like the young children dressed to the nines, or the old man in a diaper. This place is NUTS. Also there are street performers playing music and dancing.

In stark contrast to the obsurdity of Takeshita Dori, is the Meji shrine, which is only about 1/4 mile away. The Shrine itself is set back about half a mile from any roads. The gravel, tree and brook-lined path leads circuitously to the main Shrine. Honestly, the Shrine is gorgeous, but because you are kept at a distance, it was difficult to discern differences from the other temples I’ve seen. That said, the walk itself is worth taking. Fortuitously, there were two weddings taking place while I was at the temple today, so I got to see people dressed in full Japanese garb. Actually, the women were traditionally dressed, the men, for the most part were wearing suits.

Once again, dinner at the conveyor belt sushi restaurant was delicious. There were 7 of us this time so dinner took a lot longer, and we ate sooooo many plates of food. I had the fewest with four, but 2 of the girls had over 9 plates.

spillover pics

pics 5 of 10

Sunday, February 4, 2007

earthquake - weak

earthqake at about 9pm. actually felt this one, unlike the last one. really weak, 4.2. They are like thunderstorms, doesn't bother people.

Shinjuku / Harajuku / Shibuya

I hopped on the JR line (one of the competing subways) and took it to Shinjuku. I’ve been to Shinjuku before and I will definitely go again. It is one of the most populated parts of Tokyo, visited both by locals and tourists. It’s bright, modern, and young people flock there as the sun sets. The JR line basically splits Shinjuku into two parts. The west side which is mostly office buildings, government buildings, and upscale hotels, and the east side, which is the party area with clubs, bars, restaurants and variety shops.

I began my day on the west side. After getting a glimpse, from the top of Tokyo Tower, of the sun setting behind Fuji, I decided I wanted another shot at taking some pictures. I went to an enormous building (there’s a picture of it in an older blog) built by the government. From the 45th floor the view is incredible. I did get some great shots of Fuji as well a daytime skyline of Tokyo. After Shinjuku, I hopped back on the JR line to Harajuku. Harajuku is what I consider the Japanese equivalent of the Champs-Elyse. There’s Ralph Lauren, Louis Vuitton, and dozens of other swank European and American stores. In addition to the shopping, the area is famous for crazy dressed girls and women. In fact, Gwen Stefani (a pop singer) sang a song paying homage called Harajuku girls. It was nighttime when I got to the main drag, but the women were, in fact, dressed CRAZY. Hair in every which direction, basically they were walking, talking modern art pieces. In Harajuku I met a couple friends at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. There were a few things marvelous about this restaurant. The first is that the food was great. Second, the food was incredibly cheap. For any of you who eat sushi, basically each roll was a dollar. The most expensive rolls they had were 2 dollars, and the 2 dollar rolls had fish on them I’d never seen before. I was stuffed after 3 rolls, but my friends out did me with 5 plates each. The third cool thing, as the name implies, is that all the food is on a conveyor belt, so you eat at your own pace and as often (or not) as you want.

After Harajuku I walked with my friends to Shibuya, which was only about 15 minutes away. Shibuya, like Shinjuku is a lot of flash. For those of you who’ve seen the movie Lost in Translation. There is a scene with a massive cross walk in Tokyo, this crosswalk is in Shibuya. It’s worth going up a few floors and watching. In Shibuya, we grabbed some coffee from Starbucks, which to make the line move faster, only serves tall size coffees. It was a nice Saturday.

Language Lesson (English)

FIRST the picture below belongs in the above post. I took it from the top of the tall building.

Also, lest you think all I do is sightsee and take pictures, I added this post. Some days, especially when the night before lasted into the next morning, I will take a book to a coffee shop overlooking a major street and read and people watch. The ‘Shibuya_crossing” video is such an example. Today I read parts of a book my dad gave me before I came. It’s entitled the life of language. Today I learned that clock and cloak are doublets. This means they both have the same etymon (true source of a word). Both cloth and cloak come from the Medieval Latin clocca (bell). A cloak got its name because its shape was like that of a bell. Clock, on the other hand, was so called because it meant a timepiece in which each hour is marked by the sound of a bell. I found that interesting.

new videos

I uploded some new videos (link to the right). Be aware, some of these videos are large. More pics to be added soon.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Birthday night

I didn't go out to celebrate my birthday on wednesday night because many of my friends and I had a ton of reading for Thursday. Instead, we all went out on Thursday night. We started the night at a pub near one of the train stations near the school. It was an Irish pub with some authentic and some not so authentic Irish food.

Then after the pub (only 1 picture is from the pub) we went to a latin cafe, in the city I can't get away from... Roppongi. It was a great night, I learned how to salsa, had some drinks, and had a ton of fun. Also, it was the first time since I arrived in Japan that I could speak in a foreign language using full sentences. This, of course, was because all the servers spoke spanish.