Saturday, September 30, 2006

Kugahara Elementary School

Yesterday was...awesome! We traveled to a Tokyo suburb, Kugahara, to visit the local elementary school. The school is well-known for its excellent teachers and open-door policy (none of the classrooms have doors, and the students are encouraged to enter into the common spaces to play and study). We were divided into groups of 2 or 3 and assigned to specific classrooms. Me and my partner Lillian (hey Nanny!) were given class 5-3 (grade 5) to spend the day with.

A guy named Louie and I had volunteered to conduct the opening ceremony introductions for the CIEE group. As is usual for me when it comes to said type presentations, we of course did nothing before the event. We did however have a minimal discussion in order to decided who was going to speak when. And so Louie opened speaking in English and, as the audience consisted of mostly 6-12 year old Japanese kids, I made my best attempt at Japanese translation. We went back and forth as such for about 5 minutes before closing out. Whether or not much of it was understood is hard to say. But at least people laughed (at us or with us?)! The hardest part was probably that there were 700+ people in the crowd (as opposed to the 50 I for some reason originally envisioned).

I spent the day in class 5-3...

Louie and I giving the opening speech.

It's interesting because they (little Japanese folk) either love you and won't let you go, or are so frightened they just stare at you in white shock.

My partner Lillian and I (can you see us?) with the whole lot of 'em!

Recess just began...and I was very very amused.

I'm smiling because while the 3 Japanese kids are trying to explain to me
the rules of their playground game, the 30 other kids in my class are running circles in a really convincing remake of Lord of the Flies.

Do they know who Harrison Ford is? No, but they love Indiana Jones!

More Pictures from the Day found on the Kugahara Site


Here it is:

Cell Phone

I bought a cell phone the other day! Actually, I was given one as it was free with the plan I decided on. It's really amazing how far ahead Japan is in this technological industry. My phone's.....amazing. I'll post pictures another time, but for now please take note:

Mobile phone- 08053869428
Mobile email-

The best way to get in touch with me from this point on is the above email. But please use it wisely as it will vibrate uncontrollably every time I get a message : )

Friday, September 29, 2006

Never did finish about Tomo's show...

If you haven't seen them yet, there are some videos from Tomo's concert down below. But I think I failed in explaining why I was there and what happened that night. And so...

I got home from Nikko at 7:30ish and the minute I exited the Tabata metro, my Okaasan ran up to me and said we had very little time. So we drove back to her house, dropped off unneeded stuff and jumped on bikes. Having full confidence in my bike-riding abilities, I proceeded to pedal and duly proceeded to fall on my face. Thankfully, however, the problem was not with my motor controls, but simply a bad bike chain.

After a neighbor gracefully provided another bike, Okaasan and I made our way to a subway station and transferred onto a train headed for Shibuya. In Shibuya we met up with Otoosan and a family friend, the Brazilian Louis. Louis has been in Japan for 10 years (going on 11) and was Tomo's English teacher in high school.

The restaurant was pretty awesome. It was filled with mostly hipster types wearing odd clothing and talking in hushed groups. The waitstaff was clothed in leather, animal skins, many earrings, and more rings. For those who reside in Washington DC, think Seth from Kramers times 5. Loud JPop/Rock (?) music blared in the background. This is what we- a smartly dressed adult couple and two gaijin!- walked into. The best part of all though, is how good the food smelled, and then how good it tasted!

At some point during the meal a man dressed in a smart leopard skin jacket, with skeleton gnarled rings, long chain necklaces and trendy glasses walked up to our table. After bowing and introducing himself to my Japanese parents, he sat himself down across from me and told a waiter to bring him food. We got to talkin...ends up his favorite band is Third Eye Blind and he really wants them to come to Japan. One thing of note regarding Japanese and American hipsters- In America the "in/trendy hipster" stuff is either foreign or simply bizarre (sorry friends). In Japan, it's the same...only the "foreign" stuff is, of course, American. But it's not the same stuff our hipsters listen to. The underground American music here is American pop rock. Bands like Coldplay, Third Eye Blind, and Greenday register as "different" and can be heard in the Japanese equivalencies of Greenwich Village (NYers) or Dupont Circle (Washington DC people).

Anyway, so as is the custom in Japan when you meet someone, the manager who was eating with us came along for the rest of the night. We headed out to Tomo's show, which was held in an apparently popular rock club. The music was good (see below) and the crowd was surprisingly big. Tomo said it was the band's debut show, but they were really together and the crowd loved them. The highlight of the night, for me anyway, had to be seeing Otoosan dancing in the restaurant manager's leopard coat.

You can find more information on the band at

First, to answer all questions...

The cheek and neck were of the cow origin.

Here are some pictures from the night. The restaurant's name is "Don Don" and the style is Japanese barbecue. As usual, however, if you want more please refer to the sidebar websites:

An amiable night out.

How we cooked everything...yes WE cooked everything. We paid to work. With fire. : )

The highly anticipated intestines shot. The cheek was better, IMO (less gummy) but didn't look nearly as exotic.

Our gaijin Japanese certainly amused the wait staff.

The manager wanted to have fun too.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I had a nice post written but then my computer froze! I was hoping my writing would somehow have stayed here....oh well. I'm really behind, so I apologize. I know I have to:

1. Finish about scavenger hunt
2. Explain Tomo's concert.
3. Talk about my eating experience in Shinjuku
4. Post pics from Nikko and Kamakura.
5. Give you all details about my two Japanese families and homes!!

For now:

CIEE is traveling to a Japanese elementary school Friday. We have been broken into random groups to give different presentations to various grades. My partner Lillian (Nanny!) and I were assigned to a 5th grade class, and have decided to discuss the various backgrounds and cultures present in America. We'll use famous Americans as examples and, at the end, show how Japan has had an influence as well (Ichiro, Last Samurai, sushi places, etc). In addition, to open the program, I will have to give some kind of presentation in front of the whole school. Another gakusei and I will meet tomorrow to decided what to say....ack!

I registered for classes today....the classes start Monday but, for some really out there reason, we won't find out which classes we get until Tuesday. Don't ask, because I don't know. But here's what I signed up for:

1. Japanese (really?!)
2. Basic Chinese (kanji lessons=good)
3. Japanese Management
4. Japanese Civilization
5. Tokyo Urbanism

Sorry for the tsumaranai entries.....I'll try to work on it later this week. Oh! and a few guys and I may try to go to a Japanese baseball game Saturday! I'd trade it and alot else to see the Mets in the playoffs next week's ok. I'll survive.


Monday, September 25, 2006


This can't be long because I'm tired but....

Tonight I ate intestines and cheek. A word for the wise- intestines are OKAY but a bit slimy and very VERY chewy. Cheek, on the other hand, is most delicious, and can be best enjoyed barbecued and covered in soy sauce!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Shibuya Concert

So two nights ago I went with my family to Tomo's CD release concert! I'll talk about it later, as the Kato's are having a party, but here's a short clip.

Note: Sound quality is not the best as it was taken on my Canon digital camera.

Scavenger Hunt

Last week, after being broken into groups of 4, we participated in a scavenger hunt. My group consisted of:

1. Myself

2. Bumi

3. Lizzy

4. Hartley

To say we conquered a small country, say Estonia for Mark, would be an understatement. I'd say what happened that day was more like hooking in the moon on a moonless day. Yes, we proved we had "it" and more.

The contest started out slowly, as we were inexplicably lost. Tokyo's a big city, so this wasn't quite the way we wanted to begin. But after some regrouping and much needed liquids (mainly, in my sake, Pocari Sweat), things started to fall in place.

We visited many places, traveling from Harajuku to Shibuya to Shinjuku to Chiyoda to Bunkyo and more. In Harajuku one is able to see people like this:

Which, of course, is most interesting. Shibuya is home to the world's busiest intersection, as well as one its most impressive electronic billboards. You may remember the strolling dinosaur in the Billy Murray/Sophia Coppola movie "Lost in Translation"? Shinjuku is a strange place in that it houses two polar opposities:

1. The Tokyo administrative ward- mainly the Tokyo Metropolitan
Government Building (Tokyo-Chu)
2. Kabukicho- the redlight "'soapland" district. I won't go into specifics of
what this is.

The Imperial Palace ("Kokyo") is located a few blocks from the Tokyo Station hub in central Tokyo's Chiyoda district, er "ward". It also happens to be a good place if one is interesting in viewing the Tokyo Tower, albeit from afar. Finally, Bunkyo is where you can go to attend a Yomiuri Giants baseball game. The Giants play in the Tokyo Dome (aka "Big Egg" aka "Biigu E-gu") and are Japan's answer to the Yankees. Personally, I prefer the Chiba Lotte Marines for the Bobby Valentine factor or the Chunichi Dragons for the name factor. Regardless, the Giants are Japan's biggest team and their stadium is adjacent to a huge shopping facility and amusement park.

So we saw alot of places and took a lot of photos to prove it, but we also had to collect alot of random things. Tatoeba:

-disposable chopsticks (after various attempts of politely asking, then failed tries of theivery, we simply ate at a kaiten sushi)
-Osaka guide from a travel agency (thank you Bumi for kanji knowledge)
-Hand out tissues from an insurance agency
-Pictures of our group from a picture box (you know?)
-other stuff...sorry, memory failing at the moment.


Japan Orientation Pics

There's a link to the left...I added the capitalized NEW!!! in the hopes of drawing your attention. If that didn't work, please refer to:

Japan Orientation
Sep 18, 2006 - 159 Photos

Heated Toilets

This was my next topic, right? Well, the toilets are heated...and smart. Here's a few pictures of the one in the Kato household:

When you touch the seat just a tad, it automatically lowers! Then something beeps and a heater comes on! There are multiple flush options, for obvious and unsaid reasons. Additionally there are, er, cleansing options. You see the Japanese are clean people. Unlike we Americans who use only pieces of paper, or Europeans who use only a spout of water, the Nihonjin make use of streams of water varying in temperature, force, and direction. This is of course followed by the American introduction of tissue paper.

That's it on toilets...for now.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Just got back from Shibuya....

But I'll discuss that later. First, as promised:

1. Being called "Gaijin!" while blindfolded and being forced into playing an arcade game on stage in front of lots of Japanese folk.

Last week I went to an arcade festival with Sam, a guy from CIEE whose homestay happened to be close to mine. So we walk in, and it's just like all those E3 game in, really weird (in that quirky Japanese way). Stages were everywhere and on them stood Japanese women dressed interestingly, to say the least. Most were dressed in pretty hilarious costumes, ranging from maid outfits to what seemed to be a take on something from the Jetsons. Video game stalls were set up everywhere and the entire area (the size of a stadium perhaps) is flowing with traffic. Ages ranged from 5 to 50 but I would venture a guess that Sam and I were 2 of the 3 gaijin (foreigners) present.

So we walked around, mostly in a bit of a haze, until we noticed a timer up above one stage clicking closer and closer to 000; so we stopped. When the clock hit, music blared and a woman ran out dressed as one of the aforementioned Jetsons. She babbled in Japanese (I caught such words as "new!" and "ahhh, so fun, hai!" and then introduced two other woman (who ran out in similar costumes, only with less costume). Suddenly people in the audience started raising their hands; so I did too...why not?

This is where it got interesting!

It's nice being here because this is one of the very few places where I am usually the tallest person in the room. It's also nice to know enough Japanese to yell "Gaijin!". This is what I did. And being fairly noticeable, when I waved my hand in the air and yelled, they did too. The leaderwoman pointed at me and said "Anata, gaijin, kite kudasai!" (You, foreigner, come please".

So I went up on stage. A large arcade game (one of those machines where you attempt to grab a stuffed animal) was rolled out. I was then introduced to a Japanese guy, my opponent, and given the mic. Not really sure what I was being told, I simply announced "My name Brian. Me come from New York. Me foreigner." The crowd cheered and the women proceeded to blindfold myself and my opponent. A woman was assigned to each of us and on "ichi ni san!" (figure it out) we were supposed to start. I, however and of course, wasn't quite sure WHAT to start. So I stood there until my assigned woman helper grabbed my right hand and smacked a button on the machine. I then realized that her shouts of "migi!" (right) and "hidari!" (left) corresponded to buttons on the machine.

To make a long story short, I lost the contest when the Japanese guy managed to capture a stuffed animal from the machine. Although he won, I was given the microphone once again. This time I shouted "Konnichiwa Tokyooooo!" followed by "Boku-no Nihongo-wa totemo damedesu...sumimasen!" (Hello Tokyooooo! My Japanese is very bad, sorry!" I was given a nice ovation (thank you Tokyo video game freaks!) and was led off the stage. The rest of the afternoon passed nicely but uneventfully.

Oh wait yea....Sam and I also found an arcade game (after an hour wait) in which the goal is to turn a wheel round and round. The wheel controlled a cartoon figure who stirred a pot. In 3 minutes a box of popcorn popped out of the machine. This is Japan.

2. Heated toilets.

3. Scavenger hunt.

4. Nikko- when I return, as we leave tomorrow for 2 days.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just a short announcement...

I currently have NO internet signal and yet....voila! I am on-line. So it is. So is Japan.

Remind me to talk about the following:

1. Being called "Gaijin!" while blindfolded and being forced into playing an arcade game on stage in front of lots of Japanese folk.

2. Heated toilets.

3. Scavenger hunt.

4. Nikko- when I return, as we leave tomorrow for 2 days.

Monday, September 18, 2006

May as well post while I can...

Sorry I havent updated my blog or emailed- things have been very busy with orientation and my internet access is not stable or often. My temp hosts are extremely kind, and have even arranged for me to go with Yuu (16 year old son) to Tokyo Disney in October. I will certainly stay in touch with them. On Wednesday, before my Japanese language placement test, I am moving to my new homestay. I am a little sad because this family is so kind. That family, however, sent me a photo in which they are spreading their arms and their 15 year old son is wearing an I LOVE NY shirt, so I think they will be nice also.

Today we broke into groups to participate in a scavenger hunt all over Tokyo. It took all day and was very fact, my group finished 30 minutes later than everyone else BUT we accomplished the most (the other groups came back early because they were unable to figure things out!) hopefully we win- we will find out sometime soon. When I say we traveled EVERYWHERE, I really mean it! We went from Shinjuku to Shibuya to the Imperial Palace to Akihabara to....phew, I was sweating like it was football practice. My group actually sprinted in at the end- it felt a little bit like the Great Race tv show.

I hope to establish more of a pattern once I move into my new family and start class. Class still does not start for 2 weeks! On Thursday, we are going on an overnight trip to Nikko where will stay in a traditional ryokan inn. Yesterday I went to a Japanese bath for the first time and had to get undressed in front of a lot of old Japanese first it was taihen (very uncomfortable) but eventually I was ok.

Ack, sorry guys!

I'm not sure where I left off in my journal, but I'm now in Tokyo. The reason I'm not sure is that I am writing this on my computer while not being on-line (in case you were wondering).I arrived in Tokyo last Wednesday, and it's been extremely busy since then. I arrived at CKS Airport in Taipei early, but ended up having to pay a fine over $100 because the airlinewouldn't allow more than 1 bag at 20 kilograms. They said it was because I was flying intra-Asia. I argued but couldn't get them to budge (altho the lady did lower the fine a bit). Anyway, I think she felt bad because she upgraded me into Economy Plus, meaning I was given 5 extra inches!

CIEE paid for a hotel for two nights, and it was actually rather nice. It could not possibly have been expensive, but it was a business hotel and therefore very convenient, clean, and accommodating. There was a brand new Toshiba television in the room, the toilet had various options, air conditioner had its own remote, and internet access was free! At Tokyu Stay Hotel,I bought a phone card and called Nanny and Poppy to let them know I had arrived. My parents were flying at the time, or soon to be at least, and Lisa was in class. I wish I could haves poken to everyone, but I hope they know how much I'm thinking of them. I've been able to talk to Lisa through AIM once and GMail once, but I really need to find a way to improve my internet access. I think once I get settled into my homestay and actually know what's going on it'll be okay.

Those first two days of orientation were a whirlwind of information. We heard from a professor who will also act as our academic advisor, so I need to figure out what classes I will take to see what he thinks. We don't choose for another week, and the first day of school isn't until October 2!

On the first night I went out to dinner with a group of 6 other gakusei (students)at a place near Sophia Daigaku (University). We ordered about 10 small dishes to share- kind of like Spanish tappas. The next night CIEE took us out to dinner at a really nice traditional restaurant where the chefs fried various vegetables, meats, and seafood right in front of us- ooishideshita (tasty!). After the aforementioned dinner, we were ushered to Roopongi (sp?) Hills,where we visited a modern art gallery and saw nighttime Tokyo in its entirety from the 52nd floor. I was able to see the Giants stadium, although what I'm really looking forward to is buying a ticket to see Bobby Valentine's Chiba Lotte Marines play!

The second day of orientation was filled mostly with preparations for meeting our host families. This was, to say the least, a nervous endeavor! We prepared and practiced speeches to present in front of the collective group of families. Mine went as follows:

(Bow) Nice have met you once.
My (boastful) name is Mr. Brian.
Once, I came from New York (heavy accent).
Usually, I am George Washington's pupil, but now Tokyo studies me.
I like you, do you like me?
Treat me well.
Here are some boring gifts.

Okay, so it went a LITTLE better than that; at least everyone clapped kindly and within a minute I was seated next to temproary host mother (okaasan). I say temporary because my actual host family Is currently on vacation in Europe. I will move to their home on Wednesday but, until then has been kind enough to take me in.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Taipei Pictures

So you know, I've finished uploading all my Taipei pictures. Some probably are of too poor quality to be up there, but I'll worry about that later. Also, I have not labeled every picture. I apologize for this, and will try to get to it in a week or two. Things now are hectic with orientation, and will get even more so tomorrow as we are to move into our home stays. Perhaps I will do it this weekend, but I will hopefully be studying hard for the upcoming Japanese placement test.

Anyway, with no further adieu, here they are (the newest are at the end I believe):

Sep 10, 2006 - 264 Photos

Wednesday, September 13, 2006



Please be aware that I uploaded my Taipei photos to:

Sep 10, 2006 - 29 Photos

In the future, just click the link on the leftside of this website.

Thank you!


PS- I'll catch you up to speed on the rest of Taipei at a later point...but so you know, I'm in Tokyo now!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

What a day!

I started Sunday off, as usual, getting up extremely early. I don't know if it's jet lag or not but I've been waking up at 5:30 AM everyday, and it's not like I'm getting more than 6 hours of sleep... Regardless, I was on the train for Shilin (pronounced "Shur-lin") within a couple of hours. There I visited the National Palace Museum. This is one of the nicest and biggest collections of art I've ever seen. It has 650,000 pieces of Chinese art ranging from the early Han Dynasty (200's BC) to the late Ching Dynasty (early 1900's AD). The work had all originally been in the Forbidden City in Beijing, but in 1949 with the Communist victory over the KMT (Nationalists), the works were smuggled out of China and into Taiwan. If this hadn't been done, the Red Guards would have most likely destroyed it all during the violently orgiastic Cultural Revolution. To me, the most impressive exhibits were the giant Buddha statues and the 19th Century "concentric ivory balls". This latter display was created from one giant slab of ivory and yet has moving parts and a chain. I had lunch in the NPM restaurant housed in an adjacent building. My meal of chicken corn egg drop soup and tofu with brown sauce was surpisingly fulfilling and after finishing my tea, I braved the rain and walked to the Chih-shan Garden.

This was an unbelievable site. As Lonely Planet describes, " a stroll garden in the literary style of the Sung and Ming dynasties; it's likened to a landscape painting that gradually reveals itself as you walk through it." There were 3 pagodas, a covered walkway, and a couple of ponds connected by streams and filled with koi. There was also a cave with a behind-the-scenes view of a waterfall. This at first seemed to be a very relaxing spot, so when the 50 mph winds and torrential rain really picked up, I retreated to it, however not for long. As I was sitting there staring out through the waterfall, I noticed a strange brown patch on the ground and, for some reason, decided to poke it with my umbrella.

It was feces.

Of human or dog or whatever I cannot say, but it smelled nonetheless. And so, utterly disgusted, I abandoned my umbrella and trotted through the rain and out of the park. In hopes of catching a taxi to the nearest train, I instead stumbled unexpectedly onto the Shilin Temple dedicated to Matsu god of the sea!

The temple was decorated with elaborate green dragons, and red and gold carvings. It's entranced was approaced by twin lines of traditional lanterns and no one was inside. So, taking advantage of the opportunity I walked toawrds the entrance and...tripped. I looked down in search of whatever crack the pavement should have been there but, instead to my absolute shock found- get this- a LOBSTER! It was a tiny lobster, perhaps only deserving of the title "crawfish" but nontheless it was there. As it wiggled on the ground to right itself, I gawked. Eventually getting back onto its legs it stood motionless, staring out towards the road. The little guy very much resembled a guard.

Confused but amused (heh heh) I entered the temple...more on this later!

Sorry so long everyone- I'm trying to make sure nothing is forgotton!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Two Contrasting Taipei's

It's now Saturday and I'm sitting in the 5th floor "Barista Coffee" in Taipei 101. The building is the world's tallest, and the first 6 floors comprise an absolutely gigantic shopping mall. As usual, everything is immacuately clean, the people are supremely friendly, and the choices are seemingly infinite.

Upon arriving, I headed straight for the basement "Grand Market", a Pan-Asian food court so big I actually did get lost. I had fried meat rolls (w/ a spicyish duck sauce) and steamed pork dumplings. Both were worlds better than any equivalent dish I ever had. After eating, I pursued the first few floors of the mall. Many stores are lines we have in the US- Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Swatch, etc, etc. But others are new to me- there's a Japanese clothing company called "Kenzo" with really nice stuff. So I popped in for a look, only to find the lowest priced shirt at $1900 TD (a little over $500 US!).

Now I'm sitting on the 5th floor sipping what happens to be an amazing cappucino and all I can think is "WOW!" The cafe is housed in a giant closed atrium so that the skilled ceiling is approximately 300 feet above my head (give or take 100 feet). There are metallic bracing and columns throughout the atrium space, which when paired with the stark white walls and neon-colored fluorescent lighting, make the area feel a bit like Coruscant. Compare this to what I did just prior...

After a visit to Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall (where by the way I was given a complimentary English tour and 2 free souvenirs) I headed in the direction of Taipei 101. To get here, I transversed a very traditional area. Covering an expanse of about 5 by 5 blocks, local merchants lined the streets with foods, crafts, and religious items. There were tables filled with fresh seafood, steaming bowls teeming with bean curd, and Buddhist monks selling paraphonalia (I purchased paper money for 30 cents...make sure to burn it if/when I am gone!). Anyway, to make a long story short I walked through this passage with Taipei 101 looming overhead the entire time- a strange and interesting mix of past and present. That's pretty much what Taipei has been.

Now I need to rest, for tonight I intend to visit Dinhua market. I hope everything is well in Paris, the US, and elsewhere!

Oh and, as a reminder- I must talk about Longshan Temple and Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall!

Friday, September 08, 2006

First night in Taipei

And so I landed in Taipei! Somehow, I managed myself through customs and made my way to the "Express Bus". It felt very much like the Chinatown shuttle from Washington to New York- same abrupt mannerisms by the staff whom nonetheless get the bus to its destination in a most expedient manner. As expected, we arrived at Taipei Main Station, where I had been instructed to catch a train to Song Shan/Song Long. Trouble was, nobody knew what I was talking about and, when they even had an inkling, my extensive knowledge of Chinese (read- hello, thanks, thank you very much, dog, mountain, full, and temple) was of little assitance. At this point, having not slept in over a day and journeyed on the same escalator four times, I hailed a cab.

Eventually, I did find myself checked into, paid, and settled at Fortuna Hostel. I have my own room here with some air conditioning, two beds, one blanket (although it's way too hot to use) and one fly I can't kill. There is a group of four Taiwanese college students living in a larger room. Upon being introduced, we attempted communication and soon learned we knew very, very little of each other's language. Nonetheless, they invited me to dinner, which I attended. We walked a few blocks to Raohe Night Market, which was filled with lively arcade parlors, outdoor food vendors, and clothing merchants. We walked and walked, with one of the students translating what she could of what the three guys were saying. Ends up they're film students staying in Taipei for a week so to make a movie for a program sponsered by Kodak. After walking with my head darting from right to left to up in order to take everything in, I realized the group had stopped and was looking at me expectantly. They wanted me to pick what to eat! I gracefully (or not?) turned down the rather odd tofu mixture because it smelled distinctly like a very used toilet (the truth not making fun) and pointed to a stand selling dumplings. They were spectacular and free, as my new friends insisted on paying. I tried and tried to do it on my own but they kept saying "Taiwan hospitality!" We then walked to another stand, which made soup by placing disk-shaped bean curd patties into hot water, mixing it with boiled peanuts, and then covering the entire thing with sugar. Sugar here, by the way, isn't powdered like back in America. It looks like crystals- which I guess my previous sentance already told you. I managed a couple sips but couldn't handle any more. My hosts paid again, and also for the 10 minute basketball throwing session in the neighboring arcade. Then I went to sleep, for a long, long time.

The Plane

Japanese people are really interesting. I discovered this on the plane.

In America, people tend to stay seated on planes. If they happen to get up at all, it's usually to use the restroom or stretch their legs for a minute or two. But in Japan, they use it as their own personal gym and playpen. I watched in amazement as an elderly Japanese woman jogged laps around the seating area and a Japanese businessman high-kneed his way down the aisle. There was a Japanese mother with two little boys. She held one of them the entire time, bringing it from window to window to look outside. Her other child, however, ran free...and by that I mean he literally did sprints the economy cabin.

And so, Japanese people move on planes.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


My first glimpse of Japan came in sparse intervals between the massive rain clouds. I spotted a river running south, barely visible through theovercast, but it was enough to get me thinking- I'm actually going to Japan! One hour and a 35,000 foot descent later, I had a full view of Tokyo...well, of the airport at least. Sitting in the middle section of a big plane doesn't allow for much viewing, but I was able to crank my neck far enough right and just enough left to take in the rainy day outside. It looked like, well, New York.

The first signal that I wasn't in New York came when I departed the plane, crossed the bridge, and finally entered Narita International Airport. It was freakishly quiet...sure, there were hundreds of passengers filing briskly this way and that, but they did it in an efficiently polite way never seen on our side of the Pacific. And so I wandered on to locate my connecting flight to Taipei. This proved easy as the billboard-sized departure screen alternated between katakana, kanji, and the Roman alphabet. I was on floor 4 and, needing to get to 3 pressed a nearby down button. Without a delay, clean pistons visible beyond the glass elevator doors churned and, within 5 seconds, and elevator had arrived. In Japanese it greeted me, asked where I wanted to go and, when I pressed the open door button, announced, "matte iru" (Waiting).

After locating my gate and getting my bearings together, I saught a restroom...

In America we have a wide variety of optinos when it comes to bathrooms, but nothing compares to what I saw in Narita. Everything was clean, and so clean...I mean, the white urinals (made of some kind of synthetic) were almost reflecting everything. Also, as was the case with the elevator, everything was quiet. The flush was smooth, not a gluspsplash, and made me think soothing thoughts (really!). Even washing my hands was an experience! Of course, everything down to the soap dispenser was automated. But on top of that, I could control the precise temperature (in actuall degree measurements) of the water coming out! The hand dryer was so powerful (yet, again, so quiet) that my hands dried almost instantly.

Right now, I'm sitting across an 70ish Japanese lady (who must be 4 feet tall by the way) playing a game on her cell phone. Which reminds me, I forgot to talk about the elderly Japanese folk from the flight! Okay so that isn't true...I'm actually in my Taipei hostel. I just recorded my thoughts as I was sitting in front of here. Nonetheless, reminds me to mention the following things next time:

1. Japanese folk exercising on plane
2. My adventure getting to the Taipei hostel
3. What I saw tonight on a Taipei street fair tour

Thanks for reading everyone!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Konnichiwa! Today I am saying goodbye to Lisa, who flies to Paris later on. She'll leave from Newark at 9:00 PM and arrive in France early tomorrow morning.

As for me, I'm just about ready for the trip. I'll leave tomorrow at around noon, and will arrive in Taipei, Taiwan the next day! Isn't that insane? I'll be staying at the Fortuna Hostel which promises air-conditioning, internet, and way above all, a locking door! I'll be in Taipei from September 8 until the 13th, when I'll fly to Narita Airport in Tokyo. There will be 2 days in a hotel (which I don't know) before moving in with my homestay (whom I don't know).

I'll be posting pictures during my travels. Soon enough I'll figure out which service I'll be using, and I'll post links in my entries, as well as a permanent sidebar link.