Categories
Japan - 日本 Journal

Journal Entry – 12.12.2005 – Holiday

I sit in the airport and still have an hour and forty minutes until the flight. No matter how many trips I take, I always manage to get myself to the airport way to early and then have to sit around and wait. So now, extremely tired from my earlier workout at the Sofitel, I sit and watch the Japanese scurrying here and there, drinking their last cups of Vietnamese coffee, getting those last minute souvenirs and wandering from shop to shop.

Just at the table in front of me there is a Japanese speaking Caucasian girl who appears to be dating the Japanese guy she is with. It’s a rare occurrence to find a white person who speaks Japanese, but a white girl with a Japanese guy is near impossible to find. It’s also strange that we are the only two white people here, and although there are plenty of seats, she chooses the table right next to mine and the chair which is facing me. It’s it by accident, or did she consciously/unconsciously choose that chair?

It was modestly difficult to leave Hitomi. She told me on the phone how much she misses me already and I miss her. I really wish she could come, but since she can’t, I’m going to look at this as my last hurrah, my last trip as a single guy. After this, I really don’t think I’ll want to go anywhere else without her. She really is a wonderful girl and I love her so much.

Still I wait, typing away on my computer as the airport cafe fills up. The travelers are entirely Japanese except for the aforementioned white girl at the table in front of me.

I wonder what this trip is going to be like. It’s been an entire year since I’ve been home but at this point in the trip, I’m more sad to be without Hitomi than I am happy to be going home. It’s such a shock to my system travelling internationally. I also wonder if I’ll be sad to be in Japan without Hitomi. I’m arriving early in the morning which for me is better than at night because the night is often filled with loneliness.

——————————–

I’m now on the flight from Tokyo to America. Didn’t have much time to write as I was busy running around Tokyo. I was there for three days and it went so quick it’s like it almost didn’t even happen.

When I first got there I went to find the hotel. The map was horrible and I was on the verge of turning back towards the station when I spotted it on a side street. Check in wasn’t until 3:00pm and I had arrived at just before 10am. I unloaded my clothes from my backpack and then found a wireless hotspot and wrote some e-mails in their lobby.

Then I was off to Mejiro for lunch and ate Chicken Kasan at Otoya. Walking around Mejiro, I really didn’t feel like I missed it so much. Quite a few stores have changed and as I stood in front of Eternity Mejiro, there was no feeling of home. It was just a cold, dirty white building.

I then went shopping in Metropolitan in Ikebukuro to pick up gifts for Horacio, German’s and Masaru’s babies. It didn’t take long to find what I was looking for which was Totoro. After that, it was off to Big Camera and although I found the dictionary Hitomi wanted, I wasn’t sure if it had all the dictionaries she wanted. I wrote to her to check again after which I bought it anyway and if it’s not what she needs she can have mine.

After BC it was off to Excelsior in Metropolitan for a cafe and to write some e-mails. Not having a phone, I communicated by writing e-mails to friends with phone e-mail addresses. There was no wireless connection however so I just drank my coffee and wrote e-mails to be sent later.

It was then back to the hotel for a shower and nap before meeting the guys. I met Masaru outside Mejiro station and we then walked to Watami where we met Horacio. We were then going to go to the hub but due to a private party it was closed. So we went to the bar just around the corner where we met Miguel as well.

The next day did not go so well. I was very hungover from the night of drinking and forgot that I was supposed to meet with Miguel at 3:00pm. Speaking with Masaru I was also supposed to meet him at 3:00pm, but I had thought 4 so was an hour late. I visited his house and saw Fumika and Momo-chan. As soon as Momo saw me she started crying which is something she apparently does with every new male visitor. They tell me Thomas has the record for making Momo cry.

That night, I just went out with Masaru since James, Ally and Damian all couldn’t meet for various reasons. We went to to the new hub in Ikebukuro and ended up talking with the females next to us. Apparently the Hub is no longer a shady Gaijin place but rather is full of Japanese couples. They also had a bingo game that lasts forever and I ended up winning a coupon for the Hub. I ended up going home pretty early so I could rest since I was still pooped from not sleeping on the flight and then having a drunken night.

On Sunday, it was off to Big Camera and Takadanobaba. I wanted to eat Ichibanya for lunch and the closest one I knew of was in Baba. I also wanted to check out the books at Waseda but had forgotten that it was Sunday and they were closed! But it was good making the walk again and seeing all the old stores. I really didn’t feel sad though or that I particularly missed my old life. Then it was back to Big Camera in Ike again and back to the hotel.

I met Jimney last night and we went to an Izakaya. It was good speaking with him and we spoke almost entirely in Japanese which was a big confidence booster for me. After that it was Ramen and then back home.

——————————————–

Now I’m on the flight back to the states. I just watched the Elf which is a great movie and now writing this. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to sleep later which will cause this trip to be a long one.

Categories
International Japan - 日本 Journal

Japan Stories – Trouble in Roppongi

Trouble in Roppongi

By tok_matthew

July 30th, 2005 @ 6:43 PM Life in Tokyo

Every month I receive an update from the American Embassy about Visa info, security situations, etc. I usually never read it since the visa info doesn’t apply to me and the rest just tells us that the rest of the world is still unhappy with America and it is in our best interest to lay low. However, the “Incident in Roppongi” caught my eye and I just couldn’t resist reading to see what happened. I had imagined that some young drunk American got in a fight or something like that but this one was a little different. Here is the report:

Incident in Roppongi
——————————————————

The US Embassy has received another report of an incident in Roppongi. An American citizen recently reported that he was drugged at a Roppongi area bar and his credit card charged $7,000 for drinks he has no recollection of ordering.

As always, persons are strongly advised to exercise caution and common sense when frequenting Roppongi at night.

———————————————————

Now for us long term Nippon residents, we most often do not go to Roppongi as it is really does not reflect Japanese culture and we have integrated enough with the culture that we don’t need to go there for fun. However, I have been there quite a few times and have noticed a disturbing trend. It seems that there are now much more aggressive scouts (most likely of African origin) trying to persuade passers-by to go into the sex and strip clubs or buy drugs. When I first arrived in Japan I could actually walk to where I was going without being bothered once. But now, these guys will walk with you and refuse to leave you alone after you have already declined their offer countless times. The last time I was there, I felt a little uncomfortable with all these guys harassing me, that I really have no desire to go back there again.

With these repeated incidents being reported, it seems that Roppongi is actually becoming a little dangerous which is extremely uncommon for Japan being the safest country I have ever visited. Also, some of the popular bars such as gas-panic have come up with ridiculous rules like you must always have a beer in your hand and be drinking or else you get kicked out. A further annoyance is a few bars are charging outrageous entry fees for their crappy little venues such as Lexington Queen. This bar has a reputation for attracting East European Models which is partly true but the fact of the matter is it is just a small dirty little bar trying to charge too much.

Anyway, for those of you who are new to Japan, Roppongi is worth one look around and then should be forgotten as it does not reflect Japanese culture what so ever. If you read a little bit about this history of the place, it used to be a barracks for American military personnel during WWII. The bars sprung up to cater to them and it has remained a night spot for mainly foreigners.

For those of us who really love Japanese culture, Roppongi is quite an annoyance since there are quite a few bad foreigners there, and when they act up it reflects poorly on the rest of us.

Perhaps one of the most exciting, yet least attempted things to do while visiting Japan is climbing Mt. Fuji. It is quite close to Tokyo and only takes about an hour and a half to the fifth station of Mt. Fuji by bus from Shinjuku Station.

I attempted the climb and succeed in the summer of 2003, and it is something I will never forget. We started the climb at 10pm and made it to the summit in six and a half hours but had gotten there too early and were exposed to the freezing winds at the top which we were totally unprepared for. I also caught the chills and couldn’t stop from shaking violently until we were half way down the mountain. Unfortunately, we were only able to catch about a minute of the sunrise before it clouded over for the rest of the morning (picture is not mine but of my cousin).

At the summit there are three areas of interest: the temple, the crater, and the vending machines. The vending machines sell hot coffee but the cost is a dollar fifty to four dollars for a very small can. The reason for this is that it must be transported on foot since no vehicles can reach the top. There is also a small restaurant which sells expensive, mediocre ramen but is really good for warming up.

Surprisingly, many of the climbers are older Japanese folk who see the climb as a religious experience since Fuji-San has played a deeply symbolic part in Japanese history. These seniors are pretty in shape but still must book one of the small hostels about midway up for a nap and then continue the rest of the way. There are also some young hung over tourists who make it about an hour into the climb before they give up and start heading back down.

In total, our trip took 6 and a half hours up and just over four back down. If your thinking about climbing the mountain, make sure to take plenty of cash, warm clothing (even if it’s hot down below, it will be freezing on top) a headlamp and a ton of stamina. Also, be sure to not leave any trash on the mountain to keep it beautiful.

Categories
International Japan - 日本 Journal

Japan Stories – Climbing Mt. Fuji

Climbing Mt. Fuji

By tok_matthew

Perhaps one of the most exciting, yet least attempted things to do while visiting Japan is climbing Mt. Fuji. It is quite close to Tokyo and only takes about an hour and a half to the fifth station of Mt. Fuji by bus from Shinjuku Station.

I attempted the climb and succeded in the summer of 2003, and it is something I will never forget. We started the climb at 10pm and made it to the summit in six and a half hours but had gotten there too early and were exposed to the freezing winds at the top which we were totally unprepared for. I also caught the chills and couldn’t stop from shaking violently until we were half way down the mountain. Unfortunately, we were only able to catch about a minute of the sunrise before it clouded over for the rest of the morning (picture is not mine but of my cousin).

At the summit there are three areas of interest: the temple, the crater, and the vending machines. The vending machines sell hot coffee but the cost is a dollar fifty to four dollars for a very small can. The reason for this is that it must be transported on foot since no vehicles can reach the top. There is also a small restaurant which sells expensive, mediocre ramen but is really good for warming up.

Suprisingly, many of the climbers are older Japanese folk who see the climb as a religious experience since Fuji-San has played a deeply symbolic part in Japanese history. These seniors are pretty in shape but still must book one of the small hostels about midway up for a nap and then continue the rest of the way. There are also some young hung over tourists who make it about an hour into the climb before they give up and start heading back down.

In total, our trip took 6 and a half hours up and just over four back down. If your thinking about climbing the mountain, make sure to take plenty of cash, warm clothing (even if it’s hot down below, it will be freezing on top) a headlamp and a ton of stamina. Also, be sure to not leave any trash on the mountain to keep it beautiful.

DSCN0713

DSCN0718

Categories
International Japan - 日本 Journal

Japanese Youth and Manners

Japanese Youth and Manners

By tok_matthew

June 3rd, 2005 @ 12:13 PM Life in Tokyo

Everyone knows that the Japanese are the politest people on the face of the earth. I was completely amazed when walking into even a McDonald’s in Japan and having the employees bow to me. In the trains I quickly learned to not talk to loud and turn my phone on mana- modo and if I was rude enough to answer to cover my mouth and quickly tell the caller to call me back because I’m on the train to which they would quickly understand and hurriedly say “ok ok,, call me back.”

However, it would seem that these manners are quickly slipping among the Japanese youth. This however can definitely not be compared to the rudeness of youth in other countries since Japan is in it’s own league when speaking of politeness, but it seems that the youth are bringing it down just a notch.

When I first arrived, I was unaware that the young girl putting her makeup on in the train was being rude….

but when she continued to concentrate on one eyelash for five minutes (not exaggerating) I smiled and mimicked her to one of my gaijin friends. Unfortunately, she noticed and gave me a super evil stare. As time went on, I learned what the do’s and dont’s were on the train and became so accustomed to the life that I actually began to see those eating and talking on cell phones while on the train as rude. It began to annoy me when people’s cell phones would suddenly interrupt the silence and I would be awakened to loud jabbering. Then I found out what a Shibuya girl was and how being rude was part of their identity. Once on a train near Shibuya there were a group of Shibuya guys and girls playing their cell phone ring tones super loud and dancing to it!!

It seems now that the international media has picked up on this phenomenon and I recently read an article about how manners are slipping among Japanese youth and wondered if it was due to the influence of the West or simply young Japanese trying to find their own identity by rejecting the social mores of their parents. The article now mentions that there are Sesame street posters which tell you to “Please fold your paper so it doesn’t take up too much room.” Does anyone have a picture of these characters? The last effort I saw from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in trying to control behavior was directed at the chikans that depicted angry women and police nearby.

Categories
Japan - 日本 Journal

Tokyo – 日本人と外人の関係について

日本人と外人の関係について

By tok_matthew

May 29th, 2005 @ 5:35 PM Life in Tokyo

私は三年間東京住んでいました。その時に日本の文化、言葉と生き方についてたくさんならって、日本の生活たいしてすごく住み心地の良いになりました。でも外人に対して日本で住むことをあまり住みやすくないんです。

日本で住むことを始まる時に外人が日本の文化と言葉、についてなにも分からない。そして日本人とあまり連絡をできません。色々日本人は英語をしゃべれる、だけどまだ日本の文化についてよく分からないで誤解がたくさんがあります。

例えば:

1.日本人にはじめてと日本人よくLets go to the Izakaya sometimeを言っています。外人はこの文を聞くと本との招待だと思っています。そして、外人の答えは、