I’m a General Studies major with a double minor in Psychology and History, and I’m in my last year at Ball State University. I’ve always had a keen interest in Japanese culture, religion, and mythology and the unique opportunity to travel to Japan was something I wanted to take advantage of. I have traveled once before, to France when I was in high school, so I’m excited to be traveling again. I’m a competitive fencer with the Ball State University Fencing Club, and I also work at Bracken Library in Government Publications Department within Information Services. I’ll be trying to keep things up to date with my travels, but I’m happy to share my adventures.
27.08.2010 6:15 PM
This particular blog may be finished for some of us, but for others the journey is not yet completed! The new fall group has begun, and four of us from the summer group (Prof. McShortz, Andrew, Tayln, and myself) are working with a whole new group of students, which means a whole new set of blogs to read and explore with us the ups (and sometimes downs) of learning about Japanese religiousness. Journey with us and follow along on our new blog site! There are 16 of us in this new group (count ’em! Prof. McShortz, Andrew, Tayln, myself, Matt, Becky, Brie, Chris, Dan, Eric, Katie, Maggie, Max, Robert, Travis, and Ryan!), so there will be lots of new perspectives and experiences to read about during the upcoming semester. I’m certainly excited about working with this new group and reading what they have to say about Japanese religion, and you’ll be able to continue to read about my personal learning journey with Japanese religion over there as well.
We’ll also be continuing the development of our class website as we learn more, so don’t forget to check that out frequently! Our Second Life projects are still in progress as we move ever closer to establishing a new and permanent home for our Buddhist Temple and Shinto Shrine, so check the blogs to see when those places are firmly established and ready for virtual visitors! I hope to see you all at our new blog site! Konbonwa and Sayonara!
07.08.2010 3:10 PM
The summer class is officially finished, but there will be more to come as far as learning about Japanese religions is concerned. There will be another group of students in a fall class that will continue what this group started, and I believe there is plans for a third group in the spring. These future groups will keep updating the website with new information and research, and will continue to add details to the Second Life Shinto Shrine and Buddhist Temple to fill out the overall virtual experience. The original group that went to Japan though… I don’t think there will be any way to top that experience. It was a highly successful group in my book, and we did (and saw) a lot more than I anticipated.
I had my trip to France in high school to help prepare me for this trip to Japan, at least flying over anyway. The direct flight went as planned and the most eventful portion of the flight being when we flew over the mountains and some of the surrounding area of Alaska. Landing was the most painful portion, which I had anticipated as well. I knew my ears would give me problems, and there was not much I could do to ease the pain. Being immersed in a completely different place and culture went as expected as well. Like traveling to France, I had previous studies in the language and culture to prepare me for what was to come and made the transition that much easier.
I adored being in Japan and brought back with me many great memories. Several of the others talked about being homesick and having trouble adjusting, but it never really occurred to me that it was possible to be homesick (at least for me personally) until we talked about it at lunch one day. I certainly sympathized with the others for being homesick, we had been in a foreign place for a while at that point and they were ready to be someplace familiar again, but when it came time to go home I was not as enthused by the prospect of being home again as everyone else.
The trip back was longer than the trip over, repeating Monday and having three shorter flights helped to make it seem that much longer. Jet lag hit everyone pretty hard I believe. I was certainly thankful I did not have to go back to work until the following Monday. The final week of class went swimmingly, and the others had lots of great ideas of how to present what they experienced and learned while in Japan. The website went up pretty quickly, and there are only some minor details to tweak before it goes live. Andrew and I headed up the Second Life portion, and we were able to get quite a bit finished in a week. Unfortunately we don’t have a place yet to show off what we’ve built, but we should be able to put down roots someplace soon.
The only thing that really threw me off about this whole experience was being back in the States again. I was not overly excited about coming back, and the homesickness that hit seemed more overwhelming than the jet lag at some points. It made the first week feel almost unbearable, but it was better the second week. Going back to work was very odd, but everything I was used to doing at work came back pretty quickly and I could go on autopilot most of the time. I felt at home in Japan, and if I had to pick a city we visited that I particularly enjoyed it would be Kyoto. My immediate future is currently in flux, but one day I’d like to go back there. I don’t know how long the homesickness will linger, but it’s eased off a bit now. We’ll see how things turn out. Konbonwa!
03.08.2010 9:02 AM
Just finished rearranging the day entries in the blog, so I figured I might as well add a bit of an update. Been running around trying to get multiple projects done at once, and it’s making for some interesting delays for one thing or another. Thankfully today was the last day (sort of) I really had to focus on something other than the class projects, so this afternoon I should be able to get some real work finished.
Finally met up with Andrew yesterday afternoon, and we were able to get some plans laid out for what we were going to focus on first and foremost as well as how we wanted the area to look in the finished product (we picked out two: the primary look for limited space, and an alternative look if we get some extra space). We picked out some buildings and structures that were some must haves for the area, and then figured out some secondary items we would like to have as well if there was time to put it together. I’m still planning on doing some scripting for the area, I’m keeping at least scripts for rituals as well as sounds on higher priority, but a good portion of the desired scripts have been bumped down to secondary priority.
Meeting with Roemer this afternoon to discuss some things and go through pictures, but I’ll be swinging by the Schwartz complex directly after work to let Andrew know where I’m headed so he doesn’t wonder what’s up. I’m anticipating that this discussion will likely take a while, but we should still wrap up with plenty of time to get ample work finished in the Schwartz complex before having to head home for the night. Whatever I don’t finish in the Schwartz I can easily supplement from my laptop at home, so I’m not overly worried. This project is one of the few things I’m not really worried about thankfully, it’s everything else. Only time will tell what’s going to happen in the end. For now, it’s just another Tuesday, and I think it’s going to be another hot day. Konnichiwa!
01.08.2010 11:05 PM
Hard to believe it’s been almost a week since we’ve returned to the States… Jet lag has been hitting hard coming back this time around (as compared to my previous experience coming back from France in high school), my guess is because of the (relatively) shorter hops we had to take to get back rather than another direct flight. I’ve also been wrestling with some rather strong pangs of homesickness since coming back, and I’ve been home this past weekend sorting things out with the parents concerning some future plans.
Been making some progress towards shaping the final project, such as getting pictures sorted and figuring out a decent time schedule, and plans are in place to get some of the major construction in Second Life started tomorrow afternoon. I’m hoping that once I get started the building phase should move along rather smoothly without too much difficulty, which in turn will leave me ample time to do some scripting later. I have had to make some minor adjustments as far as my time schedule is concerned. When I touched base with my boss I learned that I do have a work schedule in place for the next few weeks, but it’s a morning shift so I can still do a large majority of the work in the afternoon and evening hours.
It has been a little hard to focus on things in the midst of processing the last few weeks as well as discussing certain matters of the future with my parents, but having a plan for what’s going to happen when as far as the here and now for the project has been helping some. A lot of changes are headed my way, and sooner than I would like, but for now I have something tangible I can work on and enjoy for the time being. At least for a little bit I can forget what’s coming and enjoy what was as I construct something for the here and now. Oyasuminasai!
27.07.2010 5:52 PM
Back in Indiana for about 12 hours now. Everyone is rather pleased to be home after two weeks away, but I’m feeling a bit homesick… for Japan. Repeating Monday was a bit awkward on many counts, so it feels like it should be Wednesday rather than Tuesday.
Our last day in Osaka was a busy day, but a bit more of a relaxed busy than a rush around busy. We saw Sumiyoshi Shrine in the morning, and had a pleasant surprise while we were there. An old friend of Roemer’s was still there, the head priest who he interviewed several years ago and got him started on his research of Japanese Religion. Roemer was expecting to just drop a line, say “Hello, we stopped by and hope you’re doing well”, but the head priest was happy to actually sit down with us for a small conversation and answer some questions. It was a very interesting conversation and a wonderful surprise that he was willing and able to sit and talk with us for a bit.
We got some lunch at a nearby train station, and then the others decided to see what a Pachinko Hall was like for a moment. I stayed outside, it was far too noisy inside for me. After that we went over to Shitennoji Temple complex to look around. We got there later in the afternoon, so it was quiet and not very busy beyond the construction crews putting down some new beds of gravel in the courtyard area. There was a pagoda on the grounds that was open for the public to see the inside, which was interesting. We grabbed a cool treat and some drinks, and then headed back to the hotel to pick up our luggage we stowed away for the day.
Getting to the airport by train with all of our luggage was a real pain, but it was a familiar routine by this point. We got a bit mixed up concerning which train we needed to switch to for the airport, but it worked out in the end. We got into the airport about 30 minutes late, but still had enough time to get through customs and grab a quick bite to eat before boarding the plane. Met a man who co-wrote a book on one of the new religions in Japan while waiting to board, had a nice chat after the hectic rush through customs and eating.
First leg of the trip was rather uneventful, just long. We got our seats late so we were separated, but we were all in seat H just different rows. Kept myself occupied with getting pictures imported and loaded onto my computer, chatting with Roemer and Collin for a bit, and trying to snatch some sleep here and there. Landing in Honolulu was a beautiful view, and it was nice to be outside the terminal here and there (the airport had a very open layout) while getting through customs and setting up the transfer to the next plane. We had a couple hours in Honolulu to get some lunch, charge computers, get boarding passes for the third leg, and just frump for a bit.
Second leg I had a bit more success snatching some sleep here and there, and I also watched a movie on a private screen that was set into the headrest of the seat in front of me. I saw the new Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton which I had been wanting to see for a while; I enjoyed it immensely. I also played some games and listened to some music. Landing in Los Angeles was rather nerve wracking though. We were a bit late coming in and had to wait for another plane to leave the gate before we could taxi up to it. We were forced to wait so long that we very nearly missed out connection flight to Indianapolis, we had 5 minutes to rush to the gate.
Third leg was the most hectic due to the rush to catch the plane, and unfortunately while we made it to the plane, our main luggage did not. This final leg consisted of a lot of sleeping (done by everyone else) and listening to music. My Zune was running low on battery, so I was surprised that it lasted the whole flight. Landing in Indy was uneventful and quiet. We got down to baggage claim where Kathy, Alex, and Kate surprised Roemer, who was expecting to wait a few more hours before they arrived to pick him up. We got our luggage situation settled at Baggage Claim desk, and then we all went our separate ways to our own homes.
Ride back to Muncie was a bit odd after spending the last two weeks getting around by train and subway (with a couple of taxis). Got back to the apartment and touched base with my mom before crawling into bed for a few hours. My luggage finally caught up with me mid-afternoon/early eveningish, and then met up with my brother for a bit to get the rest of my stuff which I had left at my parent’s place and to pick up some basic groceries.
The evening has been quiet thus far, and not having to do much for the next day or so will be good for winding down from the trip. Next step will be to plan out the final steps of our project, and get my work schedule worked out for the next couple of weeks. For now it’s time for some dinner and more quiet time. Konbanwa!
P.S. I’m still homesick…
25.07.2010 9:15 PM
Got out a bit later than I wanted to initially, but turned out that going out later was not so bad after all. It was a little bit nerve-wracking being out on the streets by myself in a strange city that we had only been in for a little over 24 hours, but once I reminded myself of the landmarks nearby the hotel I felt much better about getting around. I had settled on going to the shopping mall close by for dinner, but once I got into the mall I realized I had left behind my yen bag so I had to turn around.
Coming back down I had decided against going to the mall and went the opposite direction instead to try my luck down the other way. Going the other way proved to be very fortunate. I spent about an hour out on the bridge by the hotel with a crowd of people munching on some festival foods and watching the fireworks go off in the distance. It was pretty awesome (which is a complete understatement). There was also a really nice and cool breeze blowing over the bridge from the river which made it even better. I’m sure it would have been even more awesome if I had been closer, but the view I had from the bridge was pretty neat.
I had a panoramic shot of both places they were shooting off fireworks, and the sound of the explosions bouncing off of the tall buildings made for a cool effect. There were also some festival stands set up just on the other side of the bridge selling some munchies and sweets, so I got a couple of things to enjoy while watching the fireworks. It was sooo much better than finding a sit down place to eat or even staying at the hotel and eating in one of their restaurants (not recommended, waaay overpriced). Now I’ve got a little while to just relax by myself some more and wait for the others to get back. Not a bad evening at all. Oyasuminasai!
25.07.2010 4:51 PM
Crimeny, one can get behind so easily… Didn’t see the comment about my camera being able to take short video clips until now (maybe Roemer saw it, don’t really know), but several others have been able to take short video clips on their cameras so we have ample footage to sort through later.
The visit to Doshisha University was very informative, and Ajisaka-sensei was intriguing to talk to (he seems like he’s in a rush all the time though…). He gave us a really quick tour of campus after lunch, which was very nice and quite formal. We even met (briefly) the University President who also happened to be having lunch at the same time and place. After the tour we swung by Shimogamo Shrine for a little bit and then headed over to Yoshida Shrine where we met up with Roemer’s friend, Prof. Breen.
Prof. Breen gave us a tour/lecture on Yoshida Shrine for a while and we ended at a small shop/cafe place at Kyoto University for some drinks and dinner. After dinner we went to meet Nakajima-san, but we got lost just a little bit (turned south instead of north, oops) so we made it to the Q&A a bit late. Nakajima-san showed us around his family temple before giving us a ride to the Q&A at Joukyouji Temple. The Q&A was a bit longer than I thought it would be, but very informative and prompted some thoughtful questions and answers from everyone.
Got to sleep in a bit the next morning, but Mindy and Tayln went out again in the morning to Kiyomizudera Temple (those two are quite the early birds). We had lunch with Yoshida-san, his family, and another friend at a fancy place that was serving a Gion Festival lunch. It was veeery fancy, fanciest we’ve eaten this entire trip. After lunch we went to Yasaka Shrine where we met with an older priest who talked to us a bit about Yasaka Shrine and gave us a tour of the inside of the shrine, including a spot in the back that was the closest we could get to the kami of the shrine. We followed that up with a stop by where the mikoshi were being presented to the people for the duration of the festival.
We had a relatively free evening afterward, so we stopped in a department store to pick up some gifts/souvenirs and grab a cool treat. Then we headed over to Teramachi Dori to do some more gift/souvenir shopping, and found a place for dinner that allowed one to grill meats and vegetables via a small charcoal grill set into your table. On the way back to the hotel we stopped in a convenience store to grab some breakfast for the next day.
In the morning we got an extra treat for the trip set up by another friend of Roemer’s who we saw at the Buddhist Q&A, a visit to a Zen master’s temple for a Zen meditation session (a short one) and a lecture on Zen Buddhism, with a short tour of his temple. After our meditation session we went over to the famous rock garden at Ryoanji Temple (also a Zen Buddhist temple) and spent some time admiring the garden and the surrounding enclosure.
Afterward Roemer and I stopped by a small bank to exchange some cash and traveler’s checks and then lunch at a local shop. After lunch we went to Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion) for a while, and near the end of the tour some of the group did a (very) short tea ceremony. After Kinkakuji Temple, we saw Sanjusangendo Temple which houses the 1,001 statues of Kannon and Heian Shrine home of the largest torii in Japan.
We quickly stopped in a small mochi shop and got some refreshment, and then went back to Shimogamo Shrine for a festival that centers around the healing waters of a small river that runs through the grounds. While we ended the evening earlier than most others, we were getting back too late to do any additional shopping on Teramachi Dori, so Roemer, Tayln, and I looked around a 100 Yen Store for some items.
The next day we got up early to go see Fushimi Inari Shrine, home of the largest number of torii in Japan. It was quite impressive to see so many torii gathered in one place, and we climbed only part of the way up the mountain, but it was still a very inspiring view to be up so high and surrounded by so many torii. After Fushimi Inari Shrine we headed back to the hotel to quickly pack and get checked out, then we got some lunch. After lunch Roemer and I made a quick trip over to Yoshida-san’s friend’s barber shop to give him some omiyage (a small gift). This was the same man who joined us for lunch the previous day, he’s very funny and told us a lot about why Gion Festival is important to him and why he participates in it every year.
After this quick trip we rejoined the others (they hung out in the hotel lobby) and took taxis to Kyoto Station where we caught a train to Osaka (about 45 minutes). Another taxi ride later and we were soon settling into the hotel in Osaka. We relaxed for a little bit and then met up to find some dinner and then go see some pre-festival activities. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we had arrived in time to catch some entertainment that was happening in front of the shrine and where Osaka’s mikoshi were set up for the duration of their festival. We hung out for a little while longer after the dances finished and then headed back to the hotel to turn in.
Unfortunately at this point I started figuring out that all was not quite well on my part. I persevered as much as I could, and almost didn’t make it back to my own bed. It seems that I can’t tell when I’m in too much pain until it’s very nearly too late; I don’t register it at all on a conscious level. I have to use other cues to figure out when enough is enough, such as headache, lethargy, fatigue, and slight nausea.
This morning we slept in again and went out mid-morning to visit Osaka Castle which was just around the corner from the hotel. After a tour of the castle and a shrine that was on the grounds, we grabbed some lunch at a shopping mall near the hotel and then had a quick pit stop at the hotel where I stayed behind and the others went on to the main festival events occurring tonight. Touring the castle was fun but it also showed me that I was pushing it a bit too much, especially after yesterday. Going to the festival tonight would have been a big mistake, particularly if it’s going to be as crowded and big as Gion Festival. Roemer has my camera (he’s been using it since the 20th, which is perfectly okay with me, sometimes I get tunnel vision when looking through the viewfinder and miss some of the sights right next to me), so I’ll be able to see from the pictures later what they experienced. I’ll be headed out soon just to walk around a bit and get some dinner, but the down time has been much needed.
Hopefully I’ll have some time to do a wrap up blog before we catch the plane tomorrow, but we’ve got one more day in Osaka and then we’ll be headed home. Konbanwa!
21.07.2010 10:16 AM
Okay, gotta be quicker about this and not spend a lot of time trying to elaborate on things, too much to say and only a half an hour to really write anything (but better than no time to write!). The day after our visit to Ise we spent mostly traveling to and from places. We took the train back to Kyoto, and while we had some time we stopped by Higashi-Honganji Temple where we fed the pigeons and took a few minutes to sit quietly inside. Then we managed to meet up with a friend (semi-student?) of Roemer’s from Ethiopia, Dilu, but since they had never met in person before we were worried about missing each other completely. We found a nice shop on Teramachi Dori that sold some sweets and cool drinks where we got to sit and chat for a while.
Afterward we went back to the apartment and grabbed our main luggage to take to the hotel we’re staying at for the rest of our time in Kyoto. Roemer’s friend who arranged the apartment for us (and his family) ran into us on our way out and insisted on helping us get our things to the hotel, which was very kind of them. We were all very grateful for their help. After settling in we went back out had some dinner at a rotating sushi bar, did a little shopping and wandering around, and then met back up with Dilu and a friend of his for some drinks before Dilu left in the morning to go back home.
The next morning was a bit frustrating as we missed the bus we wanted and then discovered that the video camera Roemer got for the trip is now busted. He was able to save the latest batch of pictures and videos off of it later in the evening, so it wasn’t all lost. Still a real bummer though… We visited with Roemer’s host mother for a little while in the morning which was a very nice experience, she’s a very kind lady, reminded me of my own mom (miss you and love you lots!). We got lucky on the way back and quickly caught the next bus to the train station for our ride to Nara.
We spent a good portion of the day in Nara, much longer than we thought we would, but it was an overwhelming experience (the place is huge!). We fed the deer which were all over the place, and Roemer got bit twice by a deer that was very determined to get some food. Due to the video camera dying, Roemer borrowed my camera to get some really good shots which I thoroughly enjoyed sorting through (he’s got a good eye for photography). By the end of the visit I wasn’t feeling too well, but perked up a bit after getting some dinner.
We caught the train back to Kyoto after dinner and decided to turn in early to just relax and get caught up on some rest. We got some ice cream and the next morning’s breakfast at a convenience store, and headed up for the night. This morning a bunch of the others went out to see the bazaar at Toji Temple, but Collin and I stayed behind in our respective rooms. Today should be another full day with a visit to Doshisha University and later this evening a Buddhist Q&A. If I can I’ll elaborate on that more later.
As for the question about sushi, we’ve had it twice now, and I had some crab sushi the first time and a little bit of Inari sushi the second time (I wasn’t feeling well again the second time), both times were very good. Time to gather up my things and meet up with the others downstairs, another busy day ahead. Konnichiwa!
18.07.2010 10:10 PM
Goodness gracious, it’s been two nights since I last updated; I feel bad for not being able to let people know what’s been going on lately. Roemer has a friend in Kyoto who managed to work out a way for us to stay in an empty apartment for two nights, but unfortunately there was no Internet connection (at least not a strong and steady one) to use for updating. How in the world do I sum up a good three days worth of experiences in one update… Not easily… Thankfully I’ve been keeping a journal of what’s been going on, so that should help. Reverse to three days ago…
We did go visit the Buddhist priest who does hip-hop, and that was an interesting visit to make. Unfortunately I was unable to fully enjoy the experience due to not feeling very well. Afterward we caught the bullet train to Kyoto, which was a 2 hour ride through beautiful countryside. Once we arrived we took three taxi cabs to the apartment, which was rather intimidating to say the least. We had some downtime in the apartment, which was nice, before heading out to see the pre-parade festivities. It was rather humorous how quickly Mindy, Tayln, Andy, Kendra, and Collin staked out where they were going to sleep for the next two nights. Mindy and I dressed up, in kimono and yukata, and Roemer got a picture of us, but I decided to change back into shorts and a t-shirt for the festivities, which proved to be a very good idea.
The crowds at the festivities were extremely intense, at one point we came to a complete standstill because no one could move anywhere. After a little while of absorbing the sights and getting what pictures we could, we made our way back to the apartment where I passed out early while the others (except Collin) went back out to find some dinner. Sleeping on futon was a very different experience, but not unpleasant. In the morning we were off to see the beginning of the festival.
We arrived a bit late and didn’t quite get the spots we wanted, but we still got to see some really interesting portions of the parade we would not have otherwise seen if it all went as planned. We saw the chigo being carried onto his main float, a different angle of the sacred rope being cut to officially begin the parade, wandered down some relatively quieter side streets before coming to a corner to watch the floats being turned, and experienced some more really intense crowds. We got off the main route to find a small place for lunch, where we got lucky and found a place that was just opening up. Collin gave us a slight scare after downing two glasses of cold water a bit too quickly, but he was okay overall.
After lunch we meandered our way back to the apartment, catching some of the smaller neighborhoods taking apart the floats that were finished with their parade route. Once back we had some downtime for a bit, and then Mindy, Tayln, and Roemer went back out while Kendra, Collin, Andy, and I stayed behind for some naps. I also soon discovered that I had managed to get sunburnt on my arms from being out in the direct sunlight while waiting on the floats to make their way down the street.
In the evening we went out to catch the mikoshi parade, but once again not all went as planned. We didn’t get to see the beginning of the parade due to getting caught in the crowds once again, but while moving around to find a good spot to see one of the mikoshi on its route we saw a rare sight multiple times, Meiko (basically apprentice Geisha) on their way out for the night. I got some really good pictures of one of the Meiko that we saw that evening. We made our way onto a side street in Gion District where we got very lucky as a mikoshi made its way by right in front of us. It was a very exciting thing to witness. Dinner consisted of Andy’s favorite dishes, food on a stick. After dinner was an early bedtime for many.
Roemer and I were up rather early, but much more sleep didn’t seem to want to come for either of us. The others gradually woke up as well, and we caught a bus over to the train station to head to Ise for the day. Another 2 hour train ride later we were soon walking around a much smaller and less crowded city of Ise. After dropping off our bags and grabbing some lunch we headed over to Ise Shrine.
We wandered around the Outer Shrine and found some nice quiet spots to take pictures. Then we figured out we needed to take a bus up to the Inner Shrine which was much busier and more crowded. Andy, Roemer, and I got separated from Mindy, Tayln, Kendra, and Collin near the entrance, but it wasn’t very long before we managed to corral the group back together. We stopped by a small place where people could dip their feet and/or hands into the cool river water that runs through Ise Shrine, and there Tayln made a new friend, a dragonfly. The dragonfly decided it liked his hand and stayed there all the way up to the main shrine for Ameterasu, and even hung on while Tayln did the ritual for the shrine (bow twice, clap twice, bow once more). We then met up with another friend of Mindy’s, Yumi-san, and found a place that served tofu for dinner.
While waiting for our food a gentleman came in with a very formal costume on, and after some curious looking, Yumi-san went over and asked if he was willing to speak with us for a moment. We soon learned he was a professor at the local Shinto University and they had an open campus visit for the high schoolers that day; he was dressed up for his presentation of what he teaches. He also mentioned that his formal costume was made of fiber from the trunk of the banana tree.
After dinner we figured out that the buses were no longer running, so took a pair of taxis back to the train station so we could see off Yumi-san. A short walk later we made it back to the hotel, and once again my roommates, Mindy and Kendra, have fallen sound asleep before I have. I don’t have any pictures ready to post tonight, but hopefully tomorrow I will have a chance to get some up. Extra long post tonight, but I did have three whole days to cover… Either way I need to wrap up and head to bed, up early in the morning to catch the train back to Kyoto. Oyasuminasai!
16.07.2010 1:20 AM
Why am I up so late… this will come back to get me later… Let’s see if I can keep this relatively brief. There was a question left on my page about how I got my nickname. I’ve actually had the nickname since I was a little kid (along with several others, i.e. Kay Kay, Katybug, and Kate/Cait), but it’s only recently that it’s being used more often. I am a huge fan of Star Wars, and one of the Expanded Universe characters (a character introduced in the books of Star Wars and not in the movies) is a woman known as Mara Jade Skywalker (Jedi Knight, wife of Luke Skywalker, and mother of Ben Skywalker). My brother and I, as well as one other friend, gave each other codenames, the reason for which is a rather hazy memory at this point. My love of Star Wars and fondness for green jade gemstones provided the inspiration/motivation to choose “Jade” as my codename.
Switching tracks completely now, today was a very long day, far longer than I thought it would be. We made it Studio Ghibli this morning and toured the museum for a while. It was very fun to see, but also very crowded. After lunch we headed over to the Harajuku District which was an exprience all on it’s own. I didn’t get any pictures of the street we walked down, but some of the others did. We followed up that with a walk over to Meiji Shrine which was a complete 180 flip of what we just saw. It was much quieter and less crowded.
Meiji Shrine is really quite beautiful, and we got the rare opportunity to see a senior miko teaching a junior miko how to properly walk and bow. Akihabara was the next stop, which reminded me very much of Times Square in New York City. We met up with a friend of Mindy’s for dinner at a good sushi place that she knew. After dinner Miho-san, Mindy’s friend, stayed with us for the evening and helped Mindy find a new camera (her old one was having an issue with the flash). Once Mindy settled on a camera we all made our way to a small bar that was run by a Buddhist monk, which is very rare. That was a really unique experience, and very educational. It was great to be able to talk (via translation through Roemer and Miho-san) to the monks and a couple of patrons who were also there.
Unfortunately we got out rather late and so got back to the hotel much later than anticipated. We should be okay though, we’ve been real troopers thus far. In the morning we check out and depending on how people feel we may either go visit another Buddhist priest and then head on to Kyoto, or just go straight to Kyoto. I guess brief is not in my functional vocabulary… oh well… it’s sleeping time, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to share some pictures. Oyasuminasai!
14.07.2010 9:38 PM
Let’s see how much I can get down before the computer battery dies on me… Lots of walking around today, but it was all worth it. Mindy had good eyes and spotted some preliminary festival setup down a side street on our way to the bank to exchange some dollars to yen. We found a small local shrine that was getting ready to have their own festival that evening, so we were able to get some pictures before the stands went up. Afterward we made a quick stop at the hotel to pick up/drop off items, and then we headed off to Yasukuni Shrine.
Yasukuni was all decked out with lots of stands selling all kinds of things: foods, toys, souvenirs, drinks, sweets, games, and many other items. The walk to the main shrine was very crowded with people, noise, and smells. We also saw some demonstrations near the main shrine, and we visited the museum that was on site. After looking around Yasukuni we found a late lunch and then moved on Asakusa Temple. Unfortunately we got there after hours, so the main temple was closed. The walkway to the main temple was completely packed with stands selling all kinds of goodies; definitely lots of eye candy.
We made our way back to the hotel planning on some down time, but we soon discovered that the small local festival we had found earlier that morning was underway by the sound of the taiko drum echoing through the streets. We decided to stop by and see the small festival before finding some dinner. Dinner wasn’t a very elaborate affair as we were all tired and ready to just head back. My roommates have once again passed out before I have, which demonstrates just how long and exhausting of a day it’s been.
Tomorrow we’ll be going to Ghibli Studio, hopefully Meiji Shrine, and possibly the Harajuku District. Another long day, but since most had plans to head to bed early it shouldn’t be nearly as bad as it was today. I’ve got my pictures downloaded onto the computer now, so I’m headed to bed soon myself. I may have a chance in the next couple of days to comb through the pictures and get some uploaded to the blog, we’ll see. For now though it’s sleeping time. Oyasuminasai!
14.07.2010 12:13 AM
Oy, what a day. Landed in Tokyo at 5:30 PM after a 12 hour flight of nothing but sitting, eating, sleeping, and attempting to keep the mind occupied. For the longer flight I was lucky enough to be with Tayln, Collin, and Kendra in one row, but Mindy, Andy, and Roemer were up a few rows from us. I chatted with Tayln and Collin mostly, and Collin and I watched movies and videos on my laptop and iPad. Landing in Tokyo was excruciating for me though, it felt like my head was going split open via my ear canals. I was just about in tears. My ears are currently still a bit plugged up, but hopefully the Sudphed I took earlier will help a bit.
After doing a bit of running around and getting a quick introduction to the train and subway system we were able to find a place to eat dinner before heading to the hotel. Roemer got a quick picture of the six of us having our first authentic Japanese meal, and perhaps that will be loaded at some point in the next few days. Many of the Japanese phrases and words that I all ready knew quickly came back as we wandered around the various stations and streets, and I was pleased that I was still able to get my pronunciation right even though I could hardly hear anything at all. Both of my roommates, Mindy and Kendra, are currently passed out from all the traveling, so they’ll likely post updates of their own later. I’ll be following their lead and curling up under my own covers shortly.
Tomorrow will be a long day, and an early one too. A quick bank run in the morning to do some exchanges of traveler’s checks and cash into yen, and I believe a trip to Studio Ghibli is also in the plans at some point during the day. I’m not sure what else we’ll do tomorrow; we were really too tired to actually sit down and make any real plans for the day before finding our respective beds. Speaking of bed, it’s sleeping time for Jade. Oyasuminasai!