Friday, August 31, 2007

Good day.

Unlike my previous day (post), today has been actually pretty nice. I too a Japanese test and I failed it so hard, I brought down the class average by about 50 points. I was kind of disappointed with myself, but I realized that I need to get faster reading and writing. This weekend, it's my goal to speed up how I operate, which is a fair goal. The weather today is not terrible, but not good. Even so, that's a pleasant change from the humid hell I've gotten used to.

I also talked to a friend today. She's Japanese, but she lives in England, so she has the greatest accent in the world. She's in Tokyo right now, and I'm going to see her on Tuesday, which I'm really looking forward to.

It's also Friday, which means tomorrow is off. I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but I'm hoping to have a good time. For tonight, I'm going bowling with some people from the dorms.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dumb day.

I had such a dumb day. I wanted to buy an English-Japanese dictionary, so I first went to this store called Book Off. I didn't realize it at first, but I think they only sell used books. I tried to find a dictionary, but I failed miserably, so I walked across the street and went to another bookstore in the same neighborhood. I found a ton of dictionaries, but they were either JUST English to Japanese or JUST Japanese to English, and I of course want both. So, I found one that had both, but had the Japanese side arranged in the Japanese order (as in あ、か、さ、た、etc. not A,B,C...). Given the limited selection and the fact that I just wanted to get a book, I decided to take the plunge and I picked it up. As soon as I got on the train, I realized that the English to Japanese side was littered with Kanji, making it quite useless to me. At least the Japanese to English side is fine. Too bad it's super confusing to me. The dictionary (and lots of other things) make no distinction between words that start like ぺ、べ、へ、which means a word that starts with 'pe' is next to a word that starts with 'be' and 'he' sounds. As a non-native Japanese speaker, this is quite confusing.

Other than that, today was rather uninteresting. I'm starting to get annoyed with a few people in my dorm. I'm not sure if their true personalities are coming out or if they're just trying to come off as 'cool', but a few people who I thought were okay until recently have become quite arrogant. Hopefully in a few days, I won't see much of them anyways. I just wish they'd leave the damned hallway to talk.

Tokyo Tower

Today, after a particularly depressing day, I decided to take a walk, and I'm sure glad I did.

For starters, I feel like there are 3 schools combined into 1. There is Temple University for Americans, TUJ for Japanese people, and Good ol' Temple for everyone who's returning. I'm clearly in the Temple University for Americans, and I actually feel quite isolated from the other groups. Before I got here, I read that it takes a few weeks for everyone (particularly the Japanese) to intermingle. I'm a little annoyed, but I'm pleased that this situation is supposed to be temporary.

I went to my Japanese class, and I realized how far behind I am. I also have an irrational fear of speaking Japanese and fucking it up. I went to go sign up for tutoring, but it turns out that that there's no tutoring for the first few weeks, which is quite unfortunate.

Every day I cross a street, and if I look to the right, I see Tokyo tower, so today I finally decided to go there.

I walked for a really long time, and it was interesting to see the tower get closer.

Tokyo Tower is supposedly bigger than the Eiffel tower, and I'll believe it, but it seemed to be missing some of the grandeur I remembered from visiting France when I was a kid. I think the fact that the Eiffel tower is on a flat plane while the Tokyo tower is on top of a hill with parks around it.

There was a giant building underneath Tokyo tower. Apparently, there is a rad wax museum inside.

I did have one major surprise about Tokyo tower.

Right next to one of the largest and most obvious buildings in the biggest metropolitan area in the world is a very modest graveyard. There was also another graveyard on the other side of the tower. I was quite shocked to find that. No tourist restaurants, no tacky gift shops, just some hotels, graveyards, parks, and old, old buildings.

I followed the signs to the closest train station, which either I took a wrong turn or the closest station was quite far, but I ended up walking down this road that was surrounded by temples and shrines. There were hundreds these little statues wearing red bonnets and a giant pavilion and some tents. I wanted to take a picture, but I felt quite humbled and awkward. For a place like that to exist anywhere in the world is pretty amazing, but to exist in a place where the cost of land is so astronomical is damned impressive.

I only took two pictures, and one I thought didn't turn out so well, but on second viewing it seems to have a magical glow to it.

This picture was the same picture someone else took:
On the way to the train station, I passed by a gate that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868) It used to guard the town, but now it's just a gate with a road through it.

I was impressed once again on how development didn't destroy history, but integrated itself around it. This area was far from a quaint neighborhood too. I passed by several multi-story buildings and the Tokyo world trade center.

My only regret for the day was I left my real camera at home, however my cell phone camera did quite a good job.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Fun times.

Today was a great day. I had my first day of class, which actually was pretty rough, but I'm sure things will smooth themselves out by the end of the week.

The highlight of today is I finally met a great person who is a friend of a friend. We went glasses shopping (they have a bathroom) and she was such a good sport because I was kind of a pain in the ass and I didn't understand anything.

She was SUPER easy and fun to talk to, and I am SUPER happy I met her, but I am SUPER sad that she's moving in a week in a half. It's better for her, but not for me.

Anyways, life is great.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Akihabara and Harajuku

Today I went to Akihabara and Harajuku. Both of these places are places that are pretty much required to see, and both of these placs I will return to.

First off, I went with me and 3 other people. I wasn't quite sure what was going on, but I picked up on the fact that 2 of the people I went with are a couple and the girl was upset for some reason. I didn't understand what was going on, but I also didn't care to ask. At first I thought she was just kind of a bitch, but after today, I think I kind of understand her.

It was pretty annoying running around with 4 people. When you have 4 people that want to do 4 different things, it gets pretty tedious just organizing what to do. When you go to a place that's as crowded as where we went, it gets even worse, but one of the people who I went with (and who I think will be pretty awesome once she stops being shy and awkward) has bright pink hair.

Anyways, Akihabara was interesting, but as far as shopping is concerned, it wasn't quite as much as I expected. Maybe I didn't go to the right spots, but Den-Den town in Osaka seemed to be a more happening place. I also know they recently passed a law not allowing them to sell used electronics with built-in power supplies or something. Anyways, I fully plan on returning to Akihabara on my own and going down some of the side streets that I missed today.

As far as things going on, Akihabara was CRAZY! There were at least 7 or 8 singers or bands on the streets, and I got to see two dancing coke machines and a dancing coke bottle(?)!

After Akihabara, we all went to Harajuku. Everyone but me was looking at cell phones, and since I already had one that I love, I wanted to explore Harajuku on my own. So, after I dropped the dead weight, I got a chance to do some wandering. It was a LOT different than what I expected. All around Harajuku were REALLY fancy shops, and a road that stretched a really long time lined on both sides with super posh brand stores. For some reason, I thought Harajuku was closer to Haight Ashbury, Little 5 points, or some other grungy punk place in any city in America. But, no. It was all really really nice.

I finally found out where those Harajuku people hang out that are so famous. It took me forever to track them down, but that's because I went the wrong direction out of the train station. Once I did, there weren't many people there, which I assume was because it was hot and the sun was going down. What really surprised me is they were overall, really really friendly. I expected them to be too cool for school and kind of rude and angsty, but they were having a GREAT time and they seemed to be happy to have their photos taken. I met a girl who was holding a 'free hugs' sign. She was really sweet and seemed excited to talk to me in English, even though she couldn't say much. I really kind of want to go back and see if I can communicate with them either by myself or with someone who speaks Japanese fluently. I think I'd like to do an interview and see what they are thinking.

We took a picture together, but I look so bad, it's not worth showing. I guess I'll have to go back next week.

My new blog!

If this is your first time viewing my blog, hello and welcome! My name is Keith and I am going to Temple University in Tokyo, Japan. I am an American who has lived mostly in Alabama and California.

I've been blogging on Mixi and Myspace for a while now, but I feel like I've outgrown social group blogs. I've been meaning to start something new for a while, so now here I am.

I chose the title "Not Just Visiting" after thinking about it for a long time. I wanted to express in a title that I am here to learn and understand what is going on in the world in which I now live. I've already seen a lot of non-Japanese people in Tokyo, and I'm sure most of them are visitors.
Having previously visited Japan, I understand that it is a very interesting experience to
view Japan as an outsider. Since I will be here for two years a least, I can't think of my experience as just visiting a foreign land. I must try to become a part of the culture, and not just a person visiting and looking in from the outside.

At the same time, I know that I can never fully be a part of the Japanese culture and history. I feel it may be possible to have a great life in Japan, but I don't feel it is possible to become Japanese. The title reflects this as well, because I'm sure I'll be asked many times if I'm just visiting.

For everyone who has been (and still is) reading my Myspace and Mixi blogs, thanks for checking this out too. For everyone new, thanks for saying hi.