Saturday, May 17, 2008


At the end of March and beginning of April in Tokyo is Hanami season. Hana means flower and Mi is to see, so hanami literally means flower viewing.

Hanami involves going to a park and hanging out with friends, snacking, and most importantly drinking.

It's quite a popular activity, to the point that Japanese businessmen sometimes skip out on work to enjoy hanami. Also, every major park is quite crowded.

Like everyone else, I took a ton of pictures. The first ones I've shown you were from Yoyogi park. There were a LOT of foreigners in Yoyogi. I'd say maybe 1/5 of the people in the park were non-Japanese, which is a really high percentage. The weather was nice on Saturday, March 29th. I drank quite a bit that night, and had quite a blast.

The following day it rained. I took some time to walk down to my local park and took some pictures on the way.

While it was cloudy, Inokashira was nice and quite crowded.

The entire park was completely full. I've never seen it even close to that busy.

Kichijoji was crowded as well. I felt like my neighborhood was all of a sudden the popular hang out.

During the week, I took some pictures around town. This was outside the window of my school.

On April 2nd, I took some time to take some more pictures at Inokashira, since it was a much nicer day.

The following Saturday, I returned yet again to take some pictures. It was really lovely and delightful despite how crowded it was. Everyone seemed to be having a great time.

This is a snack called Dango, which is a sweet snack made of rice cake and is quite like mochi. Mine was miso flavored, and quite delicious.

Here is the shrine by my house. It was best during hanami, no question.

Even the turtles were enjoying the day.

I've seen one or two turtles, but never this many.

On Sunday, April 6th, I went to a Fertility festival, which I found sadly a bit disappointing. Later on, I headed up to Wakoshi in Saitama to hang out with my friend. She took her to a park close to her house and it was unbelievable.

Unlike Inokashira or Yoyogi, the park in Wakoshi was practically empty. Also, it was the most gorgeous one during Hanami. Don't get me wrong, Yoyogi and Inokashira were both amazing, bu they were city parks. This was much more of a suburb park and less dramatic, but more open.

I also liked this scooter.

The typical "to prove I was there" picture. My hair and jacket are much shorter now.

As you can see, it's almost barren. It's only about 25 minutes outside of Ikebukuro and almost completely deserted.

I was a bit shocked at how some people, especially the women, dressed for going to the park.

After that day, all the cherry blossoms had fallen which basically ended hanami. It was quite a moving experience, and even though I was busy almost every day with school, I'm really glad I made time to see what I could.

This last picture was a building in Ikebukuro I saw while changing trains. It's quite unrelated, but I really like it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


These are he pictures of my trip up to Yamagata prefecture.

I already wrote about the trip extensively, so I'm not going to say much here.

I didn't have to get a photo of the shinkansen from the outside, but here's the inside of the train.

And here's Ueno station, our first stop and still definitely in Tokyo.

The train that is going off to the left is the Yamanote. This is the first time I've been outside of the Yamanote loop towards the East.

A view from the train.

It's hard to capture, but the feeling of pulling into a train station that was quite a distance above ground and to see the massive shopping centers outside the window was pretty surreal.

I'm not sure it captures it well, but I do like this picture.

I don't know how far away or how big that balloon was, but it wasn't small.


Those were most of the good pictures from the train. The darkness and the rapid speed made it hard to capture a good video.

Here was a crazy looking store I saw on the way back to the house. There were giant posters of old movies. I kind of wanted to go there, but time didn't allow it. It was pretty cool looking, though.

Here's me with the mother and father and family dog. They were so wonderful.

Here is me with the monk. I had no idea what to do with my hands, so I awkwardly tucked them behind me.

Here is one of the most gorgeous and wonderful meals I've ever had. There was entirely too much food, though.

Here are some bushes that were protected from the snow using logs and rope.

And the family dog:

A river near the house.

This bus has seen better days. I was told now it stores sporting equipment.

More of that same river.

This is the agricultural school near the house.

More things being protected for the winter.

Here's the Prius I rode around in some. Steering wheel on the left was the main difference from my mom's car, but this one also had TV. It only worked when the car was in park.

Here's the front of the winery. If it wasn't raining, I would have tried to take a few more pictures.

Here is the outside of the winery

And the sign.

This store sign really caught my eye.

As did this ad for a pachinko parlor.

But the Karaoke gorilla took the cake.

It was election time, and there were so many ads up. I can't believe this many people were running for office.

Here is Ultraman in a train station. If you look to the left, you can see the top of the "butt biting" bug. If you don't know what I mean, look it up.

Just a view of small to medium town life.

this is the bell I wrote about. It's quite old, and apparently still rung on a regular basis.

This is the thatched roof building I also wrote about. It was quite grand on the mountain top, but I don't know if I could have shown that in a picture.

Here are some smaller buildings behind the main temple. The snow was quite thick, and it seemed very few people went back there recently.

Here is the tree that I wrote about. It's possibly over 900 years old.

Here is a political van. It spouts propaganda and thanks for supporting their pary.

Here is another one in motion. You can see the big speakers on top. They were so obnoxious.

These were old style huts. I'm not sure how old they were, but I think they were recreations of ancient houses.

Here is the pagoda in the distance. For me, this one was the main attraction.

The woodwork was amazing. All of it was interlocking pieces and no nails.

So that you can see, 八=8, 六=6 and 0=0, so 八六0= 860. Old. Really old.

Here is the building that was going to be renovated soon. It wasn't in the best condition, but honestly, I've seen much worse. Kudos to the city for preserving their history, though.

Here's a shop in seemingly the middle of nowhere. The pagoda is behind me when I took this picture.

Here was a house that had all sorts of wires to hold up tree branches. That's how they get all those interesting trees around here, I guess.

Right across from the house I was staying in.

The front of the house. Not too different from America, I would say.

The mother loves gardening. These flowers were quite lovely, especially if you consider the season and temperature outside. This green room did next to nothing to keep heat in.

Here is a giant pachinko place. Boss is a brand of coffee in Japan, and the face is it's logo. Was this pachinko place brought to you by a coffee company or were they just ripping off the logo?

Fields in the day on the way to skiing.

On the way to go skiing, there was this one massive building that seemed really out of place. Why was it so tall and the only tall building in the area?

Here it is closer up. It's quite strange to see a building that tall next to several empty fields.

Here is about halfway up the mountain.

Near the top of where we went were these tunnels. They had windows that looked like aircraft windows.

Inside the tunnel:

Here is a shot from on top of the mountain. The view was quite amazing.

And here are the famous "snow monsters" of Mt. Zao.

Here is the statue near the top.

Compare this to the picture I found that someone else took:

And for size comparison, here's me, the mother and the sister.

Inside the Yonezawa train station, there's a statue as an homage to their famous beef.

And here's a shot of the father and sister saying goodbye. They were way, way way too good to me. If I lived there, I'd be so terribly spoiled.

While we were waiting, they told me that this orange train was about to end it's service life. I think it was it's last winter as a snow plow train.

Instead, this brand new blue train was going to take over duties.

And speaking of trains, here was my train arriving.

Some shots from the ride home:

And here you can see how the two trains attached to eachother. The white train I believe is the latest model Shinkansen. The grey one is the one I rode. This is in Tokyo station and in the middle of the picture you can see the old part of the station.

Well, that was my trip. I hope you enjoyed reading about it and looking at the pictures.