Published: October 1st 2005October 1st 2005
Tsukiji Fish Market
Thally, Chris, Becca, and Zvi sitting down eating sushi in the wee hours of the morning.
Hi Hi, sorry that it has taken me so long to add another entry to this journal. Anyway, last weekend we had a long weekend and I ended up doing lots of stuff. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me for some of the time (and later in the week I LOST it! But no fear, someone found it, and now I have officially learned my lesson) so some of the things that I'll write about I don't really have any pictures with which to illustrate them.
Just a disclaimer, some of the things said in the following article may have abstract implications of alcohol being consumed. But don't worry, mom and dad and uncle irving (therefore grandma) it wasn't me.
Anyway, on Thursday night, after our classes, we went into Shibuya to party all night long. As I mentioned before, you either have to make it an early night or stay out until the morning because of the train system. So we all planned to stay out for the night... it was not a big deal for the dorm kids, but some of the kids staying with host families had to tell their host-parents way in advance. First we
Here's a pretty bad picture of the room... everyone watches the TV for words to sing-along with. This photo features Derrick and Alberto singing Ace of Base (or something equally entertaining).
met up at the station under a giant poster of a woman and then we all went to a karaoke place. It was the first time that I'd been to karaoke, although there are a lot of kids who go everyday. Apparently there is a place near our school campus that costs 150 yen (a little less than $1.50) for an hour of karaoke... so a lot of people go after class in the middle of the afternoon. The experience was great, and I can definitely see how people get addicted to it. It cost around 1200 yen (about $12) for an hour and it was all you can drink. There were 9 of us and we got a private room. The room had a TV at one end, then tables in the middle, and couches around the entire periphery. I had always imagined karaoke to be in front of a huge audience, more like a restaurant situation. But not so. There was a humongous book full of songs to choose from, and you picked the songs using a remote control. There were only two microphones, so we took turns singing songs. It was hilarious, we went with Jamie who
Streets of Shibuya
Here we are making a party in the middle of the sidewalk outside the am/pm convenie.
is a big huge guy from Bowdin, and he rocked the "Barbie Girl" song with Alberto doing the part of Ken. Then we had Chris and Zvi (two other fairly subdued guys) breaking out a somewhat twisted song from the Monty Python... and other favorites were the "Numa Numa" song... the one that almost everyone has seen videos of a fat guy singing and dancing to (here is the link in case you haven't seen it: http://www.nielses.dk/fun/numa_numa_dance/), some Backstreet Boys, some Usher, etc. etc. For all the old fogies reading this travel article, you should try to find some of that music and see just how ridiculous it is. Anyway, the hour at the karaoke place went extremely fast, and then we had to head back outside onto the streets. I'll definitely go back, or when Annie and Jenny come maybe we can go with Sheyen or something. Super fun.
We just walked around the streets for awhile enjoying the atmosphere of the big city. We got beverages and snacks from the convenie since the Karaoke place hadn't really filled us up and then we headed over to a club called "The Womb." Serge, who had been the Tokyo this
Inside the Womb
Here are the girls inside the club... it was super hot and sweaty.
summer, recommended this club because. I almost didn't get into the club because they were checking IDs and we had to be 20, but somehow I managed to play "stupid American" and they let me in with my Cornell ID which didn't say my birthday. The party was sponsored by the European Union and so they were giving out little Hello-Kitty Charms that had the European Union symbol on it. I got a few, so you can have mine mom. The place was super cool, but we weren't allowed to take photographs. I snuck a few and the security guard caught me and told me to "DELETE! DELETE!" but I just pretended to delete and so I still have them. The first floor of the club was a bar and lounge area... pretty swoofty looking with cool lighting and these candles that were somehow lit from inside! The second floor was a HUGE dance floor with a HUGE disco ball. The DJs that night were techno and the music was really awesome. We danced for like 5 hours straight into the night. It was pretty intense... all of the Japanese people seemed so lost in their music and everyone was
This picture is a bonus... I don't have anymore from the weekend, so I'll put some extra random pics in. This particular photo is taken on the way to the train station. There are literally blocks and blocks of this bicycle parking near every station in Japan. Whoa.
just kind of wild and almost introspectively focused on their dancing. The third and fourth floors were just lounge and bar areas. When we got tired of dancing we went up and just hung out and relaxed for awhile. The upper levels were basically like open balconies so we could watch everyone dance. It was definitely a really crazy clubbing experience, Jenny and Annie you will absolutely love it.
Throughout the night all of the people that we had originally come with kind of dropped off one-by-one like flies. A few people left early because they were so tired, other people got sick... one guy got sick and had to buy $35 worth bottled water before he felt better. Anyway, at 5am we got kicked out of the club, but it was definitely good timing as people really just started to feel exhausted. We met one of the DJs as we were walking out and he told us that DJ Shadow was touring Tokyo... ifyou know of any house or electronic music, DJ Shadow is pretty infamous! But the DJ was super cool, he spoke in English to us and invited us to come back the next night. He gave
Here are two tiny little wooden houses in the middle of metropolitan Shibuya. Just one example of the extreme contrasts in this city.
us directions to the Tsukiji fish market and off we went.
We had planned to go to the fish market because guidebooks recommend getting there as soon as possible, so we figured we might as well go to the market if we were going to be up all night. We had to take a few trains to get there and I was the only one who could stay awake the entire time... so I had to physically shake Zvi and Thally and Chris and Becca (the other people who went) to wake them up when we got to the stop. Unfortunately the market was not active. We later realized that it was a national holiday, so it was probably closed. But we still got to have some really good fresh sushi at a small restaurant near the market. I bought a big box of vegetable sushi for only 1000 yen (~$10) which considering how much sushi can cost, it was a pretty good deal. And delicious sushi, although not everyones' appetites were up to speed after the hard night of dancing. We just sat on some of the market loading docks and relaxed for awhile. Despite the market being closed,
Here's a picture of a squat toilet in one of the bathrooms at school. You really just squat over the little trough and do your thing.
it was pretty cool to see the area... it is very industrial and almost like going back in time. I have a few photographs that I took with my phone, but unfortunately they are not very good quality. After the fish market, we went to Starbucks and people got coffee. Again we just sat around for a long time and were really lazy and slow about motivating. And then I got back to the dorm, finally, around 10 in the morning. And I just slept all day since we didn't have class. It was luxurious. Uncle Irving, maybe if you send this one to grandma you could edit out things that are too riske.
Then, on Saturday, Charissa and I went to Ueno Park again to volunteer and distribute food to the homeless. It was a rainy day, which was kind of annoying seeing as we had to be standing outside for a bunch of hours, but besides that minor detail, this was by far one of the coolest things I have done here in Tokyo. There is an organization called Second Harvest and it is basically a food pantry that provides meals and groceries for lots of homeless people
Here is a little Triceretops coming out of the bushes at one of the shrines I found in the middle of a residential neighborhood.
all over Tokyo. Here is the website if you want to take a look: http://www.foodbankjapan.org/english/index_e.html
I was invited to participate in the Saturday food distribution because I am receiving a scholarship which is paid for by one of the sponsors of Second Harvest (Morgan Stanley Japan). Basically it is a bunch of student volunteers and then I guess a bunch of business executives from Morgan Stanley that go to the park each week. It was a HUGE ordeal. There were ENROMOUS pots of curry and vegetables and cooked blueberries and huge bags of bread and edamame and rolls and crackers. Each homeless person got 3 bottles of water, a ration of edamame (about 2 pounds), a ration of bread (two big chunks of really high quality bread), a ration of crackers (two handfulls of packaged soup crackers), a hot meal (with vegetables, meat curry, a dinner roll, and blueberry dessert), and a cup of juice. I really wish I had my camera, because there is no way to even begin to describe what the event was like. There were almost 400 homeless people lined up in snaking lines around the whole park. They were all under umbrella since it was
Jam Packed Trains
One of the girls, Oahn, and I took a train home from Roppongi the other night... and when they say Japan has packed trains, they are not kidding. We were seriously smooshed sooooooo tightly.
raining, and it was crazy to see all of these men lined up, anticipating their lunch. The homeless were so kind and so polite and a lot of them knew English and would talk to us or thank us. The volunteers just distributed the food assembly-line style (I scooped a handful of hot vegetables onto a plate and then handed it to the curry girl who scooped a ladle of curry onto the plate and then handed it to the blueberry girl, etc. etc.). The volunteers were from all over the place, but English was basically the language that was used to give directions or have discussions, etc. etc. When all of the homeless people had gone through the line once, we started to get the "second timers" who would come through again and get a second meal and some more rations. I was trying to figure out what the etiquette was, like if the homeless people really did wait until they were pretty sure everyone had gotten a first helping... I also noticed that there were only 2 or 3 women who went through, everyone else was a man. It sounds so cliched to have found so much fulfillment
I went for a walk one day in a nearby neighborhood (actually I got lost) and I came across a little shrine complex. This thing is the drainage system for when it rains on the roof. Pretty cool.
out of giving food to the homeless, but it was seriously one of the best times that I have ever had here... maybe because it was a very personal experience and it made the Japanese people seem a bit more human. Or maybe it was because it was so fast paced there was no time to really think about things. In any case, it was a lot of fun and I plan to do it the next time I have an open Saturday.
After volunteering, I went to my friend Jodie's homestay house. Her host-mom had invited me over for dinner since I live in the dorms and thus do not really have the opportunity to experience Japanese family life. It was a lot of fun, and again a very "humanizing" experience. Sometimes my perception of Japanese people gets so clouded because of the language barrier. Since I cannot understand what is being said, I find it hard to imagine how Japanese people discuss ideas or feelings or anything else. I forget that Japanese language and society is just as complex and intricate as English. And so I guess I have this weird idea of all these Japanese people as
Hey Jowanna, look a gas station named after us!
anonymous little androids who don't necessarily have the emotional or creative capacity that I have. For example, when I see sculpture or artwork or cool innovations around the city, I never think of the Japanese creating them... rather I think of a kind of anonymous being making all the cool stuff. It sounds like I am so ethnocentric, but I honestly think that this weird perception has developed in my mind due to the lack of communication. But anyway, all of these more intimate interactions (field study, volunteering, eating dinner at Jodie's house, etc.) remind me that the Japanese are indeed a very compassionate people. So. Now that I have probably offended many...
Jodie's family's house was super cool and her mom made really good spaghetti with fresh vegetable tomato sauce. Apparently she is a chef at some restaurant, so Jodie says every single night is a great dining extravaganza. The communication was a bit difficult, but of course it is never that impossible once you start to put a little effort into it. The three of us (Jodie, me and Mieko) would pull out our dictionaries every three seconds. We did a lot of gesturing, and Jodie has taken
Makuhari at Night
One of my classes (Architecture and Urban Planning) does not get out until 6:30pm, so it is dark by the time we leave the building. Here is a view of Makuhari city at night.
Japanese for a bunch of years, so she did a lot of translating. But it was good. I did my homework at their house. I had to "interview" Japanese people about what kinds of food they like, so Mieko helped me. She pulled out some of her cooking magazines to show me pictures of the things that she liked to cook. For dessert we had this really amazing stuff... through really rough and slow conversation, I was able to figure out that the dessert was a seaweed product. But it was basically these little clear cubes of gelatin-like stuff with molasses drizzled over the top. So good, I will have to find some at the store and bring it home to the US to prepare.
After dinner I had to meet some people in Tsudanuma for our friend's birthday, so I had to leave Jodie and Mieko's house kind of early. But gave Mieko an Art Bar from Ithaca, though she tried really really hard to not accept the gift. Jodie was walking me back to the train station, and we had gotten about 2 blocks away from the house when Mieko came running towards us... and she gave me
In case anyone back in Ithaca is missing Jordan, here's a lovely photograph of him.
these hiragana and katakana workbooks (hiragana and katakana are the phonetic "alphabets" in Japanese). I hope that she didn't feel obligated to give me a present. But it was also really funny because Jodie was just telling me how Mieko was in really good shape because she had trained for and run like 10 marathons and 3 double-marathons... and then there she was, running towards us.
So, I met up with people at a bar in Tsudanuma, but it was already 10:30 and so I was only able to stay for a little while. A lot of people decided to go to clubs in Roppongi, but I was too tired, so Charissa and I decided to just take the train back to the dorm. However, somehow we missed the last train bound for our station. It was such a moment of panic when we realized that the last train had already left, and so we frantically tried to find another line that would take us close to home. We found a line that would take us almost
home, but not quite. So we ended up taking a $40 taxi ride back to the dorm. Ugh. what a stupid way to
Here is a Dominoe's Pizza. They have funny little delivery vehicles.
spend money. But now we know to take extra care in knowing when the last train home leaves. It ended up being the funniest experience, though, because Charissa and I just kept cracking up at how frantic and how hopeless everything was.
Ok, so that's all the exciting stuff I can think of from last weekend. Of course I still have a million things that I could update on, and I PROMISE I will write another one tomorrow... but tonight I'm pretty tired and I have a new book I want to start reading.
Hope all is well.
Take care. ~M
There are more photos below