- The food was just what you would expect - very yummy, and mostly expensive. The noodle bars were cheap, but everyday got a little dull. Even though I am a sushi noob, I thought the sushi was great. The best restaurant was a little 4-foot wide shop that had homemade gyoza. No air conditioner and you sat cafeteria style anywhere there happened to be an open seat, but oh, so yummy - and a little pricey.
- Weather - holy crap. I can say that I truly loathe the Japanese summer. Stifling heat and humidity like Houston or something, plus the added joy of a close personal acquaintance with a couple hundred people every day on your subway car (which in view of the weather is often refrigerated to pneumonia-inducing temps. The worst thing, which reminds me of growing up in the mid and southern states, is that it doesn't cool off at night. Well, I mean, it does, but not enough to actually be comfortable. Oh, and you might think it would be better when it rains. Nope. Hot. Sticky. and you've got to carry the umbrella around all day. I've always said I'm all for four seasons, but maybe I'd actually just prefer three.
- Stereotypic Japanese weirdness - This might make me sound like a hypocrite (I defend myself by saying that everyone's got their kink), but the weirdness is a special kind of weirdness, it's true. The ubiquitous porn shops sell hard core porn, but then again, so do the regular stores (think about finding 'the 100-person orgy' at your local Borders or Best Buy). The kink-porn is there too - bondage, dress-up, hetro- and homosexual (although interestingly, the male/male gay porn seems to be of the impossibly cute boys variety marketed at young women kind of like the lesbian porn marketed at men in the US), and the truly disturbing violence and pedophilia porn too. Again, all in the local version of your Tower Records.
- Book culture. Oh, the books. There was an absolutely incredibly wonderful 'book-street' very nearby my school. It was about 3 long blocks worth of new and used bookstores. Most shops were tiny and specialized in a certain kind of used books, history, photo, art, pop fiction, Chinese, and even a really amazing English used book store that specialized in what seemed to be mostly 70's-80's era literature criticism, as well as a healthy used collection of the standard classics often large hardbound editions. yum.
- A sidebar to the book culture are the stationary shops. To be honest, most of my favorite shops were run by Korean folks, which I wouldn't note except for a racial tension that still exists over there, especially between other Asian folks. Anyway, the stores. Oh, my friends and neighbors who covet through the Levinger's catalog, Oh, my peers and kind readers who can easily spend 100 dollars at the Office Depot, Oh hie thee to Japan and roll around naked in the aisles of a stationary store in Japan. Ok, well, maybe not that last bit, but still. Think about endless shelves of pencils and pens in every color and size (from .25 to 1.!). Think wide varieties of paper in notebook, stationary and loose leaf, and oh, the folders and binders and markers and highlighters and such! Ah... good times...
- Language - Ok, My Japanese stinks. I mean, it's better than it was, but it's still pretty bad. Nothing beats being in the language environment to help though. The problem is that I haven't had to tackle a grammar heavy language in a very long time, and if Japanese has one thing, it's grammar, and grammar in spades. And then there's the politeness levels. For those who haven't looked into it, think about being able to say the phrase "Please buy an umbrella." in (at bare minimum in daily usage) through three entirely conjugations based on your relationship with the people who are listening to you. Now don't get me wrong, I love Japanese. One of the coolest things about learning a new language is learning all the subtleties that are native to it. The first time I realized that I was being called Overread-sama instead of Overread-san at certain places and what that entailed, I was thrilled with the discovery.
- Quick takes
- Subway - 85% awesome. Why can't we have that here?
- Onsen - 99% awesome. Why can't we have those here?
- Right wing xenophobic nutjobs 100% not awesome. Why do we have those here too?
- Yasakuni Shrine - gorgeous but tainted. At least Arlington doesn't have war criminals
Friday, August 31, 2007
I've mostly decompressed from the trip home, but I'm still not sure if I can put a god cap on the whole Japan experience. It's my own fault really. If I had been regularly blogging while I was there, I think I would be better arranged mentally. That is, after all, what this whole blog was all about in the first place. Anyway, I'll do what I can with a free-form bullet list, just to have an official Japan roundup post.