Dec 15, 2006

Okay, I could tell you every little thing I have done the last two days.  Every fascinating place I went to, every type of delicious food I ate, every gorgeous woman Shinto shrine I saw.  But you don't want that.  I don't want that, you don't want that, nobody wants that.  So instead I will just share some interesting cultural differences, observations, and  complete fabrications about Japan.  On the right are some of my least crummy pictures from the last two days.  You can click them and they will explode!

  • In Japan, it is illegal to acknowledge the existence of strangers.  In the old days, if you made eye contact with someone you didn't know, your master forced you to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide.  Today you are merely fined 5000 yen ($43.48).

    This makes visiting Japan very different than any other Asian country I have been to, where you can enjoy semi-celebrity status for merely being a foreigner.  (This transforms to complete celebrity status in rural areas.)  At first I was confused when everyone pretended I was invisible, but then I realized that they do it to each other too.

    So I invented a game.  The trick is to look people in the eye the moment you enter their peripheral vision.  Their eyes will automatically snap to the big dumb gaijin , and if you time it right you can hold their gaze for up to five milliseconds before they look away and pretend you don't exist.  It is fun!
  • Japanese people are really quiet.  I have been on crowded trains bounding through subway tunnels, and sometimes when the train stops and the doors open, there is no sound.  Silence.  Fifty people in a tiny area, and all you can hear is the faint clickity-click of text messaging.  In this respect they are exactly like the Chinese.
  • If you come to Japan, you will quickly learn the word irashaimase.  This basically means 'welcome', and you hear it anytime you walk into a store, a building, a train, a brothel, or you cross the street.  They hire people specifically to stand by the door and say this word at you.

    This is actually the same word they yell at you in sushi restaurants in America, but I think they take a few liberties with it since they know we don't understand it, so that's why it comes out more like shymaSAAAAAAAAAAAY.
  • My legs are really tired.  It is because I been walking a lot.
  • Japanese people use cash for everything.  They buy $10000 television sets with cash.  The only place my ATM card works is the post office.
  • Would you believe I have not seen a single samurai yet!  I thought they were supposed to be swaggering all over the place.  Why would anime lie to me?

    I did see a ninja, however.  He jumped down from the roof and garroted the guy next to me before vanishing with a smoke bomb.  I was just a few seconds too slow with my camera.

The market street at Asakusa.

One of the roaming gaggles of feral schoolgirls that infest the city.

The best garage door on Earth.

We had some weird foamy green tea here.

Inside the Imperial Palace garden.

Same, but redder.

Ancient style house with wimpy Japanese car.

The obligatory shoot-yourself-in-the-shiny-orb picture.

This is at the controversial WWII memorial which got the last PM in trouble.

That man is playing "Silent Night" on a saw.  That woman is completely rocking out to it.  Nearby, a one-man-band plays "Let It Be."

I just got lucky with this one.

It's true!