December 27, 2006

Konnichiwa!

As I type this, I am hurtling at 300 km/h through a heavily populated city.  I am on the ultra-rapid shinkansen express train from Osaka to Tokyo.  The fickle Japanese weather gods have been good to me, and I have a nice clear day spotted with white fluffy clouds.

OK, now I am in the countryside.  This thing hauls.

I have spent the last two days visiting different places with a sunny day in Nara and a rainy day in Kyoto, returning to Joe's apartment in Osaka as a home base.  The three cities are all very close and it is easy to move between them. 

Nara was the really old capitol of Japan, and has a quaint small-town feel.  It is also overrun by deer, which roam the streets looking for handouts and make a weird mewing noise.  Nara has the world's largest wooden structure, inside which is the largest Buddha in Japan.

Kyoto was just the pretty old capitol of Japan.  It is a much bigger city and had tons of stuff to do.  Unfortunately it was a rainy day (and we overslept) so we didn't get to see a whole lot.  On the other hand, we ran into a nice Taiwanese girl named Li who was traveling by herself, and tricked her into hanging out with us for a while, so that was a plus.

Today I parted ways with my buddies and am heading back for one last romp in Tokyo before returning to the U S and A.  I am trying to take pictures but it is really hard since I have about a 0.3 sec window to line up a good shot.  I think I will just click randomly every few minutes.

Here are some things I was not expecting about Japan:

  • The Japanese eat a lot of meat.  I guess traditionally they stuck to vegetables with maybe a little fish, but today it is hard to find food without meat in it.  Not that I am complaining.
     
  • The Japanese love coffee.  There is of course a million Starbucks, but also a ton of other coffee shops and cafes everywhere.  Never mind that it costs $4 for a small cup of coffee....
     
  • The Japanese like jazz!  I have been hearing really good jazz all over the place.  Of course, they also like J-pop and Christmas music, but nobody is perfect.
     
  • Japanese girls tend to dress like hookers.  It's true.  Miniskirts and knee-high boots abound.  Not that I am complaining.
     
  • The Japanese can fall asleep anywhere, anytime, in any position.  You can't go one stop on the subway without half the train keeling over into a brief catnap.
     
  • Most Japanese are not that good at English.  They all speak a little, but only a few can speak with any fluency.  I guess this is only surprising to me because in South-East Asia almost everyone can speak near-perfect English.
     
  • Japanese television is 98% game shows and variety shows.  If they want to watch something else, they get American TV.  People keep trying to talk to me about Prison Break and 24, and seem confused when I tell them I don't watch TV.
     
  • Not every Japanese person has a black belt in Karate!  What the heck, people.
     

Holy shiitake, it's Mt. Fuji!  That is a big pile of dirt.



This makes my Scion look like a Humvee.


The deer mafia.


They like to dress up the statues in little red outfits.  I was told the reason why, but I forgot it.


A ginormous wooden building.  Try to spot the people!


The ginormous doors of said building.


A big Buddha!  Each of the little Buddhas behind him is about the size of a person.


This was either a Shinto god or another incarnation of Buddha.  Either way, he would beat me up in a fight.


The old Gion district in Kyoto is where the geishas lived.


Barrett, Joe, and Li.


A scenic pond of scenicness.  How dare Microsoft try to tell me that scenicness is not a word.


Lamps in a temple complex.


We took a forbidden trek through a spooky graveyard.  The spirits are now mad at us.


The Phoenix Water Clock in Kyoto Station.