Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Japan 2

Well, 2 main points for today...

- sushi is not as bad as I thought it was and
- being covered in Korean mosquito bites is not as fun as everyone says it is (ok, so no one has really told me that being attacked by Korean mosquitos is fun, but now I know personally that it is not)

Last night the Rev. Dr. Kim-chi told us that he would take us to the fish market (world famous) in the morning if we wanted to. Not everyone wanted to go, but four of us were adventerous and took the plunge. We dragged our sorry butts out of bed and walked out the door just after 6am. It took us a while to get the subway figured out, but a kind soul who could handle the small amount of Japanese that PK could speak and led us right to the fish market. The woman who runs the place which we are staying joked that you could get off of the subway and follow your nose which was very true!! The second you stepped off of the subway train the aroma of fish filled your nose. The thing was that this fish didn't smell bad. Most Americans haven't ever smelled real fresh fish. It does not smell bad at all. On our way to the fish market we passed a few Shinto shrines. Some are so small along the roads that you would not even know they existed if you did not know what you were looking for. I have always enjoyed learning about Shinto, and it is neat to have enough background to not have to ask questions, but to just know about it. When we arrived at the market and it was pretty destitute. Apparently arriving at 6:45 is late, and all the fresh fish have sold out. We were lucky, however, and found one restaraunt that had the day's catch still available. We ordered a bunch of tuna sushi and enjoyed it in community. I even ate one whole piece!! The journey back to the house was amongst the commuter rush, so it was pretty crowded. There were not many women on the subway, and I felt a bit out of place.

We got back and just tooled around the house for a bit. The only thing on the agenda for the day was a bus tour of Tokyo. We took the Japan Rail (JR) to the bus stop and just spent some time in the area shopping and looking for food that was relatively cheap. We don't quite have the hang of the yen, and the dollar is weak to the yen, so it is hard to do mental math. I luckily found some sort of gel for my mosquito bites, and that kept me from itching too much during the day. It is hard to communicate with a pharmacist when you don't speak the same language. It makes me wonder how frustrated people in the U.S. who don't speak English are pushed around and shown anger by those who do speak English... hm...

The bus tour didn't consist of a whole lot except for going to the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. The area is world famous for the shopping strip right in front of the temple. It was quite the site. I can't wait to post pictures of it. Again, I was thankful for all the studying I have done in the area of Buddhism. Even my very basic knowledge saved me a lot of confusion and question asking when we walked around the temple. It was an absolutely gorgeous space. The thing I will remember most is the people gathered around the incense bowl at the foot of the steps waving their arms to cover themselves in the smell of that incense. As you walked up the steps you could smell it from the people, and it was a handsome smell, just like the handsome temple that I was walking into. I wish I would have had more time to soak it all in, but as we were on a tour we didn't have a whole lot. I did finish my souvenir shopping, and headed back to the bus.

The evening was pretty uneventful. For frugality's sake, we ate at McDonald's and headed back to the house. As we journeyed back, the physical limits of the group were tested. There are some on the group that are not able to walk long distances and do stairs with ease, and so we were always scoping for shorter routes, elevators, and escalators. It really slowed the group down, and we were all forced to understand the needs of the group as a whole instead of just our own.

After we had taken the JR back a few stops, we put those who were tired in a cab and strolled our way back to the house through Harajuku. It seems strange to just say that so casually. It is true that the district is a fashion capital. We passed all sorts of designer stores: Fendi, D&G, Burberry, Dior, Cartier, and so many more. The people in the area are all dressed like they have lived in Harajuku their whole lives. I felt very underdressed. Though the people are so fashionable, I have been pleased to see that many more women wear tennis shoes/flats here. Coming from Korea, the land of spike heels, it was good to see people who value the look of their feet barefoot over how their outfit looks as a whole. Seeing the women wearing heels makes me think of all of the blisters, hammer toes, and bunyons in the future for these women. Japanese podiatrists may want to move to S. Korea ;) Also, there are many more "Westerners" here than in Seoul. It has been nice to hear a bit more English, although certainly not necessary.

Folks are tiring easily here now. A few people feel under the weather, and some (ok, not some, just me) are itchy. I am going to go to bed on the hard floor and be thankful that I have the opportunity to be on such a trip and to have a roof over my head in this interesting and lively city.

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