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Archive for the ‘ Travel Stories ’ Category

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16
Nov

Street Fair

Sometimes you stumble upon some of your finest moments abroad. I was sweeping down Meguro Dori, pumping my legs and keeping a song at my lips, as passed what appeared to be a small sidewalk festival, with forty or fifty stalls with foods and small games. Without hesitation, I parked my bicycle and split the crowds, eyeing the takoyaki, soba, rice dishes, chocolate-covered bananas, fish, pork on a stick and plenty more. After circling around and around, I thought about monjo, but finally settled on its more solid cousin, okonomiyaki, a fatty Japanese dish often reserved for carnivals, which features a pancake base covered with lettuce, fish, crab and other seafood, vegetables, often pickled, and topped with spices, mayonnaise and sour-ish soy sauce, for 500 yen ($4.25 USD). I poured into it, and, nearly finished, I realized I had the linguistic ability to tell the chef that his wares were “delicious.” Feeling the need to assure myself that I could be understood, I bought a small dessert cake, which tasted like a waffle surrounding a creamy melted cheese, and, after grabbing a quick bite, I turned to the woman who took my 100 yen and exclaimed, “Oishii!” She smiled and replied with “dozo,” another Japanese conversation, small as it was, completed. I finished my foods and climbed back on my bicycle, satisfied with another few hard-to-forget memories.

Jaa ne,
Christopher

1
10
Nov

Tsukiji

(SEE MY EPISODE SIX)

Sushi and sumo: that’s what Tokyo does. I’ve said this before and it is as inaccurate now as it was then, but when you travel to far off lands, it is as important to search for true meanings of your destination as it is to see how you previously perceived that destination.

I have been to sumo, I have eaten sushi, but until yesterday morning, I had never been to Tsukiji.

Let me make a more formal introduction. America, this is the Tsukiji Fish Market, Tsukiji Fish Market, this is America. Many know you, but too few know you, Tsukiji.

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8
Nov

The Odd Couple

I was on a train a few days ago and heard something I hadn’t heard in almost half a year: an old married couple fighting. They were American tourists, or so I surmised from blatantly and unabashedly listening to their conversation. She felt that he always treated her “like a child,” as he had recently done by asking a waitress in a restaurant where the bathroom was on her behalf.

It was odd. I do see non-Japanese Westerners almost every day, particularly in Tokyo, but I don’t as often overhear English and more specifically, American English. It was refreshing to hear the squabbling that is a signature of long relationships. It was nice to think that I might be lucky enough to have a berating, nagging wife willing to stand by me for the better part of a century and maybe explore another continent. Someone who will be willing to tell me everything that is wrong with me on a crowded train in Japan. That wouldn’t be so bad at all.

Jaa ne,
Christopher

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7
Nov

Directions

I started counting the roads in my Tokyo atlas. I didn’t finish.

Look, it is no secret that I get lost. I walk and bike and ride long and fast and blind. I welcome it, even if not in the moment I become lost.

There is no place I have gotten more lost, more often than here in Tokyo. Maybe I have stumbled upon the answer.

What I have been struck by these one and a half months is how rarely Japanese people seem to know a damn thing about Tokyo geography. I would stop by someone and even with map in hand, they wouldn’t seem to know. It didn’t seem to be out of indifference for my being lost, either. It seemed more as a general unawareness.

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7
Nov

The Imperial Palace

I had a Sunday morning and, well ahead of my school work, I needed to do something with it. I flipped through a Tokyo guidebook, but was unenthusiastic. I took to reading the news and heard mention of Japan’s Emperor. I realized that I hadn’t visited the Emperor yet, and I had been in his country for more than three months, how rude of me!

So, as I often do, I saddled up old Newton, my bicycle, and took to the road, destined more than an hour northeast of my apartment towards Ginza, a large Tokyo business district. My destination: Kokyo, the Imperial Palace.

It was cloudy but warmish and I flew through the crisp wind towards. The Imperial Palace is on the site of the old Edo-jo Castle, which was built in the 14th century, remastered in the 1590s, and by the 17th century, it was the largest castle in the world.

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7
Nov

Costs

A month ago, my readers might remember, I mentioned an earthquake I survived. Alright, apparently, a 4.8 earthquake is inconsequential to the experienced. I am not experienced.

So, needless to say I was more surprised than most of the Japanese students around me when I heard ceiling tiles and lights rattle for a few seconds. There was a moment of laughter and then someone switched back on the fast-paced Tokyo walk that surrounded me.

Not knowing what else to do, I followed. This I have mentioned. It wasn’t until later, when another student from Philadelphia who is also here in Tokyo mentioned the brief stir that I got to announce that that was my first earthquake survival story.

Alright, so it wasn’t anything to focus my autobiography on, but it was an accomplishment for me nonetheless.

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31
Oct

Reader Response 3: My Day

I keep writing this, send me questions! Luckily some of you actually listen to me, and here I am, poised to answer another email I received. As always, send me more mail or posts! Suggest something or ask a question, please!

Well, until now, I had avoided giving much about my day-to-day schedule here in Tokyo. I figured it wasn’t nearly as interesting as Kabuki theatre or sushi bars. Perhaps this was a miscalculation. Not only have I gotten a number of questions about the drudgery of studying abroad, but, it occurs to me now that it is just the everyday-like experiences I need to be passing on. Still, I’ll keep it short.

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27
Oct

My Bicycle’s Name: THE RESULTS!

The results on are in. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, my beautiful, streamlined, $85, three-geared bicycle, complete with bell, basket and light has a name.

Henceforth, my bicycle will be named ‘Newton.’ Both the name of the town where I was raised and a serviceable surname of some great men of past and present. Thanks for all those that helped out with the vote.

Check back for more exploits, particularly those involving Newton and me.

Be well,
Christopher

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24
Oct

Reader Response 1: Suggestions

Well, as people like to say, I have loved to hear from all of those who have had the misfortune of stumbling upon my portion of JYA. My response to some of your comments, questions and suggestions are long overdue. I have gotten advice from a Philadelphian who had lived in Japan, notes from internet-surfing college students and plenty of posts from people finding JYA in their own way. Some call for more interaction. Shall I respond to some now?

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23
Oct

Kyoto Part 6 of 6: Tuesday

I let myself sleep in, not rising until nearly 9am. I got all of my things together quickly and without any goodbyes to be said, I wasted no time checking out of the hostel that had housed me for two nights of my young life, turned my back on its door and walked away, probably never to see it again.

My bus headed home to Tokyo was leaving at 11:20am, so I thought I should use my time. I walked immediately west of the Kyoto Station for the first time and found a quiet, dreary, open-doored restaurant. I was surprisingly satisfied by the breakfast of rice, raw egg, seaweed, sausage and miso soup for 420 yen ($3.50 USD).

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