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26
Sep

Daibutsu

I made a series of pledges in a blog post a few weeks ago. One of those pledges was to travel somewhere every weekend. I am glad to say, with another weekend having come and gone, I haven’t forsaken the writer/reader relationship. The pledge is in tact.

On Saturday, I took an hour of train hopping down to Kamakura, which was Japan’s capital until 1333. While it suffered from the 1923 Kanto earthquake, Kamakura was spared Allied bombing during World War II allowing for the hilly residential district to house more than 60 intact temples and nearly 19 shrines.

I began my tour by stopping at Jufukiji, one of the five most important Zen temples of the Rinzai sect, which together are known as the Kamakura Gozan. Jufukiji had been rebuilt, as all but two of the five had, but, I decided, if I were to visit any of the 65 temples in Kamakura, why not make one of the five most significant my destination?

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21
Sep

Man vs. Machine

Ride my bicycle
Through these buzzing Tokyo streets
Sweaty guide is me

Yes, I did just begin this entry with a haiku about my bicycle. My street cred has been eviscerated.

Do you hear that obnoxious bell ringing behind you? Well that is me, clamoring up the busy thoroughfares of Tokyo, pushing my way past silly tourists and dazed businessmen. Ladies and gentlemen, I bought a bicycle today.

For 9,999 yen ($85 USD), I am the first-day-new, cooing owner of a three gear, two-wheeled Japanese bicycle. If I was a gloating man, I would mention the friction-powered guiding light or the positively-convenient metal-wire basket in front. But, I’m not a gloating man. So I won’t.

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20
Sep

Understanding

It is good to be reminded.

Let me explain.

We all know a great deal. Whether it is useful or meaningful or if for some reason you just know how to beat Super Mario Brothers in under twenty minutes, we all know a substantial amount about the world, most of which someone next to us doesn’t know.

A very small portion of what we know is comprised of things we understand. Interestingly, unlike things we know, the amount of things we understand has no correlation to age.

There are countless thirteen-year-old girls who understand how to comfort someone, no matter the reason that someone needs comfort. This is nothing I have come to understand.

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20
Sep

Shortcomings

As it tends to do, time has been going by faster than I can catch it. I am entrenched behind the protection of a word processor in the fourth week of my embattled stay in Tokyo.

This is more than enough time for me to let my mouth run off. This is nothing new to anyone who has ever known me.

See, my name is Christopher and I never shut up. I am the eighth largest source of air pollution in the world, just lagging behind California. There was a time when I had this notion that it might be admirable for me to say whatever I thought, whatever I felt, whenever I wanted to say it, whether it was an appropriate time or not.

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19
Sep

Disorientation: Episode Two

Don’t navigate by international chain restaurants.

My second episode, Disorientation, in which I get hopelessly lost my first week in Tokyo:

17
Sep

Out for Battle

It was1:38pm on the Sunday of a holiday weekend and I was writing a paper for a class on modern Japanese politics. The beat of a drum and the sound of voices broke what little concentration I had managed.

It was a cool afternoon, another cloudy day in the late Japanese summer, and beyond a bordering building, the source of the commotion was revealed: a local festival. Like the Kichijoji omatsuri I had seen a week ago or so, there was a crowd, albeit much smaller, encircling a traditional drum and an omikoshi, portable shrine.

It should be noted that near my parents’ home in New Jersey it is odd to see roving festivals. Even my apartment in North Philadelphia has yet to yield a spotting of Americans dressed in Revolutionary War clothing swaggering passed.

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17
Sep

Ingoshira Park

Not too long ago, I walked into the Ingoshira Park, a quiet walk-in closet away from the buzzing room of Kichijoji in Tokyo, with a Japanese friend.

There, under the ceiling of fawning trees, hid more street performers than I have ever seen in any American city. On the warm Sunday I was there, I didn’t go more than fifty feet before I saw another musician or painter or magician. One tune floated in the air before being consumed by the next song, from the twang of a traditional Biwa to covers of Beatles songs.

We sat on a bench looking out onto the small pond, heavily trafficked in the sun with rowboats and giant, paddling swans, analogous to their famed cousins that live in the Boston Public Garden.

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17
Sep

Professors

Professors are funny things. They are directing one of the most important tasks in our land, educating the leaders of our future. They give the type of intensified and specified bases of knowledge that have been pursued the world over by the most powerful for millennia. For $10,000 U.S. a semester you can have that type of access at a major American research institution.

Part of that education is learning from a professor or two. The way they’ll smile after saying something they find particularly eloquent. Or how they chuckle when they’ve bested a classroom with a powerful question; meanwhile their students are debating whether they should stab themselves with a pen or not.

It has become a rule of mine. I don’t trust or admire professors. David Horowitz was derided for his academic purging, but what university student can really say they haven’t seen any indoctrination by over-zealous scholars. Opinion fills the gap of fact. It is worrying that more haven’t realized it.

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17
Sep

The Grand Sumo Tournament

Sumo and sushi, that’s what Tokyo does, right? Alright, well maybe not, but they are perhaps the two most readily invoked images of Japan and, after having already gotten some Japanese sushi, yesterday I finally got a glimpse of the former.

It required 360 yen ($3 U.S.), three trains and forty minutes of travel, but I made it to Ryogoku, just northeast of my South Tokyo apartment. Just as I walked out of the station, beside me was a beautiful stone sumo wrestling statue. I wasn’t bashful enough to stop and click a few photos, only for my pictures to be blocked by the busy crowd, including the occasional kimono-clad sumo star.

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17
Sep

Yasuda and Jikoin

Ryogoku is, by many standards, like so many other countless towns in Tokyo. It has tall buildings and is crowded, with its own claims of interest (i.e. the Kokugikan arena and Fukagawa Edo Museum).

The East Tokyo town has another quality that likens it to, not only Tokyo, but towns throughout this main Japanese island of Honshu (I need a line over the ‘u’, thanks): beautiful gardens and Buddhist Temples.

These are calmer, but just as recognized with Japanese culture as anything, so they remain must-dos for any extended stay in the country. It is thus that I followed a street map and came upon the former Yasuda Garden and the nearby Jikoin Temple.

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