Category: Communication


Our class paid a visit to Asakusa Temple during one of its many festivals. There were people everywhere for the celebration we could barely get into the main gate. Speaking of the main gate the lantern that hangs from it was folded up that day which Japanese locals informed us was a rare sight to see. Once inside there were shops everywhere that sold various assortments of food, weapons, toys and souvenirs. The shops were quite beautiful and I want to know where in America I can get a katana as cheap or as gorgeous as some of the swords at these stores. I really wanted to see the temple so I continued to battle my way through the crowds. While on my way I noticed loud chanting and cheering as a group of Shinto volunteers carried a relic throughout the temple grounds. Before entering the temple I stopped for a second to check my fortune. For 100 yen a person can shake a silver colored canister and remove a stick. Engraved on this stick is a number which tells you which drawer holds your fortune. The fortunes range from best, to great, regular, and even bad. Never fear if you get a bad fortune though there are spots all throughout the temple where you can tie-off and forget your bad fortune. The temple itself was amazing; it was dimly lit by candlelight and filled with statues and beautiful artwork that I can’t even begin to understand the meaning of. I think that’s why I enjoyed our temple visits the most, the mystery surrounding all the artifacts and relics inside their walls.

Relic

Relic

Daisho-in is a Buddhist temple on the foot of Mount Misan and was one of our cultural visits on our day in Miyajima. It was without a doubt one of the most breathtaking temples I’ve ever seen. At the temple’s base there was a stairway that had rotatable railings with important teachings engraved on them. At mid-climb was a donation box, the kicker was that there was also a bell, so anyone who donated money could proudly ring the bell to announce their presence. Before entering any shrine visitors were required to take their shoes off at the base of each staircase. At the top of most shrines was a pedestal where sweet smelling incense burned. Bringing the smoke towards your face and breathing it in is believed to be a cleansing and blessing of one’s body. One of the many shines we entered was a dark underground hallway which I believed was representing the darkness of life. However before you exit the shrine you’ll see lighted Buddha panels symbolizing the enlightenment of his teachings. The best part of all about Daisho-in Temple is the many miniature carved statues of Buddha. There is a giant path of these statues and most have been decorated with small donations of yen. Some are serious, some are cute, but all of them show devotion and loyalty to Buddha and his teachings.

Year of the Tiger

Year of the Tiger...My Year

One of the greatest places we’ve visited in our time in Japan would be Miyajima Island, it was truly and otherworldly experience. From the moment our group exited the dock we were observers to many new wonders. Our First sight was the deer of Miyajima; they were about as tall as a medium sized dog and smelled terrible. The interesting thing about these deer is that they had no fear of humans; they casually walk up to you and wait patiently for you to feed them. Okay, so it wasn’t always patient. Some will try to eat the map you may be carrying out of your hands or backpack; others will buck you if they feel you’re holding out on them. Second was the Itsukushima Shrine or the floating gate as some people call it. Let me tell you that pictures don’t do this site justice. Travelers are blessed with a beautifully open seaside view to snap photos for memories or just reflect on how awesome it is to get out and see the world. Even though the floating gate is somewhat of a tourist attraction observers can take notice that there are still individuals who view the gate as a sacred place. I could see pilgrims in row boats paddling their way through the gate to receive its blessing. The best thing about Miyajima is how ancient the villages look. It feels like a place untouched by time and there are buildings that I’d swear could be centuries old. All in all that’s the main reason I enjoyed Miyajima, there is a certain peace one obtains from the old-time simplicity.

Miyajima

Miyajima

Japan is one of the cleanest places that I’ve ever seen. In the three weeks I’ve been in this country I’ve only counted about eight pieces of trash on the street. It sounds a bit hard to believe but it’s one hundred percent true the streets here are just that clean. Now here’s an even bigger brain teaser, there are barely any garbage cans anywhere in Japan. Oh you may find one or two in the train station or near a vending machine, but don’t expect to find one on the streets, your chances are slim to nil. I personally like it though, the lack of garbage cans helps to keep me traveling light because I don’t know how long I’ll have to walk with an empty soda can in my hands or wrappers from whatever candy I’ve purchased. Also with how clean the streets are I can’t even find the urge within myself to litter, I just don’t want to ruin I good thing. Now if only we could figure out how to psychologically stop people from littering so America could have cleaner streets.

Streets High-up View

Streets High-up View

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a practice that dates back to the ninth century when tea was first brought to Japan. On our travels in Japan our class was able to take part in one of these Japanese traditions. We were brought to a room on the 65th floor of a very nice hotel in Tokyo, where the tea ceremony was to take place. The tea room was beautifully decorated in traditional Japanese fashion; large stones formed a path across a room filled with wet tiny white rocks. Removal of our shoes was a requirement before we could venture inside towards the straw floor where the ceremony was to take place. The straw floor was refreshingly cool a great contrast to the humid summer day happening outside. Before we began the hostess informed us that the straw mats were cool in the summer and warm in the winter that’s what made them the official floors of the ceremony, neat! The hostess then handed out sweets that were represented by shapes of the season and truthfully they were a bit too sweet for my tastes. We learned that the reason sweets are handed out in the tea ceremony is to combat the bitterness of the green tea. Every movement the hostess made in the preparation of our tea was carefully a recreation of her ancestors of old from pouring the water from the hot boiler to the way she stirred it with the straw brush. When the tea was presented to me I bowed as was told to show my appreciation. In my opinion the tea didn’t need any sweets to counteract it, the tea was probably some of the best I’ve drank in my life.

Pre-Tea Snacks

Pre-Tea Snacks

When it comes to food service Japan is one of the best countries. Servers are always polite, clean, attentive and fast. The cherry on top for this countries’ food service industry is when it comes to the issue of tipping. It is considered rude to tip your waiter or waitress so therefore, you never have to leave a tip, prices on the menu are the prices you pay! There are even restaurants where the server is cut out entirely and replaced with a ticket selling vending machine. Patrons only need to deposit their money and choose from the nicely pictured menu. This system is great because it allows you to order at your own pace. If you’re in a hurry just pay and hit the takeout button, if you’re just on a casual stroll hit the dine-in button. The kitchen staff is incredibly fast at these vending diners, patrons usually receive their food within 3-5 minutes of their order. This may seem like magic but after my friend Pochin and I gave a closer listen we heard whatever we ordered announced over a loud speaker in the back. This is what prompted the chef to start cooking before we even sat down and handed him our tickets. Overall I feel the food service in Japan trumps that in America because the service is better and I don’t have to leave a tip to ensure it stays that way.

Good Food Great Service

Good Food Great Service

The subway system in Japan is an essential part of life for most Japanese people. Since most locals don’t have drivers licenses a subway provides them with a cheap and efficient alternative. Entry into the subway system can be achieved many different ways. Casual users can use the ticket master to buy a pre-paid entry ticket which gets recycled into toilet paper after the transactions are complete. Heavy users can purchase a subway card. In Tokyo there are two major cards Pasmo and Suica. Pasmo is more of a direct subway card handled by the Tokyo subway companies where Suica is the card put out by Japanese rail company JREast. Once you’re in possession of a subway card, you can charge it at any ticket station and use it as much as you want. Pasmo and Suica are not only earth friendly, they’re also multifunctional. Patrons can use their cards to purchase goods from vending machines and from stores inside and sometimes even outside the subway tunnels. With all the uses for a subway card the Japanese have something better than a license that is also more eco-friendly.

Pasmo

Pasmo

I’m writing this post from one of the coolest places I’ve ever seen in Japan, a place named ManBoo, a “manga kisa” or internet cafe. This place is basically like a high-tech Japanese youth hostile, for 15 dollars or 1480 yen a night you are given access to a private booth. This private booth contains a computer with all the essentials, a 21 inch HDTV, a safe to secure your money, a DVD player with remote control, a great pair of head phones, and access to whatever video game system the company decides to make available. The private booth isn’t the only thing you get for the price, users of the manga kisa are also given access to all the drinks and ice cream they can possibly stomach in the time provided. There is also hot food available but that does cost a bit extra, can’t have it all I guess. Oh and did I forget to mention the fact that the private booth comes with a beanbag chair and that the booth itself is a padded leather seat that’s comfortable enough to sleep on. Overall the manga kisas are an extremely comfortable places to stay at extremely affordable prices, eat your heart out youth hostiles.

While here in Japan I can’t help but be jealous of the mobile technologies available to them through their keitai denwa (portable phones). I’ve seen all kinds of weird and cool gadgets attached to the cell phones here and I can’t help but wonder when America will catch up with some of the Japanese innovations. Having a digital camera attached to your cell phone is nothing new back in the United States, but having a cell phone built around a digital camera is new entirely. I’ve seen a cell phone with a rotatable screen that had a full size camera lens that took ten megapixel shots. To compare to America’s best, the i-phone only has a three megapixel camera. I’ve also seen cell phones with built in solar panels to help power users up while they’re on the go. Being stuck with a Tracfone back home I’m not certain if there are cell phones capable of streaming television shows in America, but in Japan streaming TV to your mobile phone is fast and smooth.

cell phone

cell phone

We went to DNP (Dai Nippon Printing) on May 13th where we were witness to some of the most advanced holographic, 3-D, and touch sensing technologies in the world. The exhibition that caught my eyes more than any of the others was a machine currently in use in Louvre according to our guides. It was a table capable of sensing objects placed on it and using them to build a 3-D display on a monitor that can be viewed from all angles, it was pretty cool. The more I think about the exhibit the more I get excited about other possible uses for it. One example is with current generation video games. Customization is presently popular in mainstream video games today and I believe the scan table (as I shall call it) could be beneficial to the current trend. Artistic players could customize their characters outside of the game using the method of their choice and use color objects for artistic touches.

Did you know?

Did you know?