The epitome of evil....J/K!!

Nara is famous for all of the deer wandering around. If I’m not mistaken, Nara means deer in Japanese. It was interesting to see the deer wandering around freely with no fences, cages, or gates to constrain them. One thing that was NOT interesting was the fact that they use the bathroom at a whim – anywhere. The grass, the sidewalk, 3 inches in front of you – the world is their toilet and they don’t care. Big shout out to Po-Chin for preventing what could have been the worst part of the trip. I had just got done petting a deer and began to move on when he yelled “Rob watch out!” and pointed down. I was able to avoid it mid-step. This event right here made me look down the whole trip to the temple and so I missed the scenery around me. And of course the path to the temple was littered with deer who felt free to let loose and I had to watch my step until we got inside the temple.

Tokyo was probably the cleanest city I’ve ever seen. It was impressive how clean the Japanese are. When we first arrived in Tokyo, I saw not one piece of litter on the ground. It’s so impressive because it is EXTREMELY difficult to find a trash can in public in Japan. They usually keep them by vending machines and even then those are usually recycling bins, not trash cans. The reason for this, according to Dr. C, is because the Japanese consume their food and drink on the spot. What’s surprising about this is it always seems to me that Japanese people are in a rush, on their way to work or school. So when do they find time to stop and eat and drink something? Either way I find it great that they are so clean. That’s not to say it was completely clean. There were some districts that were dirty with litter on the ground. I saw even more trash in Osaka.

Somtimes it did get frustrating not being able to throw away trash, but overall it wasn’t too bothersome. Not a day went by when one of us asked “do you see a trash can anywhere?”

The vending machines in Japan were amazing. They were almost everywhere, unlike the U.S. They are smaller in size, but carry a wider variety of items. There were mainly drink vending machines where we went, but the other types of vending machines provided cigarrettes, food such as noodles, and some even provided ice cream. That’s right, I said cigarrettes. And there were also beer in some of them. This shows how lax the smoking and drinking age limits are in Japan. While in the U.S. its common to see a vending machine with snack foods in it, however, when I was there I didn’t see any vending machines there with food save for the previously mentioned ones. I heard you could get all kinds of things out of vending machines and that they were everywhere in Japan, yet that wasn’t the case.

Either way, the machines filled with drinks managed to get a great deal of my money while there since we were always on the go. They came with both cold AND hot drinks. I had a coffee drink that was still hot when I opened it. I also had a drink that was more like liquid mixed with jelly. It was delicious, but the texture made me not want to drink it. Either way, I hope to see these wierd vending machines I’ve heard about when I go back to Japan.

And so my first baseball game ever was in Japan. It was very exciting just to be in the stands cheering for a team I never heard of until that day. Either way I liked that the Tokyo Giants shared the same mascot as my high school. It made it that much more easier to cheer for them. The crowd was more “animated” than any crowd I’ve seen at any sporting event back home. Even more interesting were the cheerleaders. I’ve never heard of cheerleaders in baseball, yet sure enough they were there and were just as upbeat as the crowd. Too bad the opponents, the Buffaloes, didn’t have too many fans cheering for them. It was a close game with the Giants winning by a couple of home runs.

I even bought a hot dog and some pop from there. The ketchup and mustard came in this little innovative container that you squeezed the ends together and both sides busted open and squirted onto the hot dog. It’s funny how something so small and simple is so impressive. Ok I’m making it out to be more than it really was.

A memorial of those who died, the building closest to the center of where the bomb was dropped

The biggest learning experience I received in Japan comes from the destruction caused in Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 during WWII by the US. I’ve heard stories about it, but I never realized (and still never will) the true devastation caused on this day and the following effects until we visited the Peace Museum. It didn’t really hit home until I saw images of people with their skin coming off, both from burning and radiation. That image alone was enough to upset me (or anyone I would imagine) and the stories of what happened, I find it heartless that no one was meant to be spared, not even children. On the flip side, I find it admirable that the Japanese people as a whole don’t see the U.S. responsible and seek vengeance, but rather see it as a global issue that must not be repeated. My favorite part of the museum was the letters written by the mayor of Hiroshima pleading with any country that planned to hold nuclear testing, no matter who or where, to cease their nuclear efforts. The determination showed by the mayor of Hiroshima and the lack of animosity (at least public anyway) is proof that the nuclear bombings that occurred on that day must NEVER happen again.

The preparation of tea

Our travels in Yokohama brought us to one of the top floors of a very luxurious hotels. Our purpose there was to participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. The ceremony was, uh, interesting to say the least. For starters, it was very quiet, and we knew right away we were expected to use our inside voices. Starting the ceremony off with 3 small treats…well before I continue, I wanna say I mean no disrespect to the Japanese people, this ceremony, or their food, but if I didn’t know any better I would say one of the treats was play-doh! It felt like it and was very unpleasant taste and texture wise. Oh yea, by the way, I wasn’t the first one to come up with the “play-doh” description. Bryce owns a picture of me that shows the pure disgust on my face I received from eating it. If he sends it to me I will post it. Enough of that, let’s move on. The tea itself was pleasant and the women performing the ceremony were friendly. The woman in charge even gave me a special origami crane that was different from the rest because I almost didn’t get one. However I don’t do pink with pink flowers so I traded 😛

The start of our second week marked the temporary end to our stay in Tokyo and the start of our stay in Osaka. But before we could go to Osaka, we had the opportunity to meet with our fellow Spartans at the annual MSU Alumni Lunch at a nice little venue whose name I forget. I’ll be honest and say that my shyness once again stood in the way of making any friends/contacts, and that I also forget the names of the speakers. Overall, it was fun talking (or for the most part, in my case, listening) to the the other MSU students and speakers about their experiences at MSU and about their lives. While our group was mostly CAS students, we still had a more diverse group of students than the other groups. My favorite part of the experience? Well let’s put it this way: I always find it fun to be in a room full of fellow Spartans when “Go GREEN” is yelled, because I always find it fun to respond “Go WHITE”! There were talks about hanging out with the other students, from the business group I think, but those plans fell through and we never saw them again the rest of our stay there. Too bad, would have been cool to make new friends from MSU, but while in another country.

The process at work

Before our final group dinner, I had never heard of Shabu Shabu. It is simply the boiling of meat, vegetables, and noodles at a temperature so high, it cookes completely immediately. The meat was very good with the tartar sauce, which I had never tasted before. It was decent with the soy sauce as well, but was better with the tartar sauce. I preferred the beef to the pork because the pork still had fat on it, but both were still very good. Of course, the rice was good as well.

Cultural story of the night: I asked the waiter for water in Japanese and his response was “Water” in a tone that made me feel like he responded “Hey, I KNOW HOW TO SPEAK ENGLISH!” It was hilarious. Not my fault he didn’t make it clear he spoke English. The restaurant itself was the perfect setting, especially at night.

Beautiful isn't it?

Our first Saturday in Japan was very exciting. Our travels that day brought us to a large shrine area in Asakasa. Everything here was so elaborate, and the crowd was very animated, not to mention packed!! It was like a giant festival. What was being celebrated I’m not sure but just being at the entrance built great anticipation on what was inside! On the road leading up to the main shrine were countless shops filled with a variety of things. The one that caught my eye the most was a shop that sold Japanese blades: katanas, short swords, shuriken and the like. I really wanted to buy one but decided to postpone until the end of the trip and see what my budget was then. I still could have bought it but in the end I was better off not getting it. Maybe next time. My favorite experience at this place was watching the parades of men and women carrying golden shrines around. I should have inquired into who/what they were worshiping/celebrating, but it was very entertaining to watch. Closer to the main temple, there were what seemed like a billion shops selling food. The variety seemed endless. I was tempted to buy something, but still hadn’t gotten over my fear of undercooked food (something I never got over during the length of the trip).

Inside the main shrine

Inside the actual temple, I was able to see the praying and blessing rituals, such as donating money for a blessing, for the first time. I also donated to receive a fortune. I’m usually not superstitious but it was scary to receive a bad fortune that told me not to travel, not to start a relationship, and a bunch of other things. I also missed the fact that I could tie up bad fortunes to be let go later. I’ll admit I sort of freaked out but it was all good in the end. Another thing to note is that we ran into a couple CMU students. Small world, huh?