a very diverse day
weill in japan: day 35
Today was a sad day, a happy day, a tolerable day, an overwhelmingly hot
day, and a relaxing day.
On this day in 1945, U.S. forces dropped the first of two atomic bombs on
Japan. The city of Hiroshima suffered massive casualties, as did Nagasaki
when it was bombed two days later. Today, Hiroshima has long since rebuilt
from the ashes of World War II, and now serves as a beacon of peace.
There are still many Japanese people that harbor negative feelings towards
Americans for their actions in World War II, but the message that was sent
today in Hiroshima was that we must work together to combat this form of
Even though I was born some 35 years after World War II ended, it was
difficult for me to watch the memorial today on the news. In addition to
Hiroshima residents of all ages, many children from India and Pakistan were
in attendance. Those two nations are allegedly developing nuclear weapons
technology to use against each other, which would have devastating effects on
both nations. The obligatory reference to the September 11 terrorist attacks
was made as a cautionary note that the world is not at peace. Seeing the
somber, silent faces of all ages was sobering to say the least.
Despite the sad, quiet nature of the Hiroshima memorial ceremony, today was
business as usual throughout Japan. After dinner, I attended the Asagaya
Tanabata Festival, one of many such festivals going on around the country.
The festival is traditionally characterized by small sheets of paper on which
people write their wishes and then hang from plants. This particular festival
seems to have been absorbed into the general festival theme, with merchants
loudly peddling food, drinks and merchandise to the general public. This
traditional one-day festival has been stretched into a five-day capitalistic
binge. There were a lot of people drinking themselves stupid on a Tuesday
Despite the fact that I've "finished" my shopping, I'm always finding more
things to buy and more people to buy them for. Stop me before I buy again.
I return to New York on Saturday, August 17, on a flight that leaves
Narita Airport at 12:00 PM local time. That means that I'll need to leave the
house before 8:00 AM that day to get to the airport and check in. I took the
train from the airport to get here on a Wednesday, so I figured that I could
just go in the opposite direction on the 17th. Bad idea. Despite the
fact that I'm heading towards Tokyo on a Saturday, there are still large
crowds of people heading into work in the morning. This leaves me with a few
options, as I discussed with my host mother today.
option 1: take the train all the way to narita
Doable, but a bad idea given all the luggage that I'll be carrying. Because
of all the gifts that I've bought, I will likely have four bags versus the
three that I brought with me. Given the dangerous congestion on trains
already, I don't think I could get in and out of the cars alive.
option 2: be driven to shinjuku, take train to narita
This saves a transfer, although I will still need to bring my luggage
through the busy and massive station to the Narita Express. The morning
rush hour traffic is pretty hectic on Saturday as well as weekdays, so we
will need to leave pretty early to catch an early train. My host mother
said it was okay for her to drive me to Shinjuku, but didn't commit to that
option 3: be driven to shinjuku, take bus to narita
The "Limousine Bus" costs the same as the train and takes about the same
time, but I won't have to lug my bags through a busy train station to get
on the bus. Again, because of the morning rush hour, I will likely need to
allow even more time for the bus than for the train. Unlike in Pittsburgh,
there is no dedicated highway just for buses to bypass traffic to the airport.
another game plan
A couple of classmates and I were talking about going to a baseball game
at the Tokyo Dome before heading for home. What I didn't realize was how
fast the games sell out. Tickets for games go on sale the preceding month,
so all August game tickets could be purchased starting on June 29. As a
result, only general admission tickets are available for the coming series
against Hiroshima and Yakult. I might go anyway, if only for the experience.
One annoyance: these tickets can't be bought at convenience stores like
reserved seats. I have to go all the way to the Tokyo Dome to buy the
tickets in person.
class moves forward
As part of a newfound commitment to not suck, the class today started with
a series of impromptu one-minute "presentations" on any topic that we wanted.
I talked about how Japanese bakeries overuse wrapping paper for single
items, despite a supposed commitment to the environment. Other topics in
class today included a session with Japanese speakers and small skits on
how to do various things. This topic was likely taken directly from
class suggestions solicited last week, since one of the common complaints
was that we're not learning enough material that we can use in everyday life.
The skits were mostly centered around bad acting and the whole class laughing
hysterically at said bad acting, but at least they were fun.
I didn't do as bad on the midterm as I thought I had. Solid B all the way.
heat keeps climbing
The record temperature in Japan today was 39 degrees Celsius (102 degrees
Fahrenheit) and temperatures were only slightly lower in Tokyo. The heat
keeps climbing, as does the risk for heat stroke. Vending machines are
pulling in insane amounts of money.
Japan is located at about the same latitude as the southern U.S., although
it is slightly cooler due to its proximity to the ocean all across the islands.
The weather isn't too much hotter than a typical New York summer, but that
doesn't keep me and everyone else in the program from complaining.
Stupid moment number 1: The word "kohibito" completely confused me
this weekend. At the Todakoen festival, one of the more attractive ladies in
our group asked me if I had a "kohibito," and I responded by asking what
the word meant. She just laughed. None of the four dictionaries I checked
had anything for the word at all, even after looking up potentially alternate
pronunciations. Eventually, I asked one of the program assistants today.
She replied that it means "lover." That cute girl on Saturday was asking if I
have a girlfriend. I don't. D'oh.
Stupid moment number 2: Apparently I forgot to close the zippered pocket
on my camera case which holds my extra batteries. Four batteries fell out of
that pocket at the festival this evening, but I only managed to find three.
Since rechargeable batteries only come in packs of two and four, and since
my camera takes two batteries at a time, I now only have one extra set of
Surprisingly little homework has meant more time for fun stuff like
laundry and festivals. It's been a good Tuesday.