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Arrival!

I arrived in Japan yesterday morning, lugged 140 pounds of luggage to the guest house where I’ll be for the next two weeks, and then spent most of the rest of the day trying to stay awake, as I had been up for 40 hours when I arrived at 9am. I finally failed around 7:30pm.

After 12 hours of sleep, I woke up, made myself human again, and decided that as there wasn’t anything to do in the guest house save watching TV, I would head to Tokyo. One of the other teachers staying in the guest house was willing to guide me there, and on the way give me a brief lecture about how the train system works. Once we got to the city, he left me to my own devices. I chose a direction, and started walking.

The first place I got to was the Imperial Palace. The way you can tell that it’s imperial is that it’s several acres of land, more than half of which is private residence, in the city with probably the highest real-estate prices in the world. My first view of it turned out to be in the ‘fountain garden’, an area with a number of beautiful and varied fountains. From there, I walked the circumference of the moat for 3 km before finding one of two gates which allow you into the ‘eastern gardens’. These are large areas of parkland, with occasional fountains, sitting areas, parks, and so forth. Overall, I’d say that it’s all very impressive, and quite pretty, but some parts just seemed strange. There was a section, for example, of wide path with trees planted to shade the way, and stone benches encircling the trunks of the trees, such that people could sit and relax in the shade. However, every second stone bench was roped off. I have no idea why.

After touring the palace gardens for a few hours, I decided to go to Tokyo Tower. This is a duplicate of the Eiffel Tower built in 1958, apparantly to spite the Parisians. It is identical in just about every way, except that where the Eiffel Tower is 320m high, the Tokyo Tower is 333. Apparantly, thanks to improved metallurgy, this one is also 3000 tons lighter than the original. I went to the second observation deck, 250 m high. On a clear day, you’re supposed to be able to see all the way to Mt. Fuji; today was not clear. I did, however, see the giant Ferris wheel, which I had previously seen only in anime. I intend to visit it at some point, but I don’t think it will be today. The same applies to Akihabara, the electronics district. After some wandering in search of a subway station, I happened across an internet cafe, which is where I am now.

Coming to Japan feels oddly familiar. On the one hand, it’s a strange and alien environment where many things are just different. On the other hand, I’ve watched a ton of anime, and many of the things which would otherwise be bizarre are much less so.

One thing I hadn’t been expecting, however, is the amazing amount of Engrish (that being English words and phrases misused in strange and often amusing ways). I had the impression that it was something you might see once or twice per week; instead, I’ve seen more examples in the two days I’ve been here so far than are worth counting.

I feel like I’ve had a lot more experiences that I intended to recount, but I can’t think of any. One thing I should have brought, had I thought of it, was a small notebook and pen, to keep track of the strange and wonderful things as I see them. Another would have been a digital camera. I thought I would just use the camera in my cell phone, but it has the dual problems of low resolution and a battery life measured in hours instead of pictures. Its battery died last night, to my disappointment, and I’ve missed any number of fascinating photographs so far.

My time allotment here draws short, so I have to wrap this post up. In closing, I’d like to list the items included in the “American Style” breakfast listed in the menu here at the internet cafe:
Toast
Salad
Boiled Egg
Corn Soup

It’s just like home here.

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