Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Tokyo Days (I)

**Tip: click on the pictures to see them big sized**

First sight of Japan

Long time no see!

It’s been a while, ne? Got reasons, I spent September in… Japan!

After that I had to catch up with everything I had missed at uni here, but it’s all settled now. 

I’ve got so many things to write about I’m not sure where to start. These will be a series of posts about it. Charged with a lot of pictures because it's the best way I can express myself and show you.

Shall we take a walk down memory lane, then?

Tokyo Days (I)

Everyday was very fun and exciting and I couldn't sleep because I didn't want the days to end and at the same time I wanted to start a new day to have time to do more things, the struggle was real.

Japan: great.

5th of September, I took a plane and after 27 hours I arrived on the land of the rising sun... Adventure awaits.

Actually, it feels like it didn’t happen and was just a kind dream, now behind me. 

But it happened!
I spent a month in Tokyo.

I tried to suppress my preconceived ideas, I was very biased, I tried not to idealize it, etc. Despite of the intention, I was idealizing it inside... Surprised was I to see that it exceeded all my expectations.

I am going to start with my impressions:

-Politeness/Formality peak
-Very clean (no bins on the street, so you have to carry the litter with you :P)
-Very convenient in terms of services. All very efficient.
-Narrow space
-Biggest attention to details
-Very safe
-Truly beautiful
-90% of the population are salarymen (I'm joking)
-Umbrellas everywhere
-Long, transparent umbrellas everywhere
-Very automatized while at the same time mixing in tradition
-You won't get anything stolen BUT your umbrella

Travelling to Japan felt like visiting another world. It's true that its a very faraway place but I just had never quite seen something like that.
I got to meet the greatest people and make some of my favourite memories ever, and here is more or less how it went:

At landing, I was crying from excitement (after 27 hours I had finally made it!) and laughing inside because the first thing I saw once on land was workers with white masks (you know, the typical surgeon ones), I thought to myself, "yep you're definitely here now x)!"

After landing in the afternoon I was driven to my host family house. I was very excited but when I met them I was like: "Wow it's happening OK it's okay you're doing this" and although I thought I was prepared I was still awkward and a bit shy at the beginning :P It only lasted that night though. 

The first day after arriving, around the neighborhood

The next day I was out at around 7am to go to the academy in Shibuya, Tokyo. 
While still in the same street as the host home I asked a man to make sure I was headed on the right direction and his cute little daughter found me very funny and exotic and paid special attention to me, I felt like many Japanese children get very excited around foreigners: adorable!
This picture is on my way to the train station. It was raining. There was actually a typhoon for the first 4-5 days. It appeared on the news because of the floods and everything! The weather was strange because even though it was raining it still was SUPER hot and humid. Thankfully, after the first week the weather stabilized: goodbye typhoon, and goodbye summer heat, it actually got to a nice mild temperature in which you could go around with shorts but without sweating.

After a 20 min walk with a bit of getting lost (...I thought it would be a good idea to follow students but I eventually ended up in front of a school) I got to the station, 1st hurdle down!

I was impressed with how many bikes there were next to the station

This card (Suica) and another one that's pink called Pasmo are the typical cards that people use for public transport. You get one and recharge it when you need to.
I had to take two trains to Shibuya: yellow line (almost 1 hour) and green line (5 minutes)

Views from the train. When I was in the train I tried to read all the characters I saw to practice, this was, when I wasn't sleeping!

A view from Shibuya station, I remember being ecstatic as I felt I was in Tokyo for the first time
Way to the academy

After getting lost inside Shibuya station, which is one of the busiest of the world (and is now under construction) I got to the academy (like 40 minutes late... it was the first day!). 

Outside the academy, almost there

The academy is all nice and fancy
We had an introduction and general info, we chose our optional courses, and we had an oral exam to determine our level for sure. 
On that day, we were also shown around Shibuya.
Panoramic Shibuya

By then, it was sunny and HOT, we were walking on sweat and humidity (the weather was moody, so you had to carry an umbrella with you at all times). It was super exciting.

The many views from my classroom (You can see the typhoon!):

Then, to go back, I also got lost in the station and kept asking around x) I actually got lost for around the first 3 days in the station, it's that confusing! 
Waiting for the train

I was excited to see The Garden of Eartly Delights in the train!!! O.O

More stuff you can see in the train
The trains are like our underground transport. The seats are on the side of the wagon and the majority of people are standing. 

It's important to know that you cannot talk on the phone when in the train and you also cannot eat/drink.

In general, my impression was that everyone was VERY quiet and didn't move. You won't find musicians around the train or anything of the sort. 
It also depended on the hour. In the morning you could hear nothing and I felt tense. At night the salarymen went home from work and were usually talking and laughing with their mates.

You cannot take out your laptop and start working on something or take out your books and pencil case to do homework, even though you may be spending there 1 hour.

Most of the people were using their phone, reading news or texting. Some were reading.
70% of the people in the train were sleeping, or at least resting their eyes x)
At first I thought how could they do it. Oh well, 2 days later I was sleeping while standing and magically coming back to life just in time to get down on my stop, so yes.
Manga/Anime is mainstream in Japan and you can see it anywhere, which can be a shock to many Western tourists that will think: "Cartoons? WhAT? whY? Is this for children?") 

One afternoon I was in Shibuya looking for a place to buy a tea infuser. It was really hard to get my point across when asking for it, but I did it x)

Pretty under the rain

On this day it rained a lot and after some Shibuya sightseeing with a good friend she brought me to see Harajuku, a very famous area for teenagers. You can see a lot of innovative fashion here and a lot of shops. All under the rain on that day!

Another day we visited Asakusa, a well-known area for its traditional souvenirs.

Purification smoke

In the Asakusa Shrine, you can draw out your fortune. The friend I was with drew out his and it said: "Worst of luck, you are going to lose everything, die of disease, etc." He got traumatized so he asked me to draw out mine to give him moral support. I didn't want to because I was scared of getting bad luck and believing it, but I ended up doing it and...
Phew! I got "Best of luck" and walked around happily ever after.

Drawing out our fortunes

To get your fortune you have to shake a recipient with many thin sticks and after some shakes take one out. Look at the sign and search for the same one on the drawers, there must be almost 100!

Throw a 5 yen coin in front of the shrine for good luck

If you get bad luck you tie it to this to keep it away!

I liked these *o* Didn't buy anything though

Tokyo Skytree is very near Asakusa

We did many things every day, always nice and busy, but after the week, on Friday, we went to Karaoke! It was very fun

Karaoke crew
You can get selfie sticks and many "instruments" to play around in the karaoke for free
With this gadget you programmed the songs you wanted to sing

We had to finish early because the last train leaves at 12am, which I think is very early if you want to go out!

Saturday was a great day, I met with my friend C and we went to Akasaka. I thought the festival season was over and I that I wouldn't be able to see a matsuri (Japanese for festival), but we were lucky to see one! Akasaka matsuri.

C and I met at Hachiko.
It is a very famous spot for meeting because it's just not as confusing as other places. It is also famous for the dog statue. The story goes that Hachiko waited every day at the station for her owner to come back and then they went home together. She kept waiting every day even after the death of her owner.
I'm not sure what that white little dog is doing there though and I question wether he is being exploited or not, oh well...

On our way to the area of the matsuri

The whole area felt like magic. With that I mean that you entered the shrine perimeter and it was like you changed dimension. No road anymore, only park, green and peace.

Here are a couple of videos where you can get an idea of the festival environment:

There was a general walking area, but to get inside the sacred area (with the shrine and bells) you first wash/purify your two hands and mouth

C and her fortune

Typical matsuri food was eaten! Will do a separate post on that

Blissful day 

Barça in Japan!!

When the sun came down, the place transformed

Shrine dance, amazing!:

In the evening there was this sort of concert and IT GAVE ME THE GOOSEBUMPS, I felt utterly happy

Aside from food and music, they put up many stands with games like fishing or shooting, in which you can get little prizes like masks

When I saw someone with yukata (summer kimono, traditional festive clothing) I got very excited. I wanted to wear one so bad!

After that, we went to Roppongi and had dinner at Roppongi Hills, very chic place. Roppongi was flowing with nocturn ambient and people, specially foreigners.

I thought this was super cute

I recognized this from when I studied History of Art: this is the Maman a sculpture by Louise Bourgeois. There's another one in the Guggenheim, Bilbao, still have to see it!

Bad quality picture but the view was amazing and that's Tokyo Tower :3

The next day we took a train and had to get lost to Chofu to finally get to our destination: Yokohama.

Yokohama is famous for its Chinese Town, which we had the chance to explore.

Sunset from Yokohama was gorgeous.

This felt like Paradise!

Yokohama has the biggest ferris wheel of Japan and one of the biggest ferris wheel on earth! I didn't get on (someday though)

There was a bit of an amusement park

I liked Yokohama a lot. It wasn't as crazy busy as Tokyo and it felt great for a chill walk.

Now, some street visual pleasure, they are just so pretty...

...Aaaaand t
his is it for today! I'll come up with the 2nd part as soon as possible, so see you then ;)

...To be continued.


I leave you with karaoke fun x) :

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