Waseda U. vs Keio U. Baseball

What a great day.  For my last day in Japan I attended to BIG college baseball game.  Longtime rivals Keio University and Waseda University, both of which we visited, were facing off.  A student from Waseda University, whom had kept in contact with Radin, invited us to join him.  It is really to bad that most of the other study abroad students had returned home.  This game had more energy, and the crowds had so much more to cheer for than at the Tokyo Giants game.  We learned chants and school fight songs.  The most memorable of these was a song that lasted twenty minutes!  The Waseda cheering section couldn’t stop until the inning was over, and they had struck out Keio’s last batter.  It was INTENSE!  The game was a blast and Waseda ended up winning.  “We Winners Waseda!” (song title)  One of the most respectful spectacles I have seen in Japan occurred after the game was over.  After Waseda’s school song was finished, the entire crowd sang a song to Keio, honoring the school.

On a side note, a bird shat on me halfway through the game.  I have nothing more to say…

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Slurping

Today I experienced something that still has me a little stunned.  After returning from the Sony Building, Nick, Radin and I went to eat and a vending machine restaurant.  This was my first time eating there during a heavy traffic time.  Normally I am there late in the evening when many of the Japanese locals are not.  While sitting there enjoying my meal of pork and rice I was startled by the sounds around me.  As I looked up I noticed that I was surrounded my natives, slurping away at their Ramen.  There we were sitting quietly eating our meals, and ten or so Japanese businessmen were slurping down their food noisily.  I then remembered that while eating Ramen it is not seen as being rude, but rather as a compliment to the chef.  I am still confused by this Japanese custom of eating, but alas, I myself am not Japanese.  I was taught  my whole life to eat a certain way and I am not sure I will ever really be comfortable any other way.

Sony Tower

Today was our first day outside the regular study abroad schedule.  Most of the other students are on their way back to Detroit as I am typing this.  Nick, Radin and I made our way to Sony Tower in Ginza.  This building is packed with the latest and greatest products Sony has to offer.  I am surprised that it was not on our study abroad itinerary.  Upon reaching the building, I knew it would be a truly Japanese experience.  The technology showed off is years ahead of what the United States has to offer.  The raw technology behind everything was astonishing.  Cameras, cellphones and televisions surrounded us.  The best part about this was the fact that it is all hands on.  Most everything there could be handled and tested.  Radin had a blast testing out the best Sony cameras and lenses.  It was bizarre being allowed to handle cameras and camcorders that cost more than our entire trip to Japan.  The Japanese are extremely trusting of the customer and tourists just visiting.  Sadly, like few other attractions in Japan, no photos were allowed inside.

Smaller Portions in Japan

The food here is insane!  We have nearly been here two weeks and I am just now taking into consideration all that I have eaten.  I remember the first few days stuffing my face with several helpings of food.  The smaller portions were very noticeable at first, but after being here a while, they have become less and less of an issue.  I just finished a meal that completely filled me up.  After eating and looking back at I have eaten I was surprised.  This meal would have never satisfied me before.  I am not sure if it is the fact that I am trying to save money, or my body really is adjusting to the smaller meal sizes.  I barely finished a meal that I would have considered an appetizer back home.  The squid, tuna and eel may not look like much, but I can’t imagine eating more than given to me on this very small plate.

Discovering Roppongi

On our last free day as a study abroad group, we spent our day wandering the streets.  As we have spent majority of our trip in Roppongi we found it odd that we had only ever ventured into downtown during the night.  Nick, Eric, Rob, Jared and I left the hotel that morning without knowing what to expect.  We made it our plan to see the sights of the city in daylight.  The first ting we happened upon was an escalator leading underground.  This area was not five minutes from our hotel, but do to the crowded streets at night we had never seen it before.  We were pleasantly surprised at what we found.  An underground mall of sorts had been within walking distance from our hotel all along.  It was primarily eateries, but scattered about were bookstores and other quality shops.  My favorite aspect of this underground paradise is that it led to a beautiful park.  The beauty about this park was its seclusion from hustle and bustle of the city around it.  It was so refreshing to see families enjoying themselves lackadaisily is the summer sun.  scattered around a man-made pond were benches that Japanese businessmen occupied.  They had come to this pleasant oasis to escape the concrete jungle.

Shabu-Shabu

Tonight’s dinner was interesting to say the least.  After our company final company visit, our class was taken to a restaurant that was quite unique.  I guess you could say we made it ourselves.  We sat down at tables with boiling waiter in the center.  Large plates of raw pork and beef sit to the side looking as unappetizing as ever.  I could not think of anything more bizarre.  As we tossed the raw slices of meat in the water they cooked before our eyes, making a sort of stew.  After a few seconds the meal was edible and we could pick and choose what we wanted.  The most difficult part of the meal was not the food, but rather the waiters.  The language barriers kept us from receiving more water, rice and meat.  Eventually we were able to establish the most basic of hand gestures to receive or larger portions.  The mixture of steam, heat and frustration with the waiters made us happy that we only had a few days left in Japan.  Japan is great, but you need to understand the language to be able to live there for extended periods.

Company Visit: JR East

Over the duration of this study abroad we have utilized several transportation methods.  Many of the train lines we have rode on were that of Japan Rail, or JR East.  On Tuesday, May 25 we visited JR East’s research and development facility.  There we were lectured on the new technologies that they will be implementing to their railways.  We were also able to get hands on with several prototypes.  The most useful of which the class took full advantage of.  A kiosk which allows users to view and print out train schedules on the spot.  This device needs to be implemented immediately.  I spoke with the JR representatives there and stressed heavily on the importance of these kiosk.  Throughout the duration of the study abroad I have become confused and disoriented in the subways.  Luckily for me, being in a group quickly resolved these issues.  A device that useful should already be installed on every rail station currently in use.  For the most part I feel the people at JR R&D are on the right track… pun intended.

*Image courtesy of Radin Yadolahi