Archive for May 26th, 2010

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

Tokyo GIANTS

For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out, At the old ball game.  This was my second time seeing the Tokyo Giants.  The strange thing is that last time I was here rooting against them, this time we were cheering for them.  The games are full of energy and noise of the crowd just adds to the excitement.  Baseball has never really been the most interesting sport.  There is a lot of standing around and occasionally a ball will be hit.  In Japan though, the atmosphere is intense.  Constant chanting erupts from the stands every time a new player gets up to bat.  The idea of cheerleaders in baseball still baffles me.  The servers walking around are definitely crazy too.  The game is a completely different experience than in the United States.  Then again, baseball has never really been about the sport, but rather who you spend your time with that matters.

Lost in the Subway

PANIC!  Lost in the Tokyo subway our class knows not what to do.  As the crowds of people move past and trains are departing left and right, we are left huddled together.  Rushing to your train is not a good idea.  The fact that your desired train runs on four separate lines does not help.  We stood there lost.  We stay put in the hopes that we are reconnected with everyone else.  I have come to the conclusion that we are completely alone in Japan.  If it were not for the more resourceful students that were willing to rank up roaming charges on their cellphones, I am not sure what would have happened.  The subway staff did not speak English and we have no means to communicate with those designated workers to help lost locals.  This is one experience that I hope not to repeat.  This is the first time that I have felt nearly helpless in Japan.

Waseda University

Well, we are off to school.  Today we visited Waseda University.  Waseda University is Keio University’s rivals.  You can imagine the grief we received for visiting Keio first.  We had arranged visits with three separate classrooms.  Just by talking to the students you could tell their grade level.  The first class we visited held only freshman.  The whole meeting was very awkward as the students talked, but didn’t really communicate.  They answered the few questions that they understood, but did not say much more.  The second group was much more talkative, but the whole arrangement felt very hollow.  I received several compliments on my blue eyes and I’ll leave it at that.  The third and final group contained several grad students.  Personally, I enjoyed this group most of all, as most of the students could understand what we were saying and contribute to the conversation.  I realize that few students in our program actually speak Japanese and most of the confusion was brought on by us.  I feel that I should have taken at least one Japanese course before attempting to speak with the students at Waseda.