Sunday, March 31, 2013

A soft pillow? That's for girls

   Today I did a little shopping. A friend of mine who lives here informed me that pillows are very hard to obtain outside of a big city. I'm probably going to be uncomfortable enough sleeping on the futon for the first few days before I buy a bed frame, so I decided to splurge on this luxury item. I don't think I mentioned this, but the pillow in my hotel is very hard. Harder than memory foam. And it weighs about 5 pounds. Well, I went to the department store and discovered that Japanese people actually like rocks for pillows. I passed by row after row of pillows that were about the same as the one in my hotel. They all cost about 90-100 dollars. Then, finally, in the last aisle I saw 女性のためのフェザーピロー: "Feather pillows for women." There were no feather pillows for men. These pillows were being sold for the low price of 20-30 dollars. I bought one.

   Feather pillows? Pretty worthless, but some women just have to have them.

   I also bought clothes pins.  Japanese people don't use dryers. Instead, they line dry all of their clothing. I'll be doing the same on the balcony of my apartment.

  And finally, I bought a french press!!! I had to poke around to find one. It seems that most people use either a coffee maker or some kind of pour-over. I've also seen lots of siphons, although they are pretty expensive here, too. I was willing to buy a pourover, but all of the ones I found were made out of plastic or silicon. I also found a percolator, but it was pretty expensive and it looked like it was made of aluminum. I finally came across a nice, normal, glass french press. Unfortunately, I overlooked buying a coffee grinder. I'm not so sure cafes or supermarkets will grind the coffee for me. But I guess I'll find out.

    This is called "Central Park." It's pretty long. I think it may stretch between two subway stops. This part looked like a fun place to practice precision jumping, but I wasn't in the right shoes and I think I would have gotten some looks.

    The cherry blossoms are in full bloom now, and everyone is telling me they'll be gone by Tuesday. So this weekend, lots of people were doing Hanami (花見) - literally, Flower Watching. What this actually entails is sitting on a blanket under some cherry trees with some friends while you all eat and drink. On a related note, drinking in public is legal in Japan. However, walking while you drink (or smoke) is considered uncouth. I haven't seen a Japanese person do either of those things yet.

   Obviously not all of the city is next to a beautiful park, but it definitely has more greenery than either New York or Boston.

   Tomorrow I set out for my new home town and my new apartment. I probably won't have much internet access for the next couple of weeks because my apartment doesn't have it set up yet. However, I'll keep taking photos and update you soon!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sunny in Japan

   Today was the first sunny day since I arrived. I only took two pictures during the day, though!


    That building with the red awning is a coffee place that I ate at twice. An old lady runs it seemingly single-handedly. There are about 4 short tables with tiny sea green padded chairs that give it a diner-from-a-parallel-universe feel. There are roughly ten million potted flower plants and a bunch of pictures of her dog. Both times I ate there I was the only customer there.
   It's the only place I've been able to find good coffee, but unfortunately, she only gives you about 5 ounces of it. Also, everywhere I've been gives you these tiny little creamers, rather than fresh cream or milk. This is probably because dairy is so much more expensive here.
   The owner had the TV on the whole time, so I got to watch a morning show that was doing an extensive report on a weird looking mushroom-like vegetable and all possible ways to cook and eat it. This is how it went: The TV personality would go to a restaurant. A chef or food expert would show them how to prepare a dish using the mushroom. Then the TV personality would eat it and say something like, Wow! This is so good. Wow, so tasty. Yum! Then he'd move on to the next place and do the same thing all over again. "Ah, so tasty! So delicious."
   Meanwhile, in the upper right hand corner of the screen, a panel, including the TV personality himself, and then some other random people, are watching the segment with you, nodding, and making "Ahh, hmmm" sounds. That little box showing someone's reactions to what you're watching is there in almost every single variety or morning show. So if you are ever watching Japanese TV and don't know how to react, just look at the person in the upper right hand corner. Oh, ok, here I say "Ahhhhh!"
   This evening, I went exploring a bit farther away from my hotel, in one of the higher-end parts of town. People were dressed nicely and there were lots of brand name stores. I also spotted several groups of foreigners.

   This was a mall we happened across. All the stores were closed, but we took the elevator up to the 9th floor and looked down. It was pretty cool.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Further investigation

  Today I went for a small walk after breakfast.

   In Japanese cities, they elevate the highways. This results in streets like this, where there is a major highway running over a normal street. I took this photo from a pedestrian overpass.

   This is a little park I wandered into. It was across from a large shrine. I did not investigate the shrine because lots of official looking people in suits were filtering into it, and meanwhile, this awesome park was completely abandoned.

Those fences look like bamboo, but they are actually metal.

One of the entrances to the park.

The only thing this park was missing was a few ducks floating around the pond.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oh look! I'm in the right country

  When I got to my hotel, I opened up the toiletries they provided, only to be confronted with this tiny tube of toothpaste. It is an inch long.
  Other perks of my room include a heated toilet seat and a yukata so that I can lounge in style. When you enter the room, you place your room key in a little slot and it turns on the light and heat to your room. Since the light stays on as long as the card in is the slot, you have to take it out before you sleep. This results in the heat turning off. If the weather was colder this might bother me, but it's warm enough here that I don't need the heat.

   Due to jet lag, these are the only photos I've taken so far. Expect more soon.

   I took these on a little walk down to an Aeon mall. I hoped to find a grocery store there and was not disappointed. So far, I have been eating: onigiri, bread and jam, nikuman, gyoza, and gyuudon. I also foolishly tried to eat an octopus/cucumber/seaweed(?) salad. I have also been on a quest to find a big, delicious cup of coffee. So far, I have found a tiny, delicious cup of coffee, and a large, disgusting cup of coffee. Although there are a reasonable number of coffee shops in the vicinity, nobody seems to be what I would call addicted to coffee. They seem to want to sit down and sip it while they flip through the paper, rather than chug it while they rush to the train. But maybe this is just because here, nobody ever eats or drinks while they walk.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


   Here are a few photos from my trip to Osaka two summers ago.

One of the canals that runs through the city:

A garden planted right next to a newly constructed sky scraper:

A typical playground. For some reason they are never covered in grass, just dirt:

The first hill I encountered in the city:

Another playground. There was a homeless man napping on a bench to the left while I was taking this picture. A cat was keeping him company.

   Osaka had lots of trees and plantlife, which made it a pleasant place to be. Farther away from the downtown areas, it was common to come across a random rice paddy next to some houses.