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Japan-o-Rama Part 1!

Mar 31 | Posted by: Rebecca Loebe |

I spent some time with my good friend John Elliott this week, and although he asked about my trip to Japan we didn’t get a chance to talk about it much. So last night on a plane, I wrote him an email with some pictures and the stories behind them. I realized after I wrote the email that I hadn’t really given anyone an update that thorough, so I decided to borrow and expand upon parts of it and send it out to bloglandia. So here we go, my final update about my trip to Japan this spring:

I did already write quite a bit about my first few days on Yokota Air Base, so I don’t need to go into too much detail there. It was a busy couple of days and we had a great time. I was also impressed by the overall atmosphere of the base - the Americans I met there seemed generally upbeat, not too stressed by the armed forces aspect of the job, interested in Japanese culture while also being excited to talk bout life back home. It was mellow. 

Radio visit on base!

By the time we left base I really didn’t want to leave our host Spike behind. If I could have brought him home I would. Seriously the sweetest dude ever.

Spike is the coolest!

Japanese money is really crazy looking. Super pretty. 1 yen equals 1 cent, and they have coins that go all the way up to 500 yen, meaning it’s totally possible to have $30 worth of change on you at any given time. People carry a lot of cash there.  

Lovely yen

We stayed for 6 days outside of Tokyo with my friend Keith and his lovely girlfriend Mino. They took us out to dinner one night to one of her favorite “traditional japanese” restaurants. This is what the plate looked like (I know food pictures are lame, but come on…)

Sushi feast!

I saw this comic book at a coffee house. The premise is that Buddha and Jesus are hipster dudes living incognito together in the suburbs of Tokyo. Apparently it’s pretty popular. 

Best. Comic. Ever.

Every single sidewalk has a raised yellow ridge of bumpy discs going down the middle. Why? For blind people to follow. So civilized. #thatmakessense

#thatmakessense

Five or so days in, we found ourselves on our own for the first time. We made our way to the local coffeeshop and, with much pantomiming and pointing, ordered two cups of coffee. Things got even more interesting when the server poised his pen on his pad to take our food order. I took a deep breath and looked at the menu. There were three headings in English: “Morning,” “Afternoon,” and “Evening,” and everything else was in Japanese. Figuring that I was pretty hungry and wanted a fairly large breakfast, I pointed at the second to last item under the “Morning” heading and hoped for the best. He smiled, relieved not to have to go through another round of charades, and looked over at Lindsey. She shrugged and pointed to another item under the same heading.

A few minutes later we were delighted to discover that we had ordered a ham sandwich and a raspberry lemon chiffon cake. We referred to this practice as the Food Lottery (and we almost always won!)

Food lottery!

In the morning, the subways to Tokyo are incredibly crowded. There are people in uniforms called “pushers.” Their job is to stand on the platform and push as many people into the subway cars as possible. Once inside, everyone is silent. As a kid I once heard a dramatic news report about rampant gropings on subways cars, but that was very far from my experience. It actually felt the opposite; if anything, people seemed embarrassed by how close together they had to be. Everyone stared down at their hands, cell phones, feet, down down down… The car was packed beyond anything I’ve ever experienced, but it was pin drop silent. People just stared down. Some looked at their phones, but there wasn’t really room…they seemed to just go inward. Mino says it reminds her of robots, like everyone powers down for the ride and then they turn into people again when they get off the train. It was wild.

Morning commute!

Oh and the mask thing is totally normal. It startled me at first, because it reminded me of the footage I had seen of the bird flue epidemic a few years ago, but it turns out that in Japanese culture it’s customary to wear a mask if one feels even slightly ill. To keep other people healthy. #thatmakessense

The deli case at the train station. It went on forever, full of incredible food…

Yummmmm

I heart bento boxes. Hard.

#Bentolife

Another game we played with some frequency was called “Crowd Mentality.” If we were out looking for adventure and unsure of where to go next, we would just follow some large group of people to check out wherever they were going. Probably the most successful round of this that we played was in downtown Tokyo in the Harajuku district. We followed the crowd down some stairs into a a giant underground photobooth arcade, where hundreds of teenage girls were piling into row after row of photobooths to get their pictures taken and printed on stickers. The music was loud and the giggling was louder; I am convinced there was enough energy in that room to power a small city. I have never been anywhere like that.

Follow the crowd!

And then just around the corner was a beautiful, peaceful shrine.

 Shrine!

To be continued…

xoxo

~becca

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