Day 10: Kindness, Karate

Today I attended my first class of Karate in Japan. I really like Karate, and to think that I would get to practice it where it started really excited me. The style they impart at the school is Chito Ryu, which so far is somewhat similar to the style I had practiced, Shito Ryu. I didn’t know what to expect besides a new experience.

I set off on my way to the school. Every day I find it easier to use the subway. I’m starting to be able to read the Kanji on the signs and to know which lines connect to which parts of the city. There are some things that really catch my attention about culture in the public transport. Some days ago, when I went to Mt. Takao, there was this couple on the train. Only single seats were available so the man sat, and the woman just stood in front of him, like this was the normal thing. A guy who was sitting next to the man was kind enough to lend his seat to the woman. I just found it interesting how they don’t really seem to have a culture of “woman first”, like in the majority of Mexico.

The kindness of the Japanese keeps impressing me. The other day in the subway, I left my seat so three girls could get to sit together. They all thanked me when I did that, and once more when they were leaving the train. The Japanese… they smile most of the time when you have doubts, when they thank you, and when they greet you. It feels quite comfortable, but it does get you thinking if what they do is truly heartfelt. I specially remember a scene in a movie I got to watch on the flight here, called “The Little House” (小さいおうち), where the wife get angry at his husband because of him not being able to attend to a show with her. The way they both said things; it was always with a kinds voice and, most of the time, a smile on their face (specially the wife). I guess I’ll found out the more I interact with them, but, for now, these ways really welcome people from the outside.

I reached the school. There, I was given two options: to go with the beginner students to practice the basics, or to go with the advanced students (mostly black belts) to practice combat. I said that I would be better practicing with the beginners as it was a different style and I hadn’t practiced for a while (besides, I’ve never been good at combat). There, the class was further divided into what you would call advanced beginners and beginners. I stayed with the beginners, and I’m glad that I did. The guys there had been practicing Karate Chito Ryu for around 10 years. That’s around 4 years more than me!

We practiced a Kata all class long. I think it was called Seinza. The moves and stances, although similar to Shito Ryu, were foreign to me. I’m having some trouble to get used to them. The guys there patiently showed me how to do things, and, nearing to the end of the class. The Sensei came to check our Kata. He said that I was doing it well. I knew that I still had lots of mistakes, but I’m glad that I could at least to well enough for the Sensei to say I wasn’t too bad. I’m excited to go to the next class. Martials arts are a great exercise, and I certainly need to lose some weight! Everyone here is so slim…

So, now, the day is coming to an end, and I have to plan what to do tomorrow. I want to go the Chinatown in Yokohama with my friend.

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Day 9: Shinto Shrine, Arcades, Yoyogi Koen 1

Today I decided to visit Shibuya to clear some things at the Oakhouse Office (a Japanese guest house website). Since I was going to visit the busiest station in Japan, I decided that I would walk around for a bit to discover some places. With a quick search, I found 3 that got my attention: The Hachiko Statue (a statue of a famous dog who awaited his master everyday at that station), a Shinto Shrine, and place with many otaku shops called Mandarake (I don’t consider myself an Otaku, but I thought I could find some interesting stuff and people down there as it was Friday).

The first thing I found was the Miyamasu Mitake Shrine. The Shrine had a stone pathway through which one could walk. At the sides of the pathway, where you would normally find grass in a garden, you would find some pebbles carefully arranged all throughout the placed. Before going to see the praying spots, I washed I “purified” myself with at the place where you’re supposed to (with the ceremony I learned from my friend). As I was doing so, a Japanese person was walking out and he stared at me briefly. I sincerely hope he did that because he was surprised that I knew the ritual and not because I was doing it wrong or disrespecting him… The praying spots were pretty, with plenty of decorations. What I liked the most about them was the wolves that were guarding the main spot.

Cleansing Spot

Here’s where you can clean yourself.

Main spot

This is the main spot. You can see the pebbles I was talking about too.

I don’t know why, but I feel very relaxed at those shrines, specially after I perform the “purifying” ceremony. Those places are quite nice. Oh, and if you ever go to this shrine, they hold a festival every year on Sep. 19th!

After my visit to the shrine, I went looking for Mandarake. I mistook the place with an arcade called Adores (don’t ask how; I just realized as I started writing this that I was going to a different place). This was a 4 story arcade. You would find some kind of girly games on the first floor, betting games on the 2nd and 3rd floor, and normal arcade games on the 4th floor. The place some nice games and people seemed to be having fun, specially the ones in the betting games. The most interesting part about this place had to be how it seemed to specialize on simulated horse racing games (you know, the ones where you bet on a horse and get to watch te race). There were spots for this in all floors but the first one. I thought of staying and playing for a bit, but I thought it wouldn’t be fun without a friend there to make me company so I left the place. Well… the place kind of reeked of tobacco too…

I went on my way to the station to go see the Hachiko statue that was nearby, only to get lost because of forgetting to take a left turn. While I was lost, I found this Japanese girl dressed in a maid outfit, giving out flyers on the street. I approached her to ask what was she promoting, to what she replied with a sweet voice that she was promoting a maids house nearby. Turns out that Japan has these cafe like places where you are served by girls dressed in maids outfits. They treat you like you were their master… who would have Imagined! I continued my way to find myself at Yoyogi Park. It was here where I realized I was lost. But I thought I couldn’t have been lost in a better place! This park was beautiful! I arrived to the part of the park where all the courts and fields were located. I allowed myself some time to watch a basketball game. I was heading to see the rest of the park, as I was told by a guy in the Oakhouse offices that I would find an impressive shrine there, but I thought it would be better to go home because of the time and thirst I had.

Yoyogi Outside

I always forget to take pictures so I’ll leave you with how it looks from the outside…

Yoyogi Inside

… and one from a road in the inside, next to the football (soccer) field.

The thing is that I got lost on the only where it hasn’t rained since I arrived here! I read on the internet that a weakened typhoon would strike Tokyo today, but it just didn’t happened. The day was clear, hot and humid. I think I may have finally discovered the true summer weather in Tokyo. It’s not as tiring as the weather back home, but I hadn’t drinked any water before leaving home and I must have been walked for an hour or two. Anyway, this weather is really tiring with all the humidity. You will find yourself sweaty all the time if you’re walking outside.

On my rush back home, I forgot to visit the Hachiko statue, so I guess I’ll have to leave that for another day. Possibly the same day I will finish exploring the park.

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Day 4: Relaxing, Bic Camera, Normal Food

I decided to rest a bit today. I noticed my legs are feeling kind of sore, and I will need them soon to go through the Mt. Takao route that I planned. That said, I did get to know a few new thigns today.

I went to Shinjuku once again. This time, I visited a huge electronics store called Bic Camera. This has to be the largest store I’ve ever been to, and it was almost all electronics (there were some clothes on the first floor too). From simple appliances, to specialized computer parts, to video games, you could find it all. The place was a 7-8 story building, with each of its floors divided into various sections. As much as I was impressed, after finishing scouting it, I decided to go back home. I almost entered another store, which was specialized in clothing, but that one was around the same height, and it looked much wider. I thought I wouldn’t be accomplishing my goal of using this day to rest my legs if I went in to have a good look, so I prefered to leave it for some other time.

This is an art school.

Just a building that I found on my way to Bic Camera. This is an arts school.

The Package

The Package

I’m getting tired of seafood in almost every meal, thus I tried to get a more conventional lunch. I bought what looked like fried chicken and some rice, a bottle of Lipton Tea, and I got interested in a pastry that said ふわふわスフレ(fuwafuwa sufure). I didn’t know what the last one was, but it was soft and looked nice so I took it home too. Once I started my meal, I was really disapointed when the fried chicken turned out to be a bunch of vegetables with something on top. I proceeded to finish my meal until the time of opening the pastry came. At that moment, I was already distrusting the food so I smelled the contents the contents of the package. A weird salty and somewhat sweet smell came to me. I wasn’t very fond of it, but I thought I should continue. I was amazed when I took the first bite. The thing was really soft and sweet! It was amazing! I then discovered that スフレ (sufure) means sufle. I think I’m going to keep buying more of these everyday.

The Sweet

I spent the rest of the day playing a video game I bought back at Bic Camera. Since I was taking the day to rest, I thought I could make the most of it by buying a game with lots of text that I could pause and read to help me to improve my Japanese. I spent around 4 hours reading, typing into Google Translate, and looking for grammar rules on the Internet. It was a really tedious and tiring task. I did learn some useful things, and I practiced what I knew already so I guess it was worth it. I’m not very fond of taking such a long period to do it again, though (4 hours just to finish the intro secquence).

So, now I’m going for some sleep. Two of my roomates left the day before and they haven’t come back, I hope they’re ok.

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Day 3: Shinjuku, Finally Uniqlo, Tokyo Tocho!

Yesterday, I woke up at 5:30 am (I guess it’s an improvement). I really didn’t know what to do today, so I spent the morning trying to find touristic places on the internet. Between many interesting places, like Skytree, Yokohama (the biggest Chinnatown in Asia) or a real Tea Ceremony, I found something that caught my attention:

Mt. Takao (高尾山)

I’ve liked to go on strolls around nature for quite a while now. I Really enjoy the relaxing sights and the physical challenges of getting to the end. Now, Mt. Takao isn’t known for being a challenging mountain, but it is quite pretty, and, if taking the right trails, the whole length you can walk is around 25 km, if I remember correctly. Along the way, you can find lots of nice sights, and a white horse statue awaits you at the end, like congratulating you for being able to finish it all. I like the whole idea;I think I’ll go there soon.

After doing the most research I could on Mt. Takao, I went for some food. I’m still amazed of how the Japanese are so kind. I love it. I entered the cafeteria, and all the waiters and chefs welcomed me. After taking a seat, they gave me a free glass of water. I don’t know if the glass was part of the way they receive everyone or if it was given to me because I looked rather tired and a bit sweaty (I went on walking for a while). I hope I can visit the place again.

Just look at it! It looks great!

Just look at it! It looks great!

Next, I arranged a walk around Shinjuku with a Japanese friend that I luckily met back in Mexico. She offered to show me Uniqlo! I would finally visit the place! When we got there, we split so each one could see clothes comfortably (we didn’t have a lot of time either, as the shop was near to close). The shop that we went to was not the huge store that I was expecting, but it was rather nice. There were lots of clothes that looked pretty comfortable, and the prices… well I was surprised at the cost of some of them. I ended up buying 2 t-shirts and 2 shirts.

After that, now at night, my friend took me to a government tower called Tokyo Tocho. This huge building had its last stage, the 45th floor, open to everyone so they could enjoy the sights. It was here where I first had a nice overlook of all Tokyo. The sight was impressive… I had never seen a city extending so long in the distance. It could have just been better if I were able to see Mt. Fuji. We spent some time there gazing at the view and chatting, until we finally decided to go back home.

A taste of the sight I had while up there.

A taste of the sight I had while up there.

I remember I almost fell asleep on my way back. I was really tired. What kept me up was my amazement by the subway system that Tokyo has. It seems very complex and complete. Even here, in the subway, you can clearly see how people are well educated. I’m not talking about them letting women get in the train cabin before or something like that, but how, on the electric stairs, you’d see everyone sticking to the left, leaving a space on the right so anyone in a hurry can go through there. The Japanese are truly impressive.

So kind

So kind

 

I finally got to sleep. I feel really grateful towards my friend for showing me some of Shinjuku. I may go there today again, to see more clothes on Uniqlo and investigate the area a bit.

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